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PIP Senator Asks Justice To Investigate PDP Despite Calderon’s Objections

Vieques Case To Be Taken To U.N. Again

Governor Requests SEC Audit

Navy Allegedly Unable To Practice Without Waiver

SIP Rejects Vega Alta Mayor Case

Martin: Electoral Reform Is The Only Way

Calderon Announces Revamping Of 18 Urban Centers

PIP Senator Asks Justice To Investigate PDP

March 14th, 2002
Copyright © THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. All Rights Reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) Sen. Fernando Martin summoned the Justice secretary to open an investigation into the public accusations of irregularities on today Gov. Sila Calderon’s political campaign.

Martin also indicated that he will ask the Senate Ethics Committee, of which he is a member, to do the same, since the four persons accused of this alleged scheme are also Popular Democratic Party (PDP) senators.

The legislator referred to the evidence and allegations that have surfaced in published reports, which indicates that PDP Sens. Roberto Vigoreaux, Roberto Prats, Jose Luis Dalmau, and Cirilo Tirado placed advertising in favor of then gubernatorial candidate Calderon, which could have been paid with illegal money.

"This does not deal with the State Elections Commission performing an audit, they can and should, but that should not impede, because there is no legal reason, that the Justice Department designate a group of attorneys to investigate this matter," Martin said in a press conference.

The PIP legislator affirmed that if Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez did not act on this matter, it would be mining the "credibility of our institutions."

Martin said the Senate should also investigate these accusations.

The Senate rules and regulations establish in Article 10 that when evidence surfaces in the media that could be corroborated by the Ethics Committee of the Legislative Assembly, it can assume "motu propio" jurisdiction.

"This is not an accusation, on the contrary, it turns into a forum and an opportunity for these senators to present their version," Martin stated.

Governor: Justice To Not Investigate Alleged PDP Scheme

By Proviana Colon Diaz

March 14, 2002
Copyright © WOW News. All Rights Reserved.

Gov. Sila Calderon declined Thursday to have the Justice Department investigate the allegations of a possible illegal scheme at the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) during her electoral campaign, arguing that the information that has surfaced deals with possible violations to the Electoral Law, and thus it is up to the State Elections Commission (SEC) to investigate.

"There is a very clear difference. When there are imputations of theft, fraud, or bribery, it is up to the Justice Department to investigate. When the allegations are of violations to the Electoral Law, where we are not talking about robbery or corruption, the mechanism that has to investigate is the SEC," Calderon said.

When questioned anew if given that the allegations made against the party deal with the sworn statement of the testimony of a former PDP senator’s son who could have committed perjury, a violation to the penal code, shouldn’t the Justice Department investigate, the governor reaffirmed her Wednesday statements.

"What I can say is exactly what I said yesterday [Wednesday], the information that has been published, the allegations, the accusations, in my opinion, should be evaluated totally by the SEC. Everything that was done in my campaign, in my opinion, was made in accordance with the law," Calderon said.

Calderon’s statements are made on the same day in which several legislators, including Sen. Roberto Prats, Sen. Jose Luis Dalmau, and Rep. Ferdinand Perez, acknowledged that they posted ads in favor of Calderon in the last month of the electoral campaign.

An alleged scheme revealed that high officials at the PDP, noticing that Calderon was about to reach the $3 million limit set by the SEC during an electoral year, would deposit party funds in candidate committee campaigns and asked them to post ads in favor of Calderon.

The legislators denied that the funds had come from the party, but a marked increase in collected funds was noted in SEC records in the last months of the campaign, which they argued were from donations under $50, and thus by law don’t have to be identified.

Calderon admitted that other candidates, in accordance with her platform, posted ads.

The governor made her statements at La Fortaleza following a morning meeting with her administration Family Council, where she announced that the 28,850 families that receive benefits from the federal program of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families would receive double their monthly allowance, from $80 to $160. In addition, they will receive a bonus of $500 to $850 from a total $45.4 million for the year.

Vieques Case To Be Taken To U.N. Again

March 14th, 2002
Copyright © THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. All Rights Reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — The American Jurists Association and the Bar Association will present the Vieques case anew before the U.N. Human Rights Committee, which will begin session Monday in Switzerland.

The delegation’s mission is to include Vieques in the resolutions that the committee issues, which according to the group, could be very feasible this year, since the United States is not part of the committee.

