Manuel Natal Albelo

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Manuel Natal
Member
29th House of Representatives of Puerto Rico
Incumbent
Assumed office
August 19, 2013
Preceded by Eduardo Ferrer
Personal details
Born Manuel Natal Albelo
March 25, 1986
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Political party Popular Democratic Party (PPD)
Alma mater Cornell University
University of Puerto Rico
Profession lawyer

Manuel Natal Albelo[a] (born March 25, 1986) is a lawyer and a member of the 29th House of Representatives of Puerto Rico. Natal is affiliated with the Popular Democratic Party and was a legal advisor for Charlie Hernández, another member of the House, before becoming a legislator.[1] He is a member of the free association movement, colloquially known as soberanistas. Elected at the age of 27, Natal is one of the youngest legislators in the history of Puerto Rico and the youngest legislator currently serving.[2]

Early years and education[edit]

Natal was born into a family with strong ties to the local politics. His maternal uncle, Javier Albelo Matos, served as a candidate for the mayorship of Ciales the 2000 general election, while his paternal grandfather was an activist for the Partido Popular Democratico (PPD).[3] He studied at Colegio Espíritu Santo in Hato Rey, where he was president of the Student Council. Natal obtained a bachelor's degree from Cornell University in 2008, where he was president of the Puerto Rican Student Association. He did not expect to be accepted by the institution, having applied to study in it as a protocolary measure.[3] When the acceptance letter was received, Natal was surprised and this event triggered a period of adaptation. Upon arriving to Cornell, Natal was unable to speak English and disguised this by avoiding contact for three months.[3] He eventually overcame this, offering a speech at his graduation in his role of class president.[3] After returning to Puerto Rico, Natal received a juris doctor from the University of Puerto Rico School of Law in 2011, also serving as president of the student council during his tenure. After graduating from Cornell, Natal became a key figure in a series of strikes held a the University of Puerto Rico in protest of a quota being introduced to the students.[4] Consequently he became involved with the Popular Democratic Party and participated in an internal election for the presidency of the party's National Youth organization. After completing his juris doctor Natal opened his own lawfirm and worked for Charlie Hernández and Luis Vega Ramos, prominent members of the free association movement.[4] In 2013, Natal was named director of the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico Commission on the Judiciary.[4]

Representative at-large (2013–present)[edit]

Election to the House of Representatives[edit]

A few months after Natal became director of the House Commission on the Judiciary, Eduardo Ferrer relinquished his position of Representative at-large for the PPD, formally opening a vacancy at the House for the PPD. The party announced that the position would be filled with the vote of the General Council's delegates during a special election. Subsequently, Natal formally announced that he was going to pursue the vacancy and submitted the required documentation on August 5, 2013.[5] His bid was seen as "difficult", since the PPD's conservative leadership (led by Alejandro García Padilla, incumbent Governor and President of the PPD) was at the moment in direct conflict with the free association movement over the continuation of the territorial clause.[6] Besides him, nine other members presented the required documentation before the deadline. Only five candidates made the cut to be on the final ballot, Claribel Martínez Marmolejos, Yasmín Mejías, Carlos Rechani, Darlene Reyes and Natal. Unofficial polls organized by Radio Isla 1320 and Representative Carlos Vargas concluded that the public favored Natal over the four other candidates.[7][8] The special election took an ideological emphasis after García Padilla dismissed the free association movement, implying that they were a reduced group by saying that the free association movement, "are not a wing, but rather a few feathers", iIllustrating his opposition to the faction by publicly supporting Martínez.[9][10][11] Natal indirectly referred to this event, adopting the slogan, "Quills have written the best chapters of our history."[12]

In the days leading to the special election, the PPD's leadership strengthened its campaign to secure the votes for Martínez, including public support from Eduardo Bhatia, President of the Senate of Puerto Rico, and Jaime Perelló, Speaker of the House. Public reports claimed that the PPD's conservative leadership was aggressive in its support campaign for Martínez, even offering jobs to the delegates in exchange for their votes.[13][14] This raised concern among the other candidates, with Rechani, Mejías and former contestant Ruthy Currás claiming that they had received pressure to abandon the race.[15][16][17] Despite this, Natal opted to ignore the controversy, instead continuing with his own campaign and presenting a series of proposals.[18][19] The special election took place on August 14, 2013, with Natal defeating Martínez with a margin of 175 to 131, with 20 votes being divided between the other candidates.[1] He effectively became a member of the House and a legislator on August 19, 2013, at the age of 26, after the House inaugurated its second ordinary session.[20] Natal's first official action was to serve as cosponsor of P.C. 1334, a bill that specifies a method to select the delegates of a Constituent Assembly that will deal with the political status of Puerto Rico between 2014 and 2018.[21] He was given the presidency of the Integrated Commission for Youth Development, Promotion and Retention of New Talent.[22] Natal was also named vicepresident of the commissions of International & Federal Affairs and Veteran Affairs, while also participating in five other.[22]

