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Women’s Advocate Conducts Anti-Navy Propaganda

by Robert Becker

October 19, 2001
Copyright © 2001 THE PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

A member of Gov. Sila Calderón’s administration has put federal funds for her agency in jeopardy by conducting anti-Navy propaganda out of her office.

The official in question -- Women’s Advocate María Dolores Fernós -- announced on Oct. 9 that her office was opening up in Vieques a shelter to assist women victims of domestic violence. The Women’s Advocate office, which is supported by a combination of commonwealth and federal funds, is supposed to protect victims of domestic violence.

Fernós, in announcing the opening of the Vieques shelter, said her program would also "orient" Vieques women on their options, including getting the Navy off their island.

Calderón’s administration has made no secret that one of its principals goals is to evict the Navy from Vieques. But Fernós has gone a step farther in using taxpayer’s monies to conduct anti-Navy propaganda. And her timing couldn’t be worse, just weeks after the fatal terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and while U.S. military forces are in harm’s way off Afghanistan.

Fernós actions were no surprise, as she herself is no stranger to left-wing, anti-military activism. In the 1980s, she was married to Jorge Farinacci, a member of the violent Macheteros terrorist organization. Farinacci served three-and-one-half years in prison for his participation in the organization’ s 1983 robbery of $8 million from a Wells Fargo armored car in Hartford, Conn.

Farinacci was sentenced in 1992, and was also ordered to pay a $10,000 fine and serve five years probation on release.

Farinacci, incredibly, is now a regular fixture at anti-Navy demonstrations in Puerto Rico, and has been allowed to resume his labor law practice.

In August of 1985, the home of Fernós and Farinacci was raided by FBI agents as part of an island wide roundup of Macheteros suspects. Agents confiscated a number of materials characterized as terrorist documents, and seized a a handgun and ammunition, which Fernós later said belonged to her, not to her husband.

In subsequent bail hearings for Farinacci and other Machetero robbery defendants, an FBI agent testified that Fernós was seen entering a number of Machetero meeting places, then under FBI surveillance.

Prosecutors portrayed her as being involved in clandestine activities at the time.

Fernós was never charged with any crimes. But among their many crimes, the Macheteros in 1979 machine-gunned to death two off-duty and unarmed Navy personnel and wounded eight others; blew up nine Puerto Rico National Guard fighter jets, at a cost of $45 million; and pulled off the Wells Fargo robbery to finance their terrorist activities.

The Macheteros received their terrorist training in Cuba, according to the FBI. One of their leaders, Filiberto Ojeda, is still at large and is believed to shuttle between Puerto Rico and Cuba.

Fernós’s links to the Macheteros was brought up at her Senate confirmation hearing earlier this year, but only in the most superficial of ways. The pro-independence Puerto Rican press gave her a pass during the hearings, displaying its usual timidity in probing the terrorist links of some prominent politicians and officials. That a top nominee for Gov. Calderón’s administration could be approved, given Fernós’s past history, left onlookers aghast.

Media reports on Fernós’s remarks about paying for anti-Navy agitation with public funds drew the attention of California Republican Congressman Randy "Duke’" Cunningham. An aide to Cunningham told me her office would investigate the award of $500,000 in federal funds to Fernós’s office. She also said that should preliminary reports on Fernós prove accurate, the congressman’ s office will request the U.S. Department of Justice to rescind all federal funding for the women’s Advocate office.

Fernós, unsurprisingly, is defiant and sees nothing wrong with using public funds to conduct propaganda against the Navy. Reacting to a critical editorial in the San Juan Star, Fernós replied with an Oct. 19 letter to the editor cataloging a long list of alleged abuses by Navy personnel against Vieques women.

Without offering a shred of evidence, Fernós's said that accounts by the women of Vieques of "rape, forced prostitution, insults and unlawful limits on their personal liberty on account of drunken sailors shocks and shames."

Fernós went on to justify her agency’s use of public funds for propaganda.

"If these (Vieques) women have gauged the hazards the Navy presence represents for them and have clearly demanded it to abandon their island and their lives, we steadfastly support these efforts which, as I guess you know by now, is the will of the majority of the people of Vieques and the official position of the Government of Puerto Rico."

Robert Becker, Managing Editor of The San Juan Star, writes the weekly Puerto Rico Report column for the Puerto Rico Herald. He can be reached directly at: dkarle@coqui.net

. Defensora de Mujeres hace propaganda contra la Marina

Un miembro de la administración Calderón empleó fondos federales destinados a su repartición para hacer propaganda contra la Marina desde su despacho.

La funcionaria en cuestión, la Defensora de Mujeres María Dolores Fernós, anunció el 9 de octubre que su oficina abriría un refugio en Vieques para asistir a mujeres que son víctimas de la violencia doméstica. La oficina de la Defensora de Mujeres, que es sostenida mediante una combinación de fondos federales y del ELA, supuestamente tiene como finalidad proteger a las víctimas de la violencia doméstica.

Fernós, al anunciar la apertura del refugio de Vieques, dijo que su programa también "orientaría" a las mujeres acerca de sus opciones, incluida la de expulsar a la Marina de la isla.

La administración Calderón no ha ocultado que uno de sus principales objetivos es sacar a la Marina de Vieques. Pero Fernós fue más allá al emplear dinero de los contribuyentes para hacer propaganda contra la Marina.

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