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Berrios Offers To Serve As Mediator On Cupco

McClintock And Burgos: Calderon Not Focused On Job Growth

Police Photos Get Tangled Up In Fallout From U.S. Flag Fracas

Prosecutor’s Request For Media’s Raw Videos Overruled

Photojournalists Won’t Collaborate In Government Probe

Video Of Flag Controversy Sent To White House Official

Pereira Expects Flood Of Lawsuits Against The Police

Berrios Offers To Serve As Mediator On Cupco

July 18th, 2002.  

SAN JUAN (AP) — In view of the polemic that has generated on the proposed creation of the Unity and Consensus Committee, Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) President Ruben Berrios offered to serve as mediator between the other two parties.

To that end, Berrios sent letters to Gov. Sila Calderon and New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera to evaluate an initiative he wrote that takes the expressed concerns of the statehood leader and that they must bring about their acceptance in order to create the entity.

Berrios declined to speculate on what would happen should Pesquera insist on not being a part of the entity he proposed, or the committee per se, which would select a procedure rather than opt for Congress and the White House to request the island’s self-determination.

What he left out of the letter is that no island leader should withdraw from their responsibility of responding to the demand of the majority of the people.

"No one, not the governor, Pesquera, nor this public servant, has the right to veto such an important issue, one that is going to be the foundation of the Puerto Rican people," said Berrios.

Despite this, he recalled that the PIP did not participate in the constitutional process of 1952, and they both know what happened to the NPP in the 1967 plebiscite.

"The principal objectives appear to be with regard to inequality of the committee’s composition and that he (Pesquera) thinks that the party presidents should go to Washington requesting some sort of action from the U.S. government on Puerto Rico’s status," read the letter sent to both leaders.

In order to ease differences, Berrios proposed the creation of an entity based on the principle of equality in terms of member numbers and that include the party presidents.

"Each one of them (the presidents) would name an equal number of people who would include legal specialists and other citizens not part of the political party leadership," he said.

Another recommendation is that the number of people named " would be small enough to allow for its [the entity] effective operation" and that decisions "are made by consensus."

He also proposed that this be done before Congress or the White House take the necessary measures to advance the committee’s objectives.

He indicated that he has no problem with non-affiliated PIP representatives from other independence organizations sitting on the committee.

In fact, he said it would be preferable if the presidents of the three registered parties were to nominate people who are not part of their political groups, which responds to the statement from the two independence organizations that declared Thursday they feel they are well represented with attorney Noel Colon Martinez.

Berrios also stated at the press conference that he has chosen Hector Pesquera from the National Hostos Congress and Julio Muriente from the New Independence Movement for representation.

"In the case of Colon Martinez, I feel perfectly represented, as do a great many independence supporters in the PIP," continued Pesquera, to which Muriente added: "Without a doubt."

McClintock And Burgos: Calderon Not Focused On Job Growth

By Raquel Velazquez of WOW News

July 17th, 2002.  

New Progressive Party (NPP) Senate Minority Speaker Sen. Kenneth McClintock and NPP Sen. Norma Burgos criticized the Calderon administration during a Tuesday press conference for failing to adhere its commitment to foster employment growth and called it "cynical to celebrate our current colonial status as the greatest attractor in spurring new jobs."

The NPP officials stated that the administration is "preparing to celebrate our colonial status announcing it as being the only one responsible for our progress which is far from the truth".

McClintock stated that the island’s unemployment figures have, in the past 50 years, fluctuated between 10% and 22%; while U.S. unemployment levels are between 2% and 8%.

"Obviously Calderon is badly focused on continuing to tie our economic growth with our colonial status," expressed the NPP minority leader who stated that on July 24 various NPP legislators would offer presentations, based on their respective expertise, on issues such as crime, education, health and other subjects regarding to how Puerto Rico has managed the island’s principal complexities in the last 50 years.

"As we have indicated, from 1952 until now, the per capita income of Puerto Rico has been a third of the U.S. per capita and half of the poorest state. Today, it continues in this manner, which is not to say that there has not been progress in Puerto Rico," continued McClintock, "but in order to close that gap you have to have an economic growth rate that is greater than the average growth rate of the U.S. and sustained for many years."

Burgos concurred by stating that the current relationship (commonwealth) has demonstrated that is it not capable of generating this sustained rate of economic growth."

McClintock explained that Mississippi, the poorest state of the union, when compared to Puerto Rico, has a per-capita income double than the commonwealth and an unemployment rate of 6.8%; half of Puerto Rico’s rate which is 12.9%.

Sen. Burgos also remarked that Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora’s recent comments made during the Senate Presidents Forum in Montreal Canada are absurd. He claims that the solution to our employment problems in Puerto Rico is the extension of section 956.