Political track record[edit]

His first original project was a proposal to retain young professionals and minimize their migration rate.[23] The project was based on the reduction of bureaucratic requirements for the foundation of new enterprises and the eventual creation of an Institute for Entrepreneurship.[23] Further efforts included the inclusion of classes focused on entrepreneurship in the education curriculum and the creation of a similar institute focused in the business education of youth.[23] Natal explained that the ultimate goal of these proposals was to retain the capital among local businesses, reducing its export by foreign corporations.[23] His next initiative sought the international recognition of the Puerto Rican citizenship through the Secretary of State, pursuing more rights within the international community.[24] A related project, P.C. 1417, also revoked an amendment made to the Political Code of Puerto Rico by the pro-statehood government of Pedro Rosselló, which only granted Puerto Rican citizenship to those that already possessed United States citizenship, effectively preventing foreign immigrants from claiming it.[24]

On December 21, 2013, Natal was the only member of the PPD to oppose a bill that reduced the retirement pension received by teachers.[25] This decision was preceded by days of reunions with education guilds, which took place in the midst of an accelerated and controversial special session called forth by García Padilla.[26][27] Natal was the last member of a larger group to remain firm in his original position, with the others yielding and offering explanatory votes.[27] He represented the Agricultural, Natural & Environmental Resources Commission during the public hearings of a project that pursued amends to the Biotechnology Law, there he expressed concerns that the propossed changes would facilitate multinational experiments without supervision and questioned if Monsanto was involved by supporting the bill.[28] Furthermore, Natal noted that the entire process should be analyzed while taking under consideration the poor track record of biotechnology corporations and the multiples controversies surrounding their crops.[28]

After Standard & Poor's downgraded the government's credit to BB rating, Natal opened a webpage where he intended to gather civil proposals to attend the crisis.[29] He followed this with P.C. 1740, which proposed equitable salaries between men and women, attending a pre-existing imbalance between genders.[30] On March 17, 2014, Natal presented a bill to attend water scarcity by prohibiting its exportation during droughts, which received the cognomen of P. C. 1764.[31]

Personal life and ideology[edit]

