Este artículo no está disponible en español.


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 political campaigns.

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 funds.

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 proof.

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 the elections.

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 at:

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