Resumen de Boletín de Telenoticias ante el paso del huracán María por R.D

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Kelly: Sen. Menendez’s base nervous about impending trial, but proud of their native son

MIKE KELLY

Kelly: Sen. Menendez’s base nervous about impending trial, but proud of their native son

 

The guys who play dominoes on most afternoons at Jose Marti Park in Union City say they are trying to make sense of the upcoming corruption trial of U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez.

But it’s not easy.

Bergenline Avenue in Union City on Wednesday, August 23, 2017.
Michael Karas/Northjersey.com

Like the plastic dominoes they flip and smack against the park’s concrete tables, they see Menendez now as a captive of chance, with his legacy as one of the most politically powerful figures in Hudson County falling one way or another – like a domino.

“He has his enemies, but he also has a lot of friends,” said Peter Garcia, 88, as he paused between domino games on a recent afternoon. “Some people believe that he is a hometown hero. I don’t know.”

This is Bob Menendez’s dilemma.

He faces two trials now. One is a legal battle. The other is about legacy.

In a windowless courtroom in Newark, Menendez, 63, a Democrat and former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has assembled a team of top lawyers — including Abbe Lowell, who helped defend President Bill Clinton against impeachment charges in the late 1990s and is advising embattled White House staffer Jared Kushner — to fend off a litany of federal bribery and other corruption charges that could send him to prison for years.

The proceedings began this week with the selection of 12 jurors. Opening arguments by prosecutors and defense attorneys are set for Sept. 6.

Trial On The Streets

Menendez’s other trial, however, is harder to define. And even more difficult to predict.

It is taking place in the Hudson County neighborhoods where Menendez not only grew up, but nurtured his political roots.

On these streets, Menendez is often talked about in mythic terms — the son of dirt-poor Cuban immigrants who fought his way through Hudson County’s grinding political battles to become one of the nation’s most significant and recognizable Latino political figures.

How he fares in federal court in Newark will define his political future. And it will determine his personal  freedom if he is convicted and sentenced to prison.

How he fares on the streets of Hudson County, however, will determine his place in history.

“We feel very proud of Robert Menendez,” said Emilio Del Valle, who runs the annual Cuban Day Parade each June.  “But we also feel sad at what is happening.”

Bergenline Avenue in Union City on Wednesday, August 23, 2017.
Michael Karas/Northjersey.com

In 2015, only weeks after he was indicted for selling his office for favors, Menendez was cheered heartily as he marched along Bergenline Avenue, the cultural and business artery that connects the Latino communities of Union City and West New York.

It did not seem to matter that Menendez had just been charged with accepting roughly $1 million in free vacation trips, political contributions and other gifts in return for doing favors and interceding with government agencies on behalf of a Florida eye doctor and close friend, Salomon Melgen. What many saw in Menendez was the embodiment of their own aspirations — a Latino success story.

Many still feel that way.

On a recent afternoon outside Las Palmas Cuban restaurant in West New York, Guillermo Estevez, 83, a Cuban immigrant and former political prisoner under the Castro regime, thought of Menendez’s legal plight in Newark, then ticked off the senator’s accomplishments in Hudson County and beyond as if he was reciting a résumé.

 “Lawyer, councilman, mayor, state assemblyman, state senator, congressman and now senator.  My God,” Estevez said of Menendez. “The people of New Jersey care about him. That’s the bottom line.”

The Record columnist Mike Kelly talks to Guillermo Estevez of West New York. Photo: Marko …more
Marko Georgiev/NorthJersey.com

In April, Melgen was convicted in a federal trial in West Palm Beach, Florida, on 67 charges of enriching his physician’s practice by operating a massive scheme to defraud the federal Medicare system. Melgen will be in court again next month, this time as Menendez’s co-defendant.

Menendez is charged with trying to intercede with federal health officials who were looking into Melgen’s questionable Medicare billing practices. Federal officials also say Melgen sought Menendez’s help in securing visas for several of the doctor’s alleged girlfriends who lived in other countries.

