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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 analysis.

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 tenacity.

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 trial.

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 organizations.

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 at:

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