Carlos Romero Barceló

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Carlos Romero Barceló
Carlos Romero Barcelo.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Puerto Rico's At-large district
In office
January 3, 1993 – January 3, 2001
Preceded by Antonio Colorado
Succeeded by Aníbal Acevedo Vilá
5th Governor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
In office
January 2, 1977 – January 2, 1985
President Gerald Ford
Jimmy Carter
Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Rafael Hernández Colón
Succeeded by Rafael Hernández Colón
Mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico
In office
January 2, 1969 – January 2, 1977
Preceded by Felisa Rincón de Gautier
Succeeded by Hernán Padilla
Personal details
Born (1932-09-04) September 4, 1932 (age 81)
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Political party New Progressive Party
Democratic Party
Spouse(s) Kate Donnelly
Profession Lawyer
Religion Spiritualist
Nickname(s) El Caballo

Carlos Antonio Romero Barceló (born September 4, 1932) is a Puerto Rican politician who served as the fifth Governor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the second governor to be elected from the New Progressive Party (PNP) and also Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico from 1993 to 2001.

Romero Barceló is the grandson of Antonio R. Barceló, a former Union Party leader and advocate of Puerto Rican independence during the early 20th century.

Education[edit]

Carlos Romero Barceló attended Phillips Exeter Academy in the state of New Hampshire, graduating in 1949. Later he attended Yale University, obtaining a B.A. in Political Science and Economics in 1953. That same year, at age 20, he returned to Puerto Rico and enrolled at the University of Puerto Rico Law School, becoming a licensed lawyer in 1956. In 1977, he received a doctorate Honoris causa from the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut.

Political career[edit]

Romero Barceló, an avid supporter of Puerto Rico statehood with the United States of America, became involved in with the "Partido Estadista Republicano", the forerunner of the New Progressive Party, which at the time was led by Miguel Angel Garcia Mendez. He formed part of "Ciudadanos pro Estado 51" (Citizens for the 51st State) in 1965. Later, he became involved with the political group "Estadistas Unidos", founded by Luis Ferre.

Mayor[edit]

Romero was one of the founding members of the New Progressive Party in 1967. The following year he was elected Mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, succeeding the legendary "doña Fela" (Felisa Rincón de Gautier) and becoming the first popularity-elected mayor of San Juan . During his second term, in 1973, he became the first Hispanic to become vice-president of the National League of Cities and in 1974 became president. He served as mayor until 1976 when he defeated incumbent Governor Rafael Hernández Colón. While Hernán Padilla was elected to succeed him, technically, his immediate successor was Carlos S. Quirós, his Vice Mayor who became full Mayor for over a week until Padilla's term began. Some of his accomplishment were the Roberto Clemente Coliseum and the first municipal educational institution of Puerto Rico : Colegio Universitario de San Juan.


Governor[edit]

Romero Barceló brought well-received economic resolutions to the island during his terms in office, emphasizing the island's tourism potential. However, during his administration the economy recovered sluggishly, with unemployment dropping to 17% in 1979 from 19.0% in 1975, a disappointing 2% decline. The economy did not fully recover, and the island's government services deteriorated during his term in office. Moreover, his statements declaring the policemen that carried out the Maravilla murders to be heroes hurt his image.

In 1980 he was elected for a second term as governor by a margin of 3,037 votes over again PPD-candidate Rafael Hernández Colón. The 1980 gubernatorial elections were among the closest in Puerto Rican history, requiring the intervention of the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico to rule whether improperly cast ballots should be counted. In particular, the Puerto Rico Statehood Students Association under Luis Fortuño generated over 1,500 absentee ballots for Romero Barceló that proved an important factor in his reelection. However, the New Progressive Party lost control of the legislature, and party-affiliated mayors won in 28 of the 78 municipalities on the island.The 1980 elections was the most controversial as many PPD followers said that the elections were stolen in which the PPD won the elections except for the governor candidacy in which almost every election the parties wins with the integrated votes. This election is similar to the 2004 election.

