Saturday, February 27, 2010
Lincoln Díaz-Balart and Mel Martínez tried to silence corruption witness
Havana. February 26, 2010
"THEY wanted to silence" Jorge de Castro Font, the Puerto Rican politician convicted of corruption, to avoid the involvement of Republican Party figures such as Cuban-Americans Lincoln Díaz-Balart and Melquíades "Mel" Martinez, according to the Primera Hora newspaper, which reported how the former senator received an offer of no prosecution in exchange for his collaboration.
Shortly after his arrest by the FBI on corruption charges, on August 28, 2008, Jorge de Castro Font revealed that he had made a special trip to Florida in 2004 to give the Mafioso congress member Lincoln Díaz-Balart "a few checks" for illegal contributions.
The Puerto Rican newspaper article, published on Thursday, Feb. 26 with the byline of journalist Rosita Marrero, noted that "during the period when the former senator’s home was being raided and charges were brought against him, messengers were sent to him from individuals in the top leadership of the New Progressive Party (PNP)," along with a "communicator", who brought him the first message "sent by prominent members of the majority in the Legislative Assembly."
The day that federal authorities raided his office and home, the then-senator "received a visit," in which it was "proposed that he remain silent, and in exchange, he would not be charged locally and his family would be taken care of," Primera Hora quoted a source as confirming.
After the charges, on December 4, 2008, "another source told Primera Hora that De Castro received the visit of not one but three messengers, asking him not to talk about presumed allegations of very specific crimes, by very specific people, related to donations made to the Cuban-born Republican congressman from Florida, Mel Martínez".
The U.S. senator Melquíades "Mel" Martínez unexpectedly resigned in August 2009.
Primera Hora reported that the messengers waited for De Castro Font’s answer until December 30, when the Senate Ethics Commission sent the report on the Puerto Rican politician to the U.S. Justice Department.
The newspaper article hints at the real possibility that the FBI might have information regarding both Mel Martinez and now Lincoln Díaz-Balart (who just resigned from his seat), having received illegal donations from De Castro Font and his friends in Puerto Rico.
It is now up to the Justice Department in Washington D.C. to take the investigation further and settle on the due charges, which depends on the influence struggles within the labyrinth of a system not known for its transparency.
A FEW CHECKS FOR LINCOLN
In a statement previously reported by the Puerto Rican media, De Castro Font asserted in 2008 that he made the trip on a private American Airlines plane to hand over money from the Fonalledas family, which owns Plaza Las Americas, to the Mafioso congressman.
De Castro Font explained that he went to Florida in the company of Luis Fortuño, the then-candidate for resident commissioner of the island.
Agents from the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) raided De Castro Font’s home and office on August 24, 2008 and seized documents and weapons.
De Castro Font faced 32 counts in federal court for soliciting money in exchange for passing laws.
During this same period, it was revealed in the United States that the elder of the Díaz-Balart brothers in Congress had obtained millions in federal funds for defense contractors from his district in Miami-Dade County, Florida, who had contributed to his political campaign, and that of his brother, Mario Díaz-Balart.
Locust USA and Mark Two Engineering gave $67,000 to the Diaz-Balart campaigns and political action committees in 2001.
Locust won a $20.8 million Pentagon contract for research and development between 2001 and 2007, which was never appropriately investigated, because this politician had his network of protection.
Melquíades Martínez and Lincoln Díaz-Balart have just resigned from their political careers. The departure of both from the U.S. Congress was attributed to family reasons and their desire to "fight for Cuba." A few days after his announcement, "Mel" Martínez reappeared in a lobbying firm connected with the Bacardí Corporation, which had benefited from his time in office. It is not yet known what plans Díaz-Balart has for taking advantage of his privileged contacts in the federal corruption apparatus. Time will tell. •
Translated by Granma International