Acevedo Already Inviting Congressionals To Inauguration… State Department Concerned About Acevedo Plan… Acevedo Wins Vote Count Public Relations Battle In States

December 17, 2004
Copyright © 2004 THE PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

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Acevedo Already Inviting Congressionals To Inauguration

The results of Puerto Rico’s gubernatorial election this year are the closest ever and still not known . . . but one of the candidates is already telling members of Congress that he won and lobbying them to attend his inauguration.

While the votes are still being counted in San Juan, "commonwealth" party gubernatorial hopeful Anibal Acevedo Vila is trying to get prominent names in Congress to the territory’s capital for the January 2nd ceremony.

The purpose is to create an image of influence in Washington that was not created by his past four years as the territory’s official representative to its national government.

Although he has a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives as Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner in the U.S., Acevedo is using Commonwealth Government lobbyists to secure the attendance at the inauguration.

During his campaign, he used the lobbyists to obtain endorsements of his candidacy.

Invitees have not been told that the vote counting is not over or that the tally is extremely close. Nor are they told that candidates of the Commonwealth’s statehood party have already been determined to have won most other offices.

With the weather turning cold in Washington, Acevedo’s invitation has appeal.

The timing of the Commonwealth’s gubernatorial inauguration is also encouraging attendance: The ceremony will take place a day after New Year’s Day on a Sunday, and a full day before the 109th Congress takes office. The date will enable members of Congress to spend an uneventful holiday weekend in Puerto Rico and still be in Washington for the congressional swearing-in.

State Department Concerned About Acevedo Plan

Bush Administration appointees at the U.S. Department of State are concerned about Resident Commissioner Acevedo’s possible election as governor.

The concern does not stem from a partisan bias; it is not due to Acevedo’s claims to be a national Democrat or because he is a member of the "commonwealth" party. Instead, it is because of his vision of Commonwealth relations with foreign nations.

Acevedo has been an outspoken supporter of the forays of incumbent Governor Sila Calderon, his political mentor, into international affairs. Calderon and her first secretary of state negotiated agreements with foreign governments and sought recognition from them as if the Commonwealth were a sovereign nation. They also sought membership in international organizations despite policy objections of the Commonwealth’s national government.

Calderon, further, refused to meet with senior U.S. State Department officials over the issue, despite repeated requests to do so. She even denied that she had been invited, although the invitations were in writing as well as verbal.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell twice personally had to advise U.S. ambassadors to try to block improper Calderon foreign ventures. Other State Department officials had to advise foreign representatives against Calderon requests numerous times.

Powell and other U.S. foreign policy officials also expressed their complaints about Calderon’s foreign contacts publicly on more than one occasion. They also spoke to the press to clarify the limits of the Commonwealth’s foreign affairs authority in an effort to reign in Calderon. The tactic seemed to work.

The Commonwealth has the same opportunities to engage with foreign governments and international organizations as the U.S.’ other organized territorial possessions and its member States. These opportunities are limited to educational, athletic, and other cultural exchanges and to business promotion cooperation. The assumption of binding obligations or involvement in political matters are not permitted.

Acevedo’s view of the Commonwealth’s role in international affairs is disputed by authorities in Washington on two accounts in addition to his support of Calderon’s improper ventures. One is his plan for the Commonwealth to be granted the authority to enter into commercial agreements with foreign governments as if it were a sovereign nation. Federal officials contend that it is impossible and unacceptable policy in any case.

A related objection is to Acevedo’s contention that the president of the United States has the authority to delegate binding international agreement authority to the Commonwealth.

U.S. State Department officials are monitoring election news emanating from the Commonwealth because of their concern.

Acevedo Wins Vote Count Public Relations Battle in States

"Commonwealth" party candidate Acevedo not only won a pivotal legal victory in the States in his effort to win the governorship this week, he won the associated public relations battle.

