(Xavier J. Araújo Berríos)

WASHINGTON - The Credentials Committee of the US Democratic Party (DNC) confirmed yesterday that it will consider on August 24 the complaints against the election of the Democratic executive committee of Puerto Rico, headed by former senator of the New Progressive Party (NPP) Charlie Rodríguez.

In an announcement to its members and the parties in dispute, the Credentials Committee established guidelines for the debate that will take place in two weeks to address the appeals submitted by Democrats of the Popular Democratic Party (PPD) and the Bernie Sanders Our Revolution Puerto Rico movement.

Objections against the election of Rodríguez and his group have taken a new turn due to the scandal generated by the disclosure of emails regarding members associated with the local executive committee, a member of the commission that examined the island's objections, the examiner of the case hearings and members of the DNC itself.

The Credentials Committee will devote about two hours to this controversy in its August 24 meeting at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Chicago (Illinois).

They have informed that each group will have up to 15 minutes, that is, Democrats headed by the PPD senator, Eduardo Bhatia, representatives of Sanders’ movement, Damaris Delgado Vega and Maruxa Cárdenas Surillo, and the leadership presided by Rodríguez.

Then, members of the Credentials Committee -co-chaired by Louisiana State Senator Karen Carter Peterson and New Jersey Democrats Chairman John Currie- will discuss the case for up to 30 minutes before considering a resolution.

The resolution approved in the Credentials Committee must be ratified the next day at the DNC plenary session.

The original challenge by popular Democrats and “Our Revolution” states that the election of Rodríguez; Johanne Vélez as Vice President; the Mayor of Ponce, María Meléndez, as national committeewoman; and attorney Luis Dávila Pernas as national committeeman, was improperly convened and was held without quorum.  

But now, there are emails sent by Alvaro Cifuentes, one of the three members of the Affirmative Action Committee, to Rodríguez -whose election of February 7, 2017 is called into question- with drafts of the opinion issued on 12 February 2018 dismissing the complaints.

Cifuentes admits having sent the drafts, as well as a memorandum from Harold Ickes, member of the DNC Rules Committee, on how to proceed with the complaints that referred both to Rodríguez and to the examiner of the case, Anthony Maceira, now director of the Ports Authority.

Rodríguez says he exchanged messages with Cifuentes about technical matters, but he did not receive the drafts. "It is inappropriate to agree to a new local investigation that has already been carried out extensively following current regulations," stated Rodríguez.

Maceira does not recall having seen Ickes memo, who was a consultant to the Affirmative Action Committee, according to Cifuentes.

In addition, El Nuevo Día revealed an exchange of electronic messages of February 27, 2018 between Rodríguez and Manuel Ortiz, the Governor's main lobbyist and member of the Credentials Committee, about the search of votes to dismiss the complaints.

"Hadn´t it been for the revelations in El Nuevo Día, they would have not summoned us. We will be there," stated yesterday José Alfredo Hernández Mayoral, lawyer for Bhatia and the other Democratic plaintiffs of the PDP.

Hernandez Mayoral -just like the Sander´s group attorney Michael McCall did- has requested a new election to be held. McCall maintains that if no other election is called, the Credentials Committee should begin a new process of investigation with an examiner who does not live in Puerto Rico and has no ties to the PNP and PPD.

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