Archive for February, 2011

As reported by El Nuevo Día, former Puerto Rican Governor Carlos Romero Barceló had a few strong words for the student protesters who interrupted a ceremony of the island’s former governors inside Puerto Rico’s Capitol building in San Juan today.

“It is revolting to see those who don’t want to study,” said Romero Barceló in Spanish. “The worst crime you can commit in a democratic state is when you try to impose your own personal agenda.”

According to El Nuevo Día, the incident with the students occurred when Jenniffer González, the Speaker of the Puerto Rican House of Representatives, was about to begin her remarks honoring the island’s ex-governors in the Capitol’s Rotunda area, where the original copies of Puerto Rico’s Constitution (ratified in 1952) are housed.

Student protestors being forced out of Puerto Rico's Capitol Building today. ©A Primera Hora

The students began to read a message opposing the decision by the University of Puerto Rico’s administration to raise annual tuition by $800. The 15 protesters were taken forcefully out of the building by Puerto Rican police and Capitol security guards. The Puerto Rican website A Primera Hora reported that the protesters entered the Capitol building dressed professionally to gain access. Once they were taken outside the building, they began to talk with the press. The report identified student Jesús Veléz as the spokesperson for the group.

Many of the island’s ex-governors were at the ceremony, including Rafael Hernández Colón, Pedro Rosselló, and Romero Barceló. Both Rosselló and Romero Barceló are members of the island’s New Progressive Party, which supports the push for Puerto Rican statehood. Hernández Colón is a member of the Popular Democratic Party, which supports the island’s current commonwealth status, although new voices in the party are pushing for free association if ever The Puerto Rico Democracy Act passes through the US Congress.

The biggest absence at the ceremony was current Puerto Rican Governor, pro-statehooder, and registered Republican Luis Fortuño.

Governor Luis Fortuño

This Capitol protest in San Juan is a stark contrast to events in Madison, Wisconsin, where pro-labor supporters were allowed to remain in Wisconsin’s State Capitol building and were not forced out by police. Also, the protestors in Madison number in the thousands, while only 15 protestors showed up in San Juan today.

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It started with a simple Facebook update from my friend, Rolando Poet Ortiz, who tagged me in the following photo of his wrists after he got handcuffed by a Fontana, California police officer last Friday as he was waiting in a parking lot minding his own business.

The posts from his friends were that of shock and anger. Yeah, Rolando was mad too, wouldn’t you be if you were mistaken for another person and unjustly cuffed? So, I reached out to him this weekend and let him share with us what happened. We recorded the conversation and you can hear it here below. You decide for yourself. I have my own opinions, and Rolando, who has worked his tail off after being incarcerated ten years go, is a role model to us all, a strong Latino who didn’t lose his cool under what appears to have been a very tense and ugly situation.

My friend Rolando with Edward James Olmos


AUDIO: Fontana, CA Police Harassment

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While Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuño still has not commented about the remarks made by Illinois Congressman Luis Gutiérrez that compared Fortuño’s activities to that of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, another pro-statehood student association published an open letter to Gutiérrez.

February 16th, 2011

Hon. Luis Gutierrez

2266 Rayburn House Office Building

United States House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515

Dear Congressman Gutierrez,

Today, you stood up to denounce the Government of Puerto Rico and its response to violent student protests. You also used the opportunity to address resting issues such as the Puerto Rico Bar Association and the elimination of its compulsory membership fees. You are widely regarded as a fearless champion for causes such as immigration reform, where I must admit that I stand with you. In fact, I stand with you on nearly every single controversial issue.

However, it troubles me that you insist on venturing into issues pertaining to Puerto Rico and the state of affairs there. As a member of Congress, you have consistently spoken against the people of Puerto Rico, rather than with them. You have opposed the government they elected, the political status option they prefer, and today you seemed appalled that its highest court would refuse to acknowledge a fictional right to strike.

As you spoke next to a large portrait of one of our most distinguished jurists, you spewed gross misinformation about the ongoing student protests in the University of Puerto Rico. For one, you said the right to free speech was being abridged. I would ask you to say whether the right to destroy public and private property has ever been gathered from the First Amendment. Maybe there is a United States Supreme Court ruling that protects the right to attack police officers. I am certainly not a constitutional expert, at least not yet, but I do not believe those rights are there. Neither is the student body’s right to strike in our Constitution or the U.S. Constitution. I do not believe there is a single state in the Union that acknowledges that right.

Since you are so concerned about the protection of the First Amendment, there is one U.S. Supreme Court decision that I think is very relevant to your argument. In Keller v. State Bar of California (1990), the Court voted unanimously to oppose the use of a state bar’s collected dues to finance its political and ideological activities. As far as I know, the State Bar of California is far from dismantled. Again, I fail to see how the Government of Puerto Rico acted in a way that was so anathema to the laws and rights guaranteed by our great nation.

I know you care about my Island as much as I do; that you only want what’s best for its people. Therefore, it would be negligent of me to miss this opportunity to make an all-too-familiar appeal. Stop obstructing Puerto Rico’s self-determination and allow us to vote on our political status. And if we choose statehood, please stand aside and allow us to enjoy the rights you so fiercely demanded in your speech today.


Eduardo J. Soto


The Puerto Rico Statehood Students Association

As with a previous letter we published by an anti-UPR-strike organization, we have several questions for Mr. Soto and we hope he can reach out to us to answer them. Here are just a few questions we would like to ask him:

  • Representative Gutiérrez is Puerto Rican and like most Puerto Ricans we know, he has opinions about the island. Are you implying by this letter that Rep. Gutiérrez does not have the right to freely express his opinions about Puerto Rico just because you do not agree with him?
  • The current status of The Puerto Rican Democracy Act is with the Senate, and not the House of Representatives. Even though Rep. Guitérrez did not support the act, it still passed the House. Why are you saying that Rep. Guitiérrez is obstructing Puerto Ricans’ right to self-determination? Shouldn’t you be lobbying the US Senate instead?
  • You write as if the act has already passed the Senate. Are you also aware that this Act is a non-binding resolution and Puerto Rico is still at the mercy of the US Congress, no matter what option it chooses, assuming there will even be a vote?
  • As for your claims that the UPR students do not have a right to protest and strike, the Constitution is contradictory between Amendment 1 and 2. Have you read the Constitution of the United States?
  • Have you done research about Constitutional law or do you like to draft political rhetoric to make your point?

We are here to interview you any time you like.

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