Calderon Offices In States Serving As Other Governments… House Democratic Whip Passes Over Caucus Member For Rossello… Top Hispanic Democrat Also Backs Rossello After Acevedo Plea

March 19, 2004
Copyright © 2004 THE PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

. ..

Calderon Offices In States Serving As Other Governments

A review of the Internet Web site of the official offices in the States of Puerto Rico reveals that Governor Sila Calderon ("commonwealth" party/no national party) has found that the offices have recently begun using territorial government funds to provide a wide range of services in the States unrelated to Puerto Rico. The offices of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA) are also now taking sides in local political issues under the direction of Governor Calderon and Director Mari Carmen Aponte as if they were local government agencies in the States.

Governor Calderon has boasted, "Through PRFAA, we've developed a variety of initiatives . . . economic development, civic engagement." She has asserted that, "These offices were established to . . . help ensure the short-term and long-term empowerment," of the communities of the States in which all of the 3.4 million citizens of Puerto Rican heritage live.

Governor Calderon’s words echo a part of the explanation of PRAFAA’s "mission" under Director Aponte: to "[f]acilitate . . . economic and public policy initiatives important to the growth and empowerment of all Puerto Rican communities," assuming the definition that "Puerto Rican communities" are areas of the States in which people of Puerto Rican heritage reside.

PRFAA was established to obtain assistance from the States for Puerto Rico -- rather than assistance from Puerto Rico to the States -- and to assist citizens of Puerto Rico in the States -- rather than assist citizens of the States, whether they have come from Puerto Rico, are of Puerto Rican heritage generations back, or have no ties to Puerto Rico.

The most publicized aspect of PRFAA’s new mission under the Calderon Administration has been the governor’s $12 million plus drive to register citizens of the States to vote in the States.

To date, the drive is also the most controversial aspect of the new mission. Chicago authorities are investigating the thousands of fraudulent registrations by the drive, where PRFAA contract employees are suspected of registering people using false names and false addresses.

Other examples of PRFAA acting as if it were a local government in communities in the States rather than as an arm of the territorial government, however, include the following:

  • "A trip for Pennsylvania educators to review Connecticut's recently privatized schools as a model;"
  • "The Chicago office is offering small business development workshops;"
  • "In Ohio . . . The office has been . . . offering in-house workshops on
    strengthening personal finance and on buying a home;"
  • "The Texas satellite office . . . is now . . .planning various economic
    and social services initiatives for the area;" and
  • "Representatives of non-profit organizations from New Jersey," participated "in an unprecedented two-day grantsmanship seminar. " The seminar provided "significant access to key federal program budgetary administrators" and enabled participants to "maximize their opportunities of securing funds for their respective institutions and communities. "

"Grantsmanship training workshops," for organizations in the States seeking federal and state funding have been a major activity, while other workshops "were also held in Cleveland, Chicago, New York and Philadelphia."

In a news release this month, Director Aponte said that "The workshops are part of our ongoing initiatives to . . . help . . . community-based organizations in the
U.S…[to] successfully apply and obtain federal funding."

She added that, "'we are already seeing the benefits . . . A community-based health organization in Ohio . . . recently acquired $100,000 in federal grants. The organization was successful in obtaining these resources because they had access to valuable information provided at the workshops."

PRFAA assistance is also provided to individuals who are not of Puerto Rican heritage. The $12 million drive to register residents of the States to vote, for example, asks persons who register, "Do you have relatives in Puerto Rico?"

It is billed as a "campaign . . . to empower . . . Hispanics" as well as "Puerto Ricans . . . across the nation." In New Jersey, it claims to have registered "thousands of . . . Hispanics," as well as "Puerto Ricans."

In addition to registering citizens of the States to vote, the program engages in "voter education and mobilization . . . to empower . . . Hispanics across the nation."

Governor Calderon’s purpose is said to be "to . . . build political leverage from increased voter participation."

Increased voting by citizens of the States is not the offices’ only political activity. These activities include:

  • Reports from PRFAA that it’s Pennsylvania office lobbied in the State’s process to determine the districts of its elected legislative officials;
  • The Boston regional office has worked to oppose a Massachusetts referendum proposition. (The proposal would have ended bilingual education, a matter that could well be of interest to citizens of Puerto Rico temporarily residing in the State but primarily concerned citizens of the State); and
  • "A key issue driving the Midwestern office is the Chicago area
    community's fight against gentrification."

In explaining her voter drive, Governor Calderon has made statements that seem to contradict her opposition to statehood being an option for Puerto Rico. She said, "The failure to vote is a danger to all Americans, for it weakens our democracy and reduces the power of the people." She also said the people of Puerto Rican heritage in the States "can add their voice, perspective and experience to the great melting pot that is still the American ideal."

House Democratic Whip Passes Over Caucus Member For Rossello

The number two Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives endorsed Puerto Rico statehood party gubernatorial candidate Pedro Rossello on Thursday March 18, 2004.

In making the endorsement, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) passed over a fellow member of the House Democratic Caucus, "commonwealth" party candidate and Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila.

Representative Hoyer made the choice, however, because of his work with both men, because of their records in office, and because of his agreement with Mr. Rossello on resolving the question of Puerto Rico’s ultimate political status. Rossello was governor of the territory before, from 1993 through 2000.

