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Pesquera: No Court Would Send Me To Jail, Justice: Criminal Probe Underway, Pro-Statehood Organizations Request Fernos Dismissal, Romero: Mainland Media Reaction Positive, Pereira: Pesquera’s Actions Unjustified, Bar Association Defends Fernos’ Stance On Flags, PDP: NPP Leader Should Face Charges ‘Like Any Criminal’, PIP Wants Calderon To Clarify Flag Regulations, Burgos Says Both Flags Should be On Display, Fernos Differs with Justice Secretary

Pesquera: No Reasonable Court Would Send Me To Jail

By Raquel Velazquez of WOW News

June 26th, 2002.  

Standing up for his convictions before a packed room of journalists, New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera reiterated Wednesday his determination to defend U.S. citizenship, saying if imprisonment is to be the result of his recent actions, he will accept the consequences. He added, however, that no reasonable court of law would find the basis to come to that decision.

"I’m convinced that what I did was right. My access to a public facility was restricted. This was not an issue of minutes; this was an issue of hours. If the power of the Commonwealth wanted to resolve this issue they had many opportunities," stated Pesquera, referring to the incident when he and a group of followers forced their way into the Women’s Advocate Office to mount the U.S. flag beside the Puerto Rican flag.

"Why was I denied access to a public place? Why did the police not use discretion in allowing us to enter and carry out the act of placing the flag where it should have been?" he asked.

"Go to jail? Who wants to go to jail?" the NPP official exclaimed. "The press and other communications media have not analyzed the situation objectively," expressed Pesquera, "I don’t understand it, but I accept it. This is part of the process."

Saying that he is at peace with himself and God, Pesquera would accept jail time if that is to be the consequence of his actions.

The NPP president stated that his actions were not a whim but an effort to preserve the political relationship with the United States and to ensure his children and grandchildren have the same opportunities he enjoyed.

"I have worked tirelessly to achieve this, and I knew there would be consequences and risks, but I am convinced that [placing the American flag] was for the good of the people of Puerto Rico who want American statehood," Pesquera concluded.

Justice: Criminal Probe Into Thursday’s Incident Underway

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

JUNE 25, 2002

Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez said Tuesday that the criminal investigation into Thursday’s incident at the Women’s Advocate Office, led by several leaders of the New Progressive Party (NPP), including President Carlos Pesquera and several elected officials, continues. The investigative and gathering of evidence stage is "very advanced" and the results could be announced "soon."

Rodriguez added that the videos of the incident are being evaluated and witness interviews are already underway.

The interviews include getting testimony from journalists, who were inside the building when the incident occurred.

Some argue that the journalist’s task is to report the incident as it occurred, and although they are witnesses, getting them to testify would open the door to use them in any criminal case.

Rodriguez, however, reaffirmed her orders to the assistant district attorney’s office to call on all those present during the incident.

Pro-Statehood Organizations Requests Fernos Dismissal

JUNE 24, 2002

SAN JUAN (AP) - In a show of solidarity, the Puerto Rico Pro-Statehood Organization expressed wholehearted support for NPP President Carlos Pesquera regarding Friday’s incident with the U.S. flag at the Women’s Advocate Office and called for the dismissal of Women’s Advocate Maria Dolores Fernos.

Accompanied by fellow members, organization director and spokesman Mario Porrata expressed in a press conference Monday that "what occurred was a spontaneous reaction on Pesquera’s part to the possibility that [Fernos’] inaction was a slap against the people".

Jose Julio Diaz, president of the New Statehood Movement, concurred by stating that the incident could have been avoided, "if Fernos had not placed her political ideology before her responsibilities as agency director."

"Fernos has no interest in women’s issues and is only interested in promoting her political ideology. She is a political activist for the independence party. She is not qualified to assume the position as an agency director and should resign as soon as possible," Diaz affirmed.

The organization declared that Pesquera had to wait five hours to do what Fernos was ordered to do four days earlier and that they fully support his actions. Porrata said that all U.S. based statehood organizations are "fully aware [of the incident] and without exception" support Carlos Pesquera.

When Porrata was asked if there could have been a less violent approach to the situation, he responded that it was as simple as opening the door.

