Did cockfighting come to an end?
Well, it seems that the recent order of the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit of Boston, issued last Thursday by Judges Jeffrey R. Howard, David J. Barron and Sandra L. Lynch and that reiterates the federal prohibition of cockfighting on the Island, it had no effect in stopping this activity in Puerto Rico.
But, he was able to make the galleros nervous at the expectation of the procedure that the newly trained government of Pedro Pierluisi would take or the one that gives way to the federal government issuing an order to put into force the law signed by President Donald Trump on December 20, 2019 and that vetoes animal fights, according to important leaders of this industry told Primera Hora.
In reaction to the court order, the president of the Board of Directors of the Puerto Rico Gallistic Club, in Isla Verde, Rafael Hernández, assured that “we are not going to stop the fights.”
He recalled that Governor Wanda Vázquez signed Law 179 of 2019, which has been used since then to keep this tradition alive. The only change that has been registered is that roosters or items used in fights are not imported from the United States or any other country in order not to violate laws related to interstate commerce and that would trigger an intervention by federal authorities.
He stated that in the immediate future the most that could be foreseen as a result of the judicial decision is “a confrontation between the state and federal government”, not arrests or persecution of the galleros.
“I would like, at least, Pierluisi to help us, to allow us to continue playing bantamweight, which is what interests us right now,” he cried. “This is a problem that concerns the government a lot. The government has to find a way to solve this, because the consequences are dire for the government itself, due to the amount of unemployment that will exist and all the consequences that it entails, ”Hernández pointed out.
He explained that the chicken industry on the island generates around 70,000 direct and indirect jobs and about $ 65 million for the local economy.
In this possible federal and state struggle, Governor Pierluisi established a position of support for the Puerto Rican tradition.
“I am committed to supporting an industry that generates jobs and income for our economy, that represents our culture and our history. I have told the galleros that both the resident commissioner in Washington, DC, (Jenniffer González), and this server, we will continue to fight for them, “said the chief executive.
He added that “the federal authorities have jurisdiction in this matter, due to the order of the Court, but the signed law on state jurisdiction in this regard will remain. “We will continue the dialogue with the industry to ensure that we take all necessary measures so that they can operate in a safe and regulated manner,” he added.
Primera Hora learned that a possible meeting between the galleros and the governor would take place once he arrives from the federal capital, where he will travel today to participate in the inauguration of the elected president, Joe Biden.
That meeting with the governor is transcendental for the galleros, according to the vice president of the Cultural and Sports Association of the Fine Fighting Rooster, Juan Ramón Rivera Rivera, known as “Grandfather Pepito.”
He revealed that “we need the governor to get involved hand in hand with us… That he accompany us to carry out lobbying in Washington, that they assign lobbyists in the PRFAA office (Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration), lawyers for the defense that there are to continue. We have to discuss all possible strategies, let the Government be the spearhead and not the Association or a group of galleros. We need the federal government to understand that we are endorsed by the Government of Puerto Rico ”.
To give you an idea about this controversy, the federal law signed by Trump has never led to the arrest of cockfighting on the island. However, it sparked a lawsuit that has been going on for more than a year. It was the Gallistic Club and the Association who challenged the law in federal court, considering that the amendments to the Animal Protection Law signed by Trump were unconstitutional and violated their rights.
The presiding judge of the District Court, Gustavo Gelpí, determined that federal laws are applicable to the Island and that Congress had the power to impose regulations.
“Under the Commerce Clause, Congress has the authority to grant equal treatment to states and territories. Neither the political status of Puerto Rico, nor the Territorial Clause, prevent the government of the United States from putting into effect laws that apply to all citizens of the nation, whether or not they are a territory, ”the judge stated.
As Gelpí upheld its decision based on the Commerce Clause, at the local level the industry was authorized -by law- to continue with the fights, as long as they do not violate interstate commerce. Hernández and Rivera Rivera explained that, for this reason, roosters are no longer brought in from the United States nor are spurs bought abroad.
“The artifacts that are used for fighting, such as spurs, are being manufactured here. That has been positive, because it has created another source of income for the industry, because things have to be done here, “said the vice president of the Association. “As we have a local business and a totally local activity, we are no longer interfering with interstate commerce,” he added.
However, Rivera Rivera said that it is important to continue with the case in the Supreme Court of the United States or to lobby the Congress of the United States to establish the exclusion of Puerto Rico in compliance with federal law, as it was in last.
“As you know, federal law trumps state law. That is an argument that is not debatable. For this reason, we want them to see Puerto Rico again as it was in the last 86 years, ”said the gallero.
Even though the plays continue without mishaps, the president of the Gallístico Club accepted that the uncertainty that the industry is going through has its impact.
“You feel a certain concern,” he said.
He explained that they have prohibited the recording of the fights to pass them on the internet, as well as they have taken multiple measures to avoid a possible federal intervention. In their endeavor, they have been successful. He commented that since December 2019 no operations have occurred nor have they felt persecuted.
COVID-19 has had a greater impact
But what the feds have failed to stop, the coronavirus did.
Of the 70 galleras that were on the island, only about 25 have continued to operate.
Rivera Rivera commented that they have been affected by the increase in costs implied by the sanitary measures that must be taken and the limitations imposed by executive orders to avoid contagion with this deadly disease.
For example, currently only people can enter a cockpit until it is 30% full.
“Not all the galleras have the capacity to operate and leave them some profit,” he explained.
The owner of the Gallos Abuelo Pepito corporation indicated that the galleras that have closed have put into effect an improvement plan to be ready by the time they can reopen.
He also noted that what was not observed by the federal ban on cockfighting, has begun to occur with the coronavirus. It is that the few open galleras have had the visit of Police agents and the task force created by the Department of Health to monitor compliance with the executive orders issued to try to reduce infections with COVID-19 on the Island.
Rivera Rivera also reported that, so far, the government has not closed any galley due to coronavirus outbreaks or violations of the ordered measures.