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Calderon Sets NPP, PIP Status Meeting

Pesquera Declines Cupco Invitation

U.S. Grants Island $169 In Aid

Voting Initiative Draws Fire, Ire

House OK’s Constitution Resolution

Governor: Praises Island’s Status; Threatens To Develop Commonwealth Without NPP

Pesquera Calls Actions Hypocritical

Calderon Invites PIP, NPP Presidents To A Meeting Monday

July 18, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - As expected, Gov. Sila Calderon arrived in San Juan on Thursday and immediately contacted Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) President Ruben Berrios and New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera to officially invite them to La Fortaleza on Monday to discuss the island’s status.

Berrios accepted the invitation, but after a five-minute telephone conversation between Calderon and Pesquera, the pro-statehood leader declined the invitation.

According to Calderon, the NPP president also declined to explain his reasons and referred her to a letter he had sent to her office.

Calderon, who made the phone calls from the airport upon her return from a trip to Washington D.C. and New York, said she had yet to read her mail and as such was unaware of the letter’s content.

The governor, who was en route to Sabana Grande for a press conference on her administration’s housing developments, immediately ordered the Puerto Rico National Guard helicopters transporting the media to return to the hangar and announced the results of the phone conversations.

Calderon accepted Pesquera’s decision but invited him anew to join them at Monday’s meeting, as it is her intention that all political beliefs are represented in any effort by her administration to decide the island’s status.

"My position is that I want the three ideologies to reach a consensus, to have them work together as the island wants them to. I don’t want to work the status issue in a one-way manner," Calderon said.

Pesquera has said on numerous occasions that the NPP will not participate in Calderon’s proposed Unity and Consensus Committee.

Calderon said Thursday that the mere acceptance of Monday’s meeting is an indication of agreement to join the committee.

Pesquera Declines Calderon’s Invitation

July 18, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — New Progressive Party (PNP) President Carlos Pesquera confirmed receipt of a phone call Thursday from Gov. Sila Calderon to discuss the Unity and Consensus Committee.

"I received a call this afternoon from Calderon, and I clearly stated that the NPP is not going to be a part of this publicity stunt to meet for a few days for what they call an important event," the NPP leader said.

According to Pesquera, on Calderon’s invitation, "we have clearly stated that our position on this matter stands, and we will not involve ourselves in publicity stunts or agendas that seek a far-off solution to the status dilemma which will only set us back."

Press reports earlier indicated that as soon as she landed on Puerto Rican soil, the governor would call the presidents of both parties to invite them to a meeting next week.

The purpose of the meeting is to set in motion the creation of the Unity and Consensus Committee, known in Spanish as Cupco, one of the programmed commitments of the Popular Democratic Party administration.

This would have been the first meeting between Pesquera and Calderon since he returned to his post as NPP president and was accused of inciting a demonstration at the Women’s Advocate Office on June 20.

Pesquera has said on numerous occasions that he would not participate in Cupco. Meanwhile, recently re-elected Puerto Rican Independence Party President Ruben Berrios said he is available to push any initiative that would resolve the island’s centuries-old political status dilemma.

Prepa, EPA Reach Historic Environmental Agreement

July 18, 2002
Copyright © 2002 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

In a historic agreement reached Thursday before U.S. District Court Judge Salvador Casellas, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) promised to develop operational practices that would be less harmful to the environment.

Prepa Executive Director Hector Rosario said as part of the agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Prepa will use fuel with a sulfur content that does not exceed 0.50% in weight.

"With this agreement, Prepa will also finance the purchase of 14 air monitoring stations that will reinforce the existing emission controls in four centers in the north and south of the island," he said in a press release.

According to Rosario, Prepa will invest some $180,000 in the purchase of the stations that will control and patrol the presence of sulfur and particles of 2.5 microns in the thermoelectric centers.

Furthermore, Prepa will contract a visible emissions auditor who will inform the federal court of the compliance with the regulatory requirements of visible emissions in the thermoelectric centers of Aguirre, Costa Sur, Palo Seco, and San Juan.

Rosario indicated that the agreement was the culmination of a year of evaluation and conversations between Prepa and the U.S. Justice Department.

