Tag Archives: Washington

Court win fuels Puerto Rican citizenship debate – article from the Right

Note: See the very end of this article about former Secretary of State Norma Burgos’ “Puerto Rican citizenship.” What are the implications of this for the right of Stateside Puerto Ricans being able to vote in a plebiscite on the political status of Puerto Rico? Interesting.



Court win fuels Puerto Rican citizenship debate

After a long battle, the elder statesman of Puerto Rico’s independence movement finally has what he wanted: citizenship


Miami Herald (July 14, 2007)

MAYAGUEZ, Puerto Rico — The seeds of Juan Mari Brás’ quixotic patriotism were planted when his parents draped a Puerto Rican flag over his crib.

Those seeds flourished 13 years ago, when the elder statesman of Puerto Rico’s independence movement renounced his U.S. citizenship in an effort to be officially recognized as a Puerto Rican. He’s 79 now, and after a 60-year anti-colonial crusade, he has something new to adorn his surroundings: a certificate of Puerto Rican citizenship.

He is the first Puerto Rican in history to have one. And as the U.S. Congress considers Puerto Rico’s status, Mari Brás’ newfound and hard-fought citizenship has refueled the heated debate about what it means to be Puerto Rican.

The certificate was issued in October after Mari Brás successfully sued for the right to vote in local elections. Last month, the Secretary of State’s Office here offered citizenship to eligible islanders. About 450 have requested certificates, and legislators are drafting bills to codify the process of obtaining them.

The tangible value of the certificates is in doubt, even among some of Marí Brás followers.

”With this certificate, can I travel from here to some other country?” asked independence party legislator Víctor García San Inocencio. “When I come back, will Homeland Security let me in?” The answers: no and no.

For Mari Brás, the citizenship certificate is more legal test than meaningful evidence of nationality. He said his win is important because it marks the first time the government here has recognized a national identity not tied to the United States. But he shrugs off the significance of his long court battle, recognizing that while it may have been the most important achievement Puerto Rico’s tiny independence movement has seen in years, it is a far cry from the sovereignty he craves.

”Biologists experiment with plants and animals and chemists do so with elements,” he said in a recent interview at his office at the Eugenio María de Hostos Law School in Mayagüez. “Since I am a lawyer, I experiment with the law. The certificate is an achievement, but it’s not the independence of Puerto Rico.”

When Mari Brás was born to a deeply political Mayagüez family, the U.S. military had seized Puerto Rico from Spain barely 30 years earlier. People like nationalist leader Pedro Albizu Campos were frequent dinner guests at his uncle’s house next door.

”Back then, we thought independence would happen the day after next,” he said. “We never thought we would remain the most important colony of the most important empire.”

His father took him to political events, and he founded an independence movement in high school. It became a passion that got him jailed seven times, kicked out of law school and a heart attack at 36.

Mari Brás graduated from American University Law School in Washington. As a lawyer, he took on controversial cases such as the independence activists who opened fire on the U.S. House of Representatives. He founded the Puerto Rican Socialist Party and ran a spirited campaign for governor in 1976 until his son was murdered, a death Mari Brás blames on the CIA.

A Marxist with close ties to Havana, he was disbarred from practicing in federal court when he skipped a client’s appearance to attend a conference in Cuba.

But after decades of sometimes violent activism, even now the independence movement gets only about 4 percent of the popular vote. The vast majority of Puerto Rico’s 4 million people are split between wanting to become the 51st state and keeping some form of its current commonwealth status.

In a mission to prove Puerto Ricans had a separate national identity, Mari Brás in 1994 went to the American embassy in Caracas and renounced his U.S. citizenship. When he returned to Puerto Rico, a local statehood activist sued him, arguing that Mari Brás no longer had a right to vote in local elections. Puerto Rico’s electoral law says that only U.S. citizens can cast ballots.

”I wanted to see if in Puerto Rico you could continue breathing without being a U.S. citizen,” he said.

The case made the Puerto Rican Supreme Court, and, last fall, Mari Brás won.