Romero Barceló is frequently associated with the "Cerro Maravilla Incident" of 1978 in which two young pro-Independence activists at Cerro Maravilla were killed at the hands of rogue members of the Puerto Rican Police. The tragic incident was investigated several times by the P.R. Justice Department, the U.S. Justice Department and the F.B.I., and was widely reported on by the local press. In the end (and after some reversals), ten officers were indicted and found guilty of perjury, destruction of evidence, and obstruction of justice, of whom four were convicted of second-degree murder in 1984 .[1]

In 1984, Barcelo was defeated in his bid for a third consecutive term by Hernandez-Colon In his second term Puerto Rico was badly hit by a severe recession starting in 1980 and ending in 1983, The unemployment drastically rose to 25% in 1983 the highest since the Great Depression. Also his second term is very similar to what happened in the Aníbal Acevedo Vilá administration in which the legislature was controlled by the opposing Party

He sought re-election for a third term in 1984 but was defeated by Rafael Hernández Colón. After the elections, Barceló's reaction to the defeat, in response to TV news reporter Rafael Bracero, was Que Derrota? (What defeat?). For him, he said, what had occurred was not a defeat, but simply an "electoral loss". The comment has become legendary in Puerto Rican politics.

Senator[edit]

In 1986, he was elected by his party to fill in a vacancy in the Senate of Puerto Rico, a position for which he did not seek reelection in 1988. Instead, he returned to his private law practice and shortly thereafter merged his law firm with Del Toro & Santana where he practiced until his election to Congress in 1992.

Resident Commissioner[edit]

Carlos Romero Barcelo in D.C.

In the 1992 elections, Romero was elected Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico, and relocated to Washington, D.C.. He would later on be reelected in the elections of 1996.

During his tenure as Resident Commissioner he campaigned for Puerto Rican statehood and endorsed the Young Project, which sought to call a referendum to resolve Puerto Rico's political status. In 2000, he sought a third term but was defeated by PPD's Aníbal Acevedo Vilá. He once again sought his party's nomination for the post of Resident Commissioner in 2003, but was defeated by Luis Fortuño. Although he has retired from electoral politics, he has remained active in PNP political gatherings and is a member of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).

Legacy[edit]

Romero Barceló married Kate Donnelly on January 2, 1966. His daughter, Melinda Romero Donnelly, was an NPP member of the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico for 8 years, later becoming state senator when she won a special election in 2009 for the vacant seat of former Senator Jorge De Castro Font. He is a boxing fan, and advocated for holding world championship bouts in San Juan during his terms in office. Some of his accomplishment were the Minillas Tunnel , the Centro de Bellas Artes Luis A. Ferre, the creation of Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration and the Roberto Clemente Coliseum (while been San Juan's Mayor).

The federal charges against Puerto Rico's former governor, Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, stem from a tip brought to the federal court by Romero Barcelo. Romero has openly admitted to being the catalyst of the federal investigation against Aníbal Acevedo Vilá. In 2000, Acevedo accused Romero Barcelo of receiving 175,000 dollars of illegal contributions to fund his campaign bid for Resident Commissioner. The witness Acevedo Vila presented to authorities to validate his claims later recanted, but Vila's comments hurt Romero's in the court of public opinion, contributing to his loss that November.

On March 20, 2009, Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, alongside co-defendant Luisa Inclan Bird, was found not guilty of all charges against them.[2]

Publications[edit]

  • "Puerto Rico, U.S.A.: The Case for Statehood." Foreign Affairs 59 (Fall 1980): pp. 58–81.
  • Statehood Is For the Poor. N.P.: Master Typesetting of P.R. Inc., 1978. Originally published as La Estatidad es para los Pobres, 1973.
  • The book titled Two Lynchings on Cerro Maravilla: The Police Murders in Puerto Rico and the Federal Government Coverup by then San Juan Star journalist Manuel 'Manny' Suarez.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Rafael Hernández Colón
Governor of Puerto Rico
1977–1985
Succeeded by
Rafael Hernández Colón
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Antonio Colorado
Resident Commissioner to the U.S. House of Representatives
from Puerto Rico

1993–2001
Succeeded by
Aníbal Acevedo Vilá