Thursday, March 27, 2008

Trouble for the Governor


Until today, Puerto Rico has never seen a sitting governor formally charged for violating campaign finance rules. This morning, as I was watching CNN en Español, I was certainly shocked to hear and see FBI agents arresting some of the governor's campaign officials. As the governor, Anibal Acevedo Vila, is a public official, and Puerto Rico is a U.S commonwealth, federal laws take precedent. He is being charged with 19 counts, which includes conspiracy, making false statements, and wire fraud.

This evening, the governor made a televised appearance to reiterate his innocence. According to the governor, this federal investigation into his campaign finances has been a political game, in which he's the vicitm. He asked for the support of all Puerto Ricans, and promises to continue to serve as governor.

In my opinion, it is only a matter of time in which the governor will have to resign. I think it's probably his only option, and the most graceful way for him to leave office. Unfortunately, lies, greed and the hunger for power and control are just some of the most common themes which transcends cultures. I look at what happened with the former governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer, along with many other corrupt officials and can't help but think... the truth eventually comes out.

Update: At 9AM local time on Friday, March 28th, Gov. Acevedo Vila voluntarily (without being handcuffed) turned himself in to the Federal U.S District Court in San Juan to face the 19 federal charges leveled against him. He was released after two hours, without having his passport taken away from him and without having to pay bail.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Happy Easter!

It's Easter weekend, which is of utmost signifcance in Puerto Rico, as in most parts of Latin America. Most people here are Catholic, but I'm not sure exactly how many go to church on a regular basis. The photo on the left was taken in Granada, Nicaragua, a pretty colonial city which we visited during our two-week adventure in Central America. This is the city's main cathedral located in the central plaza. Throughout our trip, I couldn't help but notice how religious the Nicaraguans were. On the radio, on the bus, I would hear and see many references made to God.

It was certainly a humbling experience, being able to see how one's faith can give so much hope, and a sense of peace. Although I'm not religious, I think Easter is a wonderful celebration of re-birth and renewal. It also serves as a reminder that Spring is right around the corner!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wearing your Political Colors on your Sleeve

(Source: www.endi.com)

The primary elections were held this past Sunday, and it was certainly quite an interesting experience. Apparently, in the past, many Puerto Ricans have shown up drunk at voting booths. So, lawmakers decided to pass a law prohibiting the sale of alcohol on both primary and election days. Hmm... Can't people just stock-up on booze the day before? Wouldn't it be more effective for election officials to turn away people who are obviously under the influence of alcohol, or some other illegal substance? Just a thought...

Anyway, Puerto Ricans do take politics very seriously. Everyone gets a day off on Election Day, which also falls on Nov. 14th. Like the U.S, there are just two major political parties here. If you're pro-U.S, you're on the Partido Nuevo Progresista (PNP) camp. The other is the Partido Popular Democrata, which is the party of the current governor, Anibal Acevedo Vila. As he has done a miserable job, most do not believe he'll be re-elected. After this Sunday's results, Luis Fortuño (pictured above, on the right) officially became the PNP's candidate for governor. Most people here are actually very open and direct, in terms of telling you about their political position. Politics is simply not a taboo topic, people will not hesitate in telling you who they voted for. Now this, I certainly find to be quite a difference from the American culture.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Pura Vida!

video

Our trip to Costa Rica was absolutely wonderful. I had never traveled to any other Latin American country before, so I was really anxious and excited! One of my father's good friends lives in San Jose, Costa Rica, and I've always heard nothing but positive things about this tiny country. Ticos (that's what Costa Ricans call themselves) are really friendly people. Whenever we expressed our gratitude, those who served us would say "con mucho gusto" (with much pleasure). Pura vida ("pure life") is also a common expression Ticos use to greet each other. Even the country's official tourist Web site says: "No artificial ingredients." Costa Rica really is a place filled with natural beauty. The video above was taken at my favorite destination in Costa Rica, Parque Manuel Antonio. We saw monkeys in every national park we visited.

We traveled throughout the country by bus, which was not always comfortable, but we were able to get a more intimate experience with the local culture. I tremendously enjoyed listening to Costa Rican Spanish, because it's not Spanglish! Ticos speak much slower than boricuas (Puerto Ricans) and much clearer. Being able to speak Spanish to the locals was definitely a big advantage too. It was nice chatting with the receptionists, taxi-drivers, and waiters we came across. Pura vida!