U.S. & Dominican Republic Pull The Rug Out From Under Calderon… Congress Adds Rivers To U.S. Forest In Puerto Rico… Bush Nominates Garcia To Be The First Confirmed U.S. Attorney In A Decade

November 22, 2002
Copyright © 2002 THE PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.


Representatives of the governments of the United States and the Dominican Republic and other Latin American nations last week agreed to not let Puerto Rico’s territorial government participate as a national government in an annual summit of the top leaders of Spanish and Portugese-speaking countries.

Puerto Rico Governor Sila Calderon ("commonwealth" party/no national party) had sought -- and expected -- the participation.

U.S. State Department officials were outraged by her plans and efforts to achieve them. After checking with top aides to President Bush, they enlisted the cooperation of this year’s summit’s host government, the Dominican Republic. They also dissuaded other governments that Calderon appealed to in an effort to reclaim the summit participation that she expected.

Calderon had been invited to the summit as one of a number of guests. She took the invitation as an opportunity to be treated equally with the top leaders of nations -- she calls Puerto Rico a "nation" or "country" although it is a U.S. territory -- and to seek permanent membership in the summit organization.

Presumably concerned that the United States would object to one of its local territorial governments being accorded national government status, Calderon and aides planned participation in this year’s summit and sought a permanent invitation to the summit without seeking approval from the U.S. State Department.

Learning of her plans just days before the summit was to begin, State Department officials swung into action. They included Puerto Rican Hans Hertell, the U.S. Ambasador to the Dominican Republic. The U.S. representatives informed Dominican officials that the recognition and participation that Calderon sought and expected would be inappropriate since Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory and not a sovereign nation as Calderon has been suggesting.

Dominican officials agreed. As a consequence, Calderon was embarrassed as her plans for the summit -- some of which had been outlined to Puerto Rico reporters -- fell apart. In addition, subsequent efforts by Calderon aides to be accorded equal treatment with the national leaders failed as Latin American governments checked with the U.S. government.

  • Calderon was not received on arrival at the airport in the Dominican Republic as a foreign government leader.
  • She entered the summit hall through the public entrance rather than the special entrance for heads of states and governments.
  • She was seated in the third row of the audience rather than on the platform where heads of state and government were seated.
  • Although she had sent her body measurements for a dress similar to the shirt that the heads of states and governments wore for the official summit photograph and her aides had announced that she would be included in the picture, she was excluded.
  • She also had to settle for submitting in writing the statement that she had planned to make in the summit.
  • Most significantly, her petition for a permanent invitation for Puerto Rico to the summit was not approved.

Instead of what she had sought, Calderon was treated as a high-ranking guest . . . the appropriate treatment for her position and Puerto Rico’s territorial status. She was accorded all of the courtesies extended to the other leader of a territory present, the head of the government of the British territory of Belize.

This, however, did not satisfy the head of the government of the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. According to a summit participant, Calderon wound up spending much of the time in her hotel room apparently sulking while her aides vainly tried to obtain for her the summit participation that she had sought and expected.

This was not the first time that Calderon had sought membership for the Commonwealth in an international organization without seeking the approval of the U.S. State Department, or the first time that her efforts for Puerto Rico to be included were opposed by the United States. Earlier this year, Calderon sought associate membership in the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) without checking with the nation’s foreign policy agency. The U.S. government subsequently asked members of the ACS to deny Calderon’s application, which they did.

Calderon’s applied for ACS associate membership although the State Department had previously — and recently — advised Puerto Rico’s territorial government that it would be inappropriate and opposed by the United States.

State Department officials are concerned about Calderon’s announced plans to seek memberships in international organizations that are limited to national governments and to seek the power for Puerto Rico to enter into trade and other agreements with foreign countries. They are also frustrated that Calderon and her top advisers on the issue have refused to meet with them and suggest to other people that they are unaware of the State department’s positions.