Within the PPD, Natal is a member of the free association movement, the wing that supports replacing the territorial clause with a document based on their vision of a sovereign compact, reclaiming the sovereignty of Puerto Rico while conserving existing arrangements of the commonwealth such as common defense, coin, and American citizenship.[4] Upon completing his education, Natal settled in Old San Juan with his girlfriend, fellow lawyer Gabriela Dávila.[32] He is an avid follower of sports, practicing cyclism, basketball and triathlon.[32] He was the original PPD's representative in Panel Político, a daily radio show hosted by reporter Normando Valentín in WKAQ 580, where he served as the counterweight of Gary Rodríguez. On March 4, 2014, Natal decided to abandon the program citing no interest to continue involved in "destructive" and "irresponsible" partisan discussions, a decision influenced by opposition senator Carmelo Ríos who accused him on air of participating in a manifestation where protesters had placed dog food and a "Beware of Dog" sign before a SWAT line during the 2010 strike.[33][34] The PNP had promoted this supposed incident since he was elected, despite being asked in a formal letter to desist. Natal claimed that a series of anonymous treats related to his purported involvement in the incident had been received by mail, endangering his family. The following day, the group that was actually involved in the protest, members of an plastic artistry movement named Indi.gestión, publicly stated that Natal was never involved in it and denied even knowing him personally.[35] Natal expressed gratitude that the group decided to clear his reputation on its own initiative, also clarifying that Indi.gestión was not related to the UPR student movement in any way.[35]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ This name uses Spanish naming customs; the first or paternal family name is Natal and the second or maternal family name is Albelo.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Brenda I. Peña López (2013-08-14). "Contundente triunfo de Manuel Natal en contienda por escaño a la Cámara" (in Spanish). El Nuevo Día. Retrieved 2013-08-14. 
  2. ^ "Manuel Natal, el legislador más joven de la historia" (in Spanish). Univision Puerto Rico. 2013-08-15. Retrieved 2013-08-16. 
  3. ^ a b c d Yaritza Santiago Caraballo (2013-08-16). "Manuel Natal defiende el papel de las plumas en la historia" (in Spanish). El Nuevo Día. Retrieved 2013-08-16. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Natal dice que si gana, Alejandro no pierde". M.primerahora.com. Retrieved 2013-08-15. 
  5. ^ "Interesado exlíder estudiantil de la UPR en escaño de Ferrer – Metro". Touch.metro.pr. 2013-07-22. Retrieved 2013-08-15. 
  6. ^ "Difícil la ruta de Manuel Natal a escaño cameral – Metro". Touch.metro.pr. 2013-07-27. Retrieved 2013-08-15. 
  7. ^ "¿Quién debe ocupar el escaño de Eduardo Ferrer en la Cámara de Representantes?". www.radioisla1320.com. 2013-08-05. Retrieved 2013-08-15. 
  8. ^ "Resultados de encuesta: Vacante en la Camara de Representantes". Encuesta2.com. Retrieved 2013-08-15. 
  9. ^ "Natal dice que si gana, Alejandro no pierde". Primerahora.com. Retrieved 2013-08-15. 
  10. ^ "Llenan hoy la vacante en la delegación cameral del PPD - El Nuevo Día". Elnuevodia.com. Retrieved 2013-08-15. 
  11. ^ Brenda Peña López (2013-08-15). "Un muchacho derrotó a la cúpula del PPD" (in Spanish). El Nuevo Día. Retrieved 2013-08-15. 
  12. ^ "Univision Video Portal - Miscelaneos - Manuel Natal está confiado en que tendrá los votos". Video.univision.mobi. Retrieved 2013-08-15. 
  13. ^ "Difunden audio donde piden a Consejo General votar por Martínez – Metro". Touch.metro.pr. Retrieved 2013-08-15. 
  14. ^ "Vacante de la discordia – Vocero de Puerto Rico". Vocero.com. Retrieved 2013-08-15. 
  15. ^ "Yazmín Mejías: han “secuestrado” el PPD". www.radioisla1320.com. Retrieved 2013-08-15. 
  16. ^ "“No es democrático” proceso para elegir sustituto de Ferrer". www.radioisla1320.com. Retrieved 2013-08-15. 
  17. ^ "Rechani: “Claribel no tiene los votos”". www.radioisla1320.com. Retrieved 2013-08-15. 
  18. ^ "Diplomático Natal ante el endoso para Claribel Martínez - NotiCel™". Noticel.com. Retrieved 2013-08-15. 
  19. ^ "Natal presenta propuestas ante aspiraciones a vacante en Cámara – Metro". Touch.metro.pr. Retrieved 2013-08-15. 
  20. ^ Nindiri Méndez Pagán (2013-08-19). "Jura Natal entre sonrisas y ovación de sus compañeros" (in Spanish). Noticel.com. Retrieved 2013-08-19. 
  21. ^ Rebecca Banuchi (2013-08-21). "A vistas públicas los proyectos sobre la asamblea constitucional" (in Spanish). El Nuevo Día. Retrieved 2013-08-22. 
  22. ^ a b "Manuel Natal ya tiene sus comisiones en la Cámara" (in Spanish). Metro Puerto Rico. 2013-08-26. Retrieved 2013-08-27. 
  23. ^ a b c d Laura M. Quintero (2013-09-12). "Natal propone registro electrónico y currículo educativo para retener talento" (in Spanish). Noticel.com. Retrieved 2013-09-12. 
  24. ^ a b "Natal busca reconocer la ciudadanía puertorriqueña" (in Spanish). Metro Puerto Rico. 2013-09-23. Retrieved 2012-09-23. 
  25. ^ Keila López Alicea (2013-12-21). "Cámara aprueba reforma del Sistema de Retiro de Maestros" (in Spanish). El Nuevo Día. Retrieved 2013-12-22. 
  26. ^ Cindy Burgos (2013-12-19). "Inicia hoy sesión extraordinaria para discutir proyectos de Retiro" (in Spanish). Metro Puerto Rico. Retrieved 2013-12-22. 
  27. ^ a b Eva Laureano (2013-12-19). "Entre mordidas y puños proyecto para el retiro de maestros" (in Spanish). NotiCel.com. Retrieved 2013-12-22. 
  28. ^ a b Maricela Fullana Acosta (2014-01-31). "Reclamo a Agricultura por propuesta de cambio a Ley de Biotecnología" (in Spanish). El Nuevo Día. Retrieved 2014-01-31. 
  29. ^ Ely Acevedo Denis (2014-02-05). "Natal lanza portal para discutir alternativas tras la degradación" (in Spanish). NotiCel.com. Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  30. ^ "Natal presenta proyectos de ley para igualdad y equidad entre género" (in Spanish). NotiCel.com. 2014-03-06. Retrieved 2014-03-20. 
  31. ^ "Medida prohibiría exportación de agua durante sequías" (in Spanish). Metro Puerto Rico. 2014-03-18. Retrieved 2014-03-18. 
  32. ^ a b Cindy Burgos (2013-08-15). "Natal no quiere ser el chico sexy de la Legislatura" (in Spanish). Metro Puerto Rico. Retrieved 2013-08-16. 
  33. ^ "Manuel Natal y Carmelo Ríos protagonizan fuerte altercado en vivo" (in Spanish). El Nuevo Día. 2014-03-03. Retrieved 2014-03-06. 
  34. ^ "Natal renuncia a la discusión "destructiva" en medio de programa radial" (in Spanish). NotiCel. 2014-03-04. Retrieved 2014-03-04. 
  35. ^ a b "Salen en defensa de Manuel Natal" (in Spanish). Metro Puerto Rico. 2014-03-06. Retrieved 2014-04-06.