On Feb. 3rd, Governor Rossello of Puerto Rico, descended on the Bronx alongside Governor Cuomo to publicly denounce the Trump administration for pulling FEMA out of Puerto Rico. The governors hoped to seize this crisis to advance their own political careers while Rossello intended to hide his ineptitude and neoliberal violence in Puerto Rico behind the New York governor’s political machine.
A coalition of Puerto Ricans from the island and of the diaspora along with allies took this urgent opportunity to confront the elusive governor, to hold him accountable in the borough of the Bronx, one of the largest outposts for the Puerto Rican people since the 1950s; to force him to respond publicly for the over 1,052 deaths and 100 and counting missing people after Hurricane Maria.
Below are the events that transpired:
Upon entry to the event, members of this coalition were immediately confronted by Melissa Quesada, Director of Latino Affairs for the Cuomo administration. This person addressed these individuals as “troublemakers.” Quesada then approached Cuomo’s security detail and NYS troopers a couple feet away and flagrantly pointed out members of the coalition having them removed from the premises and ultimately resulted in the arrest of one of the members there to exercise her right to protest.
It was later discovered that Melissa Quesada is the long time partner of Adrian Viajero Roman, co-founder of the organization Defend Puerto Rico who was present at this event. The members of the Bronx coalition who were removed had prior political disagreements with Roman the night before via social media, publicly confronting him about his cozy relationships to unethical politicians.
We have reason to believe that Roman utilized his spouse’s proximity to Cuomo’s office as a form of retaliation because of this exchange the night before. We have reason to believe that it was Roman that provided a “blacklist” of names to his partner who then hand picked them out of the crowd to police.
We reject the statement by Defend Puerto Rico, which attempts to separate these acts from their brand by stating that Roman was there on his own accord for two reasons:
- Roman is now a known liability to any movement work regarding Puerto Rico as he has proven that he would utilize his spouses’ proximity to power to silence and repress those who oppose his tactics with the violent power of the state. Yet, Defend Puerto Rico has taken no disciplinary action despite multiple accounts and video footage documenting the events of that day and continue to work with Roman and benefit from his access to the same political elite that continues to oppress Puerto Ricans on the island and in New York City.
- Defend Puerto Rico continues to appropriate revolutionary imagery such as the machete, marching in the 2017 Puerto Rican Day Parade with over 100 people wearing this image across their chest, pledging to “Defend Puerto Rico,” yet on Feb. 3rd, not one member of this cohort was present to put their bodies and principles on display. The only member present was Roman, who remained silent and who orchestrated the repression of those who would speak truth to power.
Therefore, we collectively call on organizations and community members to denounce the actions of MELISSA QUESADA, ADRIAN VIAJERO and DEFEND PUERTO RICO, and to remove these aggressors from our movement spaces. By allowing this person to continue to have access to our spaces, we are putting our bodies, liberties, and lives at risk.
For Immediate Release: February 15, 2018
Comité Boricua En La Diáspora