Indicted PR governor will seek 2nd term
Puerto Rico governor to seek re-election despite federal campaign-finance indictment
MANUEL ERNESTO RIVERAAP News
Apr 27, 2008 16:35 EST
Puerto Rico Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila's party swiftly approved his candidacy for re-election on Sunday despite a federal indictment on charges of illegally raising money to pay off campaign debts.
After a vigorous, hourlong speech to ruling Popular Democratic Party members, Acevedo was overwhelmingly approved as the party's gubernatorial candidate for November elections.
"Four more years," chanted supporters who packed a stadium in the U.S. territory's capital. More than 4,000 delegates had been expected to vote on Acevedo's candidacy, but the party decided a formal ballot was unnecessary since strong support for him was so evident at the general assembly.
The embattled governor was charged last month with 19 counts that carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years. He denies the allegations, and accuses U.S. authorities of persecuting him for his opposition to the death penalty and because he criticized an FBI raid in which a fugitive Puerto Rican independence militant was killed.
"I am calm, my family is calm, my lawyers are calm and you must be calm," Acevedo told the crowd Sunday.
U.S. authorities "hoped that this party would kneel down and be destroyed — and here we are!" he said, sparking a sustained ovation.
The first governor to face federal charges since the island became a semiautonomous U.S. commonwealth in 1952, Acevedo has repeatedly stoked Puerto Rican nationalism and described the grand jury indictment as an attack against all islanders.
Acting U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez and the head of the FBI in San Juan have each denied any political motivation for the indictment.
Acevedo and a dozen associates are accused of illegally raising money to pay off more than US$500,000 (euro320,000) in campaign debts from his term as Puerto Rico's nonvoting delegate to Congress from 2000 to 2004. No trial date has been set.
The November vote will pit Acevedo, who favors maintaining the territory's loose U.S. commonwealth status, against pro-statehood Republican Luis Fortuno, who has been Puerto Rico's nonvoting delegate in the U.S. Congress since 2005.
Voting patterns in Puerto Rico have shown islanders are split nearly 50-50 on the question, which drives much of local politics.