This is the third consecutive year that an attempt has been made to include a resolution for the U.N. to recognized the U.S. Navy’s practices as a violation of the population’s human rights.

The circulation of a draft was achieved last year, but it was not approved.

The Puerto Rico delegation that will present the case is comprised of Bar Association President Jaime Ruberte, as well as attorneys Jose Juan Nazario and Fermin Arraiza.

Governor Requests SEC Audit

By Proviana Colon Diaz

March 13, 2002
Copyright © WOW News. All Rights Reserved.

Five days after allegations of an alleged money laundering scheme at the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) through the campaign committee of aspiring legislators first surfaced, Gov. Sila Calderon officially requested Wednesday that the State Elections Commission (SEC) perform an audit on the 2000 PDP campaign funds.

In addition, she asked the Office of Management and Budget to identify and assign an immediate $200,000 allocation to the SEC to conduct "this and any additional audit." The funds will be deducted from the SEC’s additional proposed budget of $1 million to fortify the commission’s audit division.

Hours after Calderon’s announcement was made and upon receiving the newly appointed SEC President Aurelio Gracia Morales, the electoral commissioners of the island’s three major political parties told her that audit reports into the campaigns of the three parties were underway.

The governor’s statements follow allegations from Manuel Cruzado Rodriguez, son of now former Arecibo District Sen. Maribel Rodriguez, who allegedly testified under oath during the Senate Ethics Committee’s investigation against his mother that he received $10,000 from then PDP administrator and now La Fortaleza Administrator Fulgencio Correa to be deposited in the district campaign committee to be used for the payment of advertising agencies bills.

Calderon’s statements are made also on the same day it was revealed that other senatorial candidates, now senators, such as PDP Majority Leader Jose Luis Dalmau, Roberto Prats, and Luis Vigoreaux, among others, paid for some of Calderon’s publicity ads.

Dalmau told a radio talk show host Wednesday that he was asked to pay for an ad dealing with Calderon’s education campaign promises, and "because I have such affinity with the subject, I did."

Calderon, who following a federal indictment against former Education Secretary Victor Fajardo in which a scheme to deviate funds to the New Progressive Party was revealed, publicly questioned party president Carlos Pesquera’s acknowledged ignorance of the matter, could not remember as president how the advertising was paid for or who paid for them.

"The campaign was a humongous things, and the finance groups were formed by many people. There was a finance administrator, a public accountant, a finance director; therefore they were divided. I mean campaigns are not something perfectly organized as if it was a robot. Campaigns are very dynamic, very fast, and they follow a very strong beat," Calderon said.

Still, she affirmed that she could guarantee the island residents that her campaign was carried out in accordance with the Electoral Law.

"I guarantee there is not a single cent of public funds; there is not a single act of corruption. The money collected was private money. As what I know, I guarantee it," Calderon said.

For his part, former party General Secretary and now Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado denied his participation in any scheme to transfer or solicit funds for the payment of Calderon’s advertising.

Meanwhile and although it had been rumored early Wednesday that Correa would be asked to resign his post following the allegations made against him through the media, Calderon again defended his credibility.

When asked if she would ask him to render his services at least until the SEC investigation was over, Calderon immediately said she had no reason to do otherwise.

"Right now, I don’t have before me any information that leads me to take any action against Correa," Calderon said.

Navy Allegedly Unable To Practice Without Waiver

March 13th, 2002
Copyright © THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. All Rights Reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — The taskforce studying the military presence in Vieques said Wednesday that the U.S. Navy is forbidden to perform new bombing practices on that island municipality if it doesn’t receive a waiver from President George W. Bush.

Alejandro Torres Rivera, member of the taskforce, said if the Planning Board doesn’t grant the certificate of compatibility of the Puerto Rico Coastal Zone, as established by the federal act of Oct. 27, 1972, the Navy won’t be able to practice at the Vieques firing range in April, as expected.

"If the board doesn’t give permission, the alternative provided by the federal law is to go to the Department of Commerce where the secretary would act as arbitrator in that controversy, except if the Navy obtains a waiver from Bush that allows them to get around all the permits," Torres Rivera said in a press conference Wednesday.

Torres Rivera added that the Navy’s permit for discharging ordnance expired in 1989 and that the request made to the Planning Board is invalid because it wasn’t requested for the use of live ammunition.

