|Do You Agree With Gov. Calderons Attendance At International Conferences?
In the months before the 2002 U.S. elections, Sila Calderon, not content to be just the Governor of Puerto Ricos 4 million residents, logged a considerable number of frequent flyer miles back and forth between San Juan and U.S. mainland cities, attempting to embrace Puerto Ricans living in the 50 states as a key element in her partisan politicking for Governors in Florida, New York and New Jersey.
Lately, governance over the entire Puerto Rican universe seems insufficient for Ms. Calderon, who is also beginning to speak as if she is the President of an independent Caribbean nation. Last weekend (Nov, 14-15), she cashed in some of those bonus miles to island hop to the Dominican Republic to join 21 Heads of State and Spains Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar in the 12th convocation of the Latin American Summit. According to the Governors press office, her objective was to discuss "trade initiatives" and meet with "other" world leaders. By take-off time, her office had not revealed the itinerary for her two-day stay in Santo Domingo. The Associated Press reported that one of her objectives was to make the island a permanent member of that body.
Once at the meeting, La Forteleza began issuing announcements of planned meetings between Governor Calderon and the Presidents of Uruguay, Costa Rica and King Juan Carlos of Spain, among others. The announced objective of the visit with the Spanish monarch was to promote trade between Puerto Rico and the European Common Market. Although it is not unusual for U.S. Governors to promote their states commercial interests overseas, it would be unusual for one to initiate those discussions on the basis of political equality with a foreign Head of State. On Governor Calderons list of objectives in her meeting with Costa Rica President Abel Pacheco was the reinstitution of airline service between San Jose and San Juan. Costa Rica is already included under the "Open Skies Agreement" negotiated by the U.S. Government and 59 participating countries, meaning that there exist no political impediments for U.S. and Costa Rican airlines to access either country. As a U.S. Territory, Puerto Ricos international airport in San Juan falls under that agreement.
Although the Governors office has issued little information on the results of the trip, her critics were quick to criticize it even before it began. New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera described it as an attempt by Puerto Ricos Governor to parade around Santo Domingo as if she were the President of an independent country. In a press release, he complained about her inattention to the islands many problems during her frequent trips off the island to pursue a "separatist agenda." After her return to Puerto Rico, other NPP voices joined in the chorus of castigation of Ms. Calderons international pretensions.
A spokesman for the U.S. Department of State, Robert Zimmerman, told the Herald that there was no objection to Governor Calderons recent visit to the Dominican Republic, since she had been invited as a guest of the President of the Dominican Republic and not a delegate and that she did not take a seat at the table with the Heads of State and their representatives. Herald sources close to the White House inform that, before her trip to Santo Domingo, the U.S. Government made it clear to Forteleza officials that it would repudiate any attempt by Governor Calderon to speak for the United States or assume any role that implied that Puerto Rico was a sovereign entity. In fact, in the official picture of the attending Heads of State released after the summit, Governor Calderons image did not appear among the delegates, no doubt an embarrassment to her and her Administration.
An official statement from the Department of State regarding visits by Puerto Rican officials to international events was provided to the Herald. It follows.
"The U.S. federal government recognizes that Puerto Rico has a special interest in regional activities and has supported Puerto Ricos participation in international organizations and bodies whenever possible; in particular, when it has been deemed that such participation would not be inconsistent with U.S. law, with U.S. government interests or the overall conduct of U.S. foreign policy; or when it would not involve assuming commitments that would affect the U.S. government. As a matter of longstanding practice, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. State Department have held discussions regarding Puerto Ricos participation in international organizations."
In this weeks Hot Button Issue Poll, we ask the question, "Do you agree with Governor Calderons foray into international conferences such as the recent Latin American Summit XII?"