Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente is scarcely visible on Twitter: he has only tweeted twice, he follows three accounts, and has a mere 525 followers — not many for a member of the government.
So he must have been amazed when his second tweet got so much response.
On April 17th, Boente tweeted, “PR is an integral part of the US. Nothing has or will change about our view on this.” Presumably this was in response to negative social media portrayal of the Department of Justice’s rejection of Puerto Rico’s plebiscite ballot.
Tweets like these followed the announcement that the DOJ had rejected the ballot with statehood and independence as the options:
- Dr Miriam J Ramirez @mjean2 Apr 13 @FoxNews @POTUS HELP!Jeff Sessions discriminates against Puerto Rico US Citizens by imposing colonial option in upcoming plebicite!Racism?
- Catharsis @CatharsisPR51 Apr 13 Dear @VP Pence, AG Jeff Sessions is asking to include Colonialism in upcoming Plebiscite of Puerto Rico. Any Thoughts?
- Carlos Amador @charlove777 Apr 13@realDonaldTrump No more colony to Puerto Rico , Jeff Sessions is wrong !
Sessions did not respond to the messages, but Boente’s tweet seemed like an answer. Boente was the one who actually signed the DOJ letter. Puerto Rico, he implied, is not a colony — it’s “an integral part of the U.S.”
We have to acknowledge that many responses to the tweet from @Danaboente suggested that the account was fake or hacked. An essentially dormant Twitter account could be hijacked, but the DOJ has had plenty of opportunity to disavow and take down the account, and has not done so.
Responses to Boente’s tweet were less emotional in many cases than those directed at Sessions, but they made some strong points:
- Gilberto Rivera Apr 22 We also want to share responsibilities as the rest of 50 states of our Nation do. We, the people of PR want to be a state not a colony.
- Luis Anthony Apr 22 Puerto Rico wants to have equal rights, equal opportunities and equal federal funding as the 50 states.
- Soc Civil Estadista Apr 22 Puerto Ricans voted 54% rejected current colonial status and 61% voted in favor of Statehood #PRChoseStatehood
- Howard Hills Apr 22 Thank you, sir, PR could dispute ur Apr. 13 letter legally but complied, good faith requires same agility by DOJ so people can speak, agree?
- We The People Apr 22 Integral? More than 3M american citizens can’t vote for the President of the U.S.A… This is a colony ! Statehood now!
- Manuel Garcia 4 Apr 22 Then, it appears your letter to @ricardorossello on the June 11 PR referendum does not support “your talk”
- Orlando Vazquez We have a plebiscite on 6/11 to solve PR political & colonial status and you impose the inclusion of territory to solve the problem? Really?
- Ricardo Aponte Parsi A basic tenet of democracy is Consent of the Governed. In 2012 with 78% turnout 54% rejected territory. 970K voters. 67k blank. You deny it
- J. Rodriguez-Suarez @JRSwrites Apr 21 Fascinating tweet by @danaboente that suggests that @TheJusticeDept now considers Puerto Rico to be an “incorporated territory.“
No response from Boente.
Twitter doesn’t wait for responses long, though. Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer weighed in with a couple of tweets:
- Steny Hoyer I was disappointed that @TheJusticeDept chose to interfere in Puerto Rico’s planned referendum on statehood http://bit.ly/2ofgOYF (1/2)
- Steny Hoyer @TheJusticeDept I will continue to stand up for Puerto Rico in Congress & urge @TheJusticeDept to release funds to the government as promised in 2014 (2/2)
Hoyer’s official statement was also widely tweeted:
WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) released the following statement today following reports that the Department of Justice altered the referendum on Puerto Rico’s independence:
“I was disappointed that the Justice Department chose to interfere in Puerto Rico’s planned referendum on statehood. By doing so, the Trump Administration is demonstrating exactly why a majority of Puerto Ricans voted five years ago for a change in status – they want to determine for themselves the future of the island, including whether to join the union as our fifty-first state, not be told what to do by a federal government in which they currently have no voting representation. I will continue to stand up in Congress for the people of Puerto Rico, who are American citizens, to ensure that they can choose the status they believe is best for them and their future, and I urge the Justice Department to release funds to the Puerto Rican government as promised in 2014.”