Political parties argue over source of corruption
By John McPhaul
New Progressive Party (NPP) Secretary General Carmelo Ríos Santiago insisted on Sunday that the corruption schemes carried out by the NPP mayors of Cataño, Félix Delgado Montalvo, and Guaynabo, Ángel Pérez Otero, have nothing to do with the structure of the party.
“The acts of corruption are not from the parties, unless they are associated with the party structure,” Ríos Santiago said during a meeting of the NPP board of directors. “In this case, we are clear that the people who failed [their constituents] have asked for money for themselves, not for the NPP. And the same goes for when it happens for some other party institution. This is not an NPP scheme, this is a personal matter of values and of people who, for whatever reasons, fail.”
“We are a political structure and there are people who believe that this [behavior] should be associated with the parties. No,” Ríos Santiago added. “And there are people who believe that we should not do anything because that is not the party structure and we do not believe that. We have to make an act of introspection, speak clearly and come down forcefully. The people of Puerto Rico do not tolerate corruption.”
Regarding his decision to run in the special election to fill the vacancy for mayor of Guaynabo, Ríos Santiago insisted that this time he will run without political machinery. When he ran for the post and lost to Ángel Pérez Otero, Ríos Santiago used the political machinery of former mayor Héctor O’Neill García. In the upcoming special election, O’Neill García’s son, Edward O’Neill, will be one of the candidates.
“The support that I am looking for now is from Guaynabeños. And endorsements will come from one side and the other, and those endorsements will be cause for joy,” O’Neill said. “But if I learned something from the last election, it is that I need people. And the message that I have to carry is that they know me.”
San Juan Mayor Miguel Romero Lugo, a member of the NPP, said last week after FBI agents arrested Pérez Otero in a kickback scheme involving municipal contracts that it is everyone’s duty to fight corruption.
“It is the duty of all of us, especially those of us who receive the confidence of the people, to reject any temptation and fight with all one’s resources this evil that eats away at our democratic system,” Romero Lugo said.
Meanwhile, Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) officials condemned both parties over the recent corruption scandals.
“Corruption is part of the NPP political culture,” PIP Sen. María de Lourdes Santiago said last Thursday after Pérez Otero and the executive assistant of the mayor of Trujillo Alto, who belongs to the Popular Democratic Party.
“Enough already! Time to clean house,” is how PIP Secretary General Juan Dalmau Ramírez reacted Thursday after the arrests.The arrests of elected officials of the New Party Progressive Party and the Popular Party force reflection and definitely action,” he said.
Speaker of the House of Representatives Rafael “Tatito” Hernández Montañez said the time has come to confront corruption head on.
“So that you hear it loud and clear, this House of Representatives is not going to hesitate to hold whoever commits acts of corruption responsible, no matter where it comes from,” Hernández Montañez said.
Last Thursday, on International Anti-Corruption Day, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned several individuals from various countries, prohibiting or restricting their travel to the U.S. No Puerto Rico resident was included in the sanctions.
“Corrupt acts drain citizens’ resources, weaken public trust and frustrate the progress of those who fight for democracy,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said. “The Treasury is committed to countering those who seek to enrich themselves at the expense of the people who relied on them for public service, particularly in the context of a global pandemic. We take these steps today to expose corrupt actors and hold them accountable.”