Posts Tagged ‘Anibal Acevedo Vila’

NiLP FYI: Puerto Rican Nationalism and Statehood

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

Note: The Natural Resources Committee approved the Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2009 on the future political status of Puerto Rico last week. This bill was submitted by the island’s resident commissioner, Pedro Pierluisi, who is a member of the pro-statehood New Progressive Paty (PNP). The other three Stateside Puerto Ricans in Congress have not endorsed this bill.

According to this proposal, voters would choose between keeping the island’s commonwealth status, adopted in 1952, or to opt for something different. In the latter case, a second plebiscite would let them decide whether they wanted statehood, independence or independence with a loose association to the United States.

Two of the island’s main parties oppose the proposal as having a pro-statehood bias, and a similar bill that the committee approved in October 2007 has since died. Last week’s committee debate marked the 68th time that the House has debated a bill related to Puerto Rico’s status. Puerto Ricans voted to maintain the island’s current status and rejected statehood in nonbinding referendums in 1967, 1993 and 1998.

Residents of the U.S. Caribbean commonwealth are barred from voting in presidential elections, and their Congressional delegate cannot vote.

We have reprinted below an interesting analysis supporting the statehood position that we thought would be helpful in promoting further debate on this status issue. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of NiLP on this subject and we will seek disseminate commentaries on the other status options.

—Angelo Falcón

Puerto Rican Nationalism and the Drift Towards Statehood
by Arienna Grody, Research Associate
Council on Hemispheric Affairs (July 27, 2009)

Near the Caribbean islands of Hispaniola and Cuba lies another, smaller island, the inhabitants of which have never experienced sovereignty. The arrival of Christopher Columbus [Colón] to its shores in 1493 heralded an era of enslavement and destruction of the native Taíno population at the hands of the Spanish colonial system. Four centuries later, the decadence of the Spanish royalty had significantly weakened the once-formidable imperial structure. The Spanish-American War of 1898 became the capstone of the demise of the Spanish empire and the Treaty of Paris ceded control of several Spanish-held islands to the United States. Of the territorial possessions to change hands in 1898, Puerto Rico is the only one that persists in a state of colonialism to this day.

“Puerto Rico has been a colony for an uninterrupted period of over five hundred years,” writes Pedro A. Malavet, a law professor at the University of Florida who has studied the subject extensively. “In modern times, colonialism – the status of a polity with a definable territory that lacks sovereignty because legal [and] political authority is exercised by a peoples distinguishable from the inhabitants of the colonized region – is the only legal status that the isla (island) has known.” Puerto Rico’s legal and political status has not, however, precluded the development of a national ethos. On the contrary, Jorge Duany, a professor of anthropology at the University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras, explains that Puerto Ricans “imagine themselves as a nation [although they] do so despite the lack of a strong movement to create a sovereign state.” Furthermore, this perception of a unique Puerto Rican identity had already developed and become established under Spanish rule. Puerto Rican cultural nationalism has persisted through various stages of history, through drives for independence and efforts at assimilation. This puertorriqueñismo is apolitical. In fact, some of the strongest cultural nationalism is exhibited by Puerto Ricans living in the United States.

Nevertheless, the lack of association between puertorriqueñismo and sovereignty, or even of a clearly mobilized independence movement with widespread support, does not diminish the necessity of finding a just and permanent resolution to the question of the status of Puerto Rico.

American Imperialism Called to the Colors

In 1898, the United States won Cuba, Guam, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico from Spain. As U.S. troops invaded Puerto Rico, they proclaimed that their intentions were to overthrow the ruling Spanish authorities, thereby guaranteeing individual freedoms for the inhabitants. However, as Michael González-Cruz, an assistant professor at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez, writes, “the occupation and recolonization of the island did not improve basic rights such as health or labor conditions but rather reinforced the barriers that increased social inequalities among the population.” Although the U.S.’ initial promises of liberation and democracy won the support and assistance of many anti-Spanish Puerto Ricans, it soon became clear that “the United States’ interest in conquering land did not extend to accepting the colonized people as equals.”

Far from promoting the democratic republican ideals associated with the U.S.’ own independence movement and its aftermath, the new colonial regime on the island promptly instituted military rule. It “sought to consolidate its military and economic authority by repressing any activity that might destabilize it or threaten its economic interests.” U.S. military forces protected landowners against the tiznados, or members of secret societies dedicated to the independence of Puerto Rico, rendering the landowners dependent on their presence and rejecting any movement towards sovereignty for the island. Additionally, the period was marked by media repression and censorship as “journalists were systematically pursued, fined and arrested for reporting on the behavior of the troops of the occupation.” These were the first signs that island residents were not going to be treated as the equals of mainland Americans, but they were by no means the last.

The Insular Cases

According to writer, lawyer and political analyst Juan M. García-Passalacqua, the Insular Cases – the series of Supreme Court decisions that ultimately determined the relationships between the United States and its newly acquired territories – “made it clear that the paradigm was the governance of the property of the United States, not of a people.” This point is illuminated by the fact that the Insular Cases primarily addressed tax law. In De Lima v Bidwell (1901), the Court determined that Puerto Rico was not a foreign country – at least for the purpose of import taxes. But in Downes v Bidwell (1901), it held that the island was not part of the U.S. per se. Malavet points to the fact that it gave Congress “almost unfettered discretion to do with Puerto Rico as it wants” as the biggest flaw in the Downes decision.

The decision was neither undisputed nor unqualified. For example, Justice Edward Douglass White concurred, but on the condition that “when the unfitness of particular territory for incorporation is demonstrated the occupation will terminate.” Justice John Marshall Harlan II (best known for his dissent in Plessy v Ferguson (1896)) dissented emphatically, arguing that “the idea that this country may acquire territories anywhere upon the earth, by conquest or treaty, and hold them as mere colonies or provinces, – the people inhabiting them to enjoy only such rights as Congress chooses to accord them, – is wholly inconsistent with the spirit and genious, as well as with the words, of the Constitution.”

Despite these warnings, however, Congress (with the assent of the Supreme Court) continued to construct Puerto Rico as a dependent colonial possession, a status from which, more than a century later, the island has yet to escape. The civilian government introduced under the Foraker Act (1900) was appointed primarily by the president of the United States. The Jones Act (1917) can be said to have bestowed or imposed U.S. citizenship on Puerto Ricans. But this citizenship does not include the full rights guaranteed to citizens in the fifty states. In the case of Balzac v Porto Rico (1922), the Supreme Court held that personal freedoms, while considered a constitutional right on the mainland, were not legal entitlements on the island because of its status as a territory merely “belonging” to the United States, rather than as an “incorporated” territory. Malavet maintains that Balzac “constitutionally constructs the United States citizenship of Puerto Ricans as second class,” affirming Congress’ colonialist agenda and denying Puerto Ricans both the right to self-determination and the option to assimilate on equal grounds.

