• The San Juan Daily Star

Ex-governor returns to defend his role as pro-statehood delegate

Former Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares

By John McPhaul

Former Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares said Thursday that he doesn’t hold a grudge over the cancelation of his scheduled appearance before an island House of Representatives committee at a hearing that was nixed a day earlier by House Speaker Rafael “Tatito” Hernández Montañez.

“I only regret that they do not have the courage, gallantry and bravery to allow what is discussed today to be discussed in the House of Representatives as they had originally planned,” Rosselló told hundreds of supporters in Bayamón.

According to local press reports, Rosselló had returned from self-imposed exile Thursday to address the House Federal and Veteran Affairs Committee chaired by Kebin Maldonado, before which he was summoned to answer questions about his work as a lobbyist for statehood.

But Hernández Montañez cancelled the hearing, not wanting, he said, to provide a political platform to the former governor, who resigned under pressure in the summer of 2019 after transcripts from insulting chats surfaced. Hernández Montañez said he also feared violence on the part of statehood opponents on the Capitol steps.

As Rosselló spoke to his boosters, a handful of vociferous opponents protested, complete with bullhorn, nearby.

Rosselló told his supporters that the cancellation of his appearance before the House committee was not made to silence him, but rather the movement he represents.

“This effort to silence is not an effort to silence me. It is an effort to silence all of you,” said Rosselló, who added that he does not charge “a penny” for his work as a statehood delegate.

“Ricky, come back!” his sympathizers began to yell at him.

“I’m back,” he replied. “I am here and I am with you.”

In what at times took on the look of a campaign speech, Rosselló gave a sample of the presentation that he intended to offer before the House committee.

Assisted by a screen, he showed Powerpoint graphs that highlighted that Puerto Rico has been a colony for more than 500 years and during that time “we have always been treated as second-class American citizens.”

Rosselló questioned the island House of Representatives paying thousands of dollars “to real lobbyists” who “hinder the will of the people.”

The former governor also offered details of his efforts to advance statehood before the U.S. Congress.

He said his recent initiative for a Puerto Rican to advocate for statehood in front of the White House for 51 days, cardboard placard in hand. He acknowledged that the action has been the subject of ridicule.

“How a minority here receives it, with mockery, with mockery. They know what the work is doing for us,” Rosselló said. “The more you criticize, the more you amplify the message of inequality in Puerto Rico. Keep criticizing so that we keep advancing.”

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