U.S. Housing To Grant Island $169 Million In Aid

July 18, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — U.S. Housing Secretary Mel Martinez reported Thursday that his agency will assign $169 million to Puerto Rico to help stimulate the local economy, promote housing construction, and assist the homeless.

The funds will be divided among the island’s Housing, Family, and Health departments in the municipalities of Aguadilla, Arecibo, Bayamon, Caguas, Carolina, Cayey, Cidra, Fajardo, Guaynabo, Manati, Mayagüez, Ponce, Rio Grande, San Juan, Toa Baja, and Trujillo Alto.

"This subsidy will be of tremendous help to many people since it will be used to help communities handle the critical task of stimulating economic development through job creation, provide accessible housing, and assist their most vulnerable residents," the official said in a press release.

Part of this federal aid under the HOPWA program, would be set aside for HIV/AIDS patients and their families enabling them to rent or purchase homes.

In addition, the funds will be used for the renovation of homes and premium payments to families interested in becoming qualified home buyers.

Martinez said the criteria used to grant federal funding include regional demographics, income levels, poverty indexes, age levels and housing standards.

Voting Initiative Draws Fire, Ire

By Gwyneth K. Shaw | Sentinel Staff Writer

July 18, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ORLANDO SENTINEL. All rights reserved.

WASHINGTON -- Gov. Sila Calderón wants Puerto Ricans who move to the mainland to keep doing something they did at home: vote.

There are 1.7 million Puerto Ricans living stateside who are eligible to vote, but nearly 700,000 of them aren't registered.

Calderón hopes to change that with a campaign in 10 states to get 300,000 Puerto Ricans registered before the 2004 election.

But Calderón, a passionate opponent of statehood for the island, is drawing heavy fire from her critics for the voting initiative.

They wonder how she can square a voter-registration drive with her position that Puerto Rico should remain a commonwealth -- without a voting representative in Congress or the right to vote for president.

"Ironically, she says she's doing this so the Puerto Rican government can use the political power of stateside Puerto Ricans to help the government of Puerto Rico accomplish goals at the federal level. The question is, then why the hell do you oppose statehood?" said Puerto Rican Senate Minority Leader Kenneth McClintock. "Instead of registering 300,000 Puerto Ricans on the mainland, you could franchise millions in Puerto Rico with the presidential vote."

Calderón said there is no conflict, and she thinks most Puerto Ricans are still unwilling to trade their autonomy for greater input into national politics. Persuading more Puerto Ricans living stateside to vote will strengthen the island's voice, she said.

"There is a definite desire on our part to be able to somehow, in some way, influence those decisions. This is not a contradiction to the fact that we want to keep remaining a commonwealth," she said.

House Approves Constitution Resolution

July 17, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - Resident commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila cried victory Tuesday upon approval of the congressional resolution to congratulate Puerto Rico on the 50th anniversary of its constitution.

The U.S. House of Representatives approved the resolution yesterday with a vote of 389-32 and three abstentions.

"Approval of this resolution is the best response to a campaign of falsities and misinformation carried out by New Progressive Party politicians in the U.S Capitol, which obviously has had no effect in Congress," said a jubilant Acevedo Vila in a press release.

According to the official, the resolution was approved with the support of democrats and republicans alike, including Republican James Hansen, president of the House Resources Committee, and Nick Rahall, high-ranking democrat in this committee.

Of those in favor, 211 were republicans and 177 were democrats.

The resolution was approved despite intense lobbying by Congressmen Jose Serrano and Patrick Kennedy.

Prior to the vote, Acevedo Vila took the House floor to urge the congressmen to vote in favor of the resolution.

"Clearly the constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and its political status has served the people of Puerto Rico well and also has benefited the United States," he added in a written statement submitted for the legislative record.

For the resident commissioner, in spite of the debate on the subject of status that exists in Puerto Rico, "there is no doubt" that the constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico represents the principal democratic achievement of the 20th century for Puerto Ricans.

Governor: Puerto Rico Proud Of Its Political Status

July 17, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Gov. Sila Calderon stated Wednesday that she celebrates the 50th anniversary of the island’s relationship with the United States "with pride" and underplayed those that have said the celebration is more of a tribute to colonialism.

The Commonwealth relationship, which allows Puerto Rico to create its own laws and operate within a fiscal autonomy and common defense, "has been extremely successful," Calderon said.