Americanization

Before Puerto Rico’s destiny to be a colonial possession indefinitely had been sealed, the United States instituted a policy of Americanization, centered on linguistically assimilating the islanders by establishing English as the language of public school instruction. Malavet has described this Anglo-centric agenda as “the most obvious effort to re/construct Puerto Rican identity,” which was made possible by the early view of Puerto Ricans as “overwhelmingly poor, uneducated people who could nonetheless be ‘saved’ by Americanization.” As Amílcar Antonio Barreto, Associate Director of Northeastern University’s Humanities Center, points out, clearly “an implicit assumption underlying Americanization was the presumed superiority of Anglo-American socio-cultural norms and the concurrent inferiority of Puerto Ricans.”

Americanization, although focused primarily on English language instruction to facilitate assimilation, included persecution of the independence movement. Significantly, Puerto Ricans, who had developed a national identity under Spanish rule, rejected the efforts at forced cultural substitution. According to Barreto, the Americanization project “endow[ed] the Spanish language with a political meaning and a social significance it would not have held otherwise,” laying the foundation for a cultural nationalism centered on the Spanish language and heritage.

Economic Dependence

Not only was the U.S.-imposed government unresponsive to cultural demands of the population, it allowed American corporations to control the island’s economy and exploit its resources, effectively plunging it into long-term dependency.

One of the most fateful decisions the government made was to promote sugarcane as a single crop. The dominance of sugarcane production undermined the coffee and tobacco economies in the mountain areas, allowed sugar corporations to monopolize the land and subjected workers to the cane growing cycle, forcing them into debt in the dead season and exacerbating the problems of poverty and inequality already present on the island. Furthermore, “the island became a captive market for North American interests.”

The economic policy of the early 20th century was a disaster for Puerto Rico. Its accomplishments were limited to widening the gap in Puerto Rican society, intensifying poverty on the island and creating the conditions of dependency on the United States from which it has yet to escape.

The Independence Movement

The American indifference to Puerto Rican cultural objectives, political demands and economic needs led to an initially determined drive for independence. One of the most prominent figures of the independence movement was Pedro Albizu Campos. A lawyer and a nationalist, he gained recognition when he defended the sugar workers’ strike of 1934.

The 1934 strike was a response to the wage cuts imposed by U.S. sugar corporations. Faced with a reduction of already marginal incomes, the workers organized a nationwide strike that paralyzed the sugar industry. Albizu Campos took advantage of his position as the primary advocate of the strikers to link the workers’ demands to the struggle for independence.

Albizu Campos based his argument for independence on the fact that Spain had granted Puerto Rico autonomy in 1898, before the Spanish-American War and before the Treaty of Paris. Therefore, he contended that Spain had no right to hand over Puerto Rico to the United States as war plunder. Unfortunately for Puerto Rico, autonomy does not equate to sovereignty. Sovereignty is not a condition that Puerto Rico has ever experienced. But there has been a significant push for an independent Puerto Rico. Nevertheless, this movement has been consistently and violently repressed.

In 1937, a peaceful protest in support of Puerto Rican independence was organized in Ponce. Shortly before the demonstration was to begin, then Governor General Blanton Winship revoked the previously issued permits. Police surrounded the march and, as it began, opened fire on the activists, leaving 21 dead and 200 wounded. The Ponce Massacre is one of the better known examples of the use of violence to silence the independence movement, but by no means was it an isolated event.

Assimilationism

The United States, despite its disregard for the Puerto Rican people, placed a high premium on the use of the island for military purposes. This was highlighted by the location of both the Caribbean and South Atlantic U.S. Naval Commands in the 37,000 acre naval base Roosevelt Roads, which closed in 2004.

The obvious alternative to independence is statehood, an option which entails a certain degree of assimilation. González-Cruz posits that “the extreme economic dependency and the U.S. military presence provide favorable conditions for Puerto Rico to become a state.”

As Governor of Puerto Rico in the 1990s, Pedro Roselló of the Partido Nuevo Progresista (PNP) proposed instituting a form of bilingual education, allegedly because of the advantages associated with both bilingualism and speaking English, but more plausibly to boost the island’s chances of becoming a state. In 1976, President Gerald Ford declared that it was time for Puerto Rico to become fully assimilated as the 51st state. But there was strong opposition, not only from island independentistas, but from American politicians, some of whom were determined to refuse Puerto Rico admission to the union without instituting English as the official language of the island.

In the 1990s, there was lingering xenophobic objection to Puerto Rican statehood as well as echoes of the linguistic intolerance exhibited in the 1970s. The American intransigence on language and assimilation is likely what pushed the Roselló government to try to institute bilingual education on the island.

“Because of the uncertainty of the status question, the proannexationist government [...] steered the island toward a neoliberal model in which statehood would not generate additional costs for the United States,” writes González-Cruz. They catered to the U.S. Congress as much as possible in order to try to direct the future of the island toward full incorporation into the United States.
However, this assimilationist push for statehood, embodied by the proposed education reforms was flatly rejected by the population. The Partido Independentista Puertorriqueña (PIP), may have never been able to garner more support than what it needs to barely survive, but assimilation is also perceived by many modern islanders as contrary to the needs, desires and interests of the Puerto Rican people.

Puertorriqueñismo

Puerto Ricans favor neither independence nor assimilation in crushing numbers. They are reluctant to forego the benefits of U.S. citizenship and unwilling to give up their identity as Puerto Ricans. Malavet argues that “cultural assimilation has been and positively will be impossible for the United States to achieve.” This is because Puerto Ricans perceive themselves as “Puerto Ricans first, Americans second.” Yet, in spite of this apparently strong nationalist sentiment, Puerto Ricans reject legal and political independence. In the words of Antonio Amílcar Barreto, “Puerto Ricans are cultural nationalists [but] the island’s economic dependency on the United States [...] outweighs other considerations when it comes to voting.”

“Culturally speaking, Puerto Rico now meets most of the objective and subjective characteristics of conventional views of the nation, among them a shared language, territory, and history,” writes Jorge Duany. “Most important, the vast majority of Puerto Ricans imagine themselves as distinct from Americans as well as from other Latin American and Caribbean peoples.”

This cultural nationhood emerged in the 17th and 18th centuries. As more Spaniards were born in Puerto Rico, they developed a distinct criollo cultural identity, inextricably linked to the island. Towards the end of the 19th century, the criollos began to push for greater independence from the distant fatherland. In March 1898, the first autonomous government was established under Spanish rule. Despite its imperfections, the autonomous charter indicated the growing nationalist sentiment on the island. Unfortunately, the United States invaded the island before it was ever granted independence.