"To say that our economy can only be saved by 956 is absurd and none of the U.S. senators count on this extension," declared Burgos, who in her tenure as Planning Board president during the previous administration, designed and implemented a multi-sector economic model which has since been abandoned by the current administration.

The senators also pointed out that recent federal government statistics revealed that while states receive an average of $6,200 per inhabitant; Puerto Rico receives less than $3,400 per person a difference of $11 million or $11 billion annually.

McClintock said that the reality of statehood would represent 50,000 more federal jobs for Puerto Rico with an additional investment of $11 billion to our economy and offered the example of the tourism sector as of how Puerto Rico’s economic growth would be affected with this status.

"In eight years, we [NPP] increased our room inventory by 50% with 8,000 rooms, but if you compare it to tourism in Hawaii in their first 25 years of statehood, they increased 8,000 hotel rooms to over 60,000 rooms indicating an 800% increase in 25 years or an average of 33% per year. This shows that under Commonwealth status we will not be able achieve as much as we would with statehood," he concluded.

Police Photos Get Tangled Up In Fallout From U.S. Flag Fracas

By Iván Román | San Juan Bureau

Copyright © 2002, Orlando Sentinel

July 14, 2002

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Doomsayers predict the continuing fallout over the notorious American flag incident three weeks ago could cost opposition New Progressive Party President Carlos Pesquera his political career.

But it also could change the way the press reports on crime and actually could end up hurting taxpayers.

And all because of some Polaroid photos and some distributors caught stealing milk.

Days after Pesquera and four other NPP leaders were charged with inciting to riot for violently pushing their way into a government agency in Old San Juan to hoist the U.S. flag, they were fingerprinted and booked at the Police Department's main headquarters. Pro-statehood supporters outside waved the U.S. flag, calling Pesquera a hero for standing up to the island's "separatist" government.

Police Superintendent Miguel Pereira refused to hand over the mug shots to the press, stating he would violate Pesquera's right to privacy if he did so before a judge ratified the charges at a preliminary hearing in late August.

Journalists and Pesquera's critics blasted him for showing favoritism toward the politicians, noting that the police always give out mug shots when people are arrested, including photos snapped just that morning of men accused of swindling homeowners or dealing drugs.

Pereira, who has been on the job for nine months, said he would put a stop to that immediately.

"If this has been done in the past, it was wrong," said Pereira, surrounded by angry journalists. "We don't fix anything by complicating the error even more."

When asked whether his statements opened the door to lawsuits, he responded, "People who feel they have to sue, they should just file the suit and we'll have to face them in the courts."

Sure enough. A week later, three Suiza Dairy employees accused of stealing milk in the distribution process filed a $3.5 million lawsuit. The employees, whose photos were released before their preliminary hearing, are claiming that the government invaded their privacy.

A cartoon in a local newspaper portrayed Pereira covering his head from tons of lawsuits and dollar signs raining down on him.

Meanwhile, journalists balked at the change in policy and also ran to court, asking a judge to force Pereira to hand over the photos, alleging that they are public documents.

"This is about giving some people preferential treatment, and it sets a bad precedent in how we can do our job," said Daisy Sanchez, president of the Puerto Rico Journalists Association.

The same can be said about what prosecutors are doing. In the initial court hearing, they called witnesses to identify well-known politicians accused of being involved in the flag melee. However, those witnesses couldn't point them out in the courtroom, and prosecutors are now feeling the heat from their bosses and an outraged public.

Already armed with copies of television news reports, they now have subpoenaed all the stations' unedited footage and journalists who were there for the entire four-hour standoff. So far, most stations and journalists have refused, setting off a tangled appeals process.

And the repercussions also made their way over to both Capitols, the one by tropical waters and the one by the Potomac. Angered by Sen. Sergio Pena Clos' comments against Pesquera at the time of the flag incident, the NPP's Senate minority caucus expelled him and NPP leaders were considering whether to boot him out of the party altogether.

Before that happened, Pena Clos left the party, saying its leadership had "fallen in disgrace" and had been taken hostage by its more aggressive, conservative wing known for confrontations that sometimes turn violent.

"Carlos Pesquera is defending what cannot be defended and denying what cannot be denied," Pena Clos said. "Those tapes of the flag-raising incident show that Pesquera acted like a crazy person. When masses act together, they are the same. There is a collective psychosis. But when the psychosis is over, they can't expect us to believe they are the victims."

That's precisely Pesquera's claim as he denounces a government "witch hunt" against him and the party. Other NPP leaders took that message to their friends in Washington. One congressman wrote a harsh letter to Gov. Sila Calderon accusing her administration of seeming anti-American, a charge she'll have to rebut when she tours Washington this week.

So stay tuned. More is yet to come.