Federal prosecutors say that Melgen rewarded Menendez by offering free trips on his private jet out of Teterboro Airport to the doctor’s lavish Caribbean villa. Melgen, prosecutors say, also paid for a variety of vacations, including a three-night, $4,900 jaunt by the senator and his then-girlfriend to a posh Paris hotel suite that included a limestone soaking tub and a rain shower.

Menendez does not deny he received gifts from Melgen. The senator explains that he and Melgen are close friends and that none of the gifts were ever seen as bribes.

Emilio Del Valle agrees.

“He received a lot of stuff. That’s OK.  They’re friends,” Del Valle said. “I don’t see him committing anything wrong.”

As of late, Del Valle said he detected that Menendez supporters, while still loyal to him, had grown increasingly worried as the trial loomed.

There is a widespread belief, especially among Cubans, that Menendez was singled out for prosecution because he was one of the few Democrats to oppose President Barack Obama’s diplomatic overtures to Cuba and Iran.

The U.S. Justice Department denies that Menendez’s political positions had anything to do with its investigation of his relationship with Melgen. But on the streets of Hudson County, such denials have done little to dissuade Menendez’s supporters that he has been unjustly targeted.

“A lot of us are amazed and waiting to see what happens,” Del Valle said.  “We will feel sad if anything bad happens.”

Strong Base Of Cuban Support

That sense of support is not unusual in Hudson County.

Long before Robert Menendez rose to power, Hudson County was home to plenty of political figures who managed to remain popular despite questions raised about their ethics. From Jersey City mayors Frank Hague and John V. Kenny to Union City Mayor and state senator William Musto, Hudson has produced a long line of politicians who managed to endear themselves to their constituents in the midst of legal troubles.

But that might be a tough sell in Menendez’s case.

“If he’s convicted, it will be hard for them to accept,” said Yolanda Prieto, whose 2009 book, “The Cubans of Union City: Immigrants and Exiles in a New Jersey Community,” examined the deep ties by Cubans in Hudson County after many of them escaped the Castro regime in their homeland.

“He would be the hero who falls from grace,” she said. “And he’s Cuban. And his story is one that Cubans are very proud of. They will be very down on the whole situation. It would be a very sad moment in the community.”

Howard Moskowitz, a lawyer and political activist based in Jersey City, said Menendez’s deep ties with the Cuban community may turn out to be one of his most powerful assets in preserving his legacy, no matter how his criminal trial turns out.

“His story is one that Cubans are very proud of. They will be very down on the whole situation. It would be a very sad moment in the community.”

– Yolanda Prieto

“His family comes here from Cuba and he rises to the senate,” Moskowitz said, echoing the kind of praise often heard about Menendez. “To say it’s impressive is an understatement.”

Moskowitz said the problem for many now in Hudson County, especially in Menendez’s hometown of Union City and in neighboring West New York, is facing the possibility of how the senator’s story will end.

“It’s a damn shame,” he said.

“He’s been really great for our community,” said another Cuban immigrant, Fidelina Gastell, 69.

Bernard Kenny, the Hoboken democrat who served with Menendez in the state assembly, said many in Hudson County have simply declined to discuss the possibility that Menendez could lose his case and leave office.

One reason for such silence is political, said Kenny, explaining that Democrats and even Republicans don’t want to create enemies with Menendez and his loyal supporters. But another reason, said Kenny, is the perceived emotional scars that a conviction would leave.

“It would be devastating to the political community because one of our most prominent, successful and respected sons of Hudson County has met this end,” Kenny said.

West New York Mayor Felix Roque counts himself as one of Menendez’s loyalists. But this was not always the case.

Roque, a Democrat, angered Menendez after endorsing the senator’s GOP opponent in the 2012 election – a mistake, says Roque, that stemmed from a personal  misunderstanding that has since been settled between him and Menendez.

The Record columnist Mike Kelly with West New York Mayor Felix Roque. Photo: Marko …more
Marko Georgiev/NorthJersey.com

Now Roque, a physician with offices in Union City, says he can relate to Menendez’s legal plight.

In 2012, Roque was charged by federal authorities, along with his son, for hacking into the emails of political opponents who want to mount a recall election against him. Roque was acquitted of the charges, but his son, Joseph, was convicted.

