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PUERTO RICO REPORT
The AIDS Institute Trial, Part Two
by Lance Oliver
January 14, 2000
Copyright © 2000 THE PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.
The second trial in the San Juan AIDS Institute case is now
underway in federal court, with more testimony about money being
taken from its intended purpose of helping AIDS sufferers and
diverted into the pockets of politicians.
The defendants in this case are lawyer Luis E. Dubón
and Dr. Jorge Garib, who was the institute's medical director.
Some aspects of this case are, so far, exactly like the first
one, in which the institute's director, Dr. Yamil Kourí,
and two other employees were found guilty of diverting an estimated
$2.2 million. Some money went for such purposes as paying the
maid at one defendant's home, but the real stir was created by
testimony that hundreds of thousands of dollars were donated to
The idea was to ensure the continued existence of the gravy
train so that Kourí and his accomplices could continue
to live well while AIDS patients died. To that end, they donated
money to candidates in both parties.
At least that's the account given by the prosecution's main
witness, Angel Corcino Mauras, who was the institute's comptroller
and agreed to cooperate with the prosecution after pleading guilty.
Also like the first trial, the lawyers for the defendants in
the second trial are trying to impugn Corcino, suggesting he is
lying on the stand to help the prosecutors' case and thereby win
a lighter sentence for himself.
One more similarity with the first trial: Gov. Pedro Rosselló
may be called to testify again. He tried to avoid testifying
in the first trial, but was forced to show up in court, where
he denied soliciting $250,000 for his campaign in 1992. (For
the moment, Rosselló is in the hospital awaiting surgery
for kidney stones.)
With Kourí already convicted and sentenced to 14 years
in prison, the defendants in round two are trying to blame him
for the corruption at the AIDS Institute and say they were used.
The speculation in political circles is: who else will fall?
The first trial led to the resignation of House Vice President
José Granados Navedo who admitted receiving a six-figure
sum of cash in a shoe box that apparently came from AIDS Institute
Testimony suggests money went to Rosselló, former San
Juan Mayor Héctor Luis Acevedo, his 1992 election opponent,
Carlos Díaz Olivo, and others. Whether it did, or whether
the recipients knew it, are still open questions, in terms of
Meanwhile, the latest show mounted by Rep. Edwin Mundo came
to an abrupt halt. Mundo launched new legislative hearings into
the AIDS Institute case but ran into opposition. Garib, who for
obvious reasons did not want to testify before the legislators
just days before entering a federal courtroom as a witness, tried
to avoid testifying at the hearing.
Federal judge José Fusté stepped in with an order
preventing Mundo's committee from forcing Garib to testify until
his federal trial was finished.
That makes sense from both legal and practical standpoints.
The court has shown itself better equipped to bring out the truth
of what happened at the AIDS Institute than the Legislature.
The Legislature's investigation of the AIDS Institute officially
lasted nearly four years. The final report found evidence of
misuse of funds, but the full story did not come out until the
first federal trial.
Mundo may have seen a great opportunity to grab the headlines
by putting Garib on the stand just days before his trial, when
attention was shifting to the issue anew. But the Legislature
had its chance and now should wait its turn.
The lack of medications and other problems that occurred when
the AIDS Institute was open were explained then with the old standby,
lack of funding. In fact, there was plenty of funding for parties
and personal expenses of Kourí and his accomplices. There
was plenty of money available for veiled payoffs to politicians
to ensure that the Institute would go on, regardless of who won
As a crime, it was despicable: steal from the sick and the
poor to give to the rich and powerful.
Time and events have shown that, at this late stage in a sordid
story now more than 10 years old, the best hope for justice lies
in federal court, not in another showboating legislative hearing.
Lance Oliver writes The Puerto Rico Report weekly
for The Puerto Rico Herald. He can be reached by email