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The following is a full English transcript of the AL PUNTO March 13, 2011 segment between host Jorge Ramos and Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner and pro-statehooder Perdo Pierluisi.

JR: What is happening in Puerto Rico? On this very same program Congressman Luis Gutiérrez announced that the island was in danger of losing its “fiber of democracy” and also said that for the first time in 30 years the police had entered the University of Puerto Rico and that young students were beaten. The Puerto Rican Resident Commissioner Perdo Pierluisi criticized Guitérrez and said that it was not fair to make comparisons between the protests against the Egyptian dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak and the protests against the Governor of the island Luis Fortuño. The Commissioner joins us right now via satellite from Washington, DC. Thanks for being with us.

PP: Good morning, Jorge, and good morning to the entire Hispanic community in the United States.

JR: Commissioner, I saw the images. I saw the Puerto Rican police beat the students. I saw the repression at the University of Puerto Rico. How can you justify this?

PP: Really, in the case of Puerto Rico, it is not different from other protests that we have seen of students when they confront increases in tuition. We saw it in the state of California in March of last year, thousands of students, hundreds of arrests, in cities such as Oakland, Sacramento, and in other cities in California. We saw it in Great Britain during November of last year when thousands of students suddenly, there were even fires, arrests, wounded…

JR: Yes, but in Puerto Rico…

PP: It’s sad.

JR: Commissioner, but how would you explain the violence of the police against Puerto Rican students? How can you justify this?

PP: No, well, there were isolated incidents that I saw myself where maybe there was use of excessive force by the police in managing these demonstrations and each time that happens in Puerto Rico in Puerto Rico we have the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of Puerto Rico, two legal systems—the federal one and the state one—that focus on responding and attending to the concerns of civil rights violations for all Puerto Ricans, including students…

A University of Puerto Rico student beaten by police and security forces

JR: The problem is that this doesn’t appear to be isolated in nature…

PP: In the case of Puerto Rico…

JR: They don’t appear to be isolated in nature…

PP: Yes, they were.

JR: The ACLU is talking about an investigation about possible violations of human rights. The spokesperson for the Division of Civil Rights for the federal Justice Department of the United States said that investigation is still pending from the year 2008 due to excessive force, actual unconstitutional events by the police of a discriminatory nature. These don’t appear to be isolated incidents.

PP: Well, once again, in cities like Los Angeles, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, the United States Justice Department has conducted similar investigations and they were completed with decrees and orders. In the case of Puerto Rico, as you state yourself, that comes from 2008 and it’s possible that they investigate particular incidents y recommend improvements in the way we mobilize the members of the Puerto Rican police force in a way that, well, they are pre-, that for example, when one of these police members exceeds because then measures are enforced so that this conduct does not repeat itself or they get kicked out of the police force. But Puerto Rico can be an example of democracy for the rest of the world. In Puerto Rico, we have, civil rights are respected, we have exemplary elections every four years. And to compare Puerto Rico with totalitarian and dictatorial regimes is nonsense, an insult to the Puerto Rican people.

JR: Commissioner, actually, Luis Gutiérrez, Congressman Luis Gutiérrez said the following on this program. Let’s listen to him:

Congressman Luis Gutiérrez

LG: But to see these attacks against the basic human and civil rights of the Puerto Rican people, if I don’t speak out, I am an accomplice and I permit that what is happening right now continues. They cannot continue with impunity destroying the fiber of democracy in Puerto Rico.

JR: This is something very different from what you are telling us, Commissioner. For Congressman Gutiérrez, democracy is at risk right now in Puerto Rico.

PP: That is completely false. It is really nonsense. In Puerto Rico we have exemplary elections. 80% of all Puerto Ricans votes every four years. And we have, like I said, two Constitutions, two legal systems, a Puerto Rican human rights commission, plus the federal one that protect the rights of our people. And it is clear that in the latest protests from the students, there was aggression against the university’s chancellor. And when what the police does, when there is no other alternative, well, you call the police to intervene and I am the first to note that if I saw the use of excessive force, I will condemn it. One thing is to denounce any incident where there is excessive use of force, it is another thing to come out and paint Puerto Rico as if it were a dictatorship like the one we have seen in Egypt for the last thirty years.

JR: I understand the differences, Commissioner.

PP: That is unsustainable.

JR: I understand the differences, but if there is not an environment of repression, if there is not an environment against the freedom of expression, why then was the President of the Puerto Rican Bar Association jailed?

PP: Oh, no, that is something totally different and separate…

JR: I understand, but that is the environment of life in Puerto Rico, what happened there?

PP: No, but let’s talk about that case in particular. There we are talking about a case that is in the United States courts and not Puerto Rico’s. It reached the 1st Circuit of Appeals of the United States. It’s a case that has to do with a lawsuit brought by a group of lawyers that became a class action suit from lawyers against that Bar Association and the federal judge, who was nominated by the President of the United States, that, that made that decision to order the jailing of the President of the Puerto Rican Bar Association, what he did was when they didn’t pay, the Bar Association refuses to pay and the President refuses to pay a $10,000 fine that the judge imposes on him for not following the orders of the federal court then it proceeds to this…

JR: But why put him in jail?