”It’s extraordinary,” said Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York group that has represented Puerto Rico’s independence activists. “He has been after this for 30 or 40 years. The next step is people will demand passports. What other things can flow from there?”

The Popular Democratic Party, which seeks more autonomy for Puerto Rico while keeping the island’s current relationship with the United States, agrees.

”An empty wallet does not have everything a full wallet has,” said legislator Charlie Hernández, who has submitted a bill to codify the citizenship process.

Puerto Rico’s New Progressive Party (PNP), which supports statehood, is vehemently against the citizenship plan, calling it a useless and illegal residency certificate. It also alleges that current Secretary of State Fernando Bonilla, of the ruling Popular Democratic Party, agreed to go along with it in order to attract votes within the independence movement.

In a statement, Bonilla said he offered the certificate to obey the constitution and the court decision. He stressed that it doesn’t replace the U.S. passport.

‘I understand Juan Mari Brás’ purpose and respect it, but Puerto Rican citizenship does not exist,” said PNP Sen. Norma Burgos, a former secretary of state who once denied Mari Brás’ petition for citizenship.

To prove her point, Burgos, who was born in Chicago and moved to Puerto Rico when she was 5, asked for citizenship. Under rules that the Secretary of State drafted after Mari Brás’ court victory, she did not qualify.

”Was the Secretary of State going to tell me, Norma Burgos, ex-secretary of state, ex-lieutenant governor, and sitting senator, that I am not Puerto Rican?” she said.

Bonilla redrafted the requirements to include Burgos — and lots of other people. Now, if you live in Puerto Rico and one of your parents was born here, you qualify. U.S. citizens who have lived here more than a year are also eligible.

National Institute for Latino Policy
101 Avenue of the Americas, Suite 313
New York, NY 10013

Angelo Falcón, President and Founder
212-334-5722 Fax: 917-677-8593



ATLANTA, GA– (December 13, 2006) Latino Leaders representing community based organizations from multiple states met with Dr. James Fenton, Director of the National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Wednesday to discuss CDC’s response to the increased infections of HIV in the Latino communities across the United States and Puerto Rico. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is one of the 13 major operating components of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which is the principal Federal agency for protecting the public health and safety of all those living in the U.S. The CDC is also charged with providing essential human services, especially for those people who are least able to help themselves. The data on HIV infection among Latinos is alarming: they represent one of every five HIV infections. This proportion continues to raise, particularly among Latinas.

“This was a great meeting but it is just the first step in addressing the needs of the Latino community,” stated Oscar De La O, President and CEO from BIENESTAR. “We look forward to a continued dialogue and a partnership to improve CDC’s response to this health crisis,” stated Dennis De Leon, President of the Latino Commission on AIDS. Catalina Sol, Director of HIV Services at La Clinica del Pueblo in Washington, DC stated that “Our delegation was unified in speaking with one voice to Dr. Fenton in hope to a greater response to the AIDS epidemic among Latinos.”

In this historical meeting, among the requests to CDC, Latino leaders sought the following:

· Request for Increased Communication. Dr. Fenton agreed to meet at least on a yearly basis with Latino Leaders. CDC also agreed to identify a liaison that would be a point person for issues related to HIV and Latinos.

· Latino Consultation. CDC agreed to come up with a strategy within its strategic plan in which to focus on HIV issues specific to the Latino communities that involves many or all of the branches at CDC. This strategy will include prevention, capacity building, epidemiology, leadership involvement, research, among others. This plan would take into account the diversity of Latino communities and will address issues such as language, culture, and socioeconomic variances.

· Creation of a behavioral research journal. Request that CDC sponsor a journal to highlight behavioral research for Latinos. It is imperative to raise the visibility of the research challenges concerning Latinos and HIV/AIDS.

· Two day Latino social science consultation. Request that CDC consider funding a two day Latino social science consultation after the National HIV Prevention Conference which will take place December 2-5, 2007 in Atlanta, Georgia.