“I could sense what he is going through. It feels like the world is going to cave in on you,” Roque said. “It takes a toll on you and your family. It hurts everybody.”

To make peace with Menendez after their fallout in 2012, Roque had a public school in West New York named in honor of the senator. No matter how his trial goes in Newark in the coming weeks, Roque says one thing will remain – Menendez’s name on the school on 55 Street in West New York.

“I’m going to leave his name there,” Roque said. “In my heart, I believe he’s not guilty.”

Email: Kellym@northjersey.com

Originally Published 6:00 a.m. ET Aug. 27, 2017
Updated 9:51 p.m. ET Aug. 27, 2017
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Dominican-American New Yorkers leave their mark on New York city

 

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Representing the Dominican Republic, Felix Sanchez had a stellar track career — specializing in the 400-meter hurdles and winning Olympic gold in 2004, giving the island nation its first Olympic gold medal. (Matt Slocum/AP)
BY
Herb Boyd
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Updated: Thursday, August 17, 2017, 3:23 PM
When the board of directors of the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce announced this spring that “Harlem: Home of Immigrants — Honoring New York’s International Diversity” would be the theme for Harlem Week 2017, it made perfect sense that the Dominican Republic and Dominican-American New Yorkers would be major centerpieces of the event.
The greater Harlem community is vividly aware of the growing influence of Dominican culture and politics in the city. And Harlem Week officials are lining up activities in the annual event and aligning with events in the Dominican community.
Last year’s election win for Dominican Republic-born Rep. Adriano Espaillat is good indicator of the growing Dominican-American political clout in New York. On the economic front, Harlem Week’s NYC Economic Development Day, Aug. 10, explored some of the business ties between Dominican-American and African-American entrepreneurs as well as the benefits of pooling resources on the road to economic empowerment.
After this examination of potential economic links, the communities of Washington Heights and Central Harlem shared a more festive mood during the Dominican Day Parade on Sunday. The parade is always as colorful in costumes as it is overflowing with dancing and music.
Americans should note: immigrants helped Harlem thrive in NYC
On Harlem Day, Aug. 20, the “Dominican Village” will be the featured attraction, and visitors will get a deeper understanding of Dominican history and its connection to the African diaspora.
One aspect that connection was revealed during a recent renaming of a Harlem street for the late black nationalist activist Elombe Brath. A speaker evoked the name and memory of the late, great black nationalist Carlos A. Cooks, and mentioned his connection to legendary Jamaican Marcus Mosiah Garvey and his international movement. Very few people know that Cooks’ African Nationalist Pioneer Movement was a continuation of Garveyism — and that he was born in the Dominican Republic.
This was not news to Espaillat, who on many occasions has proudly noted the legacy of Cooks and his importance in providing a bridge between the English-, Spanish- and French-speaking communities of the African diaspora.

“Carlos Cooks is just one of many Dominicans who will be featured, along with the showcasing of a Dominican village,” said Espaillat, noting that profiles of Dominican-Americans such as baseball greats Sammy Sosa, Pedro Martinez and David Ortiz, as well as actress Zoe Saldana, should provoke lively historical exchanges.