PP: Incarceration.

JR: But why put him in jail? You can’t have a dialogue with him?

PP: That is a decision of the federal judge, the court of the United States in Puerto Rico. It has nothing to do with the student protests, it has nothing do with the environment on the island…

Governor Luis Fortuño

JR: I understand, but this event occurred after a law was signed by the very own Governor, that is what I am referring to. Commissioner, do you think there is an environment of unrest in Puerto Rico? The Governor, during his campaign, clearly said that he wouldn’t fire public employees and at this moment at least 26,000 public employees have been fired, this is a, the Governor broke his promise, is there not unrest on the island for this also?

PP: No, look, in Puerto Rico this is what happened: in Puerto Rico Governor Fortuño inherited a government that was completely bankrupt, discredited in the finance markets in all of the United States and only after two years of reconstructing the government, put the house in order, the same houses that evaluate the credit of all the governments in the United States are giving him very positive grades saying that what is being profiled is a promising future in Puerto Rico…

JR: But…

PP: The environment in Puerto Rico is an environment of change. As to the employees who were fired, the exact number is 12,505 and we are seeing that other states that are having financial crises…

JR: But…

PP: They are proceeding to do the same thing because they have no alternative.

JR: But the Governor broke a promise because he did fire employees in the first place and you say that there is a promising future. The statistics that I have, tell a different story. In 2009, there was an unemployment rate of 13.3% and now the unemployment rate is at 15.9%. That doesn’t sound promising.

PP: Well, if we talk about the promise, it is very different to talk about a promise when one, well, the Governor made the promise, he does it under a premise. When he arrives to govern, he realizes that there is no…

JR: But you have to complete the promise…

PP: Money to pay for the first salaries…

JR: You have to complete the promise…

PP: Of public employees in fifteen, it was, impossible, impossible to complete the promise because the government didn’t have the money to pay…

JR: Then he shouldn’t have made the promise then.

PP: To make the first biweekly payment.

JR: If the politician doesn’t want to complete the promise, then why make it?

PP: When he does it… When he does it, he doesn’t understand the enormous financial crisis that he discovered when he came to the Fortaleza, when he came to govern. So then when it comes to the future, Puerto Rico has had more than five years under economic recession, but now we are starting to see how the economy is starting to experience a revival, finally. So that is why we are talking about, that we are seeing, the ship right itself again. This hasn’t been easy. What occurred to Governor Fortuño hasn’t occurred to any other Governor of Puerto Rico since the Great Depression. In other words, the important thing is that it maintains, that this gets evaluated in the given context. And so we will be having elections next year and once again our people will demonstrate that we do know about democracy and we do know how to choose our governor.

JR: Commissioner, thank you for being with us and thank you for answering all of our questions.

PP: Thank you, Jorge. Good morning to everyone.

JR: Thank you.

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Major props to Jorge Ramos and the producers of Univision’s AL PUNTO show, perhaps the best Spanish-language public affairs programming in the United States. After having US Rep. Luis Gutiérrez on the show a few weeks ago to discuss his very public and passionate criticism of the human rights crisis occurring in Puerto Rico under the leadership of Republican and pro-statehood Governor Luis Fortuño, the veteran Ramos interviewed Puerto Rican Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, a non-voting member of Congress and the island’s top political leader in Washington DC.

What follows is a video of the segment:

We have provided a brief summary synopsis (full transcript to follow tomorrow) of the exchange between Ramos and Pierluisi. In short, Pierluisi did a very ineffective job in addressing Ramos’ very pointed questions, and has only left more open questions regarding the crisis on the island. It seems to be politics as usual from Fortuño’s administration, where the strategy is to deflect the hard questions and try to put a positive spin that, according to Ramos, does not truly reflect the reality of the island right now.

Here are some highlights from the video:

