BY ALICIA CRUZ
The members, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Annabel Palma, Rosie Mendez, Julissa Ferreras, Maria del Carmen Arroyo and Assembly member Carmen Arroyo issued a press release voicing their "disgust" at the fact that board members overlooked Ríos' lengthy history of domestic abuse and that they will boycott the parade if he is not replaced and encourage fellow elected officials to do the same.
"We are disgusted at the selection of convicted domestic abuser Osvaldo Ríos as the Padrino Internacional of this year's Puerto Rican Day Parade," the statement read.
"The Board of Directors' decision is unacceptable and should be immediately withdrawn. Domestic violence is a destructive cycle. Lives are destroyed and futures are damaged by this horrendous crime.
We simply cannot remain silent on this issue. The Padrino Internacional is a position that should highlight the proud achievements of and leadership within the vibrant Puerto Rican community; a serial abuser most certainly does not qualify."
The annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade takes place along Fifth Avenue in New York City, on the second Sunday in June as a way to honor nearly 4 million Puerto Rican natives including people of Puerto Rican heritage.
Board members honor Puerto Rican celebrities by naming them "International Grand Marshal," or "National Ambassador of La Salsa", and "National Godmother." Celebrities adorned with these titles have ranged from singer Marc Anthony and wife Jennifer Lopes to sexy singer Ricky Martin.
"It's not a positive role model for my people, for my community and for our children," council member Mark-Viverito told WABC of Ríos as the board's selection for parade godfather.
Not everyone agrees with committee members though. An impromptu poll of the people in East Harlem yielded mixed responses.
"I think people can change if they want to change, and I think they should at least be given the opportunity to do so," Cathy Akhtar told WABC TV.
"As long as he's supporting our people, we're behind him, too," Linda Descartes said.
Others in the community, like Claribel Reyes, fear that honoring Ríos in such a manner may send contradictory message to batterers that abusing a woman is OK.
"And women really can't say anything about it, and we can still kick your butt and it's ok," Reyes said to WABC.
Mixed results or not, some leaders are saying that in a community where domestic violence is on the rise, they plan to put up a fight to have the parade roster changed.
Ríos starred as "Don Alejandro de la Vega" in the Colombian telenovela: "Zorro: La Espada y la Rosa" as well as "Santiago" in Telemundo telenovela "El Juramento."
The singing heartthrob, who once dated Colombian siren Shakira, has been married three times and has two sons. A 2004 article in the Puerto Rican Herald stated that the Puerto Rican and Armenian hunk was sentenced to three months in jail for beating former girlfriend Daisy Annette Santiago in 1996 at the couple's home in Isla Verde (Carolina), Puerto Rico. Ríos was arrested in Miami while he was recording the soap opera "Angel Rebelde."