Aníbal Acevedo Vilá

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Aníbal Salvador Acevedo Vilá
Anibal.jpg
9th Governor of Puerto Rico
In office
January 2, 2005 – January 2, 2009
Preceded by Sila María Calderón
Succeeded by Luis Fortuño
Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico
In office
January 3, 2001 – January 3, 2005
Preceded by Carlos Romero Barceló
Succeeded by Luis Fortuño
At-Large Member of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives
In office
1993–2001
Personal details
Born Aníbal Salvador Acevedo Vilá
(1962-02-13) February 13, 1962 (age 52)
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Political party Popular Democratic Party
Democratic Party
Spouse(s) Luisa "Piti" Gándara
Children Gabriela
Juan Carlos
Alma mater University of Puerto Rico (B.A.)
University of Puerto Rico School of Law (J.D.)
Harvard University (LL.M.)
Profession Attorney at Law
Religion Roman Catholic[citation needed]
Website anibalgobernador.com

Aníbal Salvador Acevedo Vilá (born 13 February 1962) is a Puerto Rican politician and lawyer. He served as the ninth Governor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, a Commonwealth of the United States, from 2005 to 2009. He is a Harvard University alumnus (LL.M. 1987) and a graduate of the University of Puerto Rico School of Law, where he obtained his Juris Doctor degree. Acevedo Vilá has held various public service positions in the Puerto Rico government under the Popular Democratic Party, serving as a member of the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico (1993–2001) and Resident Commissioner (2001–2005), before he was sworn in as Governor on 2 January 2005. Acevedo Vilá was also a member of the National Governors Association, the Southern Governors' Association and the Democratic Governors Association, and a collaborator of President Barack Obama's presidential campaign.

On 27 March 2008, Acevedo Vilá was indicted in the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico on 19 counts of campaign finance violations.[1] He subsequently organized a press conference, where he claimed that he is innocent of all charges presented against him. On 19 August 2008, he was charged with five more counts. On 1 December 2008 Judge Paul Barbadoro determined that 15 of those charges were based on a flawed theory, leaving him with only nine charges. On 20 March 2009, Acevedo Vilá was found by a jury not guilty of all the charges against him.

On 4 November 2008, he failed in his bid for a second term, losing to incumbent Resident Commissioner Luis Fortuño. Two days later he stepped down as president of the Popular Democratic Party.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Acevedo Vilá was born in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico, a borough of San Juan. His father, the late Salvador Acevedo, was a former judge, while his mother, the late Elba Vilá, was a homemaker. He attended Colegio San José High School in the same municipality. In 1982, he obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science at the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras. He continued his studies in Law at that campus' University of Puerto Rico Law School, the preeminent law school of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, from which he obtained his Juris Doctor in 1985, graduating magna cum laude.

After passing the Puerto Rico bar exam, Acevedo Vilá completed a year-long clerkship at the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico, where he worked under associate Justice Federico Hernández Denton. In 1987, he obtained a LL.M. degree from Harvard University. From 1987 to 1988, he served as law clerk for the Hon. Levin Hicks Campbell, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston, Massachusetts.

Political career[edit]

Early career[edit]

Acevedo Vilá began his political career in 1989 as Legislative Affairs Advisor to Governor Rafael Hernández Colón. Shortly after, he became Director of the Legislative Affairs Office of La Fortaleza. He was also responsible for the analysis and redaction of legislative measures like the Educational Reform and the Municipal Reform.[3]

House of Representatives (1992–1999)[edit]

In 1992, Acevedo Vilá was elected Representative At-Large to the Puerto Rico's House of Representatives. His parliamentary work was mostly in the commissions of Government, Retirement System, Women Affairs, and others. In 1993, he was an active member of the PPD campaign in favor of the current commonwealth status for the plebiscite held in the island on 14 November 1993. In the end, the Commonwealth, or Estado Libre Asociado, beat the other options of statehood and independence.

