The feud over who will direct this year's Hispanic Festival intensified yesterday when Spanish newspaper owner Jose Sueiro called a news conference to declare that he considers himself the duly elected president of the popular summertime event and does not recognize a call for new elections.
"They want war," Sueiro told about two dozen Hispanic community leaders and supporters who gathered in a conference room of the Wilson community center in Adams-Morgan. "They will not accept any other solution."
Sueiro was referring to Eduardo Perdomo, the former president of the festival and organizer of the Dec. 17 election, and the two losing candidates, Laurel radio station owner Israel Lopez and building contractor Arturo Griffits.
Perdomo announced last week that he was tossing out the results of the election and was calling for a new one Feb. 15, after an investigation into a complaint filed by Lopez and Griffits that Sueiro had broken an election rule against busing in voters.
The president of the Hispanic Festival, which will be held in July and has drawn as many as 350,000 people, is viewed by many as the symbolic leader of the area's diverse Hispanic community.
Perdomo also had given Sueiro, who won the election by 34 votes over Griffits, who came in second, until yesterday to decide to unite with Griffits and Lopez and run the festival as a "triumvirate."
Sueiro said that although he is willing to work with Griffits, he will not work with Lopez, who has run several editorials highly critical of Sueiro on his radio station, WILC (AM 90) or Radio Borinquen.
Griffits said yesterday that he will not work with Sueiro unless Lopez is included. Sueiro also said nothing in the festival bylaws gives Perdomo the authority to annul the election results and call for a new vote.
"What Perdomo is doing is illegal," said Sueiro, who is devoting most of today's edition of his weekly newspaper, El Latino, to articles and commentaries about the feud.
Perdomo said he is disappointed that Sueiro will not share the presidency with the other two candidates nor run in the next election.
Only Griffits had signed up to run as of yesterday, which was the deadline for filing, Perdomo said.