A Puerto Rican activist says an FBI agent approached him recently with questions about Democratic state Rep. Luis Arroyo, the assistant Illinois House majority leader from the Northwest Side.
Juan Calderon, chief operating officer of Chicago’s Puerto Rican Cultural Center, alleged in an interview with me two months ago that Arroyo had threatened to block state grants to his organization as punishment for Calderon speaking out against the lawmaker’s resolution in favor of Puerto Rico becoming a state.
Arroyo has strongly denied the accusation, saying it was “a total fabrication” motivated by his political differences with Calderon and other Puerto Rican community leaders.
Now, Calderon says an FBI agent called him on the day my column about his allegations against Arroyo was published. Calderon says the agent told him she was investigating Arroyo and asked to meet him. He says he has cooperated with the feds, providing them with documents about Arroyo that he had given to the state’s legislative inspector general in March.
Calderon says Marc Kadish, a lawyer at the Mayer Brown firm in downtown Chicago, is representing him for free and the attorney gave the FBI agent a copy of the ethics complaint Calderon filed against Arroyo. Kadish did not return calls seeking comment.
Arroyo says the FBI has not contacted him, and he doubted agents really had spoken with Calderon or are investigating him. If the feds did approach Calderon, Arroyo says, it may have been because they’re investigating potential wrongdoing by Calderon himself.
The spokesman for the FBI’s Chicago office, Garrett Croon, declined to comment.
Calderon invented the allegations against him, Arroyo says, because he crossed the powers that be on Division Street, the heart of the city’s large Puerto Rican community.
Arroyo says he angered many community leaders by coming out in favor of statehood for their homeland, putting him at odds with independentistas who want the Caribbean island paradise and longtime U.S. commonwealth to be a sovereign nation.
With a referendum on the future status of La Isla scheduled for June 11, Arroyo says he also had a falling out with Chicago’s most powerful Puerto Rican — U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez.
“He doesn’t want to talk to me,” Arroyo says. “I tried to call him, but he’s part of the independence movement.”
Gutierrez did not return calls seeking comment. He and Arroyo appear to have enjoyed a good relationship for many years.
During the recently completed legislative session in Springfield, Arroyo introduced a resolution calling on Congress to “introduce and pass new legislation on the admission of Puerto Rico as the 51st state.” The state House approved the measure on April 5, with 72 members in favor, 36 against and two voting “present.”
Calderon had spoken against the measure at a legislative hearing on March 15. Soon after, he filed a complaint against Arroyo with the state’s legislative inspector general.
“I received a threatening call from the representative,” Calderon wrote. “Mr. Arroyo said in no uncertain terms that he noted all of us who spoke against his resolution and promised there would be retribution. In other words, community-based organizations with links to those who disagreed with him in public will not receive state-funded grants.”
Calderon says Arroyo should resign.
But Arroyo stands by his position on Puerto Rico, which has been hit by a deep fiscal crisis. He says “everybody” there wants statehood.
“Puerto Rico can’t afford to be independent,” Arroyo says. “They’ll starve. All the doctors are already leaving for Florida or other places. Puerto Rico is in a bad situation.”
Arroyo says he has no concern about his situation with the feds: “If they call me, I’ll be happy to talk to them.”