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Mundo Runs For Cintron's Post

NPP Chastises De Castro Font

Former Mayor's Found Guilty

Edwin Mundo Begins Campaign For Cintron's Post

June 13, 2002
Copyright © 2002 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) ÷ Just hours after New Progressive Party (NPP) Rep. Angel Cintron made his resignation from his post at the Legislature official, former House Vice President Edwin Mundo's followers began a campaign supporting Mundo for the vacant post.

"A world of experience, Edwin," reads the bumper-sticker handed to legislators on Wednesday afternoon by NPP Rep. Jose "Nuno" Lopez on the House floor.

Mundo said "the campaign has already begun," and he will be officially announcing his candidacy next week.

The former legislatoröa strong critic of Gov. Sila Calderon's administrationösaid he will meet with other NPP leaders who have expressed interest in running for the post to convince them that he is the best candidate to occupy Cintron's seat, after his resignation which is effective Saturday.

"I am going to make efforts to convince the others that they should not run, and that they should give me the chance," Mundo said.

He also indicated that other aspirants for the post are former Rep. Carlos Diaz, former Rep. Lourdes Ramos, NPP Young Leaders President William Villafañe, and businessman and former candidate for mayor of Ponce Javier Bustillo.

Mundo affirmed he has the NPP leaders' support and the voters' support as well, according to informal radio polls on the matter.

An election to cover Cintron's post will cost the people of Puerto Rico $2 million, which will be assigned from the State Election Commission.

Silva: Disagreements Should Be Dealt With Within The NPP

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

June 10, 2002
Copyright © 2002 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

Independent Rep. Jorge De Castro Font should voice his opinions about the New Progressive Party (NPP) behind closed doors to avoid unpleasant public situations, said NPP Reps. Antonio Silva and Jorge Aponte on Monday.

The legislators reacted to the statements De Castro Font made over the weekend, when he said NPP President Carlos Pesquera lacked the leadership skills and charisma to bring the party back on its feet following his defeat in the gubernatorial race of 2000.

"He is free to express himself. However, I would recommend that for the well-being of the statehood movement that he defendsöand of the NPP which represents that ideologyöhe should make his suggestions behind closed doors to avoid situations which in no way help the development of this movement," Aponte said.

Aponte also defended Pesquera's potential as a candidate, stating that the Popular Democratic Party won the 2000 general election as a result of a campaign based on liesöwhen Gov. Sila Calderon promised to oust the U.S. Navy from Vieques before 2003öand by taking advantage of the corruption scandals within the NPP.

"I believe that was the focus of a well-orchestrated campaign that caused a sector of the NPP not to cast their vote," Aponte added.

Meanwhile, Silva ruled out the possibility that the NPP has been shutting out De Castro Font out of sheer envy of his alleged popularity among voters.

"When he believes he is 100% NPP, he won't have a problem joining the party. But he has to take the first step," Silva stated.

He added that the doors of the NPP have always been open for De Castro Font, who he believes will eventually join the party anyway.

Silva also urged De Castro Font that if he wants to contribute to the betterment of the NPP, he should do it from the inside, not from the outside.

NPP Electoral Commissioner Lashes Out At De Castro Font

June 9, 2002
Copyright © 2002 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - New Progressive Party (NPP) Electoral Commissioner Thomas Rivera Schatz asked that independent Rep. Jorge De Castro Font desist from attacking the party's leadership.

He also urged De Castro Font to join the NPP as soon as possible if he truly considers himself a statehood supporter.

Rivera Schatz reacted to the statements that De Castro Font made Saturday, when he said NPP President Carlos Pesquera hasn't been able to gain support from his party ever since he lost the gubernatorial race to Gov. Sila Calderon in 2000.

"Our party is home to statehood supporters. We are concentrating ourselves in a reorganization process under the leadership of our president Carlos Pesquera. We don't need vicious criticism," said Rivera Schatz.

Jury Finds Former Vega Alta Mayor Guilty

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

June 7, 2002
Copyright © 2002 WOW News. All Rights Reserved.

Former Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Vega Alta Mayor Juan Mane Cruzado was taken into custody Friday afternoon after a jury issued a guilty verdict on 12 of the 13 counts filed against him.

U.S. District Court Judge Jose Fuste revoked his parole rights immediately following the verdict when he found the accused had committed perjury and obstructed justice while undergoing trial. Those charges are to be taken into consideration by the sentencing officers at the sentence hearing scheduled for Oct. 10.

