Wednesday, July 30, 2008

More on Arocena

The Miami Herald reports on the campaign to free Eduardo Arocena, in jail since 1984 for “gunning down a Cuban diplomat and for several bombings in the New York City area” and also convicted for “planting nine bombs over a four-year period in the Miami area.”

I had written, as does the Herald article, that a pardon is being sought. But as a reader pointed out, the campaign is actually seeking a commutation of Arocena’s sentence. (See the campaign’s suggested letter to the Justice Department here.)

The President has the power to do either. A commutation reduces a sentence, while a pardon can imply forgiveness and erases the consequences of a conviction. (The difference is explained here.)

By seeking a commutation rather than a pardon, Arocena’s supporters seem to be recognizing that it might be politically difficult for President Bush to pardon someone who used violence against civilians on U.S. soil for political purposes – i.e. a terrorist.

On the other hand, if the White House wants to do Arocena a favor, a commutation might be easier – a reduction of punishment that doesn’t imply absolution. Except that the letter itself engages in some distinctly pre-9/11 thinking by arguing that Arocena’s actions – “to the extent that those actions violated laws of this country” – were in a just cause, to “bring about the end of a repressive regime.” The letter also makes the claim that Arocena somehow represents the Cuban American community: “This commutation is not just about Mr. Arocena, but about an entire community of Cubans that has been forced out of their home country by a brutal dictatorship.”

Meanwhile, Senator Lieberman, after meeting Arocena’s wife and leaving her hopeful that he would intervene favorably (“I’ll do my best,” he told her), has cooled. The Miami Herald asked his spokesman for Lieberman’s position on the Arocena case, and the answer was that the Senator has no position. From the Herald’s blog:

“Senator Lieberman does not intervene in criminal proceedings including requests for pardons,” according to Scott Overland, a Lieberman spokesman. “The correspondence was merely forwarded without any comment, endorsement or support whatsoever.”


Mambi_Watch said...

El Nuevo Herald posted an online poll yesterday with their story on the Arocena campaign. The poll asked if readers believed Eduardo Arocena should be given a Presidential pardon.

Out of 1589 votes, 59% said NO.

While the President does have the power of pardons, there are still Justice Department guidelines. P.S. Ruckman Jr., professor of political science who focuses on executive clemencies has noted on his blog:

"Under these rules, a person who has been sentenced to life generally does not qualify for a presidential pardon because he must wait five years AFTER completion of the sentence to apply for a pardon. Inmates sentenced to life can instead seek a commutation or reduction of sentence."

Nevertheless, the President will have the last word on who is freed from prison. As Ruckman Jr. bluntly explains it, using Clinton's 1999 controversial clemency decision for 12 FALN members, "There are no rules here."

But, freeing Eduardo Arocena into a community where some see his violent actions as noble, will continue to debase the power of Presidential Pardons to restore social peace and reformation.

Mambi_Watch said...

Details of Arocena's 1984 and 1985 convictions are available, with editorials from the Miami Herald:

Karamchand said...

De hace algunos años para acá, se ha suscitado polémicas sobre el perdón presidencial, si alguien pudiera hacer alguna sinopsis o historia o existe algún lugar donde poder documentarse sobre esto, sería saludable.
En particular, veo el perdón presidencial como una concesión o agradecimiento por parte de los gobernados al presidente que ha terminado su mandato. No me parece mal o incorrecto, y no me parece saludable poner cortapisas a ello.
Aun cuando fuese polémico el perdón otorgado por Clinton por ejemplo, no se retiró, lo cual si sucedió con el otorgado por la presidenta Moscoso en Panamá.
En mi opinión, no debe coartarse ese acto, no es ejecutivo como tal, lo veo, como ya he dicho, una retribución o regalo de despedida a quien terminó su mandato.
Al menos en su espiritú, eso es lo que pienso.

Anonymous said...

El caso del Sr. Arocena, no es tan simple como lo he visto exponen por sus complices en otras actividades. No es un caso de patriotismo de asesinar en los Estados Unidos de America, donde la libertad de sus ciudadanos los lleva a expresar todos tipo de sentimiento. Quien es Aroncena para coartar eso?, Ademas donde estan los familiares y amigos de los horrendos asesinados en N.J., N.Y., Puerto Rico y Miami.
Y si el no fuera el criminal y la mano asesina, por que se le atribuye "tal Patriotismo fuera de su Pais de Nacimiento"?
Un asesino nunca debe estar en la calle, mas cuando nunca ha pedido perdon por los actos criminales por los que fue convicto con la actuacion del destacado fiscal Guilliani.