Puerto Rico Senator Rips Pelosi Aide

Posted April 16, 2004 at 6:14pm

Some Puerto Rican lawmakers are not happy with House Minority Whip Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) Hispanic outreach efforts.

Last week, Puerto Rican Senate Minority Whip Orlando Parga asked Pelosi to make one of her staffers cease and desist. He even accused the staffer, Federico De Jesus, of improperly doing political work while being paid by the government.

According to Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly, De Jesus distributes articles of interest on Latino issues to Congressional Hispanic Caucus members, their press secretaries, reporters and Latino interest groups.

In one of the e-mails De Jesus sent out, he included articles about the indictment of an ex-official who worked under former Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Rosello, who is again running for governor of the commonwealth.

That prompted Parga to lash out at Pelosi in a news release last week.

De Jesus is a “sympathizer of Puerto Rico’s local Popular Party, which supports a continued territorial relationship with the [United States] and is an opponent of Gov. Rosello, who supports statehood for Puerto Rico,” he said.

He pointed out that De Jesus is related to Howie De Jesus, “an advertising mogul” in Puerto Rico and Popular Party member.

In Puerto Rico, the Popular Democratic Party favors maintaining the island’s commonwealth status. Their opponents in island politics are the New Progressives, who favor statehood.

While politicians in Puerto Rico split on the question of statehood, that has no bearing on whether they affiliate with Democrats or Republicans when it comes to mainland politics. Some Puerto Rican pols who are sympathetic to Democrats are statehood supporters; others with Democratic ties are in favor of maintaining the status quo.

Puerto Rican Senate Minority Leader Kenneth McClintock, who, like Parga, is a member of the commonwealth’s New Progressive Party, charged that De Jesus was only passing on articles that put Rosello in a bad light. McClintock is the Democratic National Committeeman from Puerto Rico.

“It’s being overblown,” Daly shot back, adding that De Jesus sent just one e-mail and, after the furor, was told to omit articles about Puerto Rican politics in the future.

But the incident shows how heated the governor’s race has become.

Both candidates align with mainland Democrats but are on opposite sides of the statehood issue.

Rosello faces Aníbal Acevedo-Vilá, Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner in Congress, who is retiring this year.

Each has worked hard to win endorsements from U.S. Democrats.

Last month, 40 Members held a public rally in Washington, D.C., to show their support for Acevedo-Vilá.

Pelosi, however, was not one of them.

She “is not endorsing anyone in that race,” Daly said.