On Jan. 10, Members of Accion Rescate (a group of Puerto Rican stakeholders including past presidents of the Puerto Rican Parade Committee), claimed victory as Cook County Justice Sophia Hall ruled in favor of forcing the Puerto Rican Parade Committee of Chicago to hold elections to elect a new PRPC’s president, which means that the Puerto Rican community will continue to have their Parade downtown after all.
“This is a victory! We never lost hope in winning this case because our arguments against the PRPCC were very clear from the very beginning,” said Leoncio Vazquez, executive director of the Spanish Action Coalition and one of the plaintiffs named in the lawsuit.
The ruling puts an end to a historic court case filed in October of 2012 by a group of members of the Puerto Rican community of Chicago who challenged the abrupt decision made by the current president of the organization, Angel Medina, after he cancelled the traditional elections that gathered over 2,000 Chicago Puerto Rican participants every two years. The community outrage and controversy escalated when Medina cancelled the 45th Annual Puerto Rican Parade in downtown Chicago that was scheduled for June 15 of last year and held it in Humboldt Park.
“We’ve had an amazing response on Facebook when it was announced that elections were going to be held again. Almost ninety five percent of the people were super positive because people were taken away from something that was their tradition. Now people appreciate it more!” said Xavier Nogueras, who was the youngest member of Accion Rescate and also one of the plaintiffs named in the lawsuit.
Dr. Julio Cruz, past vice president of PRPCC and one of the plaintiffs called to testify, said that “the ruling sends a strong message to Medina and other individuals of his administration that those who abuse their power for their own personal interests, intent to betray and lie to the people will be brought to justice.”
The court decision includes two important points: the first is to hold elections for the PRPCC by popular vote as soon as possible, as mandated by the organization’s original bylaw. “I do hope we will have elections before June and before the parade so we can work on the parade. I do hope that we will have elections soon,” said Cruz. Second, the current bylaws were ruled “invalid” as amendment by past president Mike Sanchez in 2006, to elect the president by a board of directors, not by popular vote. In accordance with the judge’s ruling it appears that Medina did not have the authority to cancel the Puerto Rican parade downtown.
“Our parade is the most recognized brand. These group of old seniors paid over $70,000 to hire a lawyer and to do it all on their own and to win is remarkable,” said Nogueras.
According to the decree, evidence was presented concerning the handling of the finances of the PRPCC during Medina’s administration from 2010 to the date of the trial. The Profit and Loss Statement for October 2011 to September 2012 showed losses of $100, 746.67. “Gratuities” in the total amount of $21, 263.50 were given to volunteers. In 2013, the Puerto Rican parade entered into a contract with the Special Events group to run the festival but information on the expenses was not available at the trial.
Accion Rescate plans to draft a plan of action on how the elections process will be handled, including the creation of a special committee formed by representatives of community organizations and other stakeholders to ensure transparency during the process and a encourage a greater voting participation of the members of the Puerto Rican community .