Acevedo Vilá was reelected as Representative in 1996. That same year, Party President Héctor Luis Acevedo also put him in charge of the Status Committee of the party. The following year, his party elected him Minority Leader of the House. To continue his ascension in the Party ranks, in February 1997, Acevedo Vilá ran for President of the Popular Democratic Party against veteran Eudaldo Báez Galib, and won 180–124.

Young Bill and 1998 Plebiscite[edit]

In 1998, Acevedo Vilá participated in a campaign against the Young Bill, a proposed legislative project in the U.S. Congress that sought to resolve the political status of Puerto Rico by defining each proposed status option and calling for a series of referendums. Although the referendum called for in the project would have included the option for Puerto Rico to remain a Commonwealth, the option would have to be renewed by island voters every ten years, until they opted for independence or statehood.

Although the project was not approved, Puerto Rico's elected officials under Governor Pedro Rosselló organized a non-binding plebiscite to define Puerto Rico's political status, in which Puerto Ricans were given five options: Commonwealth, associated republic, Statehood, Independence from the United States, or "none of the above".

Acevedo Vilá and his party believed the definition of the commonwealth option was incorrect because it defined the current political status as territorial. His party campaigned for the "none of the above" option, which ultimately garnered the majority of the votes. (See Puerto Rican status referendums for more information.)

Resident Commissioner (2000–2004)[edit]

In 1999, Acevedo Vilá became Vice-President of the PPD, as the current Mayor of San Juan, Sila Calderón assumed the Presidency and became the candidate for Governor of Puerto Rico. Acevedo Vilá settled to be the candidate for the Resident Commissioner position, but he was challenged by José Alfredo Hernández Mayoral, son of former Governor and Acevedo Vilá's mentor, Rafael Hernández Colón. Acevedo Vilá won the primary held on 14 November 1999 with 54% of the votes. The next year, Acevedo Vilá defeated Carlos Romero Barceló, the incumbent Resident Commissioner, while Sila Calderón became the first female Governor of Puerto Rico defeating the PNP candidate, Carlos Pesquera.

Acevedo was sworn in at the Washington Capitol Building on 3 January 2001. Among the legislative measures helmed by Acevedo were the assignment of equal funds for education and the Medicare program in Puerto Rico.

In mid-2003, Governor Sila M. Calderón announced she would not seek a second term on the following year's elections. José Hernández Mayoral again surfaced as the likely party's candidate for Governor for the 2004 elections. The Party General Council agreed and decided to put Acevedo to run for Mayor of San Juan. However, months following the announcement, Hernández Mayoral widthdrew from the race, citing personal matters, and Acevedo Vilá announced he would run for the Governor's seat. On 14 August, he was again elected as President of the Party.

Governor (2005–2009)[edit]

Governor Acevedo Vilá holding the American flag.

Acevedo Vilá won the Puerto Rico General Elections of 2004 by approximately 3,880 votes (0.2 percent of the vote) over former governor Pedro Rosselló. However, since the margin of victory was so small, a full recount of the elections took place. During the period, Rosselló filed a civil lawsuit against Acevedo Vilá himself over a dispute of certain ballots that were cast during the elections. Acevedo Vilá is also the first elected governor born after the adoption of the 1952 Constitution of Puerto Rico. Many independentistas voted for Governor Anibal Acevedo Vilá because they did not want the statehood candidate to win the tight race.[4]

Mixed votes controversy[edit]

Sample ballot for 2004 Gubernatorial Election, illustrating the Mixed Vote permissible under CEE Rule 50.

Since Acevedo Vilá's margin of victory was just 3,880 votes–less than one vote per electoral polling room– the result led to a protracted controversy involving appeals to the United States federal courts and the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico. The leaders of the New Progressive Party alleged that some ballots were invalid and shouldn't be counted.

The controversy reached the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico, which ruled 4–3 that the ballots in question were valid. Rosselló challenged the ballots on the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico where District Judge Daniel Domínguez ordered the Puerto Rico Election Commission to count the disputed votes but to not adjudicate them to any candidate until he reached a decision on the merits of the case. Acevedo Vilá and his team challenged this ruling and the case moved up to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, where three judges ruled the question of whether or not the ballots were properly cast was not a federal constitutional issue and therefore should be decided by the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico at the Commonwealth level. The Supreme Court affirmed its prior 4–3 decision. On 28 December 2004 the recount ended and Acevedo Vilá was certified as winner and therefore Governor elected.