Fuste added that the mayor violated his conditions of parole on numerous occasions, but he opted not to revoke that right earlier as it might have affected the trial.

The judge, who scolded the former mayor Thursday for talking to the press, mentioned again Friday that his "continuous press conferences" were a violation of his parole.

However, while waiting for the verdict Friday, Cruzado again spoke to the media. Unlike to his previous interviews, the former mayor cried this time, especially when speaking of his family and the fact that, had he still been married to former Sen. Maribel Rodriguez Friday would had been his 27th wedding anniversary.

Yet until the end, the mayor affirmed his innocence and said he was responsible, but only because faith had fallen upon him.

"Who is responsible? Well, it was my turn, like when you are under a tree and a lighting bolt hits you," Cruzado said.

The former mayor spoke at length with the media acknowledging "that everybody is responsible for actions committed," but what had to be evaluated is with "what intention" those actions had occurred.

He also spoke about politics saying it had hurt him a lot when Gov. Sila Calderon spoke about him stealing money and accused the governor of having turned the party into one run by "white people," meaning people of money. Cruzado, who used to be a member of the no-longer-existing Socialist Party, affirmed Friday that in his heart he had never stopped being a socialist, but had joined the PDP because he believed it was the closest representation of his ideals.

"I am still a socialist. There is a big difference between being pro independence and socialist. A pro independence is one who carries the flag and sings the national anthem. I am concerned about the flag and the anthem, but I am also concerned about poverty," Cruzado said.

Cruzado had been on trial for two weeks on 14 charges of embezzlement of public funds, extortion, bribery, and obstruction of justice.

Last October, the first-term mayor was accused of appropriating $28,945 between March and October from funds of the Vega Alta Diagnostic and Treatment Center through extortion of the owners of a Vega Alta crystal shop and Sidney Travel and Tours.

According to the superseding indictment, between June and October 2001, Cruzado also unlawfully obtained money from the owner of Premier Electrical and General Contractors Inc. and Mundo Construction Inc.

The jury, however, did not find the former mayor guilty of count 12 of the indictment, dealing with a $3,781 check made by the mayor, which left the Centro Cultural Vega Alta banking account empty.

The jury did find the former mayor guilty of the money laundering, bribery, and extortion charges.

Earlier on Friday U.S. District Court Judge Jose A. Fuste agreed to dismiss one of the 14 charges related to the money laundering accusations against Cruzado, regarding the money laundering accusations concerning a $3,788.51 check from the Vega Alta Cultural Center account deposited in Onaden, an account used by Cruzado for business purposes.

Before dismissing the jury, Fuste added that he had been thinking in the last days about why corruption continued to occur and came to the conclusion that it was because people continued to tolerate it. The only way in which corruption will be defeated was with "zero tolerance," he said.

Jury Convicts Former Mayor Of Puerto Rican Town Of Bribery, Witness Tampering


June 7, 2002
Copyright © 2002 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. All Rights Reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- A jury convicted a former mayor of a western Puerto Rican town on charges of accepting bribes in exchange for contracts to build a sports complex.

Ruben Caro Muniz, who lost his post as mayor of the coastal town of Rincon in 2000 elections, was found guilty of six bribery charges and two charges of witness tampering in U.S. district court on Thursday.

The jury acquitted him of two charges of interference with interstate commerce through extortion.

Leaving the courtroom, Caro Muniz said federal authorities had trapped him.

``They want to imprison an innocent man... I'm not guilty of anything, he said.

The former mayor was accused of receiving $8,000 from contractor Jose Calderon as a kickback for granting a contract as part of the sports complex project. He told State Elections Commission officials that the money was a donation for his election campaign.

Caro Muniz said he used the money to pay for printed matter used as part of his 2000 campaign. Prosecutors said that was incorrect and that Caro Muniz took the money for himself.

The witness tampering charge stemmed from requests by Caro Muniz to elections officials after he was indicted that they explain to federal authorities expenses he put in his campaign reports.

In an undercover operation with the help of Calderon, the FBI recorded conversations between the contractor and Caro Muniz, including a video where he is seen paying $3,000 in cash to the mayor.

Federal judge Carmen Console Vargas de Cerezo set a sentencing hearing for Oct. 8.

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