"Why did they not open the door at 1 or 2? Ask why the Governor did not reprimand Fernos on Tuesday, when she gave the order to have both flags placed together and she disobeyed her … Tuesday passed, Wednesday passed, Thursday passed… why did she not do it.," said Porrata.

The spokesman added that Pesquera reaffirmed their support for statehood for Puerto Rico by his actions and that with this action, statehood supporters will not lose another election until Puerto Rico becomes the 51st state.

Romero: Pesquera’s Action Very Positive By Mainland Media

By Raquel Velazquez of WOW News

June 24th, 2002.  

Former governor and Resident Commissioner Carlos Romero Barcelo expressed that mainland media viewed Carlos Pesquera’s actions on Friday regarding his placing the American flag in the lobby of the Women’s Advocacy Office as "very positive".

"I was in the United States when this occurred," said Romero Barcelo, "and when you see the reality that Pesquera announced he was going to place the flag and was pushed after waiting four and a half hours to enter a public facility, you have to ask who provoked the situation."

"She [Fernos] had been ordered to comply with a directive", expressed Romero Barcelo adding that it was Fernos who incited the incident by ignoring Gov. Calderon’s orders to place both flags together in her agency’s vestibule. The former governor also remarked that the women who visit that agency for services "want to see not only the flag of Puerto Rico, but the flag that reflects our U.S. citizenship."

Romero also denounced those who claimed that Pesquera was aggressive in his actions. "Those who were there were the ones who were violent not Pesquera. Pesquera was there to place the flag. Why criticize him? Criticize those who blocked his way."

The former governor noted that, "no one has the right to disrupt anyone in a democracy where we have freedom."

Romero also added, "Now they are going to investigate a person [Pesquera] who was urging compliance of the law and respect for the flag. They are violating the rights of those who want to see the flag of our nation together with the flag of our land."

Pereira Denies Pesquera’s Actions May Be Justified

June 23th, 2002.  

SAN JUAN (AP) - Police Superintendent Miguel Pereira declined to say on Monday if New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera had been a victim of political discrimination when Women’s Advocate Maria Dolores Fernos denied him access to her office building on Thursday.

"One has the right to enter a public institution, but one does not have the right to hold demonstrations there or to leave whatever one pleases in the lobby. That right does not exist," Pereira stated.

The police superintendent admitted last week, that he could have handled the situation better when Pesquera, followed by a group of NPP supporters and legislators, became involved in a riot when agency officials refused to let him into the building to place a U.S. flag in the lobby of the Women’s Advocate Office in Old San Juan.

However, on Monday, Pereira defended his action, when he said he had no idea Pesquera and his followers were capable of inciting such unrest that several people were injured, including a police officer who fell downstairs.

"I cannot find the words to ask how it can be possible to hold the police and the women’s advocate responsible for what happened as an excuse to justify a person’s behavior. A key belief of occidental philosophy is that a person is responsible for his or her actions," Pereira noted.

Although he was unable to reveal the status of the investigation being performed by the Justice Department, Pereira said he expected the full weight of the law to be applied to those responsible for the riot.

Bar Association Defends Fernos’ Stance On Flags

June 22nd, 2002.  

PONCE (AP) — Bar Association President Jaime Ruberte argued Saturday that the agency chiefs of Gov. Sila Calderon’s administration are not obligated by law to place the U.S. flag in public buildings.

That is why he said Women’s Advocate Maria Dolores Fernos "is right" when she argued that the law does not require placing the U.S. flag in her office.

"State Department regulation approved in August 1995, establishes that the term ‘flag,’ as used singular, means the Commonwealth flag," Ruberte said. "It is by use and custom that the U.S. flag has also been displayed in the agencies of Puerto Rico."

Ruberte, who is a prison rights professor at the Eugenio Maria de Hostos Law School in Mayagüez, said Fernos did not commit a crime nor an administrative offense for not placing the U.S. flag in her agency’s lobby.

Anabelle Rodriguez said the law stipulates that both flags must fly in public buildings.

"What I’m saying is there is no obligation for the two flags to be in public buildings, but the governor, since she’s the one in command at La Fortaleza, has the prerogative of asking Fernos to use both," Ruberte said.

PDP: Pesquera Should Face Charges ‘Like Any Criminal’

June 21st, 2002.  

