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Archive for April, 2011


Karma can be cruel.

Rhode Island House Minority Leader Robert A. Watson (R), who went through a controversy earlier this year for a joke that offended the Guatemalan community, was arrested on Good Friday in Connecticut for driving under the influence of alcohol and possession of marijuana.

As reported by the Providence Journal, Watson spoke this week on the floor of the Rhode Island House and admitted that he used marijuana to treat complications from pancreatitis. Watson was hospitalized last November for this illness. In addition, Watson claimed that he did not fail any sobriety tests when East Haven, CT police pulled him over on April 22.

The ProJo recorded Watson speaking to his colleagues and posted the video on its website. You can see Watson’s entire speech below.

As the newspaper reports,

Watson, R-East Greenwich, said he took a small amount of the drug with him when he went to Connecticut that day to help a friend move because he had had a pancreatic attack the day before, and wanted the drug handy if he had another severe one.

“I confess I did treat with marijuana on one of those rare occasions where I had that debilitating pain that literally had me flat on my back and wondering at what point do I decide an ambulance comes and takes me away. And I’ve got to confess it worked. It provided relief. And it alleviated the pain.”

“I didn’t smoke marijuana that day because I didn’t suffer a relapse,” he said of the Friday of his arrest.

But he acknowledged that he is not among the 3,428 Rhode Islanders legally authorized to use marijuana under the state’s medical-marijuana program because he feared his personal medical information would somehow leak out of the state Department of Health.

Watson also addressed issues with his arrest and hinted that the East Haven police acted improperly.

“I wish there had been cameras there. I wish it wasn’t just my word against the police,” he said. But “I deny that I failed any of the sobriety tests.”

The East Haven police did not respond to a request for comment, but a dispatcher confirmed that none of the community’s police cruisers are equipped with cameras.

Rhode Island State Rep. Robert A. Watson

Finally, after Watson’s speech, many of his colleagues, who previously voted to keep Watson in office, gave him a standing ovation.

House Speaker Gordon D. Fox, with whom Watson has often sparred, said afterward: “You saw how difficult that was for him. This is a time to say, ‘Let him deal with his issues. Politics has no role to play in this, and we’ll see what happens’… I feel for him on a human level.”

Asked if he accepted Watson’s medical explanation for his unauthorized use of marijuana, Fox said: “It is not my duty to judge whether it is believable or not.”

Rep. Michael J. Marcello, D-Scituate, was not among those who stood to applaud Watson after his speech. A lawyer, Marcello said: “It is more appropriate that this plays out in a courtroom, not this room.”

Rep. Roberto DaSilva, D-East Providence, did applaud.

A Pawtucket police lieutenant, DaSilva took some offense to Watson’s characterization of what the Connecticut police did that night. “I was not there. But there are two sides to every story,” he said in an interview after Watson’s speech.

But, “A lot of what he said here makes a lot of sense. He has a medical condition that he’ll have to deal with. His constituents will judge him on his actions and decide if they want to return him here, and his colleagues have given him a vote of support,” DaSilva said.

Watson is schedule to appear in a New Haven court on May 11. Initiall, according to the ProJo, Watson had denied the events the Monday after Easter, but on Tuesday, he began to reveal more details.

“Well I encountered that event … confident that I was neither intoxicated or under the influence,” he said. “The police asked me had I been drinking. I was open and honest as I always believed that you should be with police. I told them yes, I had several drinks at dinner, which is true.

“They asked me where I had been. They asked me where I was heading. They asked me for my license … [and while] I was retrieving my license, another officer took note of the legislative ID card in my wallet and wanted to know what it was, and I informed him. Well, I am a legislator.

“It seemed from that moment on, the whole dynamic changed. It appeared that the police suddenly became ‘agendized.’ I was ordered to park my car and exit the vehicle. I was immediately told that I would have to submit to a field sobriety test. … I complied with every request asked of me.”

“I was asked to submit to a Breathalyzer test. I complied because I was not intoxicated. I was not under the influence. I took the test. And, it came in well below the legal limit. It came in at 0.05, consistent with somebody that just had several drinks at dinner, well below the legal limit to operate a vehicle.”

Watson said the depiction of him, in the police report, as someone “incapable of standing and incapable of speaking” is “belied by the fact that I was processed and released in an hour… Police do not release intoxicated individuals. They detain them for [their] own personal safety and the safety of the public.”

