Pesquera Wont Meet With Conciliation Committee
Bloomberg Heads Celebrants
NPP Caravan Welcomed
Status: Religious Leaders Keep Out
PDP Has Not Hindered Solution... On PIPs Guanica Agenda... Minority Can Undermine Resolution
NPP Ratifies CUPCO Opposition
Calderon & Berrios Seek Pesqueras Participation
Pesquera Says He Wont Meet With Conciliation Committee
July 24, 2002
SAN JUAN (AP) New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera rejected the possibility of meeting with the conciliation committee recently created by Gov. Sila Calderon to persuade him to participate in the Puerto Rican Unity and Consensus Committee (Cupco by its Spanish acronym).
Pesquera emphasized that he could individually meet with any religious or community leader to discuss crime and unemployment issues, but said he would not meet with any kind of committee.
"The answer is no. There wont be a meeting with any committee of any kind derived from the Cupco. We have said it many times," Pesquera said during a press conference in which he presented his proposal on how to solve the status issue.
Two religious leaders, two educators, and a former federal prosecutor were appointed to the special committee.
The members were identified as San Juan Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez Nieves, Rev. Wilfredo Estrada, former Education Secretary Ramon Cruz, former federal Prosecutor Ignacio Rivera, and University of Puerto Rico Law School Dean Efren Rivera.
Mercado Announces Participation Of 14 International Leaders
By Proviana Colon Diaz
July 24, 2002
Fourteen international leaders, the highest ranking official being Dominican President Hipolito Mejias, and 40 civic and gubernatorial officials from the United States will be present Thursday during the official celebration of the Commonwealths 50th anniversary.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will be in charge of delivering President George W. Bushs official speech for the celebration.
Bloomberg, mayor of the U.S. city with the largest Puerto Rican population living off the island, will be accompanied by an 18-member delegation that includes Bronx County President Adolfo Carrion and state Sen. Olga Mendez.
New York Gov. George Pataki and U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton will each send a representative, Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado said Wednesday.
Mercado, who has been criticized in recent days for declining to identify the special guests who would be attending the ceremony, disclosed Wednesday the list of those who have accepted, as well as copies of letters from all the dignitaries who have sent written excuses.
Written excuses were sent to the governor from the presidents of Chile and Argentina, among others.
Other countries such as Mexico, Germany, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Taiwan, and Panama will be sending official representation.
Delegates from international organizations such as the United Nations Latin America and Caribbean Economic Committee, as well as the Caribbean States Association, will also be present.
The activity is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m., and unlike other official ceremonies, salsa orchestra El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico will perform prior to the days official speeches.
Following the salsa orchestras participation, the daughter of the drafter of the Commonwealth, Victoria Muñoz Mendoza, will read the Constitutions preface.
"The reading of the Constitutions preface, which is traditionally done by the islands chief justice, will be read by an island public figure who has strong ties to the 50th anniversary of our supreme law and who represents the live spirit of our former Gov. Luis Muñoz Marin - his daughter Victoria Muñoz Mendoza," Mercado said.
Addressing the crowd for the special event will be representatives from the islands three branches - Gov. Sila Calderon from the executive branch, Chief Justice Jose Andreu from the judiciary branch, and Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora and House Speaker Carlos Vizcarrondo from the legislative branch.
In other matters related to the celebration, Mercado declined to get into the controversy of whether 50,000 people can fit into the area provided for the celebration, arguing that "tomorrow (Thursday) we will see how many people go."
Statehooders Welcome NPP Caravan In Ponce
July 24, 2002
PONCE (AP) With shouts and slogans for statehood and waving the U.S. flag, dozens of New Progressive Party (NPP) followers Tuesday welcomed the statehood caravan, led by party leader Carlos Pesquera, to a rural neighborhood in Ponce.
"By all indications, I have seen from this caravan that our people want to participate and want to attend the Jose Celso Barbosa birthday ceremonies Saturday," Pesquera told journalists.
"I am sure that many people here will talk. The people know that we need to return to La Fortaleza to bring Puerto Rico forward once again," he added.
Pesquera arrived from Arroyo to the Real Anon neighborhood of Ponce and led a caravan of cars that caused a traffic jam on Highway 14 from Juana Diaz to Ponce.
The NPP leaders, led by its regional president, Alejandro Roman, welcomed Pesquera with applause and cheers upon his arrival to the Southern Pearl.
Pesquera predicted that the mass statehood assembly Saturday in Bayamon will surpass the number of people who attended the U.S. Independence Day celebration July 4.
"I am traveling to southeastern Puerto Rico to energize NPP supporters to come to the Barbosa activity," said Pesquera, who continued from Ponce to Peñuelas, Guayanilla, and finally to Yauco, the only municipality in the southern region to have elected a statehood party mayor in the 2000 general elections.
Pesquera calculated that the investment for the Barbosa activity will be no more than $30,000 and emphasized that the money will be supported by NPP municipal committees.
"It is going to be an activity for the people, genuine in that no state resources will be used. The resources, all of them, are from statehood supporters and from NPP municipal committees," said Pesquera.
