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prima:A successful step in Justice

June 30, 2024 - 12:40 PM

The Justice Department’s initiative to sue 30 former officials convicted of corruption to try to recover for the treasury part of the loss they caused with their actions deserves the country’s support, despite the legitimate doubts that have been raised about the viability of the proposal.


Lee este artículo en español.


On Monday, Justice Secretary Domingo Emanuelli announced that the government filed 15 lawsuits against 30 former officials and several businessmen convicted of corruption. In the lawsuits, they are demanding the restitution to the treasury of different amounts totaling some $30 million.

Among the defendants are the notorious former mayors Ángel Pérez, of Guaynabo; Félix “Cano” Delgado, of Cataño and Luis Arroyo Chiqués, of Aguas Buenas, as well as former legislators María Milagros Charbonier, Nelson del Valle and Néstor Alonso, and businessman Oscar Santamaría Torres.

Lawyers and other legal experts have said that the lawsuits may not prosper because some of the defendants, all of whom were convicted in the federal forum, already have restitution sentences, in some cases in the millions of dollars, with the U.S. government. Other commentators have suggested that it may be difficult to determine how much a specific defendant owes the government.

The case was filed based on the provisions of the Anticorruption Code, a state statute that has among its provisions the obligation to restitute to the treasury three times what is established to have been stolen or lost by criminal actions such as those proven against this group of convicts.

We believe that, regardless of the doubts about the lawsuits, which will eventually be resolved in court, the move by the Secretary of Justice represents a good initiative. Corruption is a heavy burden that for decades has been taking the air out of Puerto Rico, which loses valuable resources as a result of the criminal practices of convicts, in addition to the blow to the heart of the trust that every society needs in its governmental institutions.

Over the past 30 years, the string of corruption cases involving officials at the highest levels of the executive and legislative branches has left Puerto Rico outraged and stunned, but with the uncomfortable feeling that little has been done to recover what has been lost.

In view of the fact that almost all of the convictions for corruption in recent years have been in the federal forum, and that local authorities have basically withdrawn from addressing this problem, we believe that the Department of Justice would make an important contribution if it dedicated itself with real dedication to trying to return to the treasury some of what the repudiatory actions of these individuals have cost.

No lawsuit can recover all that the corrupt have taken from Puerto Rico. But the government’s action to take action against their assets, to put its hand in the pockets of criminals to compensate for some of the damage caused, can help to install in the people the idea that there is no room for impunity and that those who fail the country will have heavy consequences beyond imprisonment, which in most cases does not exceed a handful of years behind bars.

Not to mention, of course, the need to bring additional resources to a government with enormous fiscal problems such as ours.

All of Puerto Rico would like the Justice Department and the Special Independent Prosecutor (FEI) to be more proactive in fighting the terrible evil of corruption together with the feds.

But given the fact that the will to truly confront this problem has not been seen so far, the initiative to demand, in court, that the corrupt return from their pockets at least part of what they stole, is a good step forward that deserves the support and attention of the country.

We are confident that this will be an initiative that will be followed up and not a one-summer swallow. In order to achieve this decisive turn against corruption, it will be necessary to demand as a people the fulfillment of these requirements and any initiative that contributes to stop the impunity of a harmful evil for the country.


This content was translated from Spanish to English using artificial intelligence and was reviewed by an editor before being published.


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