The Miami Herald
December 20, 2001

Corruption probes of Puerto Rican political figures urged

 SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- (AP) -- Puerto Rico's government recommended the appointment of special prosecutors Wednesday to investigate a senator and a former government budget director for alleged corruption.

 Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodríguez said her recommendation was based on preliminary investigations. A panel of local judges in the U.S. territory must now review the evidence against both to decide whether the special prosecutors will be appointed in the case.

 The accusations against Sen. Maribel Rodríguez, of the governing anti-statehood Popular Democratic Party, stem from her trip this summer to New York for the Puerto Rican Day Parade, the justice secretary said. Investigations showed Rodríguez used public funds to finance her travel and hotel expenses and then used fraudulent receipts in a coverup.

 Gov. Sila Calderón on Wednesday said Sen. Rodríguez was being stripped of various posts in the governing party, including a seat on the party's board of directors.

 Sen. Rodríguez said she would account for her expenditures and denied wrongdoing.

 Her husband, Juan Cruzado, mayor of the San Juan suburb of Vega Alta, was arrested by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents in October for charges including
 embezzlement and wiretapping. He also is suspected of irregularities during the trip by him and various Vega Alta city officials to see the Puerto Rican Day Parade.

 A court date for Cruzado has not yet been set.

 Also in October, the former president of the House of Representatives and current pro-statehood Rep. Edison Misla Aldarondo was arrested by FBI agents and accused of extortion and money laundering in connection with the construction of a hospital project.

 The Justice Department's investigations also showed Jorge Aponte, director of the former government's Office of Management and Budget, may have used public funds illegally, the justice secretary said. Aponte has not commented publicly.

                                    © 2001