Tampa, Fla. — Zoraida Fonalledas, the National Committeewoman for Puerto Rico, who is also the chairwoman of the party’s permanent organization committee, said to NBC Latino that contrary to reports, she was not the object of “USA, USA!” chants when she stepped up to the podium to announce the RNC committee during the convention’s opening statements, and assured she was caught in the “Ron Paul” convention flap.
“There was a group who wanted Ron Paul delegates to be counted; they were protesting the way it worked out,” says Fonalledas, who was about to start making her statement when “USA! USA!” chants can be seen coming from a group of Ron Paul delegates.
“They were not happy with the rules, but we are in a democracy; we had a meeting, they did not have the votes, and we have to unite,” she said. Fonalledas says she also said “USA!” as the chants grew louder.
“We’re here to defend the U.S. and to make sure we are united as a party.”
Regardless of whether the protesters were directly targeting Fonalledas, the “optics” of Republican delegates protesting when a Latina woman is on the platform stage is not what the party wants at a time when it is trying to attract voters. The Republican party has released a statement saying, “To be clear, the attempt to disrupt the proceedings had to do with the report, not the Puerto Rico National Committeewoman.”
Either way, the talk in social media and the headlines are focusing on “USA!” chants as a Puerto Rican woman spoke on the convention floor.
Latino culture and humor site Latino Rebels offered the two popular reasons why Fonalledas was interrupted, but also came down hard on the “optics” of the situation.
Harpers called it “A Troubling Chant on the Convention Floor,” and provided a play by play of the incident unfolding: “As she began speaking in her accented English, some in the crowd started shouting “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” The chanting carried on for nearly a minute while most of the other delegates and the media stood by in stunned silence. The Puerto Rican correspondent turned to me and asked, ‘Is this happening?’”
Fonalledas as well as other RNC delegates insist she was caught in the Ron Paul “crossfire” and that is the extent of it.
“It’s time to unite behind Romney and Ryan, and move ahead with our message,” says Fonalledas.
Either way, it was not the kind of situation the RNC wanted to be in as they attempt to reassure Latino voters that the party is indeed welcoming them into their tent.
Watch the awkward scene play out below: