Bobbin / March 1996
By Larry Luxner
MIAMI -- Puerto Rico's Antonio J. Colorado Jr., a former U.S. congressman best known for his defense of the island's Section 936 tax program, has been chosen executive director of Caribbean/Latin American Action.
Colorado, 56, was named to his new post in December, during the C/LAA's 19th annual Miami Conference on the Caribbean and Latin America. He replaces Peter Johnson, 61, who has guided the non-profit organization for the last 15 years. Johnson will stay on until July 1, then remain a part-time consultant to C/LAA for another three years.
Colorado said "there are very few people who know the area as I do, and who were available for the job" at C/LAA, which is the chief lobbying group in Washington for 30 or so Caribbean and Central American nations.
"One of my most important loves in life is the Caribbean. I want to do something positive for the region, something that will also benefit Puerto Rico and the United States," said Colorado, a Popular Democratic Party veteran who served former Gov. Rafael Hernández Colón as head of Fomento -- Puerto Rico's economic development agency -- later as secretary of state and finally as non-voting resident commissioner in Washington.
After a failed bid for governor and his party's loss to pro-statehood Gov. Pedro Rosselló in 1992, Colorado quit politics to form his own consulting firm, Grupo Colorado. The politician said his experience in defending Section 936 from federal budget cuts and his close personal friendship with many Caribbean and Central American leaders makes him the ideal candidate for the job.
Frederic H. Brooks, vice-chairman of C/LAA's board of directors, agrees: "Tito's background, both as an official in Puerto Rico and his experience with 936, give him knowledge on all sides. He was also a member of Congress, he really cares about the region and he knows what we're all about."
C/LAA, which organizes the annual Miami Conference on the Caribbean and Latin America, has about a dozen full-time staffers; representatives of several large apparel companies have served on its board of directors. Originally known as Caribbean/Central American Action, the special-interest group recently changed its name when it became apparent that investor interest was shifting from the Caribbean and Central America to the larger South American nations.
Colorado, whose new salary wasn't disclosed, takes over the helm of C/LAA at a particularly difficult time for the organization. The planned Congressional phase-out of Section 936 tax incentives for Puerto Rico jeopardizes the economic link that Colorado forged during his years as Fomento administrator between Puerto Rico and its neighbors throughout the region.
Another critical piece of legislation is the so-called CBI-NAFTA parity bill, which would give 24 Caribbean Basin Initiative nations the same U.S. trading advantages as those enjoyed by Mexico under the North American Free Trade Agreement. Despite strong lobbying by C/LAA and member nations' embassies in Washington, labor groups concerned about worker abuses in Central America have stalled the bill in Congress.