Nevertheless, this criollo culture was sufficiently strong and entrenched to withstand the onslaught of the Americanization effort. One side effect of the attempted imposition of American culture and values was the development of a puertorriqueñismo largely defined in terms of anti-Americanism. Rather than simply creating a unique Puerto Rican identity, early nationalists defined Puerto Ricanness strictly in contrast to Americanness. Thus, “Puerto Rican nationalism throughout the 20th century has been characterized by Hispanophilia, anti-Americanism, Negrophobia, androcentrism, homophobia, and, more recently, xenophobia,” writes Duany. To a large extent, this accounts for the rejection of English (or even bilingualism) in favor of Spanish, which is perceived as an important part of contemporary Puerto Rican identity. Even Puerto Ricans living in the United States are often not considered real Puerto Ricans by island nationalists.

Nationhood

Duany describes a nation as “a ‘spiritual principle’ based on shared memories and the cult of a glorious past, as well as the ability to forget certain shameful events.” It is not inextricably linked to statehood. As legal scholar and political leader of the Puerto Rican independence movement Manuel Rodríguez Orellana explains, “Even before the phenomenon of the political unification of nations into states, the French were French and the English were English. Michelangelo was no less Italian than Mussolini.” It is this separation between the concepts of nation and state that allows Puerto Ricans to assert their Puerto Rican nationalism without demanding independence, instead defending their U.S. citizenship.

Although Rodríguez Orellana describes puertorriqueñismo as a “political act on the colonial stage,” it has generally lost its political undercurrents. As Rodríguez Orellana himself says, “the daily life of Puerto Ricans runs, consciously or unconsciously, along the track of their national identity.” Puerto Ricans are always Puerto Ricans. This is not a political act, but a cultural fact. Although independentista intellectuals like the relatively early and highly influential scholar Manuel Maldonado-Denis worry that “the colonization of Puerto Rico under the American flag has meant the gradual erosion of [Puerto Rican] culture” and argue that “Puerto Rico is a country that is threatened at its very roots by the American presence,” the evidence is to the contrary. In fact, migration “has produced an affirmation of puertorriqueñismo as a nationality in the continental United States that is stronger and may be more important than the development of it on the island.” Puerto Ricans clearly continue to exhibit a strong sense of cultural identity and nationalism in spite of their failure to connect it to independence.

A Century of Colonialism

In the words of Maldonado-Denis, “Puerto Ricans are a colonial people with a colonial outlook,” meaning that neither the Puerto Ricans on the island nor Puerto Ricans in the United States have yet achieved “a true ‘decolonization,’ either in the political or in the psychological sense of the word.” In spite of Puerto Rican complacency and in spite of the fact that the United States has managed to design “a process of governance that hides Puerto Rico in plain view,” the colonial relationship that persists between the two polities cannot last forever. 111 years after the acquisition of the island, the time to decide the future of Puerto Rico is overdue.

The Future of Puerto Rico

Malavet identifies the three legitimate postcolonial alternatives for Puerto Rico as independence, non-assimilationist statehood and “a constitutional bilateral form of free association,” arguing that “it is unconstitutional for the United States to remain a colonial power [...] for a period of over one hundred years.” The territorial status is only valid as a temporary, transitional status. It must lead to either independence or incorporation.

Given the unacceptability of Puerto Rico’s current colonial legal and political status, the question becomes: what is the best viable option for Puerto Rico?

Independence

García-Passalacqua writes that, “with the reemergence of all sorts of nationalisms, [sovereignty] has become the logical aspiration of any and all peoples in the new world order.” There is no reason why this wouldn’t be true for Puerto Ricans. The $26 billion drained from the island by U.S. corporations each year is sufficient justification to push for separation from the United States. The unequal treatment of island residents, embodied by the phrase “second class citizenship,” provides further grounds for dissociation from the imperial power. Additionally, Puerto Ricans self-identify as a nation.

There appears to be no reason for Puerto Rico to continue as anything other than an independent nation-state. In this vein, then Governor of Puerto Rico, Anibal Acevedo Vila, spoke before the UN General Assembly last year, accusing the Bush administration of denying the island its right to chart its own course and demonstrating a sense of frustration with the aimless direction in which the United States has dragged Puerto Rico. This seems to imply preference for autonomy, if not sovereignty. But while Puerto Ricans certainly insist upon their autonomy, there is no such consensus on independence – that option has never garnered more than five percent of the vote in any of the status plebiscites.

Statehood

Puerto Ricans are not ready to give up their ability to hop across the blue pond on a whim. Despite the fact that the United States continuously exploits the island – its resources and its people – , most Puerto Ricans perceive the benefits of their relationship to the United States as outweighing the costs.

Puerto Rico is “consistently losing its ability to achieve self-sustaining development, and the current economic course” makes it less likely that there will ever be “any significant degree of political and economic sovereignty.” Furthermore, the presence of U.S. military bases on the island reduces the likelihood that the Pentagon would easily let go of the valuable strategic outpost. The greatest opposition to Puerto Rican statehood would come from xenophobic American politicians arguing that Puerto Ricans are inassimilable.

This combination of factors could tilt the balance in favor of statehood over independence. Because Puerto Ricans perceive their economic interests as being tied to their connection to the mainland, they are likely to opt for a status that allows them to maintain the current relationship virtually unaltered. While the majority of island intellectuals may advocate independence, it is important to note that the majority of islanders are not intellectuals.

A New Proposal

Last month, Pedro Pierluisi presented a new bill in the Committee of Natural Resources in the U.S. House of Representatives, seeking authorization from Congress to allow Puerto Rico to conduct a series of plebiscites to determine the preferred future status of the island. However, the bill does not commit Congress to act on the results of the plebiscites and, although it presents Puerto Ricans with and opportunity to choose a reasonable permanent status, it also allows them to perpetuate themselves in an unacceptable state of colonialism indefinitely.

Malavet writes that “perhaps the biggest harm perpetrated by the United States against the people of Puerto Rico can be labeled ‘the crisis of self confidence.’ This form of internalized oppression that afflicts the people of Puerto Rico leads them to conclude that they are incapable of self-government. Under this tragic construct, Puerto Ricans believe that they lack the economic power to succeed as an independent nation – that they lack the intellectual and moral capacity for government.” This U.S.-imposed inferiority complex will almost certainly lead Puerto Ricans to vote against independence if given the option. They have consistently expressed no desire whatsoever to be categorized as a sovereign state.

Because Puerto Ricans do not connect their cultural nationalism to sovereignty and because of the island’s extreme dependency on the United States, the most likely eventual outcome for Puerto Rico will be statehood. Although this is not necessarily the ideal status for the island, it is undeniably preferable to its current second-class existence. What is most important is that the island ceases to be a territorial possession. In the words of Manuel Maldonado-Denis, “colonialism as an institution is dead the world over. Puerto Rico cannot – will not – be the exception to this rule.”

The Hope of a Nation

With any luck, Congress will pass Pierluisi’s bill (or a more forceful version that pushes for change) and Puerto Ricans will be given the opportunity to vote on their future. In spite of the strong cultural nationalism that permeates contemporary Puerto Rican society, the economic benefits of statehood are likely to be the most influential factor in a status vote.

