|Assistant U.S. Attorney Guillermo Gil vs. Former Governor Pedro Rosselló
Just when Puerto Ricans thought that no other shoe would drop in the political corruption scandal in San Juan, the Office of the Assistant U.S. Attorney in San Juan has been charged with using "selective prosecution" in his investigation of bribes, kick-backs and political influence peddling by no less a personage than former Governor Pedro Rosselló.
In a letter to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, Rosselló asked for an investigation of the process by which Assistant U.S. Attorney Guillermo Gil targeted individuals for investigation, suggesting that the process has been unfair to members of the New Progressive Party (NPP), many of whom served in his 8-year administration that ended in January 2001. In a recent radio interview telephoned from his home in Virginia, he also accused Gil and his staff of leaking confidential information to the media, intended to defame NPP party members.
Rosselló is quick to state that he does not doubt that wrongdoing took place by some former associates in their use of public funds. In fact, his personal assistant at La Fortaleza, Maria de los Angeles Rivera, was found guilty in a scheme to trade influence for money to prospective contractors seeking government work. When the scandals first broke, the former Governor, then working in a Washington think tank, was silent on the issue, ignoring suggestions that he return to the island to clear himself of any wrongdoing. More recently, however, he has gone to the defense of his administration, saying that graft was the problem of "certain individuals," that it was not widespread and that he had no knowledge of the shenanigans going on among his underlings.
Referring to the case of former Education Secretary Victor Fajardo, convicted of extracting huge kickbacks from government contractors and then diverting the cash to fund NPP activities, Rosselló said that had the wrongdoing come to his attention he would have initiated a judicial process himself. Fajardo, who was called as a witness to testify against others, lied on the witness stand, causing Gil to dismiss charges against the accused. Now, Rossellós new tactic seems to be, "kill the messenger."
He is calling Assistant U.S. Attorney Gils management of the investigation selective and intended to bring down the NPP, including current politicians and future candidates. Gil brings some of the criticism on himself by his remark in the investigations early stages, "corruption has a name and is called the New Progressive Party." Gil is a Democrat, as is Rosselló, but most NPP members are mainland Republicans. Earlier, Rosselló struck out at the Sila Calderon Administration for exploiting the corruption trials for political advantage, pointing out that the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) had its share of politicians with dirty hands. He also accused the local media of sensationalism.
Rosselló has asked the leadership of the NPP to join him in his request to the Justice Department for an investigation of Guillermo Gils practices, including interviews with all witnesses, investigators and federal judges. He has also called for a full release of all court documents so that the public will have access to the "full story."
As difficult as it is to winnow wheat from chaff in this scandal, this week the Herald asks readers to express their opinion on the fairness of the investigation and decide if Assistant U.S. Attorney Gils work has been unbiased or if former Governor Pedro Rossellós contention holds water, that the process has been prejudicial and a vendetta against the NPP.