Navy spokeswoman Katherine Goode said Monday that the naval force doesn’t need the Planning Board’s certificate to carry out the practices in Vieques, and declined to confirm if the Navy would in fact perform a new round of maneuvers in April.

That stance coincides with the previous expressions of Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez, who said the absence of the certificate wouldn’t impede the Navy from performing its military practices.

According to the Planning Board manual, the certificate of consistency or compatibility is a requirement of section 307 of the Coastal Zone Management Law.

SIP Rejects Vega Alta Mayor Case

March 13th, 2002
Copyright © THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. All Rights Reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Special Independent Prosecutor (SIP) Panel rejected the Justice Department's request to investigate and prosecute suspended Vega Alta Mayor Juan Cruzado because the department failed to base its investigation on a certified complaint.

The SIP panel issued its resolution Tuesday after studying Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez’s request for the first time, according to published reports.

On Friday, Rodriguez referred the case to the SIP stating that she had found sufficient information to believe that Cruzado had misappropriated $5,100 in funds that belonged to the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) municipal committee.

"Neither [Rodriguez’s] letter nor the preliminary investigation reveal that the information that constituted sufficient cause to begin the preliminary investigation had been done under oath," stated the panel comprised of former judges Jorge Busigo Cifre, Juan Jose Rios Martinez, and Crisanta Gonzalez Seda.

Rodriguez immediately reacted to the panel’s decision by assuring that she would appeal it at the Circuit Court of Appeals.

Martin: Electoral Reform Is The Only Way

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin

Marth 12th, 2002
Copyright © 2002
WOW News. All rights reserved.  

For Puerto Rico Independence Party (PIP) Sen. Fernando Martin, the electoral reform proposed by Gov. Sila Calderon is the only way to fend off illegal fund-raising practices while at the same time giving all political candidates the chance to compete in equal opportunity.

Martin foretold that the proposal will meet opposition from long-time detractors of the PIP and especially from corrupt members of the private sector known to use their money to exert influence in public officials elected by the people and in other members of the government with links to political parties.

"The other alternative is to go back to the Fajardo, Rivera Class system," said Martin, referring to the $4.3 million fraud scheme in which former Education Secretary Victor Fajardo and businessman Jesus Emilio Rivera Class allegedly participated, also benefiting the coffers of the New Progressive Party.

The PIP senator explained that for those who seek to ruin the chances of carrying out the electoral reform by scaring people off about its cost, the government could save more than double the annual estimated cost of the reform by extending the ban on government advertising during an election year to the full four-year term of a given administration.

On another note, Martin said he believes the reform should have an effect in the electoral turnout in favor of PIP candidates, but said he is realistic about it, as no one can fairly expect to change the views of the people overnight.

"One has to assume that being in a position where one can send a message under equal circumstances will have an impact, but without getting too excited. The prejudice against the independence ideal within the political culture is very deep and that cannot be solved overnight," Martin said.

However, he does believe that by allowing all candidates to have equal access to public funds for the financing of their political campaigns, PIP candidates will have the chance to send their message to voters under equal conditions as the candidates of the other two leading political parties in the island.

Martin issued his comments Tuesday in a press conference during which Popular Democratic Party Sen. Roberto Prats announced the preliminary calendar of the public hearings for discussing the electoral reform. The hearings will begin in April and will be held in Arecibo, Ponce, Mayagüez, Caguas, and San Juan.

Calderon Announces Revamping Of 18 Urban Centers

March 12th, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

ARECIBO (AP) — Gov. Sila Calderon announced Tuesday a $165.5 million investment in 80 revitalization projects for urban centers in 18 municipalities of the island.

The cities are Aibonito, Arecibo, Barranquitas, Cabo Rojo, Coamo, Culebra, Guanica, Guayama, Humacao, Isabela, Jayuya, San German, Luquillo, Mayagüez, Morovis, San Juan, Toa Alta, and Yauco.

The governor explained that in July the bidding and construction works will began simultaneously in the 18 municipalities and will be finished by January 2004.

Calderon, who made the announcement during a visit to Arecibo, indicated that the projects will generate 2,591 direct jobs in their construction phase.

During a press conference after a working session with a group of mayors, the governor said the revitalization of historic buildings, public squares, and board walks are part of her program to renovate the urban centers.

"In alliance with the municipalities, we will perform the most ambitious urban revitalization program in the history of Puerto Rico," Calderon stated.

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