She indicated that the Commonwealth has survived, not only because it grants Puerto Ricans "the benefit" of U.S. citizenship, but because it has made it possible for Puerto Ricans "to maintain our culture and traditions, which holds special meaning for us."

Along with its current status, Puerto Ricans, on that same date 50 years ago, also ratified a Constitution that "has served Puerto Rico well" and has been "an open door for liberty," Calderon said in a press conference.

Calderon dismissed the attempt of a Democratic representative who two days ago voted against a motion for a congratulatory resolution on this anniversary and called for a debate to end the "colonial status" of Puerto Rico.

The governor said these statements, issued by Rep. Jose Serrano, born in Puerto Rico and representative for New York, come from "a minority" and that the motion voted Tuesday with 389 in favor, versus 32 against, "was an endorsement of our commonwealth relationship with Congress."

"Congress knows that commonwealth status is a marvelous relationship both for Puerto Rico as well as the United States," stated Calderon, "and we speak very proudly of its benefits."

If NPP Doesn’t Participate, Governor To Develop Commonwealth

July 16, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - Gov. Sila Calderon will have no choice but to seek the development of the Commonwealth as the island’s permanent state if Puerto Rico’s political parties refuse to participate in her proposed Unity and Consensus Committee on status.

In doing so, the governor would be complying with her campaign promise, Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado said.

Mercado was responding to the media’s query about what would happen with the committee if the New Progressive Party (NPP) kept its decision to not participate in the process.

"If their position doesn’t change, then we would have to evaluate ours in regards to what was included in the governor’s Puerto Rican Project for the 21st Century, which would be to continue with an agenda for the development of the Commonwealth," Mercado said.

The secretary added that the NPP’s decision to not participate in the process is quite contradictory.

"It is contradictory because by refusing to participate, they are giving the governor express authorization to establish her agenda," Mercado said.

Mercado noted that history could repeat itself, and the political party that refuses to participate in the committee to seek a status solution could very well face rejection by its own followers, an action that could lead to the dissolution of the party itself.

The current interim governor mentioned the example of the local Republican Party’s refusal to participate in the 1967 referendum, which according to him, led to the dissolution of the party and creation of the NPP.

"Those who turned their back (on the referendum) were cornered by history, and a new party was formed. History could repeat itself," Mercado said.

Pesquera Lambastes Puerto Rico Commonwealth

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin

July 16, 2002
Copyright © 2002 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

In an attempt to counteract Gov. Sila Calderon’s effort to promote the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera lashed out at the current political status of the island by enumerating its deficiencies and limitations.

"It is highly questionable that the Calderon administration is wasting millions of dollars to celebrate the fact that Puerto Rico is the world’s oldest colony, whose citizens aren’t allowed to fully participate in the government structure that rules them," Pesquera said.

The NPP leader added that the status quo prevents Puerto Rico from progressing at social and economic levels, as island residents aren’t allowed to vote for the president of the United States.

Pesquera said the Popular Democratic Party (PDP), which defends the status quo, defends an ambivalent political formula, because they don’t believe in a status that would give island residents the right to have a say so in national politics, and yet it is spending millions of dollars of public funds to register millions of Puerto Ricans living on the U.S. mainland.

"The latest proof of this ambivalence is the spending of $6 million of public funds in a registration campaign for Puerto Ricans living in the United States when 4 million of us living on the island are denied the power of full political participation," Pesquera said.

Pesquera also urged Calderon to let the people know what kind of Commonwealth of Puerto Rico the PDP favors, noting that even within that party, there are several views of what the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is or should be.

The Puerto Rican people deserve to know which Commonwealth Calderon is promising. Is the culminated Commonwealth the nationalist Commonwealth of Sila or the federalist Commonwealth of [former Gov.] Rafael Hernandez Colon?" asked Pesquera, who also used the opportunity to reiterate his intention to not participate in the Puerto Rican Unity and Consensus Committee proposed by the governor to discuss the status issue of the island.

"Frankly, there is no ambiance at the moment to meet with someone who has headed a persecution campaign against the opposition party. This government preaches dialogue, unity, and consensus, but its actions are completely different," said Pesquera.

Pesquera said the only way he would meet to discuss the status issue is if there is a change of administration, which he said he hopes would be soon, referring to the 2004 general elections.

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