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A full-figured phenom, New York-born and -raised Christina Mendez is a “mother, model, entrepreneur, philanthropist” and “a proud Dominican” who is the granddaughter of “Merengue King” Joseito Mateo. (christinamendez.com)
GHCC President and CEO Lloyd Williams is also quite familiar with Cooks and his contributions to social and political thought not only in Harlem, but throughout the black and Latino worlds.
“Certainly his association with Marcus Garvey is something we have honored over the years, but don’t forget the link Cooks has to the political outlook and development of Malcolm X,” Williams said. “Taken together, you have a triumvirate of leaders who will be discussed during Harlem Week.”
Many Dominican New Yorkers such as Christina Mendez, Felix Sanchez and the late U.S. Marine Cpl. Ramona Valdez — have made impressive contributions and remained proud of their ancestral island home and the U.S.
A full-figured phenom, New York-born and -raised Mendez is a “mother, model, entrepreneur, philanthropist” and “a proud Dominican” who is the granddaughter of “Merengue King” Joseito Mateo. This daughter of Dominican immigrants is a pioneer, the 2016 Model of the Year at Full Figured Fashion Week.
Seen in magazines, fashion campaigns and runways, Mendez is one of a few plus-size models to make history walking in New York Fashion Week in 2013, 2014 and 2016.
Just short of her 21st birthday, Marine Cpl. Valdez was killed in 2005 by a suicide bomber in the Iraq War. Valdez a married, Dominican-born New Yorker was one of three women and three men killed in the attack, which left seven other women severely burned.
Valdez was posthumously honored in 2007 when the Marine Corps renamed II MEF Communications Training Center at the Camp LeJeune, N.C., dedicating it as the Valdez Training Facility. Valdez was a communication specialist with Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force.

dom16hw-7-web
Domincan-born New Yorker U.S. Marine Cpl. Ramona Valdez was killed in the Iraq War in 2005 (LAUREN A. LITTLE/AP)
Sanchez, born in Manhattan’s Washington Heights to Dominican parents, grew up in San Diego.
Representing the Dominican Republic, Sanchez had a stellar track career — specializing in the 400-meter hurdles and winning Olympic gold in 2004, giving the island nation its first Olympic gold medal.
At the London Olympics in 2012, he became the oldest man — at age 34 to win the 400-meter hurdles title. Sanchez also won the World Championship in the event in 2001 and 2003. He was named Track and Field Athlete of the Year in 2003.
“Carlos Cooks is just one of many Dominicans who will be featured, along with the showcasing of a Dominican village,” said Espaillat, noting that profiles of Dominican-Americans such as baseball greats Sammy Sosa, Pedro Martinez and David Ortiz, as well as actress Zoe Saldana, should provoke lively historical exchanges.
GHCC President and CEO Lloyd Williams is also quite familiar with Cooks and his contributions to social and political thought not only in Harlem, but throughout the black and Latino worlds.
“Certainly his association with Marcus Garvey is something we have honored over the years, but don’t forget the link Cooks has to the political outlook and development of Malcolm X,” Williams said. “Taken together, you have a triumvirate of leaders who will be discussed during Harlem Week.”
Many Dominican New Yorkers such as Christina Mendez, Felix Sanchez and the late U.S. Marine Cpl. Ramona Valdez — have made impressive contributions and remained proud of their ancestral island home and the U.S.

history
Last year’s election win for Dominican Republic-born Rep. Adriano Espaillat is good indicator of the growing Dominican-American political clout in New York. (Howard Simmons/New York Daily News)
A full-figured phenom, New York-born and -raised Mendez is a “mother, model, entrepreneur, philanthropist” and “a proud Dominican” who is the granddaughter of “Merengue King” Joseito Mateo. This daughter of Dominican immigrants is a pioneer, the 2016 Model of the Year at Full Figured Fashion Week.
Seen in magazines, fashion campaigns and runways, Mendez is one of a few plus-size models to make history walking in New York Fashion Week in 2013, 2014 and 2016.
Just short of her 21st birthday, Marine Cpl. Valdez was killed in 2005 by a suicide bomber in the Iraq War. Valdez a married, Dominican-born New Yorker was one of three women and three men killed in the attack, which left seven other women severely burned.
Valdez was posthumously honored in 2007 when the Marine Corps renamed II MEF Communications Training Center at the Camp LeJeune, N.C., dedicating it as the Valdez Training Facility. Valdez was a communication specialist with Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force.
Sanchez, born in Manhattan’s Washington Heights to Dominican parents, grew up in San Diego.

Representing the Dominican Republic, Sanchez had a stellar track career — specializing in the 400-meter hurdles and winning Olympic gold in 2004, giving the island nation its first Olympic gold medal.

At the London Olympics in 2012, he became the oldest man — at age 34 to win the 400-meter hurdles title. Sanchez also won the World Championship in the event in 2001 and 2003. He was named Track and Field Athlete of the Year in 2003.

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