Prosecutor’s Request For Media’s Raw Videos Overruled

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

JULY 12, 2002

San Juan Investigations Courtroom Judge Armando Escabi overruled the prosecution’s petition to order the Univision newscast to hand in the raw video recorded during the June 20 events at the Woman’s Advocate Office when New Progressive Party leaders broke into the facility to place a U.S. flag after the Women’s Advocate decided to only hoist the Puerto Rican flag.

Escabi ruled that the summons for News Director Jose Morales was not properly delivered, being that it was faxed with less than 24 hours notice, therefore the prosecution’s request was denied.

It is up to the district attorney’s office to deliver the summons anew, if it is their intention to persist.

Univision attorney Juan Marchand Quintero, however, announced that they have joined as plaintiffs in the case already pending in the Circuit Court of Appeals by the Telenoticias-Channel 2 newscast, who declined not to hand in the raw video based on the constitutional right of freedom of press.

"For us, the prosecution has to prove that there is no other alternative [than the raw tape] for them to do a proper investigation. It seems to us that in a case where there were literally dozens of people present, there are other ways for the prosecution to do its job," Quintero said.

Channels 2 and 11 are currently owned by multinational broadcast stations, NBC and Univision, respectively.

Telenoticias News Director Ruben Roman said in a radio interview Friday that regardless of the fact that they are right in their allegations, the situation by itself is a difficult and "uncomfortable" one as they are wasting energy and efforts doing something that is the responsibility of the prosecution.

"We are dealing with something that is essential, which is our right to relate, because the press on the island is not to sustain cases in court, we are here to inform and that is it," Roman said.

Photojournalists Won’t Collaborate In Government Probe

July 12th, 2002.  

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Puerto Rico Photojournalists Association expressed their concern Friday about the subpoenas presented to journalists and photojournalists who are being asked to collaborate in the investigation of the incidents that took place at the Women’s Advocate Office on June 20.

The organization said in a press release that "faithful to the historic position of international journalist organizations, the Puerto Rico Photojournalists Association wants to make very clear that photojournalists and journalists are not government investigative agents, which is why we will not participate in any judicial process regarding our work."

"We are concerned that Justice Department officials, for reasons unknown to us, have misled journalists and photojournalists to collaborate in the investigative process regarding the incidents that took place at the Women’s Advocate Office," organization President Jose Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez noted that in the past decade, photojournalists have been consistent in not collaborating voluntarily in judicial or police investigations and have been ready to go to prison for defending that stance.

"Journalistic collaboration in these processes has the effect of presenting them before the public opinion as government collaborators," said Rodriguez, adding that handing out journalists’ information that has not been published or their raw video material is not among their duties.

Video Of Flag Controversy Sent To White House Official

JULY 12, 2002

SAN JUAN (AP) — A White House official received a copy of the video that summarizes news reports on the brawl in the Women’s Advocacy Office June 20 which resulted in the filing of charges against New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera and other members of the group.

However, published reports indicated that the White House has made no official comment on what appeared to be an assault in the agency’s lobby for the positioning of a U.S. flag.

The NPP has presented the incident in Washington as an act of persecution against the leader of the opposition and an incident which reveals the separatist ideas of the Calderon administration.

"The Puerto Rico government prohibits the appropriate display of the U.S. flag," said the headline of the written information which was also allegedly distributed to every Congressional office by NPP Reps. Melinda Romero and Albita Rivera.

The videotape distributed this week by the NPP in Washington was delivered on Thursday by Romero to Tony Burke, an assistant of Ruben Barrales, director of the White House Intergovernmental Affairs.

Pereira Expects Flood Of Lawsuits Against The Police

July 10th, 2002.  

SAN JUAN (AP) — Police Superintendent Miguel Pereira said on Tuesday that he expects a flood of lawsuits against the agency from thousands of citizens whose mug shots were given to the press a violation of their civil rights.

Pereira’s reaction in published reports followed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit that three former Suiza Dairy employees filed against the police for distributing their pictures to the media after they were linked to an alleged fraud scheme in the company.

The number of plaintiffs may reach the thousands after Pereira acknowledged that giving those pictures to the press was illegal.

Pereira said this situation may be similar to the time when keeping political dossiers of pro-independence citizens was deemed unconstitutional and a multimillion-dollar class action lawsuit was filed against the police and the government.

In that case, several years later, former Gov. Pedro Rossello asked for forgiveness from those who had been affected.

The latest controversy was triggered after Pereira’s refusal to turn over to the press the pictures of New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera, NPP Electoral Commissioner Thomas Rivera Schatz, as well as former NPP Reps. Leo Diaz and Edwin Mundo after they were booked on riot charges for the events that took place at the Women’s Advocate Office on June 20, when they were forbidden to hoist a U.S. flag at the agency’s lobby.

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