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Puerto Rico: Racist Tweets Against Obama Cause Outrage

Nowadays, thanks to the Olympic speed of social networks, the world can rapidly find out about the opinions and comments of some of the best paid citizens in Puerto Rico: politicians.

In this case, it is Heidi Wys Toro, one of the advisors of the current speaker of the House of Representatives Jennifer González, who posted some racist comments about the President of the United States, Barack Obama, and his wife Michelle.

This is not the first time that Wys, who favors Puerto Rico becoming a state of the United States, has used this network to insult President Obama. Last June 18, 2012, Wys posted the following comment, which far from fostering a conversation rather represents a hurdle to any constructive possibilities:

In addition, on the website of the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico, Jennifer González published a very confusing message intending to evade her responsibility and urging legislative employees to show common sense:

Las expresiones que se difunden no son aceptables, no representan mi sentir y son responsabilidad exclusiva de quien las escribió. Esta Cámara y esta Presidenta no se solidarizan para nada con las mismas. Si alguien ha sido víctima de la burla he sido yo, si alguien ha tomado con mucha madurez y tolerancia el ataque bajo hacia mi persona he sido yo, si alguien ha tenido el aguante para llenarse de paz con una combinación de sentido del humor ante el ataque bajo de muchos y muchas, he sido yo. Jamás favorecería este u otro tipo de expresión que se aleja de mi estilo.

El pueblo sabe que no soy partidaria de este tipo de burla como tampoco la patrocino. Quien me conoce bien, sabe que no es mi forma de pensar.

Aprovecho la oportunidad para hacer un llamado a todos y a todas los empleados y contratistas de la Cámara de Representantes a ser prudentes en el uso de las redes sociales, lamentablemente, esto dejó de ser algo de uso personal y todos y todas nos exponemos al rebote de las mismas. Es imposible y no me corresponde monitorear las cuentas de cada contratista o empleado de la Cámara de Representantes, sea del partido que sea, porque algunos pudieran cuestionar su derecho a la libre expresión.

No obstante, es responsabilidad de cada cual medir su expresión respetando siempre los derechos que también sabemos exigir. Reitero mi pedido para modificar este tipo de expresión en beneficio de todos y todas.

The comments that have been spread are unacceptable, they do not represent what I feel and  the only one responsible for them is the one who posted them. This House and this President does not sympathize with them. If there is someone who has been a victim of mockery, it has been me. If there is someone who has resisted these low blows in a mature and tolerant way, it has been me. If there is someone who has endured criticism with peace and a good sense of humor, it has been me. I would never sympathize with this kind of expression that is not my style.

People know that I don’t support these kinds of mockery nor I do sponsor them. People who know me well, know that is not the way I think.

I’d like to take this opportunity to make a calling to all House of Representatives employees to use social networks carefully. Unfortunately, this is not personal anymore and everyone is exposed to them. It is impossible, and, besides, it is not my responsibility to check House of Representatives employees’ accounts, of any political party, because some could question their right to freedom of expression.

Nevertheless, everyone is responsible for their opinions, respecting the rights that we also demand. I encourage, once again, people to modify their expressions in benefit of everyone.

Due to the apparent neutral behavior of political leaders in Puerto Rico, Luis Gutiérrez, a Democrat congressman in the United States, sent a letter immediately from Chicago to the White House to express his anger. In this letter, he states that he has requested to “dismiss Mrs. Wys from her formal and informal job in the government of Puerto Rico.”

Melissa Mark Viverito, a District 8 city councilor in New York City, also made a call to other government employees to express their position. She also demanded a public apology from Wys, who has asserted she is not racist since she commented that she loved her nieces, who are “dark skinned.”

Unlike the immediate reaction from readers, activists, politicians and people disappointed with the lack of social awareness and commitment of the government employees like González and Wys, the governor of Puerto Rico Luis Fortuño said he was not informed about this situation. He did not offer an opinion.

However, Ed Morales, a Puerto Rican writer living in New York, states in his most recent post that “those incidents can be regarded as unsurprising, a natural result of the hard-right atmosphere created by the Luis Fortuño administration”. Fortuño has just signed a new criminal penal code in which more serious punishments are imposed, which criminalizes protests and civil disobedience, and some others rights of freedom of expression.

Wys apologized via her Twitter account and then blocked it. Her strategies to fight Obama, as she asserted in one of her tweets, have proven to be counterproductive.

Image by Noticel

@Heidiwys: Personally, from my residence, I apologize to those ones who were offended with my Tweets. I fight Obama, the politician, not the human being.

@Heidiwys: The president of the House has been unfairly attacked. I want to affirm  both her and the House are not responsible for those incidents. The tweets were…

@Heidiwys: I'm sorry that Tweets to B. Obama were regarded as racist. My intention was to attack a politician I do not believe in.

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