Puerto Rico Government Offices In States Say Acevedo Was Elected... Congressman Calls For Status Task Force Action

November 12, 2004
Copyright © 2004 THE PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

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Fortuno Poised to be Most Powerful Resident Commissioner

Puerto Rico’s Elections Commission says that no one can yet be considered to have been elected governor of the territory November 2nd. But the Commonwealth’s office in Washington, DC is telling news reporters and others that Resident Commissioner in the U.S. Anibal Acevedo Vila ("commonwealth" party/D) was elected.

The Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA) is advertising Acevedo’s supposed election as the lead item on its Internet Web site and on the site’s "Press Room" page. The agency operates 12 offices in States in addition to its Washington headquarters.

The Web report quotes Commonwealth Governor Sila Calderon congratulating Acevedo "for his triumph in the campaign for Governor" and "his election." Calderon is Acevedo’s political mentor.

The report even asserts that Acevedo was "certified . . . as the winner" by the Commonwealth’s Elections Commission. In fact, the commission has taken pains to point out that it has only given Acevedo a "provisional certification" and that Acevedo cannot be considered to have been "certified . . . as the winner." The commission it is still counting the election’s ballots to determine the actual winner.

PRFAA is headed by Calderon appointee Mari Carmen Aponte. Acevedo has lived in Aponte’s Washington, DC home while he has visited the nation’s capital in connection with his job as the territory’s "Resident" representative here.

Deceitful as it is, the report is not the most bogus case of PRFAA Internet disinformation. The Web site was previously used to falsely claim that the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Finance had approved one of Calderon and Acevedo’s top federal objectives: permanent tax exemption of 85% to 100% for profits that manufacturers based in the States receive from subsidiaries in the territory.

The phony claim was posted after the committee’s first of two rejections of the proposal. It was so outlandish that it even named 12 committee members as supporters of the tax exemption -- including members who had, in fact, opposed the measure. It also included a prepared e-mail that cited the alleged backing of the dozen committee members for readers to send other senators.

The fraudulent report and draft e-mail were taken off the site after a committee representative complained about the deception. The committee and the public had become aware of the report and e-mail due to an article in UPDATE.

PRFAA’s fictitious claim was based on the committee’s vote on a very different amendment involving Puerto Rico. The amendment was for a one-year only 85% tax cut for earnings that companies take away from subsidiaries in Puerto Rico organized as foreign units and reinvest in the States. Even though the measure promoted disinvestment from the Commonwealth, it was requested by Acevedo.

Neither Calderon nor Puerto Rico’s Legislative Assembly have taken apparent steps to rein in PRFAA’s improper political and other activities under Aponte’s leadership. The Legislative Assembly is also controlled by "commonwealth’ party members who have not conducted serious oversight of the agency or put strings on its budget even as improprieties have been exposed.

PRFAA spending contributed to illegality in at least one noteworthy incident. The agency’s drive to register residents of the States to vote paid for thousands of fraudulent voter registrations in Chicago, IL. Officials there said it was the largest case of voter fraud in the city’s history -- a dramatic statement in light of reputed voter fraud in the city in the past.

PRFAA’s $6 million-a-year plus voter registration program under Calderon and Aponte has also been questioned because the communities and individuals who have benefited are not residents of Puerto Rico. In fact, Aponte has acknowledged that tens of thousands of those registered have no connection to Puerto Rico -- not even Puerto Rican heritage.

The dubious spending of the tax dollars of Puerto Ricans by Calderon and Aponte has provided other services of local government to residents of the States such as a day camp and business and government grant application training. PRFAA has also spent public money to takes sides in local political campaigns in the States that promote issues rather than candidates.

Congressman Calls For Status Task Force Action

A member of the U.S. House of Representatives with many constituents who are of Puerto Rican origin reportedly called for action by the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status during a post election visit to the territory.

The task force was established by President Clinton a month before leaving office at the request of the heads of Puerto Rico’s independence and statehood parties. The purpose was to ensure that succeeding administrations would work with Puerto Ricans and congressional leaders to enable Puerto Ricans to choose the territory’s ultimate political status.

President George W. Bush’s lead aide on the issue, Ruben Barrales, began to take steps towards task force action in mid-2001 but the issue was put on the back burner after lobbying by Governor Calderon and Resident Commissioner Acevedo. The task force wasn’t activated again until earlier this year, soon after Bush delayed the deadline for its first substantive report until the end of next year.

Before the November 2nd election, Barrales suggested that the task force would make a contribution to the issue earlier in 2005 than the new deadline. But this week a confident said that plan could be upset if Acevedo is elected governor.

Acevedo opposes federal action to help resolve the issue because it would rule out his own proposed ‘solution.’ Acevedo’s idea is for the Commonwealth to be recognized as a nation to which the U.S. is bound.

Under this idea, the Commonwealth would have the power to veto the application of federal laws and enter into international commercial agreements as if it were a sovereign nation. Additionally, the U.S. would continue to grant citizenship to individuals born in Puerto Rico and all assistance Puerto Ricans now get. The U.S. would also grant make new annual grants of unrestricted funds to the Commonwealth.

Federal officials have uniformly said that such a governing arrangement is impossible as well as undesired.

Acevedo hopes to force the U.S. Government to accept his idea by having it be proposed by an elected Puerto Rico "constituent assembly." He thinks that the argument that the arrangement represents Puerto Rican "self-determination" will override the federal objections to date.

Barrales has questioned the usefulness of acting on the issue over the opposition of the territory’s governor. He has pointed out that the issue is unlikely to be resolved if Puerto Rico’s governor acts in the Commonwealth government or the Congress to prevent implementation of a presidential initiative.

Acevedo’s opponent for governor, former Governor Pedro Rossello (statehood/D), wants Puerto Ricans to choose the territory’s ultimate status from among all options acceptable to the U.S. government that would provide a democratic form of government at the national government level. Rossello has said he will call a referendum to determine if Puerto Ricans want to petition the federal government for such options.

Majorities in both houses of Puerto Rico’s legislature support Rossello’s plan and oppose Acevedo’s idea.

The congressman who called for task force action is Democratic Representative Joseph Crowley. He represents an estimated 100,000 plus people of Puerto Rican origin. His district includes portions of Queens and the Bronx in New York City.

Although Crowley declined to take sides in favor of a particular future status for Puerto Rico during an interview, he noted that the Commonwealth’s current status as unincorporated U.S. territory does not give Puerto Ricans the power they need in the federal government to ensure that their interests are protected and advanced.

He also said that Puerto Ricans need to be "fully represented" in Congress if Puerto Rico is to remain a U.S. area. Equal voting representation in Congress can only be achieved through U.S. Statehood.

Crowley, additionally suggested that Puerto Rico status referenda options be limited to potential statuses and not include a "None of the Above" option. The territory’s last referendum in 1998 was inconclusive because the most votes were cast for none of Puerto Rico’s status options even though all were on the ballot – continuation of the current status, independence, nationhood in a non-binding association with the U.S., and U.S. Statehood.

The Puerto Rico issue that Crowley has been the most active on was the controversial military training on the U.S. Navy’s former range on the island of Vieques, PR. At the request of constituents, Crowley called for an end to the training.

In the interview, he reiterated the view of then President Clinton that the Vieques community’s problems with the range would have been overcome if Puerto Rico had the political power of a State.

The "Washington Update" appears weekly.

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