The Maryland Democrat personally favors statehood for Puerto Rico but he supports Puerto Ricans choosing the territory’s ultimate status from among all the options for a democratic governing arrangement. In addition to statehood, these options are independence and national sovereignty in a non-binding association with the United States (U.S). The options do not include Resident Commissioner Acevedo’s proposal for Puerto Rico to obtain national government powers while the current benefits of its U.S. status continue to apply.

Representative Hoyer has been active on Puerto Rico issues for years. His most notable contribution to the territory came in his capacity as the senior Democrat on a House Appropriations subcommittee in 2000. He successfully led the effort in Congress to approve then-President Bill Clinton’s proposal to fund a process in 2001 to enable Puerto Ricans to choose the territory’s future status from among options proposed by the ‘State’ Elections Commission and agreed to by the President of the United States.

While Mr. Rossello supported the Clinton proposal, Resident Commissioner Acevedo unsuccessfully lobbied against it, primarily through then Senate Majority Leader, Republican Trent Lott (R-MS). Resident Commissioner Acevedo recognized that a president of the U.S. would not accept a "commonwealth" proposal.

Resident Commissioner Acevedo later worked successfully with a top figure in the national Republican Party paid by the territorial government, lobbyist Charlie Black, to get the Bush White House not to implement the law that Representative Hoyer had steered through the U.S. Congress.

When word of the Rossello endorsement leaked out, Roberto Prats, the "commonwealth" party’s candidate to replace Acevedo as resident commissioner, insisted that Representative Hoyer endorse him as well since the statehood party’s resident commissioner candidate is Puerto Rico’s Republican National Committeeman. Representative Hoyer agreed to the request of the territorial senator and Democratic committee chair.

The combination of the endorsements would strike Puerto Ricans as strange since Rossello and Prats are running as the candidates of opposing local political parties and it would be unprecedented for both to be elected. It was understandable from Representative Hoyer’s point of view, however.

Representative Hoyer hopes to obtain higher office in the House and to win it, he would have to be elected by its Democratic Caucus and Roberto Prats could become a voter in the Caucus; while his statehood party opponent, Republican Luis Fortuno, could not be.

In a news release, Representative Hoyer wrote that Pedro Rossello "put Puerto Rico on a path to prosperity for all," during his previous tenure as governor. He recalled that Rossello "established a solid universal health care system . . . fought a successful fight against crime" and "brought about" the territory’s "longest period of sustained economic growth."

Noting that Mr. Rossello "is a long-time champion of the Democratic Party’s values and principles," Representative Hoyer suggested that Mr. Rossello would provide further funding for health care and education and embraced Rossello’s plans for "job-creation, further integration with the American economy, and transshipment port."

Top Hispanic Democrat Also Backs Rossello After Acevedo Plea

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson also endorsed Rossello this week.

Governor Richardson is the most prominent leader of Hispanic descent in the Democratic Party. His name is one of the most mentioned in speculation as to who will be the vice presidential running mate for Senator John Kerry (D-MA), the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate.

The New Mexico governor has already been chosen to be the Chairman of the Democratic Convention that will nominate Senator Kerry. He is also Vice-Chair of the Democratic Governors Association (DGA).

The DGA issued a news release announcing Vice-Chair Richardson’s personal support for Pedro Rossello after Resident Commissioner Acevedo lobbied to have the organization withdraw its recent endorsement of the statehood party candidate. The Chair of the DGA, Iowa Governor Thomas Vilsack, who is also being mentioned as a potential running-mate for Senator Kerry, announced the original DGA endorsement of Mr. Rossello, an earlier DGA Chair.

Resident Commissioner Acevedo’s lobbying included a letter that tried to suggest that Mr. Rossello was helping the campaign to re-elect President George Bush. The letter focused on Fortuno being Rossello’s running-mate and noted that the chairman of Rossello’s campaign committee, Judge Juan Melecio (who it incorrectly identified as being Rossello’s campaign manager,) attended the recent fundraiser in Puerto Rico that featured Vice President Cheney.

A similar e-mail was sent to Democratic leaders in Congress. It incorrectly asserted that Luis Fortuno will be the first Republican to represent Puerto Rico in the U.S. House of Representatives "[i]f Rossello is elected." (The first was Jorge Cordova, who sat with Republicans in the House from 1969 through 1972.)

The Richardson/DGA statement pointedly said that "Governor Rossello has worked tirelessly as an advocate for Democrats," as well as for "the Hispanic community."

In addition to lauding Mr. Rossello’s past service as governor, Vice-Chair Richardson also seemed to respond to Resident Commissioner Acevedo in saying, "Pedro will bring a positive vision," to La Fortaleza--the governor’s office. He also said that Mr. Rossello would "expand job opportunities, strengthen education, and improve the quality of healthcare, safety, and security."

DGA Vice-Chair Richardson recently issued an official proclamation as New Mexico governor stating that the State wants a federal law to enable the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico to determine the territory’s status from among "the non-territorial status options." Such options would be for "a permanent status that would provide full representative democracy."

The proclamation also answered the claim by Resident Commissioner Acevedo and others that statehood is not an option for Puerto Rico because of the Latin heritage of most Puerto Ricans. It recalled that New Mexico’s "ascension to statehood" was "intertwined" with its "Hispanic heritage."

The "Washington Update" appears weekly.

Self-Determination Legislation | Puerto Rico Herald Home
Newsstand | Puerto Rico | U.S. Government | Archives
Search | Mailing List | Contact Us | Feedback