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Carlos Pesquera: Ardent Statehood Advocate; Man Of Law & Order

Pesquera: From Shy Official To Ardent Statehood Advocate

June 21, 2002
Copyright © 2002 The Hartford Courant. All rights reserved.

PHOTO: Carlos Pesquera with American flag at Women’s Advocate office

SAN JUAN (AP) — From a shy public servant to an ardent pro statehood and U.S. flag advocate, Carlos Pesquera’s image and personality seems to have turn 180 degrees after his defeat in the last elections.

The amazing transformation of the New Progressive Party (NPP) was manifested Thursday when he violently forced his entry to the Women’s Advocate Office to place a U.S. flag along with the Puerto Rican flag.

The government office director Maria Dolores Fernos failed to followed Gov. Sila M. Calderon’s orders and decided to post the Puerto Rican flag alone in the office foyer, provoking outrage among statehood supporters.

In the middle of protests and insults, Pesquera entered the building pushing his way through an emotional crowd Thursday with an American flag in hand and stood it next to a Puerto Rican flag, ending a politically-charged protest that left two injured.

Carlos Pesquera, president of the New Progressive Party, emerged from the U.S. territory's Office of Women's Affairs flashing a victory sign after pushing through a crowd of journalists and employees to stand the flag in the building's lobby.

A crowd of about 50 supporters held a rally outside the building in San Juan's colonial district for hours before, with loudspeakers blaring the American national anthem. The protesters said they had been demanding for days that the office put up an American flag next to its Puerto Rican flag, which is a local state department regulation.

"At this moment I fear nothing", said Pesquera after blowing a kiss to those who tried to halt him.

One agency employee and one police officer suffered minor injuries in the fracas. A glass door at the office was broken, as was a car window. No one was arrested.

This image of a sweating and ardent Pesquera, is a vivid contrast with that of an extremely shy Transportation and Public Works Secretary, who entered in politics.

Whether this is good or bad, naturally depends on the political color with which you choose to view it: blue, red or green.

"There have been sectors in the statehood movement that were a little uncomfortable with Pesquera on the Vieques situation and were requesting a stronger position on the statehood issues," said Omar Negron spokesman for the College Pro Statehood Movement.

"The Pesquera seen in the incident, is a Pesquera who is consolidating his leadership, and who is not going to remain quiet regarding issues that affects the statehood supporters," Cruz said.

As a matter of fact, in a radio show after the incident, dozens of statehood supporters expressed their support for Pesquera’s attitude and even described him as their "Superman advocate of the statehood and the U.S. flag".

"Everyone has his limits and Pesquera’s limit was reached today[Thursday]. Carlos Pesquera is not the fool some may think," said a statehood supporter.

On the contrary Gov. Sila Calderon, whose party supports the island's current commonwealth status, later described Pesquera's behavior as "disgraceful" and ordered police and prosecutors to investigate and determine whether he should be charged.

"I love the flag of Puerto Rico just as I do the flag of the United States," she said.

Puerto Rico's representative for women's affairs, Maria Dolores Fernos, said she thinks there was nothing illegal about displaying only the Puerto Rican flag in her office.

But she said the governor told her all agencies should have both flags up in their offices. The government regulation requires that both flags be flown at the same height.

Pesquera: I’ve Fought All My Life To Never Have To Enter A Courtroom

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

JUNE 22, 2002

New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera said Friday that he did not violate any law during Thursday’s incident at the Women’s Advocate Office, but rather his rights were violated.

He noted that he is a man of law and order who has lived his life in accordance with the law.

"I have fought all my life in order to never have to enter a court room. You don’t look for these things; they just happen. I did not go there to get arrested. I went there to exercise what I believed was my right. That might bring consequences; well, let’s see what happens, but I don’t think I violated any law," Pesquera said.

Pesquera made his statements in his office at the NPP headquarters in Santurce nearly 24 hours after the incident in question had occurred.

On Thursday, the leader and a group of his followers marched to the Women’s Advocate Office with the intention of placing the U.S. flag alongside the Puerto Rican flag as had been ordered by Gov. Sila Calderon to Director Maria Dolores Fernos on Tuesday.

When Fernos ordered the doors shut, the group began to protest, and hours later, a near riot occurred, and the door was broken. Pesquera pushed his way through the group of employees in order to place the flag.

Pesquera’s demeanor, calm and somewhat reflective, known to all until Thursday afternoon, was evident Friday afternoon.

Still, he maintained that he had never changed his behavior, and he was the same person who the "people of Puerto Rico had always known."

He also denied that he had been pressured by the party’s extreme right as some have claimed.

Pesquera said it was his intention to carry out a "peaceful" demonstration in which he would go to the Women’s Advocate Office and simply place the American flag in the lobby, but Fernos’ action to deny him access changed the dynamics.

In an interview with WOW News, the NPP leader argued that while San Juan Police Zone Cmdr. Wanda Rivera had negotiated his entry to place the flag in the lobby of the office, La Fortaleza’s orders changed the agreement, and he was denied access. The action angered both him and his followers.

Still, he believes such actions should never occur again.

"I frankly believe that we should make an effort for these sort of things to never occur again, but it has to be an effort on all sides, and this government continues to take actions that makes an important sector of this island angry," Pesquera said.

Support for Pesquera from his relatives, co-workers, and followers was evident Friday as a substantial number of them remained at the party headquarters throughout Friday.

Outside the building, supporters waved American flags, which they would raise and wave to the passing cars that made signs of encouragement.

That endorsement came in all forms and from all parts of the island. WOW sources revealed that attorneys from as far as Mayaguez arrived at party headquarters early Friday to offer their services on a voluntary basis if an arrest was made.

The legal strategy was defined as NPP attorneys argued that contrary to what the opposition has argued, it was Pesquera’s rights that were violated when he was denied access to the public building.

Attorney Roberto Alonso noted that the act of denying access to a public building based on political or prejudicial motivation is penalized under the current state of law as a misdemeanor.

Furthermore, he argued that it was Fernos’ action to close the door that incited the riot and not Pesquera.

"As a result of Fernos’ decision to close the door he [Pesquera] was trapped; he is the victim," Alonso said.

NPP Electoral Commissioner Thomas Rivera argued that the party is ready to face any kind of accusation, and those present during Thursday’s incident were also ready to face all consequences, even arrest.

However, he described the possible action of filing charges against any leader, including Pesquera, as political persecution.

Furthermore, he accused the Popular Democratic Party of failing to make a difference between what is public administration, government, and politics.

This is because, in his opinion, Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez "got scared" and cancelled a press conference scheduled for 2 p.m., in which they were to announce the charges that would be filed against Pesquera and instead ordered PDP Secretary General Fernando Torres to identify the alleged charges.

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