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 25, 2011

Center for Puerto Rico Equality & Advancement to hold 

Policy Briefing at the U.S. Congress

The Center for Puerto Rico Equality & Advancement (CPREA), an independent and non-partisan policy and education organization that advocates on behalf of civil rights and equality for Puerto Rico, will present its Spring 20ll Status and Economic Policy Briefing Tuesday, May 3rd at the Rayburn Office Building of the U.S. House of Representatives, Room 2237, at 3:00 p.m.  The briefing will include presentations by four panelists followed by a Q&A.

The briefing will focus on the March 2011 Report of the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status, which made recommendations to resolve the question of the territory’s future status, regarding Federal programs and the islands; and concerning the insular economy.

Confirmed panelists include: Puerto Rico’s Secretary of State, Kenneth D. McClintock, advisor and counsel on national security and territorial law to the administrations of President’s Reagan and George H.W. Bush, Howard L. Hills; Graduate School of Business of the University of Puerto Rico Professor Carlos A. Colon De Armas; and Democratic National Committee Member Andres W. Lopez.  The moderator will be Jeffrey L. Farrow, coordinator of policy regarding Puerto Rico and other territories in Clinton and Carter White Houses and former Staff Director of the U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee on territories issues.

In the evening, the law firm of Akin/Gump will host a reception and fundraiser for CPREA.

CPREA President Rafael Rodriguez said in announcing the briefing that, “As we seek to deal with Puerto Rico’s territorial status and economy, it is important that we lay out a path to attain true equal social/economic equality for the 3.7 million U.S. citizens of the islands. While staying true to our central message of Civil Rights and Equality for Puerto Rico, this status and economic policy discussion will strongly argue why Puerto Rico’s territorial status is in the way of economic growth and potential, and why there can be no parity without equality.”

The Center for Puerto Rico Equality & Advancement (CPREA) is committed to advancing a bold, innovative course of policy analysis, education, and action aimed at empowering the people of Puerto Rico to attain their full rights – and discharge their full responsibilities – as citizens of the United States of America.

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Here is what the pro-statehood Center for Puerto Rico Equality and Advancement (CPREA) had to say about President Obama’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status report.

As the Report of the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status makes clear once again, democracy at the national government level and full equality under the American flag is only achievable through statehood. Polls in Puerto Rico have shown pretty consistent growth in support for statehood. The 2008 elections gave Puerto Rico’s elected officials a mandate to enable a status choice that will lead to an end of the colonial status. It is time for that choice.

The Report of the President’s Task Force is detailed and comprehensive. It lays out many possible processes for resolving the question of the territory’s status. Most important, it should put an end to the debate about whether “Commonwealth” must be a territory status. The Obama Task Force agreed with past Federal administrations of both national political parties that under “Commonwealth” Puerto Rico remains subject to the broad authority of the Federal government—in which Puerto Rico has no votes—to govern unincorporated territories as it sees fit, limited only by the fundamental rights of individuals, and that Puerto Rico would remain subject to this authority under any “Commonwealth” arrangement.

The Popular Democratic Party’s dream of an “enhanced Commonwealth status,” one that would be permanent and end Federal territory governing authority is simply unachievable.

The leaders of the PPD need to decide if they want a Puerto Rico to continue as a territory without votes in its national government and equality for Puerto Ricans with other U.S. citizens or the territory should have the democracy, equality, and dignity that is only possible through nationhood or statehood – with statehood being the only status that offers this under the U.S. flag.

The Center for Puerto Rico Equality and Advancement (CPREA) calls upon the leaders of the PPD to accept the realities of the status options, stop trying to misinterpret the Report of the President’s Task Force to confuse people about its plain meaning, give up making impossible status proposals that delay resolution of the issue, and stop trying to impede the people of Puerto Rico from choosing their preference among possible statuses.

CPREA applauds the Task Force report for dissipating fears concerning Puerto Rico’s language and culture. As in other states of our union, Puerto Rico’s culture, language, and identity under statehood would be a part of the fabric that has made our Nation great. English would continue to play the same important role in Puerto Rico as it does today.

The Report of the Task Force should lead to a growth in the ranks of the statehood movement by burying myths about the status options as loyal American Puerto Ricans who have been misled by the PPD realize that the only way to obtain full democracy, equality, and security and, at the same time, to continue to enjoy our rich linguistic and cultural heritage is through statehood. This should lead to a majority of Puerto Ricans choosing statehood in a choice among real status options.

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