Statehood entails a certain degree of assimilation. For instance, Puerto Rican athletes will now have to compete for spots on the U.S. Olympic team before heading to the international event. This absorption into the United States certainly erodes the sense of Puerto Rican nationhood as Puerto Rico is no longer able to represent itself as a specific entity on a world stage. However, this should not hugely effect the continuation of a thriving Puerto Rican culture distinct from American culture.

Moreover, there are definite advantages to becoming a state, not least the expansion of Medicare and the ability to vote. If the territory joins the Union, it will be nearly impossible for the U.S. to rationalize the perpetuation of the poverty currently found in Puerto Rico.

And if the population decides that the economic benefits of statehood do not outweigh the cultural costs, perhaps the shock of losing their Olympic team will spark a widespread Puerto Rican independence movement.

Puerto Rico Governor Inaugurates New Commonwealth Offices in Manhattan

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

PR Newswire (May 8, 2008)
NEW YORK — Puerto Rico Governor Anibal Acevedo-Vila presided over the official opening of the Commonwealth’s new offices in New York City on Wednesday.

Located at 135 West 50th Street in Midtown Manhattan, the new facility brings for the first time, Puerto Rico’s four economic development and promotional agencies under one roof: The Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company, the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, Rums of Puerto Rico and the Government Development Bank.

Hosting an evening reception for New York-based business leaders, finance experts and corporate location consultants, Governor Acevedo-Vila said:

“The Commonwealth ofPuerto Rico has long maintained a visible presence here in New York, the world’s financial, business and media capital, and the cultural and economic ties between the Island and New York are as strong as ever.

“With these four key agencies now under one roof, Puerto Rico’s new offices can more effectively reach out together to business targets and decision makers, creating new synergies that benefit companies interested in Puerto Rico,” the Governor added. “More than ever, we will be able to convey the message that Puerto Rico is a wonderful place to visit, a great place for business and investment and the source of some delightful rum products all at the same time.”

In addition to a suite of offices on 22nd floor, the Puerto Rico Tourism Company will soon open a storefront location on the building’s ground floor. According to Terestella Gonzalez Denton, Executive Director of the Tourism Company, the visibility will be especially valuable now, when record breaking numbers of overseas tourists, drawn by the weak American dollar, are flocking toNew York City.

Despite the downturn in the U.S. economy, Puerto Rico’s tourism program is thriving. The Island drew more than 5 million visitors in 2007, up nearly 100,000 from the year before. And, with 21 new hotel properties in the pipeline, the Puerto Rico Tourism Company is well on its way to meeting its goal of 14,000 new hotel rooms by 2011, a doubling of the existing inventory.

On the industrial development front, Boris Jaskille, Executive Director of the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company (PRIDCO), reports more than 22 “high impact” projects over the 18 months, accounting for $2 billion in capital investment and 5,000 direct new jobs. These include nearly a billion dollars worth of new investment by life sciences companies such as Pall Life Sciences, St. Jude Medical and Abraxis Biosciences, as well as several millions of dollars in added investment by aerospace engineering companies, including Honeywell and Pratt & Whitney, who are taking advantage of the large pool of highly skilled engineers on the Island.

“Puerto Rico has succeeded in attracting billions of dollars in investment in the last few years, much of it in high-technology sectors like biotech and aerospace engineering,” said Jaskille. “With our new offices in the heart of Manhattan, even more investors will learn that Puerto Rico is open for business, providing offshore advantages alongside the same protections they enjoy in the United States Mainland. We offer a unique value proposition.”

The new Incentives Act for Puerto Rico, which allows for tax incentives and added benefits to businesses establishing their operations on the Island, has been recently revamped in a paramount team effort of both the public and private sectors, to position Puerto Rico as the location of choice for foreign direct investment. “We’re currently sharing these new tools and provisions of the PR Incentives Act with potential investors and site selectors seeking highly competitive tax rates along with Puerto Rico’s world-class skilled workforce and unparalleled value proposition. We are also addressing global challenges and reducing energy costs. This strategic plan will undoubtedly position the Island as a front-runner in investment promotion”, said Jaskille.

Bartolome Gamundi, Secretary of the Puerto Rico Department of Economic Development and Commerce, followed up, saying, “Many of the global companies located inPuerto Rico today have enjoyed our unique investment advantages for decades. With the opening of ourNew York offices, the economic development team can maximize our agencies synergies in presenting Puerto Rico’s business advantages to the world’s capital of finance and industry.”

SOURCE The Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company

Puerto Rico eyes statehood status

Monday, May 5th, 2008

By Brian DeBose

Washington Times (April 26, 2008)

The status of Puerto Rico — commonwealth, U.S. state or independent — could be settled soon by the island’s populace if Congress will allow it.

Earlier this week, a bill to allow Puerto Rico residents to hold an official vote on whether to become a U.S. state or continue commonwealth status, passed a congressional committee for the first time, and the head of Puerto Rico’s governing party says the time has never been more ripe for the Caribbean island to become the 51st state.

The New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico, which is pro-statehood, has been trying to get Congress to sanction a vote for more than two years and says it thinks a bill can be passed this year. Previous referendums on the island’s status have been held by its government without U.S. authorization.
“In the past, we’ve never had a federally sanctioned vote, which caused turnout to drop to about 70 percent, and we feel we can reach our average of 83 percent participation if we have Congress’ support,” said Puerto Rico Senate President Kenneth D. McClintock, a party member.

Mr. McClintock’s party is at the height of its political power, controlling both Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives and Senate, and 42 of the island’s 78 mayoral posts. Party Chairman Luis Fortuno is the territory’s nonvoting delegate to Congress. In addition to that, their chief rival and leader of the opposing party, Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila has been indicted on 19 count of campaign-finance violations and mail fraud, negating his ability to effectively advocate against the bill.

Rep. Jose E. Serrano, New York Democrat, introduced the Puerto Rico Democracy Act in 2006, along with with Mr. Fortuno, but the bill had been languishing in committee until this week. “I am very pleased that the process is finally moving forward to allow Puerto Ricans the ability to decide once and for all whether they would like to be a state or an independent nation,” Mr. Serrano said.

Mr. McClintock wants a congressional floor vote by summer in order for his party to reach its goal of a referendum on the territory’s status before the end of next year. “We are very excited now, because my trip here was to advocate for the bill to come out of committee, and an hour before I arrived Tuesday, it was moved, and we are now calling for Congress to hold a vote on the floor,” he said. Mr. McClintock is also involved in the Democratic presidential race as co-chairman of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s National Hispanic Leadership Council.

He said it should be no surprise that recent polls of Puerto Rico voters show her getting 50 percent to Mr. Obama’s 37 percent in advance of the island’s June 1 Democratic primary, in which 63 delegates are up for grabs. While both Mrs. Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama have significant Puerto Rican populations in their states, her policy record is far more robust in terms of issues specific to Puerto Rico.