Shared Government[edit]

Acevedo Vilá was finally sworn as Governor on 2 January 2005. During his term, he faced many political challenges, due to the fact that the main opposing party, New Progressive Party (PNP) gained control of the Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico, the Resident Commissioner in Congress (Luis Fortuño), and Acevedo Vilá's main political rival, Pedro Rosselló (former Governor or Puerto Rico who had just lost the election against Acevedo), managed to gain a seat in the Senate of Puerto Rico after a young first-term Senator from Arecibo unexpectedly resigned shortly after taking the oath of office.

Because the executive and the legislative branches of the government are controlled by different political parties, Governor Acevedo Vilá called his government a "shared government". During the first months of his term, Acevedo Vilá concentrated his efforts on trying to reach bipartisan support for his bills and for the nominees of his Cabinet. However, this collapsed when Acevedo Vilá vetoed a legislative bill proposed by the PNP.

During May 2005, confrontations between the executive and the legislative branches reached a new climax when the Puerto Rico legislature voted to override a veto by Acevedo Vilá, thus becoming the first democratically-elected governor to have a veto overridden by the legislature. Later in June, Acevedo Vilá and the legislature were frequently at odds about the budget proposal. The budget proposed by the Governor was not accepted by the leaders of the PNP in the legislature and they proposed a different budget, which Acevedo Vilá vetoed in August 2005.

On his 2004 campaign promise that he would not support a sales tax. The tax served to pay part of the country's external debt. In spite of all these measures, he has so far been unable to finish with a balanced budget. He however was the only governor to open commerce and trade to other countries. He also as well was the only governor to speak on the United Nations presenting the political status of Puerto Rico.

Government shut-down[edit]

New tensions surfaced during April 2006, when Acevedo Vilá announced the central government of Puerto Rico did not have enough funds to pay the salary of public employees for the months of May and June. The Governor asked the Legislature to approve a loan of over $500 million so that the government could keep the agencies running. The Senate approved the loan, but the House of Representatives refused to do so. Acevedo Vilá then announced that most of the government agencies would shut down beginning 1 May, and would remain closed unless the House approved the new loan. The government shutdown lasted two weeks, until Governor Acevedo Vilá, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House reached an agreement to end the shutdown. The details of the agreement included the approval of a new loan as well as new fiscal reforms that would impose a sales tax and require the reduction of operational costs of the central government of the island.

Failed attempt at reelection (2008)[edit]

During the course of 2008, Acevedo Vilá was indicted with a total of 24 charges of corruption. Due to this situation and the economic crisis hampering his tenure, several potential candidates like William Miranda Marín (Mayor of Caguas) and Alejandro García Padilla (former Secretary of the Department of Consumer Affairs and candidate to the Senate) where mentioned as possible replacements. However, Acevedo Vilá decided to run for reelection, and was openly endorsed by the Party in a massive caucus held at the José Miguel Agrelot Coliseum.

Sometime after, he chose the Director of the Puerto Rico Government Development Bank Alfredo Salazar as his ballot partner for the position of Resident Commissioner. The campaign closure of the Popular Democratic Party looked like a massive gathering at the parking lot of one of the stations of the Tren Urbano as reported by press.[5] Despite this push, Acevedo Vilá was defeated by Fortuño by 224894 votes, being the PPD candidate defeated by largest margin in Puerto Rico's History. Shortly after, Acevedo Vilá announced his resignation as President of the Party.