The contest was touched off by a recent Wall Street Journal editorial obtained by statehood party candidate Pedro Rossello. The national business-oriented newspaper took Rossello’s side in declaring that ballots that were effectively double-marked in the gubernatorial contest should not be counted. Almost all of the ballots in question were marked both for the Independence Party slate of candidates -- including its gubernatorial candidate -- and for Acevedo.

The Court of Appeals for the First Judicial Circuit of the U.S. agreed with Acevedo this week that the issue should be decided by the Commonwealth’s Supreme Court. A judge of the U.S. district court for Puerto Rico had been hearing the case at Rossello’s request. The Commonwealth Supreme Court had decided that the ballots were validly cast for the gubernatorial candidate whose name was marked (mostly Acevedo).

Governor Calderon reacted with extreme indignation to the Wall Street Journal editorial and worked with Acevedo to counteract it. Government of Puerto Rico lobbyists and public relations consultants were deployed in a major campaign. It succeeded in winning contrary editorial opinions from other newspapers and comments from members of Congress and elected officials of Puerto Rican heritage.

The most curious statement (but least influential) was made by U.S. Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL). Reacting to the First Circuit Court’s ruling, he said that Puerto Rico’s political status is "obviously colonial and anomalous."

The statement was curious because Gutierrez has been a leading (although not very influential) opponent of Puerto Ricans choosing the territory’s future political status and of the equality within the U.S. as one of the options. Although he holds himself out to favor independence, Gutierrez has been one of the "commonwealth" party’s strongest supporters in Congress and is a vehement critic of the Puerto Rican Independence Party.

The unfounded claims of the Calderon/Acevedo wing of the "commonwealth" party that the Commonwealth has greater autonomy than a U.S. State in the U.S. system got unwarranted credence from an editorial in the Miami Herald. Although the newspaper recognized that Puerto Rico is a territory, it editorialized that Puerto Rico’s "Commonwealth status . . . suggests that Puerto Rico’s local courts may have a better claim than their counterparts in any of the 50 states in a similar electoral dispute." In reality, the territory’s courts exercise authority similar to that possessed by State courts.

U.S. Rep. Roger Wicker also got into the status issue in an ‘op-ed’ in The Washington Times. Wicker, one of the most ‘right-wing’ members of Congress, signed the column, which was prepared by the Calderon-Acevedo public relations team.

The column stated that Acevedo "ran on a platform of maintaining the current commonwealth relationship with the United States" -- a contention carried in other commentary issued due to lobbying by the Calderon-Acevedo team. In fact, Acevedo ran on a platform of the Commonwealth being recognized as a nation to which the U.S. is bound, with the Commonwealth having the powers to veto federal laws and to enter into international agreements.

Wicker’s column also contained other errors. It asserted that Rossello, as governor of Puerto Rico, had petitioned the federal government for Puerto Rican Statehood in 1998 after Statehood won the most votes of any of Puerto Rico’s status options in a referendum but a majority of the vote was for none of the options. In fact, Rossello simply asked the federal government to clarify Puerto Rico’s options.

Wicker also contended that Acevedo had been certified as having "won" the gubernatorial election by the Commonwealth’s Elections Commission. The commission president has stated that a required preliminary certification that Acevedo had obtained the most votes in an incomplete count was not a certification that he won.

Wicker has close ties to Calderon, who gave his daughter a job in appreciation for his support.

Two municipal officials in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts were other elected officials of Puerto Rican heritage in the States agreeing to support Acevedo’s side in the dispute. One was Boston City Councilor Felix Arroyo, who wrote an op-ed in The Boston Globe. The other was Holyoke, MA City Councilor Lillian Santiago.

The Boston Globe also editorialized in Acevedo’s favor, as did The New York Times.

U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, another Massachusetts Democrat, also backed Acevedo’s position in commenting on the decision of the First Circuit Court, which is based in Boston.

News articles on the dispute also ran in newspapers throughout the country. Many mentioned the corruption that occurred during Rossello’s administration, as did some of the commentary. None mentioned the corruption that has taken place under Calderon or Acevedo’s personal ethics problems. Most did not clarify that Rossello has not been tied to corruption while he was governor.

The "Washington Update" appears weekly.

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