  • When asked about the very vivid violent images of Puerto Rican police repressing and abusing university students, Pierluisi deflects the question by reverting to other student protests, such as those in California and Britain. He admits that there were “isolated incidents” where Puerto Rican police “possibly” overstepped their bounds as officers. He refers to the “two constitutions” of the island, that of the United States and of Puerto Rico, that protect human right abuses.
  • Ramos proceeds to call out Pierluisi’s description of “isolated events” by referring to the recent reports by the ACLU and the US government that suggest human rights violations in Puerto Rico have been raised since 2008. Pierluisi responds by referring to other cases in the United States and says that there could be a recommendation that these alleged violations in Puerto Rico would get addressed and acted upon.
  • Pierluisi quickly brushes that criticism aside by moving on his spin message by saying: “But Puerto Rico can be an example of true democracy for the rest of the world. In Puerto Rico, civil rights are respected. We have exemplary elections every four years. And to compare Puerto Rico with totalitarian regimes is nonsense, an insult to the Puerto Rican people.”
  • When Ramos shows Pierluisi the video of Gutiérrez attacking the Fortuño administration and then asks if democracy was under crisis in Puerto Rico, Pierluisi says: “That is completely false. It is really nonsense. In Puerto Rico we have exemplary elections. 80% of the electorate votes every four years. And we also have two Constitutions, two legal systems, a Puerto Rican human rights commission, and a federal commission that protect the rights of our people. And it is clear that in the latest protests from the students, there was aggression against the university’s chancellor. And when what the police does, where there is no other alternative, well, you call the police to intervene and I am the first to note that if I saw the use of excessive force, I will condemn it. One thing is to denounce any incident where there is excessive use of force, it is another thing to come out and paint Puerto Rico as if it were a dictatorship like the one we have seen in Egypt for the last thirty years.”
  • Ramos then follows up by asking that if there is no atmosphere of repression on the island, why then did the head of the Puerto Rican Bar Association get jailed? Pierluisi claims that the incident was completely different from the student strikes and it is a federal case. He places political blame on the federal judge who was appointed by the President of the United States. At that point, Ramos stops him and asks, “If that is the case, why jail him? Why couldn’t you have a dialogue with him?” Pierluisi says that it is the federal judge who made the decision and not the Puerto Rican government. Ramos quickly counters that the law that jailed the lawyer was signed by Governor Fortuño.
  • Ramos moves the conversation to the feeling of crisis and concern on the island and asked Pierluisi directly: “The Governor, during his political campaign, clearly said that he would not fire public employees. But at this moment 26,000 public employees have been fired. Didn’t he break his promise? Is there a feeling of concern on the island right now?”
  • To this, Pierluisi responds: “In Puerto Rico, Governor Fortuño inherited a government that was completely bankrupt.” He then credited Fortuño for dramatically improving Puerto Rico’s financial rating, earning the praises of financial institutions that track this type of progress. Pierluisi says that Puerto Rico has a “promising future.” He also says that Puerto Rico is going through an “environment of change” and said that the actual number of public employees who were fired was exactly 12,505. He then notes that “other states” in the United States are actually now considering the same thing that Puerto Rico has already done.
  • Ramos then says: “But the Governor did indeed break a promise because he did fire public employees.” He then calls out Pierluisi’s claim of a “promising future” for Puerto Rico by saying that the 2009 unemployment rate on the island was 13.3% but is has now increased to 15.9% in 2010. Ramos then asks directly: “That doesn’t sound promising.”
  • After a pause by Pierluisi, the Resident Commissioner says: “Well, if we talk about the promise, it is very different to talk about a promise when one, well, the Governor made a promise, he makes a promise, under a premise. When he gets into the government, he finds out that there is no money to even pay for the first salary of public employees. The promise was impossible to keep because the government didn’t have any money.”
  • Ramos counters: “Then he shouldn’t have made the promise. If a politician couldn’t fulfill the promise, then why did he day it?”
  • Pierluisi then says: “When he made the promise, he didn’t know about the enormous fiscal crisis that he found once he arrived at La Fortaleza (the Governor’s residence), once he arrived to govern. And as to the future, for more than five years Puerto Rico has been in recession, but now we are finding out how the economy is starting to have a recovery.” Pierluisi says that the work was not easy and that Governor Fortuño was the first Puerto Rican governor since the Great Depression to have faced such a crisis.
  • Pierluisi closes with the following: “So we will be having elections next year and once again our people will demonstrate that we do know about democracy and we do know how to choose our governor.”

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Coverage of the Massive Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan; Exclusive Interviews with Special Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) John Dodson, and Rene Jaquez about Operation “Fast and Furious”; Pedro Pierluisi, Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico; and OllantaHumala, Peruvian Presidential Candidate, “Gana Perú”

Airing on Univision at 10 am ET/9 am CT /10 am Pacific; on Galavisión at 1 pm ET

For segments of the show and previous interviews, visit noticias.univision.com/al-punto.

Pedro Pierluisi, Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico

For months the unrest at the University of Puerto Rico has made headlines. A few weeks ago Rep. Luis Gutiérrez came to Al Punto to denounce the controversial use of force by police dealing with the protestors and called it a violation of civil and human rights. This week, the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico, Pedro Pierluisi, who energetically disagreed with Gutiérrez’ statement, comes to Al Punto to say that there isn’t a civil rights crisis in Puerto Rico, despite techniques used by police. Why does he say Rep. Gutiérrez went too far and disrespected the people of Puerto Rico?

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Este domingo el congresista Luis Guitérrez de Illinois habló con Jorge Ramos en Al Punto. Le pasamos el video de parte de la entrevista.

El congresista tuvo fuertes opiniones sobre Luis Fortuño, el gobernador de Puerto Rico, comparando las acciones de Fortuño con las de Hugo Chávez, el presidente de Venezuela. Hasta ahora, Fortuño no ha comentado sobre lo que dijo Gutiérrez el domingo ni el miércoles pasado.

En el Nuevo día del 19 de febrero, Fortuño dijo lo siguiente cuando estaba en el Museo de Arte en la ciudad de Ponce:

¿Quieres que reaccione a eso en el Museo de Arte? Interpreta mi silencio

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