CDC agreed to most of the requests and also pledged to focus on Latino participation at the 2007 National HIV Prevention Conference by way of a Latino track and roundtable discussions. The two day Latino social science consultation was not confirmed, but would be given consideration.

The Community Based Organizations Present Included: Clínica del Pueblo, Washington, DC; BIENESTAR, Southern California; The Latino Commission on AIDS, NY; Salud Latina/Latino Health, Chicago, IL; CPG, Puerto Rico, Mujeres Unidas Contra el SIDA, TX


Mario Guerrero, Bienestar (626) 628-5219
Guillermo Chacón, Comisión Latina sobre el SIDA, (212) 920-1611

Latinos y Latinas se reúnen con los CDC, para pedir una respuesta más agresiva ante la crisis del VIH/SIDA

Atlanta, GA – (13 de Diciembre del 2006) Latinos representando organizaciones comunitarias de distintos Estados se reunieron con el Dr. James Fenton, Director de los Centros Nacionales para la prevención del VIH, Enfermedades de Transmisión Sexual y Tuberculosis, perteneciente a los centros para el control y la prevención de las enfermedades (CDC siglas en Ingles) para discutir la respuesta de los CDCs al incremento de infecciones por VIH en las comunidades Latinas a lo largo y ancho de los Estados Unidos. Los Centros para el Control y Prevención de Enfermedades son uno de los 13 principales componentes operativos del Departamento de Salud y Servicios Sociales (HHS siglas en Ingles), el cual constituye la agencia principal en el Gobierno de los Estados Unidos para proteger la salud y la seguridad de toda la población americana, así como proveer servicios humanos esenciales, principalmente para aquellos que no pueden ayudarse a si mismos. Las estadísticas de infección por VIH son alarmantes. Los Latinos y Latinas representan una de cada cinco infecciones de VIH y las infecciones por VIH entre Latinas continúan incrementándose.

“Esta fue una muy buena reunión, pero es solamente el primer paso para tratar las necesidades de las comunidades Latinas” declaro Oscar de La O, Presidente y Director Ejecutivo de BIENESTAR. “Estaremos en espera de un diálogo continuo y un trabajo conjunto que pueda ayudar a mejorar la respuesta de los CDC a esta crisis de salud” declaro Dennis de Leon, Presidente de La Comisión Latina sobre el SIDA; Catalina Sol, Directora de Servicios de VIH de “La Clínica del Pueblo” con sede en Washington D.C., dijo que “Nuestra delegación se presento de forma unificada y se expreso en una sola voz al dirigirse al Dr. Fenton con la esperanza de una mejor respuesta a la epidemia del SIDA.”

En esta reunión histórica, entre las peticiones que se formularon a los CDC, los líderes Latinos buscaron lo siguiente:

  • Una petición para más y mejor comunicación. El Dr. Fenton estuvo de acuerdo en reunirse –por lo menos- una vez al año con los Lideres Latinos. Los CDC también estuvieron de acuerdo en identificar una persona de contacto, que servirá de puente para temas relacionados a VIH y Latinos/as
  • Una Consulta Latina. Los CDC acordaron desarrollar una estrategia como parte de su plan estratégico, esta estrategia será enfocada en temas específicos relacionados al VIH e involucrara a muchas o todas las ramas de los CDC, que incluyen entre otros, la rama de prevención, capacitación, epidemiología, desarrollo de liderazgo e investigación. Esta iniciativa tomara en cuenta la diversidad dentro de la comunidad Latina y temas como el bilingüismo y otros temas en el área social, económico y cultural.
  • Una publicación relacionada al campo que investiga el comportamiento. Se solicito a los CDC el patrocinio de una publicación enfocada en la investigación sobre el comportamiento dentro de los/as Latinos/as. Esto es importante para incrementar la visibilidad sobre los retos de investigación concerniente a Latinos/as y el VIH/SIDA.
  • Dos días de consulta sobre el campo social en Latinos. Se solicito a los CDC que consideraran apoyar económicamente dicha consulta después de la conferencia nacional sobre prevención de VIH, programada entre el 2 al 5 de Diciembre, 2007 en Atlanta, GA.