“In six years, she has either sponsored or worked to get passed a number of bills, including the domestic-manufacturing tax cut, and working to expand the child care tax credit so that any Puerto Rican with a child is eligible,” he said. Currently, Puerto Ricans must have three or more children to receive a child tax credit. He also said Mrs. Clinton has visited the island many times, most notably after Hurricane Georges to make sure the island received Federal Emergency Management Agency funding. Mr. Obama’s only recent trip has been a fundraiser, in which he met with Mr. Acevedo Vila, but not with Mr. McClintock.

“Senator Obama has not sponsored or co-sponsored any legislation related to Puerto Rico,” Mr. McClintock said. “I have had two private meetings and one political meeting with her, and none with him.”

TORTURE OF MACHETERO — ORDERED TO BE EXTRADITED

Monday, March 31st, 2008

Avelino was ordered extradited to Connecticut today to stand trial for the legendary Wells Fargo heist of 1983, an act that the Macheteros took credit for. FBI Criminal & Division Head Luis Fraticelli says that the FBI’s arrests against the organizations’ leaders will continue, so let us be prepared to continue supporting our freedom fighters, who are fighting for the freedom of a colony, even as the White House admits & officially adopts the position that Puerto Rico is a colony…JO

Ordenan extradicion de Gonzalez Claudio
Prensa Asociada
11 Feb 2008

Pese a que el presunto machetero Avelino González Claudio pidió que se le juzgue en Puerto Rico y se describió como un “prisionero político”, el magistrado federal Marcos López ordenó hoy, lunes, su extradición a Hartford, Connecticut, en un procedimiento judicial generalmente automático.

La defensa de González Claudio también denunció ante el togado que su cliente está recibiendo “trato inhumano” en la cárcel federal porque se le mantiene en una celda en la que se le selló la única ventana con una plancha de metal para impedirle ver la luz del día.

La portavoz del Centro Metropolitano de Detenciones en Guaynabo, Migdalia Torres, aseguró en una carta remitida a Prensa Asociada que, en el penal, se están reparando algunas de las celdas y que esos trabajos pueden requerir que se tapen sus ventanas temporalmente.

Y negó que González Claudio reciba un trato especial o diferente al de los demás reclusos.

“El tratamiento al reo González Claudio no es diferente al que recibe cualquier otro recluso en espera de juicio y con las mismas necesidades de seguridad”, aseguró Torres en la misiva.

El acusado fue arrestado la semana pasada por supuestamente participar en el robo de 7 millones de dólares de un camión blindado de la compañía de transporte de valores Wells Fargo en Hartford, Connecticut, el 12 de septiembre de 1983.

González Claudio aceptó el lunes que responde a ese nombre, aunque a través de su representación legal dejó establecido que no reconoce la autoridad de la corte estadounidense en la Isla para extraditarlo.

“Avelino González Claudio no niega su identidad. Este ciudadano puertorriqueño frente a usted es Avelino González Claudio”, dijo el licenciado Juan Ramón Acevedo Cruz, principal abogado de defensa del supuesto miembro del Ejército Popular Boricua-Los Macheteros, al magistrado López.

“En cuanto al asunto de la extradición, nosotros vigorosamente objetamos cualquier intento del gobierno de Estados Unidos de remover a González Claudio de su isla de Puerto Rico”, agregó el letrado en la vista de identificación del acusado.

El fiscal federal José Ruiz indicó a la AP que la extradición podría tardar más de 20 días y que generalmente si en Puerto Rico no se impone una fianza en la jurisdicción donde será trasladado permanecería encarcelado.

“Si se impone fianza aquí, allá generalmente lo honran”, indicó Ruiz. Según Acevedo, como “prisionero político”, González Claudio reclama su potestad, al amparo del derecho internacional, de permanecer en su tierra natal.

El abogado reclamó, además, que el gobierno estadounidense cumpla con la Resolución 1514 de la Asamblea General de la Organización de las Naciones Unidas (ONU), que declara el colonialismo como “la negación de un derecho humano fundamental”.

“Desde 1972, el Comité Especial de Descolonización de las Naciones Unidas ha reconocido el derecho inalienable de los puertorriqueños a la autodeterminación y la independencia de acuerdo con la Resolución 1514″, agregó el abogado citando la resolución.

La defensa también solicitó una vista de fianza, que fue señalada por el magistrado para el 21 de febrero a la 1:30 de la tarde.

La fiscalía federal, representada por Ruiz y Carlos Cardona, no objetó que se le garantice la vista de fianza al sospechoso.

Pidió con éxito que González Claudio permanezca encarcelado en la institución federal de Guaynabo por considerarlo un “riesgo de fuga” y “un peligro para la comunidad” porque usó nombres falsos por 22 años y por la naturaleza de los delitos que se le imputan.

Sobre la denuncia de trato inhumano, el magistrado dijo que eso no sería jurisdicción de la corte.

Ante los reclamos del abogado para poder ver a González Claudio en un cuarto de visitas de la cárcel y no en un salón de conferencias donde no tiene privacidad, y para que se le quiten las esposas y pueda firmar documentos, el magistrado le respondió que hiciera los arreglos pertinentes con el Negociado federal de Prisiones.

Le indicó que si la situación persiste entonces el tribunal podría intervenir.

Mientras la vista se llevaba a cabo, frente al edificio federal en Hato Rey hubo una protesta de organizaciones independentistas.

“Esta corte representa los intereses del imperio y van a seguir fielmente la orden de Washington, pero vamos a dar todas la batallas legales para que se quede aquí”, expresó Osvaldo González Claudio, hermano del acusado.

Agregó que abriga la esperanza de que su pariente sea juzgado “por sus pares” y no en Connecticut.

Subject: TORTURE/TORTURA OF/DE MACHETERO
To: panamaglobaljustice@lists.riseup.net

Coordinated protests were held today in New York and San Juan to protest the Gestapo FBI’s kidnapping of this freedom fighter…

Torture of Machetero denounced
MINH alleges that the “different treatment” González Claudio is receiving is intended to “soften” him.

By The Associated Press
February 11, 2008 El Nuevo Día

SAN JUAN – The co-chair of the National Hostos Independence Movement, (MINH), Héctor Pesquera, denounced today the fact that federal prisoner Avelino González Claudio, linked to the clandestine group The Macheteros, is supposedly being tortured in the federal detention center in Guaynabo where he has been confined since he was arrested on Wednesday [sic].

“We have information that they have already started to torture him, covering up the windows so he cannot know whether it’s day or night,” said Pesquera in a radio interview (WSKN).

Pesquera, a doctor by profession, said that the supposed “different treatment” González Claudio is receiving in the jail is meant to “soften him, preparing to break his will.”

