ACLU to Congress: Investigate Civil Rights Violations in Puerto Rico

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WASHINGTON - Civil rights groups brought pressure yesterday on the U.S. Congress about allegations of civil rights violations in Puerto Rico, convinced that federal legislators can be key in getting the United States Department of Justice to accelerate their investigation.

"Without the intervention of Congress and the federal Justice Department, any reform of the police of Puerto Rico will not be enough," said Anthony Romero, national executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who is Puerto Rican.

Along with Latino organizations LatinoJustice PRLDEF (formerly the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund) and the National Institute for Latino Policy (NiLP), the ACLU conducted a briefing yesterday in Congress on the preliminary findings of its investigation.

About 15 representatives from congressional offices, including one sent by Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin (Illinois) and officials of the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives, were present. Also attending were officials of the Federal Affairs Administration Puerto Rico (PRFAA), who stood outside the hearing room afterwards to distribute a document that described to the "comprehensive effort" of the Luis Fortuño government to improve security and "professionalize" the police.

The ACLU, one of the leading civil rights organizations in the United States, submitted in 2008 to the federal Justice Department complaints about police brutality in Puerto Rico and has conducted its own investigation into the status of civil rights on the island

Last May, the ACLU held hearings in Puerto Rico to learn about the complaints from citizens and groups who have been victims of excessive use of force by police.

While the investigation of the ACLU begins in 2004 and was originally submitted to federal Justice Department in 2008, the problems under Governor Luis Fortuño "have intensified" in the cases of police brutality as the victims have been protesters, mostly students and workers, said Romero.

Translated by NiLP

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