The Miami Herald
September 10, 1999

 Clinton: No politics involved

 Says he didn't discuss clemency offer with wife

 From Herald Staff and Wire Reports

 WASHINGTON -- President Clinton said Thursday he did not talk with his wife
 about his clemency offer to 16 Puerto Rican nationalists, while Hillary Rodham
 Clinton said she hopes opposing that clemency won't sully her possible Senate

 Republicans and some law enforcement officials have accused Clinton of making
 the clemency offer to curry favor for Mrs. Clinton among New York's 1.3 million
 Puerto Ricans. Two more nationalists accepted clemency Thursday -- bringing
 the total to 14 -- even as the House of Representatives overwhelmingly
 condemned the offer.

 An administration official speaking on background said 11 of of those still
 imprisoned should be free by the close of business today. A 12th prisoner
 accepted a deal that will free him in five years. The two who accepted clemency
 Thursday have already completed their sentences and will have fines reduced.

 Two militants have rejected the President's clemency conditions, which include
 renouncing violence and limiting involvement in the independence movement.

 Clinton explains

 Speaking to reporters on the lawn just outside the Oval Office, the President said
 the political ramifications for the First Lady played ``absolutely'' no role in his
 decision to free the nationalists.

 Clinton said he was swayed by his lawyer's recommendation, the lengthy
 sentences already served by the members, and the lobbying efforts of former
 President Jimmy Carter, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and others.

 He said Mrs. Clinton wasn't aware of his offer until one of her aides asked her to
 comment on it.

 ``I did not discuss it with her,'' Clinton said. ``I have not discussed other clemency
 issues with her, and I didn't think I should discuss this one. It was up to her, and
 entirely appropriate for her, to say whatever she wanted to about it.''

 Clinton said he doesn't believe his wife has flip-flopped on this issue, and it is up
 to New York voters to ``evaluate that as they please.''

 For her part, Mrs. Clinton -- who was in New York City -- reiterated her opposition
 and said she understood ``the really strong feelings that my friends in the Puerto
 Rican community have on this issue.'' She appealed to them to understand her
 decision as well.

 But Rep. Jose Serrano, D-N.Y., a native of Puerto Rico, said Mrs. Clinton now
 has a serious credibility problem, and he is not interested in endorsing her.

 ``I'm still upset. I'm still hurt. I'm still angry and I've heard nothing to change my
 mind,'' Serrano said. ``If that campaign can be so insensitive to something that
 means so much to Puerto Ricans, how sensitive can they be to issues that affect
 blacks in my community, that affect Dominicans in my community, that affect
 Mexicans moving into my community?''

 Most of those eligible for clemency were members of the ultranationalist FALN,
 responsible for some 130 bombings in the late 1970s and early 1980s that left six
 dead and scores wounded. None of those offered clemency were directly
 responsible for deaths or injuries, officials say.

 House vote

 Meanwhile, the House of Representatives condemned the clemency offer on a
 311-41 vote that was little more than a symbolic gesture, since Clinton holds
 exclusive power over clemency. But in a rebuke, 93 Democrats crossed party
 lines to side with Republicans pushing the resolution. And 71 Democrats and one
 independent abstained by voting ``present.''

 Eighteen members of the Florida delegation supported the resolution, which was
 opposed by Democrats Alcee Hastings and Carrie Meek. Three Florida
 Democrats -- Corrine Brown, Peter Deutsch and Robert Wexler -- voted ``present.''

 In San Juan Thursday, independence activist Luis Nieves Falcon blasted Carlos
 Romero Barcelo, the nonvoting Puerto Rican representative to Congress, for not
 fending off the anti-clemency vote. He called him a ``hypocrite'' and ``two-faced.''

 ``Today we confirmed once more that Barcelo is capable of -- like they used to
 say in my old neighborhood -- selling his soul to the devil,'' said Nieves, a
 spokesman for the prisoners.

 Herald staff writers Carol Rosenberg and Frances Robles, in San Juan,
 contributed to this report.