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Still stinging from his recent arrest for driving drunk and possession marijuana, Rhode Island Republican state representative and Minority House Leader Robert A. Watson is now facing demands that he resign from Rhode Island’s immigrant Guatemalan community. Watson, who offended the state’s Guatemalan community earlier this year with an ill-timed joke he had made, has indicated that he has no intent of resigning.

Mr. Watson stated that smoking marijuana is not a lifestyle for him,” said David Quiroa, spokesperson for the Guatemalan American Alliance. “Well, being undocumented is not a lifestyle for many hard-working Rhode Islanders neither. They’re just trying to make things better and better their families. [Watson] is going to lose his effectiveness. He is not going to be effective any more.

A local Rhode Island television station ran the segment calling for Watson’s resignation. Here is a video of that segment:

Watson issued the following statement as a response to Quiroa’s request:

I represent people of the towns of East Greenwich and West Greenwich. I respect the Guatemalan community and their right to their opinion.

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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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On Friday, as reported by the Associated Press, Rolando Crespo, the House Majority Whip of the Puerto Rican House of Representatives, had tested positive for cocaine use during a mandatory drug test of the island’s legislators. Today, after facing pressure from his political allies, Crespo announced his resignation.

Rolando Crespo

El Nuevo Día, Puerto Rico’s top newspaper, reported an article in Spanish at 3:34 PM EST (4:34 PM local island item) that chronicles Crespo’s resignation. Crespo met with Jenniffer González, Puerto Rico’s Speaker of the House, and offered his resignation. He also told González that he would go into a drug rehabilitation program.

“[Speaker González] who has given me advice. Over the weekend, I went through a process of reflection,” said Crespo in Spanish today. “I talked with my family, with God and with myself. Today, I announcement my resignation.”

Crespo, as well as González, are members of the island pro-statehood party the New Progressive Party (PNP), which is also the party of Governor Luis Fortuño. Fortuño, who won the election in 2008, had included a “zero-corrpution” government on his formal platform, and promised that any political leader—no matter what party—would need to follow all ethical and legal requirements. Fortuño and González were both very vocal in tell Crespo that he had to resign from his post. Initially, González had announced that a formal ethics hearing would be held in the House for Crespo, but the pressure for his resignation had already mounted.

On Friday, the AP reported the following:

“I accept that I failed. I am human. I ask the citizens of Puerto Rico for forgiveness. … I will submit to all processes to rectify this ignorance,” Crespo was quoted as saying in the statement.

Gonzalez said Crespo had denied to her that he used drugs. She said he had stepped down as House majority whip.

Shortly after Gonzalez’s announcement, Gov. Luis Fortuño said he was indignant about the results and urged Crespo to resign immediately instead of waiting for a decision from the ethics committee.

“This is an uncomfortable and unacceptable situation for both the legislature and for the citizens of Puerto Rico,” Fortuño said in a statement.

Today, Fortuño commented from the National Governors Association meeting in Washington:

“I spoke with [Crespo] this morning. He knows that within minutes of my finding out about the revelations, I recommended and urged him to resign,” Fortuño said in Spanish. “He must focus on whatever personal issues that would arise from this situation.”

Fortuño also said that Crespo had assured him that Crespo would not seek a canadidacy to the Puerto Rican Legislature in 2012.

Governor Luis Fortuño

It has been a tumultuous month for the Puerto Rican Governor, the first Republican to be elected on the island since 1969. His remarks at February’s 2011 CPAC (The American Conservative Union) conference claimed that most Puerto Ricans are conservative in nature and that the Republican party can successfully reach out to voters on the island, as his victory proved. (Note: Puerto Ricans on the island cannot vote in national elections.) In the same speech, Fortuño urged Republican lawmakers to take advantage of the new House majorities on the mainland during the budget debate and “make the tough cuts early and stick to them with courage”.

Fortuño, who has been credited for improving the island’s debt issues and establishing the island’s highest bond rating since 1976, is still facing tough criticism for his handling of the recent strikes at the University of Puerto Rico. This criticism reached a crescendo when Illinois Democrat Luis Guitérrez publicly railed against the Fortuño government for violating basic American rights and suggesting that Fortuño’s tactics are similar to that our Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. In addition, The Puerto Rico Democracy Act, a referendum that would allow for Puerto Ricans to vote on their political status, is stuck in the Senate and Fortuño is facing pressure from his own party to ensure that the Act is passed to Puerto Ricans can vote on their political future.

The Crespo resignation has dealt a blow to the Fortuño administration, and it is no surprise that the governor wanted to distance himself from Crespo as quickly as possible.

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