Federal investigations and indictment[edit]

During the period of September–October 2006, several news sources reported that a federal grand jury was investigating donations made to the Acevedo Vilá campaign fund during 2001 and 2002 by the aforementioned contractor and a Puerto Rico based associate. News sources indicated that the donations made by the duo to the Acevedo Vilá campaign fund during that period could total $68,000. In the succeeding months, several key members of Acevedo Vilá's Cabinet were either interviewed by the FBI or called to testify before the Grand Jury investigating the Governor, including Fortaleza Chief of Staff and former Economic Development and Commerce Secretary Jorge Silva Puras, Press Secretary Juanita Colombani, former Housing Secretary Ileana Echegoyen, former Health Services Administrator Nancy Vega, and former Fortaleza Chief of Staff Aníbal José Torres.[6]

On 27 March 2008, Acevedo Vilá was formally charged in the long-running public corruption probe, along with 12 other people. The 13 were accused of running a conspiracy to illegally raise money to pay off Acevedo Vilá's campaign debts in 2000.[7] Acevedo Vilá was not arrested. Acting U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez said, "The governor will be permitted to turn himself in [in] deference to his position."[8]

The following day Acevedo Vilá was released without having to pay bail nor give up his passport.[9] Acevedo Vilá was allowed to travel out of the island so long as he informed the court prior to doing so.[9]

On 19 August 2008, the federal agency filed a second five count federal Grand Jury indictment.

Throughout the investigation and indictment process, Acevedo Vilá stated repeatedly that he was innocent, and claimed that everything was politically motivated to harm his career.

On 1 December 2008, Judge Paul J. Barbadoro dismissed 15 of the original 19 charges citing misinterpretation of Puerto Rican election laws by the federal prosecutors.[10]

The case was heard between 9 February 2009 until 20 March 2009. Acevedo Vila was found not guilty of all charges on 20 March 2009.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Acevedo Vilá is married to Luisa Gándara, a schoolteacher and information technology executive who gave up her career to serve as First Lady during his governorship. They are the parents of two college students, and live in San Juan, where he currently practices law and has authored several books related to his political career and years in public service.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ U.S. charges Puerto Rican governor, 12 others – CNN.com[dead link]
  2. ^ "Se quita Anibal Acevedo Vila" (in Spanish). El Nuevo Dia. 
  3. ^ "Cronología política de Aníbal Acevedo Vilá". El Circo. Retrieved 14 September 2011. 
  4. ^ Abby Goodnough. "Political ire in Puerto Rico grows." The New Yorks Times. 6 November 2005.
  5. ^ "Termina campaña electoral con actividades multitudinarias en Puertp Rico". Univision.com. 31 October 2008. Retrieved 14 September 2011. 
  6. ^ Hernández, Yanira (4 October 2006). "Gobernador Listo ante pugna de los donativos" (in Spanish). El Nuevo Dia. 
  7. ^ "Puerto Rico gov charged in campaign probe". MSNBC. 27 March 2008. Retrieved 14 September 2011. 
  8. ^ Rivera, Manuel Ernesto (27 March 2008). "Puerto Rican Governor Faces 19 Counts". International Business Times. Associated Press. Retrieved 25 March 2009. [dead link]
  9. ^ a b Michelle Estrada Torres (28 March 2008). "Libre sin fianza Aníbal Acevedo Vilá" (in Spanish). Primera Hora. Retrieved 28 March 2008. [dead link]
  10. ^ "US judge tosses some charges against PR governor". International Herald Tribune. Associated Press. 1 December 2008. Retrieved 25 March 2009. 
  11. ^ Cave, Damien; Sosa-Pascual, Omaya (20 March 2009). "Puerto Rico Ex-Governor Is Acquitted of Graft". U.S. The New York Times (New York City, United States: The New York Times Company). p. A13. Archived from the original on 28 July 2014. Retrieved 28 July 2014. A jury in San Juan, P.R., on Friday found a former governor of the commonwealth not guilty on all nine counts of corruption in a case that may have contributed to his defeat in the November election. 

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Carlos Romero Barceló
Resident Commissioner to the U.S. House of Representatives
from Puerto Rico

2001–2005
Succeeded by
Luis Fortuño
Political offices
Preceded by
Sila María Calderón
Governor of Puerto Rico
2005–2009
Succeeded by
Luis Fortuño