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Antonio R. Barcelo Jimenez, Yahaira Barcelo, And Laura Barcelo RIP
By CARLOS ROMERO BARCELO
December 16, 2004
Last Friday, I started writing the column for this Thursday. I was planning on finishing it over the weekend, but an incredible tragedy to members of my family occurred Friday night, which didnt allow me to concentrate on what I had planned to write. On Monday, I decided to change the subject and write about violence in Puerto Rico.
What happened to members of my family in Puerto Rico on Friday night is extremely difficult to accept. My nephew Antonio R. Barcelo, known to his friends as Toño or Toñito, had gone to pick up four of his daughters and a friend who had attended a concert at the Juan Ramon Loubriel Coliseum in Bayamon. As any good and careful father in Puerto Rico today would do, he made arrangements with his daughters to pick them up after the concert. He was doing his best to protect his daughters from the onslaught of violence, which the good and honest citizens in Puerto Rico are being subjected to. But his concern and precautions were to no avail.
While driving home, according to the police, he suddenly found himself caught in the crossfire between two vehicles. Unable to escape, he and two of his daughters were massacred. One of his younger daughters was wounded by a gunshot in the shoulder, and the other daughter miraculously escaped being shot and suffered only bruises, when the vehicle went out of control at the moment my nephew was assassinated.
I received the first news very early on Saturday morning, and it took me a few minutes to begin to mentally accept the tragic event. Immediately, I began to ask myself, Why? How come? Hundreds of questions came to my mind at the moment that I began to realize the tragedy really had occurred and it was not merely a bad nightmare.
After a while, I began to feel anger. No, not anger, rage, against those who committed the incredible massacre that has destroyed a family and left the survivors in a state of emotional distress and in a destitute situation. But neither anger nor rage can remedy the injury and the damage caused. I then tried to understand how and why and realized there is no answer, other than that our community, Puerto Rico, is seriously ill and the illness is getting worse. The number of violent crimes and assassinations in Puerto Rico is growing out of control and unless we do something about it, we will end up like areas of Colombia and Mexico City, where crime and drug-related assassinations have disrupted the system of justice and substituted disorder and lawlessness for law and order.
There is a feeling in Puerto Rico that criminals and drug lords are rapidly gaining control of the island and that gang wars and violent crimes are more and more frequent. However, the authorities refuse to accept the reality and keep coming up with statistics that they claim are proof violent crime is being reduced and assassinations are coming under control. All these statements and allegations fly in the face of the reality we are suffering.
Until the outrageous massacre against my relatives was committed Friday evening, I felt I was one of the lucky few in Puerto Rico who had not been a direct victim of a violent crime, nor did I have any close relatives who had been victims of violent crime. The closest that violence had touched me was through three close friends. I am now one more statistic of a citizen who has been a victim of violent crime or has a close relative who has been a victim of a violent crime. But not only do I have three close relatives who were brutally assassinated but I also have two grandnieces who are survivors of a violent crime against them and their sisters and their father.
But what pains me, our family, and thousands upon thousands of other countrymen and women is the realization of the pain, anguish, uncertainty, and desolation that Toñitos mother, widow, and children are suffering and will suffer for days, weeks, months, and years to come. How difficult, if not impossible, is it to console anyone. How can one explain why it happened? How can we even begin to understand their pain and suffering, if one has not been through any experience as painful as theirs?
How will the two daughters that are survivors of the horrible massacre be able to live a "normal" life? How long will they be tortured with the dreadful and painful images of the tragedy they suffered? How deeply will they be emotionally affected? Will they be able to survive their scars? How many nightmares will awaken them at night?
All these and many more are questions that the members of the family, friends, and concerned countrymen and women are asking themselves. I dont recall that during my lifetime, any other family in Puerto Rico has been a victim of a more heart-wrenching crime than the Barcelo and Jimenez family has suffered.
These are the times when the family must come closer together, as we have; unfortunately, it is tragedy that brings families closer together. It is the bond of family blood that is strengthened when tragedy strikes. Until Toñito and his daughters are cremated, as the family has decided they will be, speaking of other things is not something we feel like doing. However, since this column will be published this Thursday, Dec. 16, three days after Toñito and his two daughters Yahaira and Laura will have been cremated, I cannot finish without commenting on public statements made on Sunday by Anibal Acevedo Vila.
Yes, it was Sunday, two days after the horrible massacre of half a family as the result of violence running out of control in Puerto Rico that the candidate for governor of the Popular Democratic Party, was in Caguas where he was calling his party members to violence against the law. Yes, he has decided that he is right in his interpretation of the law and Pedro Rossello is wrong. Therefore, if the U.S. District Court Judge, Danny Dominguez, who has been extremely conscientious and careful in giving opportunity to everyone to plead their case, dares to decide against what Acevedo Vila wants, then he called upon "his people" to do whatever is necessary to support the "will of the people,"
which he understands to be "Acevedo-Vilas will." To call his Popular Democratic Party supporters to try to impose "his will" by threat of violence in the Puerto Rico of today is irresponsible and obviously a result of fear that his attempt to usurp the government is going to fail.
We have more than enough violence in Puerto Rico without having political leaders calling their people to violence. The threat will not intimidate us, but Acevedo Vila is standing on quicksand, which may very well swallow him and many innocent victims.
Carlos Romero Barcelo is a two-term former governor of Puerto Rico (1977-84), a two-term former resident commissioner (1993-2000), and a two-term former mayor of San Juan (1969-78). He was president of the New Progressive Party for 11 years.
This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.