US and death penalty

Les Schaffer schaffer at
Thu Jul 17 08:53:56 MDT 2003

in the wake of the furor over the condemnation of Cuba for death
sentences of hijackers, i find this piece pretty interesting.

les schaffer


Puerto Ricans Angry That U.S. Overrode Death Penalty Ban 


SAN JUAN, P.R., July 15 -- This island, it is safe to say, hates
capital punishment. It has not had an execution since 1927. It
outlawed the practice two years later and wrote this antipathy into
its Constitution in 1952: "The death penalty shall not exist."

That is why a federal trial here, in which the Justice Department is
seeking the execution of two men accused of kidnapping and murder, has
left many Puerto Ricans baffled and angry.

Local politicians, members of the legal establishment, scholars and
ordinary residents have denounced the trial, now in its second
week. They call it a betrayal of the island's autonomy, culture and
law, in particular its Constitution, which Congress approved in 1952
as part of the compact that created Puerto Rico's unusual and
frequently uneasy association with the United States mainland.

Not even relentless daily testimony about the gory crime -- the
kidnapped man was shot and dismembered -- has softened the outrage
voiced by many here.


"If the people of Puerto Rico decide that capital punishment cannot be
used, even in federal prosecutions, it is against the Compact of
1952," Mr. Dávila Toro said. "How can I explain that my Constitution
is not respected by the nation that teaches us how to live in a


Opponents of the prosecution say they are most offended by what they
see as an affront to Puerto Rico's legal autonomy.

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