Asking about the matter, governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá said that any allegation of mistreatment must be “immediately” taken to the highest levels of federal jurisdiction by González Claudio’s attorneys.

However, he said that in Puerto Rico, “let’s not fool ourselves. Here, historically, federal and state authorities… the way they treated independentists was very different from the way they treated other citizens.”

Immediately, Migdalia Torres, public information officer at the federal jail in Guaynabo, said she had no information about Pesquera’s allegations, but promised to investigate and get back to the Associated Press.

“I’ve just arrived; I don’t have any information,” said Torres.

Pesquera pointed out that González Claudio, while clandestine for 22 years, was a teacher of computer science for the musician and comedian Silverio Pérez and a president of the Supreme Court who could not be identified.

“We know that Avelino González Claudio, during the life he lived under another name, was a very productive person for the Country,” said Pesquera.

As for the judicial process which is to continue this afternoon, Pesquera said that González Claudio will not recognize the jurisdiction of the federal court to extradite him.

“He is going to ask that he be judged here, in Puerto Rico,” said Pesquera.

“That he be judged in his own land… anything else would be kidnap,” he added.

González Claudio has an identification hearing today before being extradited to Hartford, Connecticut, where he will face charges of bank robbery, among others, related to the robbery of $7 million of a Wells Fargo deposit in that city in September of 1982 [sic].

The clandestine organization The Macheteros claimed responsibility for this robbery.

On August 30, 1985, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), arrested 11 of 17 people related the clandestine organization which claimed responsibility for the deaths of two sailors from the Sabana Seca Navy Base and for the death of a police officer, in addition to the destruction of nine Puerto Rico National Guard airplanes.

Translation of letter from Avelino Gonzalez Claudio’s Defense Committee

We extend to you our cordial greetings from Mayaguez: As we have already denounced, Comrade Avelino Gonzalez Claudio was arrested by the F.B.I. today, and will be confronting charges which will be leveled against him outside of Puerto Rico.

Avelino was one of the comrades that the F.B.I. had been unable to capture during its repressive onslaught against our movement in 1985. That period saw the imprisonment of comrades like Papo Segarra Palmer, who spent 19 years of his life in U.S. prisons.

We should not lose sight of the fact that the colonial police of Puerto Rico took part in the surveilance that was maintained against Avelino Gonzalez, and his eventual arrest. This is after all an election year, and our colonial governor is susceptible to the pressures of the F.B.I. and a Republican Party in the U.S. which despairs over the failures of its undemocratic efforts against “terrorism,” the very thing that they’re guilty of inflicting on the world.

Avelino Gonzalez Claudio is a militant who has pursued the decolonization of Puerto Rico. He is not unlike those who continued the struggle of Filiberto Ojeda, those who confronted the
U.S. navy in Vieques, or those of us who today resist the abuses of the F.B.I. in our country.

The comrades of the Frente Socialista, (Socialist Front,) the Committee for Human Rights and La Nueva Escuela, (The New School,) call for a demonstration in support of Avelino Gonzalez Claudio, on Monday February 11 2008 at 3:00PM. At that time, a hearing will be taking place at the colonial “federal” court in San Juan to discuss the extradition of the comrade to the United States. We must demand that the comrade remain in Puerto Rico.

Denuncian tortura a machetero
MINH alega que el “trato distinto” que recibe González Claudio tiene el propósito de “ablandarlo”.

Por The Associated Press
11 febrero 2008 El Nuevo Día

SAN JUAN – El copresidente del Movimiento Independentista Nacional Hostosiano (MINH), Héctor Pesquera, denunció hoy que el preso federal Avelino González Claudio, vinculado con el grupo clandestino los Macheteros, supuestamente está siendo torturado en el centro de detención federal en Guaynabo donde está confinado desde que fue arrestado el miércoles.

“Tenemos información de que ya comenzaron a torturarlo tapiándole las ventanas para que no sepa cuándo es de día o cuándo es de noche”, dijo Pesquera en entrevista radial (WSKN).

Pesquera, médico de profesión, dijo que el supuesto “trato distinto” que recibe González Claudio en la cárcel tendría el propósito de “ablandarlo, irle quebrando la voluntad”.

Cuestionado sobre el asunto, el gobernador Aníbal Acevedo Vilá dijo que cualquier alegación de maltrato debe ser elevada a los más altos niveles de la jurisdicción federal por los abogados de González Claudio “inmediatamente”.

No obstante, dijo que en Puerto Rico “nadie puede tapar el cielo con la mano, aquà históricamente las autoridades federales y estatales… la forma en que trataban a los independentistas era muy diferente a la que trataban a otros ciudadanos”.

De inmediato, Migdalia Torres, oficial de información pública de la cárcel federal en Guaynabo dijo que no tenía información sobre las alegaciones de Pesquera, pero prometió indagar y comunicarse nuevamente con Prensa Asociada.

“Acabo de llegar, no tengo información”, dijo Torres.

Pesquera, por su parte, destacó que González Claudio, mientras estuvo clandestino durante 22 años, fue maestro de ciencias de computadoras del músico y comediante Silverio Pérez y de un presidente del Tribunal Supremo a quien no pudo identificar.

“Sabemos que Avelino González Claudio, durante su vida bajo otro nombre, fue una persona muy productiva para el País”, dijo Pesquera.

Sobre el proceso judicial que continúa esta tarde, Pesquera dijo que González Claudio no reconocerá la jurisdicción del tribunal federal para extraditarlo.

“Va a solicitar que se le juzgue aquí, en Puerto Rico”, dijo Pesquera.

“Que se le juzgue en su tierra, cualquier otra cosa sería secuestro”, agregó.

González Claudio tiene hoy una vista de identificación antes de ser extraditado a Hartford, Connecticut en donde enfrenta cargos de robo a banco, entre otros relacionados con el robo de $7 millones de un depósito de la Wells Fargo en esa ciudad en septiembre de 1982.

Por ese robo se responsabilizó la organización clandestina los Macheteros.

El 30 de agosto de 1985 el Negociado Federal de Investigaciones (FBI, por sus siglas en inglés) arrestó a 11 de 17 personas relacionadas con la organización clandestina que se responsabiliza por las muertes de dos marinos de la Base Naval de Sabana Seca y la de un policía, además de la destrucción de nueve aviones de la Guardia Nacional de Puerto Rico.


Pesquera denuncia tortura a Machetero

Lunes, 11 de febrero de 2008

El copresidente del Movimiento Independentista Nacional Hostosiano (MINH) Héctor Pesquera denunció hoy que el preso federal Avelino González Claudio, vinculado con el grupo clandestino los Macheteros, supuestamente esta siendo torturado en el centro de detención federal en Guaynabo donde está confinado desde que fue arrestado miércoles.

“Tenemos información de que ya comenzaron a torturarlo tapiándole las ventanas para que no sepa cuando es de día o cuando es de noche”, dijo Pesquera en entrevista radial (WSKN).