SAN JUAN (AP) — New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera should answer for the violent incidents in front of the Women’s Advocate Office "like any criminal who violates the law," Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Secretary General Fernando Torres Ramirez said Friday.

Based on his judicial experience, Torres Ramirez concluded that "several crimes could be identified," among them, the inciting violence, the destruction of public property, and the disturbance of the peace.

Torres Ramirez added that Pesquera could also be charged with inciting a riot, cuasing damage to property, and the restriction of liberty, which are considered crimes.

"I have no doubt that Pesquera’s acts are absolutely unlawful," Torres Ramirez said.

PIP Wants Calderon To Clarify Flag Regulations

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

JUNE 21, 2002

Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) President Sen. Fernando Martin urged Gov. Sila Calderon on Friday to issue a memo to all government agency heads indicating that under the current state of law, there is no obligation to display the Commonwealth flag alongside that of the United States.

"Under the law of Puerto Rico, there is no obligation to exhibit the Puerto Rican flag equal to that of the United States," Martin said.

A group of New Progressive Party supporters, led by their president, Carlos Pesquera, broke into the Women’s Advocate Office to place a U.S. flag alongside that of Puerto Rico, after Director Maria Dolores Fernos opted to display only the Commonwealth flag.

Martin, who is also a law professor, added that what Pesquera tried to do Thursday was precisely "trying to turn into law, something that isn’t."

Martin declared that a memo issued by the governor will prove that she does not accept such sort of blackmail.

"The only way in which the governor, in my judgment, can show that she does not submit herself to such blackmail, is to make it absolutely clear that in Puerto Rico there is no obligation in law to do so, (display both flags)" Martin said.

Burgos Clarifies Ruling On Flag Display

June 21st, 2002.  

SAN JUAN (AP) — Former Secretary of State Norma Burgos said Thursday that State Department rules establish that both the Puerto Rico and U.S. flags must be placed in every government agency of the Puerto Rico Commonwealth.

"This ruling does not say that only one flag should be posted," Burgos said, referring to Women’s Advocate Maria Dolores Fernos’ assertion that only the Puerto Rican flag was supposed to be exhibited in government offices.

Burgos cited the State Department’s ruling on the proper use of the flags, approved in May 1950, and amended Aug. 3, 1995, under her tenure.

"In Article 6, Section C, it is established that when the flag is displayed in government offices, bureaus, and other Commonwealth of Puerto Rico facilities. . .the Puerto Rico flag will be raised on an flagpole adjacent to the flagpole where the U.S. flag is displayed, and both should be at the same height," Burgos said in a radio interview.

Fernos Differs In Opinion From Justice Secretary

JUNE 21, 2002

SAN JUAN (AP) — Women’s Advocate Maria Dolores Fernos said Friday that Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez possibly misinterpreted that the flags of Puerto Rico and the United States must be on display together in government offices.

"We must be reading different regulations," said Fernos the day after an incident, which had been deemed violent, occurred in her office because she decided to display only the Puerto Rico flag in the lobby of the Women’s Advocate Office.

With this statement, Fernos has reiterated her position that placing the U.S. flag beside the Puerto Rican flag, as ordered by the governor, is merely a show of respect or tradition and is not a practice mandated by law.

Rodriguez said Thursday that a State Department regulation has "legal power" and that the two flags should be displayed together at the same height in all government agencies.

The fight for the flag, which left a police officer, a New Progressive Party (NPP) legislator, and various employees injured, as well as the entrance door of the advocacy’s office broken, began when a group of statehood supporters arrived at the Old San Juan office with the intention to place the U.S. flag next to the Puerto Rican flag.

Fernos had said Thursday that she would display the U.S. flag on Friday when a crowd of statehooders marched and clamored toward the front entrance of her office and blocked the area for four hours.

The crowd never calmed down, and NPP President Carlos Pesquera and a group of his followers were able to burst through and achieve their objective.

Fernos rejected the notion that placing the Puerto Rico flag by itself in the lobby would provoke statehood defenders since the flag "represents all Puerto Ricans."

She urged that a similar incident not be repeated.

"It saddens me very much that (Pesquera) had made a decision to incite violence, which also affected personnel from our office, and I hope that a situation such as this is not repeated here in our office in any form, nor toward anyone who works here," the official said in a radio interview.

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