Ramon Jimenez, Green Candidate for AG, Calls for Prosecution of Carlos Velasquez over Finances of Puerto Rican Day Parade
Ramon Jimenez, the Green Party nominee for Attorney General, criticized Eric Schneiderman for failing to criminally prosecute long-time organizers of the Puerto Rican Day Parade for widespread graft.
Jimenez will be marching in Sunday's parade to support the release of Puerto Rican independence activist Oscar López Rivera, who recently observed his 32nd anniversary in federal prison. He will also march with Boricuas for a Positive Image.
Jimenez successfully pushed for investigation of the longstanding abuse of the parade's finances by Carlos Velasquez (Galos Marketing). Jimenez and others had long complained of the commercialization of the parade (e.g., promotion on Coor's beer cans), at the expense of the people's culture, history and dignity. Despite the enormous amounts of money raised, very little went to scholarships for students. (see http://conta.cc/1kCmkup)
“Schneiderman has refused to explain why Mr. Velasquez was allowed to be removed from the parade without any criminal charges. The AGs report found he misappropriated over $1,000,000 that was supposed to go to Student Scholarships. He and his board cronies all got rich feasting off the blood of Puerto Ricans and the community, collecting millions in fees and doling out minute amounts to needy students,” says Mr. Jimenez.
“If a dumb kid robs you of a dollar, he goes to jail and gets a criminal record tattooing him the rest of his life. If you’re rich and connected and steal over a million dollars, then not only are you not punished, but you can continue doing business in New York with other parades, as Galos Marketing is continuing to do,” he added.
After doing their own investigations and calling a community meeting, Jimenez and community groups on June 10, 2013 sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman raising numerous questions on the operation and organization of the parade.
On February 13, 2014 the Attorney General reported gross mismanagement of the Parade. The marketing agent had defrauded the Parade out of over a million dollars. Under the settlement with the AG's office, Velasquez was required to pay the Parade $100,000 while cancelling a one million dollar debt he alleged the Parade owed him. He agreed to step down as marketing agent, and it removed three of the 6-member Board.
Jimenez is also critical of the failure of the Attorney General to aggressively prosecute wage theft, which costs workers just in NYC a billion dollars a year. The State Comptroller on Friday issued an audit critical of the State Labor Department's handling of wage theft cases, where the backlog has increased to more than 17,000 cases under Cuomo's administration. While the AG has recently done a few media cases against corporate fast food companies, little action has been done over the sweatshops and smaller food establishments where much of the wage theft takes place. Such places tend to hire more immigrants and undocumented workers who lack the backing of unions. Nor has the AG publicly demanded that Cuomo send him more wage theft cases for prosecution.
López was convicted on federal charges, including seditious conspiracy -- conspiring to oppose U.S. authority over Puerto Rico by force. He was accused of being a member of the FALN, the Armed Forces of National Liberation. In 1999 President Bill Clinton commuted the sentences of 16 members of the FALN, but López refused to accept the deal because it did not include two fellow activists who have since been released. López said the charges against him were strictly political. Calls are increasing for López to be released, from Nobel Peace Laureate South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu to Eduardo Bhatia, president of the Puerto Rican Senate.
Ramon Jimenez is a lifetime community activist. He has been a South Bronx litigator (and agitator), representing low-income families, injured workers, community groups and others in the poorest Congressional district in the country. He successfully fought to save Hostos Community College and achieved the rebuilding of blighted neighborhoods.