This letter is written in support of our beloved Delegate to Congress, and it provides a defense for a promising business venture known as the "Diageo/Captain Morgan Rum Agreement."
Delegate Christensen was instrumental in getting the world’s leading spirits, wine and beer company (Diageo) to come to the U.S. Virgin Islands; however, she was not directly involved in the negotiations between the V.I. Government and Diageo nor was she responsible for this company’s opting not to remain in Puerto Rico. Since the establishment of the landmark 30-year public/private initiative to produce bulk rum, the Honorable Donna Christensen has been working diligently to protect our interest in the rum excise tax "cover-over program."
Although Delegate Christensen continues to be highly visible, accessible and committed to the goal of securing a better Virgin Islands; our esteem delegate has recently been subjected to brutal verbal attacks by opponents of the Diageo Agreement. Critics of the rum deal are labeling it the "Diageo debacle" and making our Congressional representative a scapegoat in this so-called debacle.
Apparently, everyone is not appeased by the rum deal, especially Puerto Rican citizens who are experiencing a more severe economic crisis than the V.I. populace. The Puerto Rican Government has decided to punish Diageo by trying to get Congress to reduce the company’s benefit. It is not right that Virgin Islanders have to suffer because another government failed to reach a successful agreement with Diageo. Is it right for prominent Virgin Islanders to be denigrated because certain native Virgin Islanders have problems with a rum deal? What could be the motive for maligning the characters of the elected officials who made it possible to generate more revenues for our Territory?
It is disheartening to read the lies being propagated by shameless demagogues whose intentions are to confuse the masses about the rum Agreement and to demoralize Delegate Christensen. Instead of enlightening the public about the importance of rum revenues and educating the citizenry of how the rum cover-over program was developed, the delegate’s political opponents are stooping to gutter-levels. They dare not challenge her intellectual abilities or question her performance in Washington, D.C.
Like our First Lady, Delegate Christensen is well-educated, intelligent, articulate and charismatic. Both Mrs. Cecile deJongh and Mrs. Donna M. Christensen are devoted mothers and wives, civic-minded citizens and productive members of the V.I. society. In my opinion, it is difficult to identify any character flaw in either of these two distinguished ladies.
Further, the attempt to discredit the hardworking, strong, professional women in our community must not be taken lightly. No woman in our society deserves to be verbally abused by men. Verbal abuse escalates when people become more anxious about their finances. Feeling fearful about losing a job or an election, though, is not an excuse to disrespect women. How can any rational, caring individual insult a lady with the caliber of Mrs. Christensen?
Donna’s record as an elected public official, serving her seventh term is impeccable. She is the first female physician in the history of the U.S. Congress, the first woman to represent an offshore Territory and the first lady from the United State Virgin Islands to represent us in Washington, D.C.
I carefully read the comments by our delegate in an article entitled "Cutting off our nose to spite our face?" and it is clear that she has confidence in the people whom she represents. She reassures us that the projected revenues from both the Diageo and Cruzan Rum will help to strengthen our economy. Diageo alone is expected to produce 20 million proof gallons of rum per year beginning in 2011.
Let’s not remain passive and allow others to dictate how to manage our affairs. The delegate is appealing for us to "unite for Virgin Islands …not just for our economy, but the dreams of our ancestors for us…." She needs the support of all Virgin Islanders. If we do not secure all the possible rum revenues from Congress, our economy will be jeopardized. Rum and gasoline are the only two products exported from the Virgin Islands to the United States. The rum distilleries pay excise taxes and most of these monies are returned to us for capital projects such as the construction of new schools, renovation of public housing facilities, repair of roads, and design of sport complexes.
We must unite and march for a better Virgin Islands. Divided, we are conquered. March to cease Domestic Violence in every form! Guns are impossible to eradicate, but abusive language could be just as destructive as bullets. Verbal abuse kills dreams and hopes.
Again, support our Delegate to Congress in the struggle to protect the rum cover-over program. Together we can achieve the goal of a brighter future! Respectfully,
Verdel L. Petersen, St. Croix