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PUERTO RICO REPORT
An El Nuevo Día Editorial Based On Grudge,
Not Historical Perspective
by Lance Oliver
February 18, 2000
Copyright © 2000 THE PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.
In a signed editorial, Antonio Luis Ferré, the president
and editor of El Nuevo Día, in his capacity as leader
of the island's largest daily newspaper, stated the following:
In 100 years, Puerto Rico has never had a more corrupt government
than that of Gov. Pedro Rosselló.
To quote: "En 100 años no ha habido un Gobierno tan
corrupto como el de Pedro Rosselló."
What are we to make of such a sweeping pronouncement? Surely,
before such a figure would make such a statement from such an
important pulpit, he would have conducted a thorough historical
Or would he? As El Nuevo Día has shown before,
being right does not necessarily mean having all the facts on
your side. Sometimes it just means shouting louder (i.e., distributing
more copies) than anyone else.
Let's be honest. Pedro Rosselló is an arrogant man
beyond normal proportions. Where a true statesman rises above
petty concerns and personal grudges to put first the interests
of society as a whole, Rosselló instead holds grudges with
He demonstrated that time and again during the Puerto Rico
Telephone Company strike, when he inflamed public opinion at a
moment when most Puerto Ricans yearned for peace and calm leadership.
He has also proven unreliable, campaigning in 1992 with the
slogan that the people would speak and he would obey. He turned
out to be the opposite type of governor. That in itself is no
sin. Mindless obeisance to the current whims of public opinion
is neither leadership nor statesmanship. But promising one thing
and delivering its opposite is a political sin.
All that must be said if only because the knee-jerk style of
politics in Puerto Rico demands that one is either firmly in one
camp or else just as firmly in the enemy's. Agree with an opponent
on one of a thousand issues and many of your erstwhile allies
will brand you a turncoat, one of the opposition.
Still, all of Rosselló's failings' notwithstanding, to
say his is the most corrupt administration in a century is to
display an ignorance or disregard for history that would be shocking
on the part of a newspaper owner if Ferré had not already
proven how out of touch he is with most Puerto Ricans.
After all, this is a man who once wrote in his highly visible
column about his tour of Europe and commented that Puerto Ricans
should take every opportunity to travel, as it broadens the mind.
Born into wealth, he obviously doesn't understand that when most
Puerto Ricans leave their island it is with a one-way ticket to
Newark or Orlando in search of a job they can't find at home or
a place to live where they might not become part of the murder
statistics Ferré's paper loves to report.
Puerto Rico has had 24 governors in the past 100 years: good,
bad and ugly.
If El Nuevo Día is concerned about the misuse
of public funds, I wonder if it considered Theodore Roosevelt
Jr. when handing out "worst in 100 years" awards. The
son of the president, who was also governor of Puerto Rico, was
accused of misusing public funds for his personal expenses.
One wonders if Ferré or the others at El Nuevo Día
have heard of E. Montgomery Reilly, probably the most hated
governor ever. Given the job by a corrupt president, Warren G.
Harding, in return for his contributions to Harding's election,
Reilly was an incompetent disaster who raided public funds.
Reilly was indicted, along with his secretary and the auditor,
by a grand jury for misuse of government funds for personal purposes.
The president sent an emissary to do an independent investigation,
and he confirmed the charges.
Before that incident finally ended Reilly's rule, he had brought
another incompetent crony from Kansas to be a "secret agent"
with the police. After abusing a young prisoner, Reilly's friend
was smuggled aboard a ship and sent to the states to avoid standing
If misuse of funds and mocking the law is not enough, how about
attacking truly precious liberties? Gov. William H. Hunt, fed
up with the Free Federation of Workers holding rallies in San
Juan's plazas, tried to force the mayor of San Juan to outlaw
public meetings and speeches. To his credit, the American mayor
rejected such a blatant infringement of free speech rights.
The list goes on. But the list doesn't matter.
El Nuevo Día's designation of the Rosselló
administration was not based on a careful historical analysis.
It was based on the ongoing grudge it has with the governor,
which has been fought out mostly on its own pages, but has also
made visits to the courts and to the forums of international press
As anyone who regularly and critically reads the newspaper
knows, it periodically ignores the tenets of objectivity, fairness
and avoidance of conflicts of interest that professional journalists
in the United States honor while still demanding U.S.-style protection
from external attacks.
The really surprising event was not the anti-Rosselló,
anti-corruption editorial (aren't we all anti-corruption?). The
surprise will come on the day that El Nuevo Día
addresses its own corruption.
Lance Oliver writes The Puerto Rico Report weekly
for The Puerto Rico Herald. He can be reached by email