Los CDC concordaron con la mayoría de las solicitudes y también aseguraron poner atención para la participación Latina en la Conferencia Nacional de Prevención de VIH, estableciendo un enfoque Latino así como mesas de discusión. Sobre la consulta de dos días, no fue confirmada, pero será considerada.

University of Puerto Rico Recruiting U.S. Puerto Rican Students

UPR busca estudiantes latinos

Por The Associated Press

(11:02 a.m.) Se realizarán charlas en Estados Unidos para los que quieran obtener un grado universitario en la Isla.

SAN JUAN — La Universidad de Puerto Rico (UPR) y la Administración de Asuntos Federales de Puerto Rico (PRFAA, en inglés) arreciarán esta semana en Estados Unidos una campaña en busca de jóvenes puertorriqueños o latinos que deseen estudiar en la isla.

“Los latinos continuamos rezagados en la obtención de grados universitarios. El aprovechamiento académico de nuestros jóvenes es imprescindible para el desarrollo socio-económico y político de nuestras comunidades”, señaló hoy Eduardo Bhatia, director ejecutivo de PRFAA, cuya sede principal está en Washington.

El programa en el que podrían estudiar los jóvenes es bilingüe y se ofrece en los recintos universitarios de Humacao, Cayey y Río Piedras.

Bhatia destacó que al 2003, tan solo 13.1% de los boricuas mayores de 25 años que residen en los Estados Unidos tenía un bachillerato, en comparación al 34.8% de los blancos, 18.5% de los afro-americanos y el 59% de los asiáticos.

En términos de estudios graduados, el panorama es aún más precario: tan solo 3.1% de los puertorriqueños mayores de 25 años había obtenido diploma de estudios graduados, en comparación a los blancos (8.7%), afro-americanos (4.1%) y asiáticos (15.6%).

Esta semana, la UPR y PRFAA realizarán charlas sobre el programa bilingüe en Connecticut y Massachussets. En octubre y noviembre, las charlas se moverán a Pennsylvania, Nueva Jersey y Florida.


FBI Destroying Records

Congressman José E. Serrano
Representing the Sixteenth District of New York

Serrano to FBI: Destroying Records is Counterproductive to Gov’t Openness

Washington, DC – August 22, 2006- Congressman José E. Serrano sent the following letter to the FBI late last week in response to recent revelations that the Puerto Rico field office destroyed certain records in the past. Serrano asked that the Bureau immediately suspend any further destruction of records. In 2000, Serrano and then-director Louis Freeh initiated a years-long effort to promote openness and accountability by the FBI in Puerto Rico.


August 17, 2006

Robert S. Mueller, III, Director
Federal Bureau of Investigation
J. Edgar Hoover Building

Dear Director Mueller:

As you know, I and other members of the Puerto Rican community have been grateful for your continued cooperation in the initiative by your predecessor, Louis Freeh, to disclose files related to the Bureau’s actions against supporters of the Puerto Rican Independence Movement. These files have been invaluable in building the historical record of this dark period in our nation’s history, and it is my ongoing interest in this subject that inspires this letter.

It has been brought to my attention that the San Juan field office destroyed certain records on the independence movement in February of 1989. This information came to light as the result of a Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act request by Jan Susler of the People’s Law Office.

I write to request that, notwithstanding any standard procedure, you suspend any further destruction of records concerning organizations and individuals related to the Puerto Rican Independence Movement. I would also like to request documentation of the destruction of any such records to date, and their former locations before they were destroyed.

Given the fact that the recent release of the Inspector General’s report on the Ojeda Ríos incident has done little to allay concerns about the Bureau’s modus operandi in Puerto Rico, I believe that the your continued commitment to the preservation and disclosure of these files will be essential to improving the Bureau’s image on the island.

Thank you for your attention to these concerns. I look forward to continuing our cooperation on this matter.


José E. Serrano
Member of Congress


Congressman José E. Serrano has represented the Bronx in Congress since 1990. He is the longest serving Member of Puerto Rican descent.