Pesquera, médico de profesión, dijo que el supuesto “trato distinto” que recibe González Claudio en la cárcel tendría el propósito de “ablandarlo, irle quebrando la voluntad”.

Cuestionado sobre el asunto, el gobernador Aníbal Acevedo Vilá dijo que cualquier alegación de maltrato debe ser elevada a los más altos niveles de la jurisdicción federal por los abogados de González Claudio “inmediatamente”.

No obstante, dijo que en Puerto Rico “nadie puede tapar el cielo con la mano, aquí históricamente las autoridades federales y estatales… la forma en que trataban a los independentistas era muy diferente a la que trataban a otros ciudadanos”.

De inmediato, Migdalia Torres, oficial de información pública de la cárcel federal en Guaynabo dijo que no tenía información sobre las alegaciones de Pesquera pero prometió indagar y comunicarse nuevamente con prensa Asociada.

“Acabo de llegar, no tengo información”, dijo Torres.

Pesquera por su parte destacó que González Claudio mientras estuvo clandestino durante 22 años, fue maestro de ciencias de computadoras del músico y comediante Silverio Pérez y de un presidente del Tribunal Supremo a quien no pudo identificar.

“Sabemos que Avelino González Claudio, durante su vida bajo otro nombre, fue una persona muy productiva para el país”, dijo Pesquera.

Sobre el proceso judicial que continúa en la tarde del lunes, Pesquera dijo que González Claudio no reconocerá la jurisdicción del tribunal federal para extraditarlo.

“Va a solicitar que se le juzgue aquí en Puerto Rico”, dijo Pesquera.

“Que se le juzgue en su tierra, cualquier otra cosa sería secuestro.

González Claudio enfrenta el lunes una vista de identificación antes de ser extraditado a Hartford Connecticut en donde enfrenta cargos d robo a banco entre otros relacionados con el robo de siete millones de dólares de un depósito de la Wells Fargo en esa ciudad en septiembre de 1982.

Por ese robo se responsabilizó la organización clandestina los Macheteros.

El 30 de agosto de 1985 el Negociado federal de Investigaciones (FBI en inglés) arresto a 11 de 17 personas relacionadas con la organización clandestina que se responsabiliza por las muertes de dos marinos de la Base Naval de sabana seca y la de un policía, además de la destrucción de nueve aviones de la Guardia Nacional de Puerto Rico.

Vicente “Panama” Alba
panamaalba2@yahoo.com
(917) 626-5847

“if you tremble with indignation at every injustice then you are comrade of mine.”

“Let’s be realistic, let’s do the impossible”
Ernesto “Che” Guevara

Governor of Puerto Rico and Twelve Others Indicted for Election Related Crimes

Friday, March 28th, 2008

Note: Below is the news release from the Department of Justice that outlines the charges against Puerto Rico Governor Anibal Acevedo Vila and his associates.

—Angelo Falcon

U.S. Newswire (March 27, 2008)

WASHINGTON, March 27 – Puerto Rico Governor Anibal Acevedo Vila and 12 associates in Puerto Rico, Washington D.C., and the Philadelphia-area have been charged in a 27-count indictment unsealed today and returned by a grand jury in San Juan, Puerto Rico on March 24, 2008, Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez-Velez of the District of Puerto Rico announced today.

The defendants face charges ranging from conspiracy, false statements, wire fraud, federal program fraud and tax crimes related to campaign financing for the governor’s 1999-2000 and 2001-2002 campaign for Resident Commissioner of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and subsequent 2004 gubernatorial campaign.

According to the indictment, the defendants conspired to defraud the United States and violate various Federal Election Campaign Act provisions by having Puerto Rico businessmen make illegal and unreported contributions to pay off large and unreported debts stemming from Acevedo Vila’s 1999-2000 and 2001-2002 campaigns for Resident Commissioner of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Payments were made principally to the public relations and media company for the campaigns. The illegal actions continued into 2003, due to the significant debt accumulated by the campaigns, some of which was also concealed from the FEC and the public.

Acevedo Vila and legal advisor, defendant Inclan Bird, solicited, accepted, and then reimbursed illegal conduit contributions from Acevedo Vila’s family members and staff. Conduit contributions are illegal campaign contributions made by one person in the name of another person. In addition, a group of Philadelphia-area businessmen solicited, accepted, and then reimbursed illegal conduit contributions from their own Philadelphia-area family members and staff for defendant Acevedo Vila. Acevedo Vila, in his official capacity, then personally assisted the businessmen in their attempts to obtain contracts from Puerto Rico government agencies for themselves or their clients.

The indictment also alleges a scheme to defraud the Puerto Rico Treasury Department of $7 million by fraudulently pledging to abide by a voluntary public funding law in defendant Acevedo Vila’s 2004 successful campaign for governor of Puerto Rico. The funding law required a cap on campaign spending and required full reporting of all contributions and expenditures. In exchange, the Treasury Department provided up to $7 million of public funds to the candidate’s campaign.

The indictment alleges that defendant Acevedo Vila and his associates conducted unreported fund-raising and made unrecorded vendor payments for the 2004 campaign in order to raise and spend far more than the limited amount to which they had agreed. According to the indictment, one significant aspect of this fraud was to have Puerto Rico businessmen (described as collaborators) use large amounts of money from their personal or corporate funds to pay for large and unreported debts to the campaign’s public relations and media company. Large sums of cash were also used to keep contributions and vendor payments concealed from the Treasury Department and the public.

As further alleged in the indictment, for many of the collaborator payments the media company created fake invoices to make the payments appear to be legitimate business expenses of the contributors’ companies. The indictment charges Jose Gonzalez Freyre, one of these contributors, with falsely claiming that a $50,000 invoice was real and that bona fide services had been provided to his company in exchange for the payment, when in fact, the invoice was fake and the $50,000 payment was part of the unrecorded fundraising and expenditure scheme.

In related illegal actions alleged in the indictment, Acevedo Vila, aided by Inclan Bird, accepted numerous forms of personal income from funds related to his campaigns or official position, which he failed to report as required on his income tax returns.

“This indictment demonstrates the commitment of the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Puerto Rico to ensure the integrity of the electoral process. Candidates for office and elected officials will be held accountable for corrupting the electoral process by disregarding campaign financing laws. Electoral fraud undermines the essence of our representative form of government, and operates to the detriment of every Puerto Rican,” said U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez-Velez.

“The Department of Justice will continue to enforce public corruption laws which are designed to protect citizens’ right to honest and fair government representation,” said Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher.

“Our democratic system cannot function when public officials act as though they are above the law. Public officials must comply with the law and those who do not comply will be held accountable,” said Luis Fraticelli, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s San Juan Field Office.

“Today’s indictment is a reminder that the tax laws apply equally to everyone. No one is above the law. It is the responsibility of every taxpayer to file correct and accurate income tax returns,” said Michael E. Yasofsky, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Miami Field Office.