The federal officials want to advise the Calderon administration on the proper international role of a local government of the United States and the federal government’s reasons for its policies and positions on some of the issues. Calderon apparently does not want to hear this, and reportedly is seeking to have the State Department overruled by the White House although she has failed in these efforts.


As is usual at the end of a Congress, the U.S. Senate passed several dozen relatively minor, non-controversial bills before ending its 107th Congress sessions this week. Many were natural resource bills. One of the many passed without any debate will add 8.9 miles of river to the federal forest in Puerto Rico. The bill is expected to become law since it has been supported by the Bush Administration.

The bill was sponsored by Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila ("commonwealth" party/D) but the additions were actually recommended by the Clinton Administration. A 1997 plan for the Caribbean National Forest and the Luquillo Experimental Forest by the Clinton Agriculture Department found stretches of the Icacos, Mameyes, and de La Mina Rivers qualified for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

A 4.5 mile length of the Mameyes extending from its headwaters will be classified as a wild river for 2.1 miles, a scenic river for 1.4 miles, and a recreational river for a final mile. The 2.1 mile length of the de La Mina from its headwaters to the Mameyes will be a recreational river for .9 miles from its headwaters to La Mina Falls and a scenic river for 1.2 miles until it joins the Mameyes. A 2.3 mile length of the Icacos from its headwaters to the current boundary of the National Forest will be a scenic river.

The bill will put the nine miles of river control of the U.S. Agriculture Department, expanding the role of the federal government in the Commonwealth. The rivers will be subject to use conditions that the federal Agriculture Department imposes although the bill ‘grandfathered’ several current uses and did not eliminate the authority of the territorial government to further limit activities in the rivers.


President Bush this week asked the U.S. Senate to consent to the appointment of Humberto Garcia of Texas as the chief prosecutor in federal judicial district of Puerto Rico. Garcia was named to the job on an interim basis by the U.S. Department of Justice earlier this year.

To be confirmed by the Senate, Garcia’s nomination will have to be resubmitted to the new Senate that takes office in January.

If confirmed, Garcia will be the first U.S. Attorney in Puerto Rico in a decade who obtained the post by most elements of the standard process: Appointment by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate. His predecessor for most of this period, Guillermo Gil, was on the job first as interim U.S. Attorney by designation of the U.S. Justice Department and then as a permanent U.S. Attorney by appointment by the U.S. District Court for Puerto Rico.

Garcia’s appointment will not, however, be by all elements of the standard process. U.S. attorneys are usually appointed by the President with the advice as well as the consent of the Senate — the procedure prescribed in the U.S. Constitution. And they usually are from the judicial district involved.

Presidents look first to U.S. senators of their party from the State of the district for advice on the appointment of U.S. attorneys. If there is no senator of their party, they seek the advice of the member or members of the U.S. House of Representatives of their party from the district. They also may consult senators from the State of the other national political party, leaders of their party in the State, and governors for advice.

Because Puerto Rico lacks U.S. senators and representatives, Presidents have generally relied on recommendations of their party committees in the commonwealth and resident commissioners and governors if these elected officials are supportive of the President’s political party.

In all of the cases, presidents are also guided in their final selections by the advice of their White House counsels and political advisors and screening by the U.S. Justice Department.

Garcia, however, was not recommended by Puerto Rico Republicans. Instead, he was selected by the U.S. Justice Department after Puerto Rico Republicans disagreed on their recommendations and after their candidates failed to pass U.S. Justice Department screening. He is a career federal prosecutor. Most U.S. attorneys are not.

In selecting a Justice Department employee from outside of Puerto Rico of the prevailing local ethnicity, Justice officials followed a practice that the department has used in the selection of U.S. attorneys in the two other U.S. territories that have U.S. attorneys — Guam and the Virgin Islands. In all of these situations, concern about ties to possible subjects of prosecution has led Justice officials to rule out local candidates for the job. Interestingly, however, at the same time that President Bush nominated Garcia, he nominated a Guamanian to be the U.S. attorney in Guam.

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