The defendants and their individual charges are as follows:

(1) Anibal Acevedo Vila, 48, of San Juan, Puerto Rico, is charged with conspiracy, false statements, wire fraud, federal program fraud, and tax crimes. Defendant Acevedo Vila was Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2001 through 2005, and has been the Governor of Puerto Rico since 2005;

(2) Candido Negron Mella, 41, of Glenn Mills, Penn., is charged with conspiracy and false statements. Negron Mella is a Philadelphia businessman and was designated by defendant Acevedo Vila as his U.S. deputy campaign finance chairman (Resident Commissioner campaign) in 2002;

(3) Salvatore Avanzato, 69, of Boothwyn, Penn., is charged with conspiracy. Avanzato is a Philadelphia-area businessman;

(4) Jorge Velasco Mella, 38, of San Juan, Puerto Rico, is charged with conspiracy and false statements. Velasco Mella, a cousin of Negron Mella, received a job in defendant Acevedo Vila’s San Juan Resident Commissioner office and assisted in the handling of campaign contributions;

(5) Robert M. Feldman, 60, of Gladwyne, Penn., is charged with conspiracy. Feldman is a Philadelphia-area political and business consultant and was designated by defendant Acevedo Vila as his U.S. campaign finance chairman (Resident Commissioner campaign) in 2002;

(6) Marvin I. Block, 74, of Philadelphia is charged with conspiracy. Block is a Philadelphia-area businessman and lawyer;

(7) Ramon Velasco Escardille, 49, of San Juan, Puerto Rico, is charged with conspiracy, false statements and wire fraud. Velasco Escardille was defendant Acevedo Vila’s Resident Commissioner campaign treasurer;

(8) Edwin Colon Rodriguez, 35, of Arecibo, Puerto Rico, is charged with conspiracy and false statements. He is also charged with embezzlement in a separate indictment unsealed today. Colon Rodriguez was defendant Acevedo Vila’s Resident Commissioner campaign assistant treasurer;

(9) Eneidy Coreano Salgado, 40, of Rockville, Md., is charged with conspiracy. Coreano Salgado was defendant Acevedo Vila’s administrative director in his Washington, D.C. Resident Commissioner office;

(10) Luisa Inclan Bird, 47, of Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, is charged with conspiracy, wire fraud and federal program fraud. Inclan Bird was a legal advisor for defendant Acevedo Vila’s San Juan office and volunteered in his 2004 gubernatorial campaign’s finance department. Currently, she is a senior advisor for Governor Acevedo Vila;

(11) Miguel Nazario Franco, 60, of San Juan, Puerto Rico, is charged with wire fraud and federal program fraud. Nazario Franco volunteered in defendant Acevedo Vila’s 2004 gubernatorial campaign finance department, and is currently a businessman in Puerto Rico.

(12) Ricardo Colon Padilla, 39, of Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, is charged with wire fraud, federal program fraud and false statements. Colon Padilla was the finance director for defendant Acevedo Vila’s political party during his 2004 gubernatorial campaign.

(13) Jose Gonzalez Freyre, 56, of Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, is charged with wire fraud and false statements. Gonzalez Freyre is the owner of Pan American Grain, a Puerto Rico agricultural company, which contributed at least $50,000 to defendant Acevedo Vila’s 2004 gubernatorial campaign.

Each count carries the following maximum prison terms and fines, along with terms of supervised release:

Count one (conspiracy): five years in prison and a $250,000 fine;

Counts two through nine (false statements to the FEC and federal agents): five years in prison and a $250,000 fine;

Counts 10 through 21 (wire fraud): 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine;

Count 22 (program fraud – obtaining money by fraud): 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine;

Counts 23 and 24 (false statements to the FBI and IRS: five years in prison and a $250,000 fine;

Count 25 (conspiracy to defraud the IRS): five years in prison and a $250,000 fine;

Counts 26 and 27 (filing false tax return): three years in prison and a $100,000 fine;

This case is being prosecuted by First Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria A. Dominguez of the District of Puerto Rico and Trial Attorney Daniel A. Schwager of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section. The Public Integrity Section is headed by Chief William M. Welch, II. The case is being investigated by the FBI and IRS, with assistance and cooperation from the Office of the Comptroller of Puerto Rico.

The investigation into related corruption and other crimes is ongoing in the District of Puerto Rico. An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.

SOURCE U.S. Department of Justice

Contact: U.S. Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs, +1-202-514-2007, or TDD, +1-202-514-1888

Puerto Rican Governor Faces 19 Counts

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

By MANUEL ERNESTO RIVERA
Associated Press (March 27, 2008)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila was charged Thursday with 19 counts in a campaign finance probe, including conspiracy to violate U.S. federal campaign laws and giving false testimony to the FBI.

The indictment also charged 12 others associated with Acevedo’s Popular Democratic Party as a result of a two-year grand jury investigation, acting U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez said.

The 13 are accused of conspiring to illegally raise money to pay off Acevedo’s campaign debts from his 2000 campaign to be the U.S. island territory’s nonvoting member of Congress.

Acevedo, now running for re-election as governor, will not be arrested, Rodriguez said. But at least five others named in the indictment were led in handcuffs into the U.S. federal building in San Juan early Thursday morning.

“The governor will be permitted to turn himself in deference to his position,” she said.

Acevedo has called the campaign finance probe a case of political persecution by federal officials, partly for his criticism of a September 2005 FBI raid in which a fugitive militant Puerto Rican independence leader was killed.

His allegation has support in Puerto Rico, where many feel a deep-rooted nationalism and hostility toward the U.S. federal government.

A Harvard-educated attorney and career politician, Acevedo, 45, served in Washington as the island’s nonvoting delegate to Congress, and was elected governor in 2004 after campaigning on an anti-corruption platform.

Acevedo’s party favors maintaining the island’s semiautonomous relationship with the U.S. mainland. His leading opponent in this year’s governor’s race favors making Puerto Rico the 51st state.

The American Taxpayer and The Colony Of Puerto Rico

Friday, May 12th, 2006

Puerto Rico is a Colony of the United States since 1898. We are American citizens since 1917. We cannot vote for the President of the U.S. Puerto Rico is bankrupt even though we receive 22 Billion dollars from hard working American Taxpayers every year. I believe in Statehood for Puerto Rico because I believe in equality as a citizen and taxwise. Puerto Ricans do not pay federal taxes. Our annual budget is 9.2 Billion dollars of which 5 Billions goes in paying government employees which number 260,000. The actual governor, Anibal Acevedo Vila favors the actual status (The Colony). About 90% of anything being built here is paid by federal funds. Streets are full of potholes, umemployment is about 18%, level of poverty is about 60%. I believe Congress should investigate why Puerto Rico is bankrupt even with 22 Billion dollars in aid. Where is all the money going?

Ricardo