NPP: Religious Leaders Should Keep Out Of Status Issue
By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin
July 24, 2002
Citing the separation of church and state, several New Progressive Party (NPP) leaders criticized Gov. Sila Calderon for using religious leaders to meddle in the status issue of the island and urged them not to participate in the newly created conciliatory committee to convince NPP President Carlos Pesquera to participate in the Puerto Rican Unity and Consensus Committee.
"All of this is an effort of Calderon to mount a political show, and I regret the use of religious leaders who surely lose credibility once they take part in this kind of political game," NPP Sen. Orlando Parga said Wednesday.
In view of the fact that the Calderon administration has been unsuccessful in convincing the NPP to sit down with the presidents of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) and the Puerto Rican Independence Party, on Tuesday, the governor appointed San Juan Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez Nieves, Rev. Wildredo Estrada, former Education Secretary Ramon Cruz, former federal prosecutor Ignacio Rivera, and dean of the University of Puerto Rico Law School, Efren Rivera to form the special committee.
However, the creation of that new conciliatory workgroup only drew more opposition from the NPP.
"Prestigious religious figures, such as the archbishop and my dear friend Estrada, would be better occupied taking care of the serious social problems of the island," Parga noted.
Meanwhile, NPP Rep. Melinda Romero also held a press conference Wednesday to lambaste the newly created committee.
"As a member of the Catholic Church, I dont believe it is proper for its leader to turn into a lobbyist of Calderon. This is not about trying to seek peace or advocating for a persons health. This is about trying to convince a person to meet with the governor to take part in a political game," Romero said.
Romero also reminded the governor that the Catholic Church in Rome has already expressed itself against members of the clergy to discussing political issues.
NPP San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini also opposed the committee.
"Their duties shouldnt extend to the political forum," Santini said.
On another note, Parga urged the PDP to admit that the only way to obtain more political autonomy under the commonwealth of Puerto Rico as a status formula is to develop it into a free association.
"The experience during the 50 years of the commonwealth show that there is no other alternative for growth that would be constitutionally acceptable for the United States," Parga said.
Parga added that the status quo has received fewer votes than statehood and independence put together in the plebiscite of 1998.
"The commonwealth has lost the consent of the people to prolong the colonial regime," Parga concluded.
Mercado Denies PDP Has Hindered Status Solution In The Past
By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin
July 23, 2002
Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado said it is not ironic for the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) to criticize New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera for refusing to participate in the status committee proposed by Gov. Sila Calderon, given that the PDP boycotted the efforts of the past NPP administration to resolve the issue during the plebiscite of 1998.
Mercado said at the time, the PDP had to go to court to get a fifth option ("none of the above") on the ballot because the partys definition of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico was not accepted.
"There was no consensus, no dialogue. It was imposed. We submitted the definition but it wasnt accepted. The first column [on the ballot] defined a colonial commonwealth, extra subjugated and kneeled, and that is not what the commonwealth is," Mercado said.
But NPP Senate Minority Leader Kenneth McClintock rejected Mercados statements, saying that in 1998 there was no need to sit down to discuss anything, because the definitions contained on the ballot were those that the U.S. Congress had ruled acceptable after evaluating the definitions submitted by all political parties.
McClintock said the problem has always been that the PDP cannot decide what kind of commonwealth it wants to defend.
"It is not that the NPP doesnt want to resolve the issue. Its just that it doesnt want to waste the peoples time when the PDP hasnt decided what it wants," McClintock said. "I agree there is a need for a unity and consensus committee, but it is needed within the PDP."
To that end, Mercado said Tuesday that although there may be different views within the PDP on how the commonwealth should be developed, the official definition is contained in the government platform of 2001.
But McClintock said the definition that the PDP included in its platform in January 2001 has been rejected by the U.S. government, which has found it to be unconstitutional, and "that which is unconstitutional cannot be negotiated."
Even so, Mercado insisted Tuesday that the NPPs position has always been that of inflexibility and intransigency and noted that unless Pesquera agrees to sit down to discuss his proposal to resolve the status issue with the participation of the White House, it will never become a viable solution.
However, Mercado didnt say whether the governor would be willing to accept Pesqueras suggestion if there were no other way to get the NPP to join the proposed Puerto Rican Unity and Consensus Committee.
"The governor has said she is open and willing to dialogue, and she has been flexible. Pesquera has to come here and present his proposal and say why he believes it is the correct way to resolve the status," Mercado said.
Still, McClintock defended Pesqueras stance, saying that now is not the time to discuss a process to solve the status. It is time to use the $2.5 million that the Clinton administration assigned to the State Elections Commission in 2000 to speed up the process to define what each party wants, so that they can go to the White House and present it to the president.
McClintock accused PDP leaders of stalling a solution to the status issue, saying all they need to do is begin the process already approved by the White House in 2000 and ratified by President George W. Bush. He said the governor is wasting time because she secretly doesnt want the status quo to change.
"The process is there, the money is there; what we dont have is the willingness of the PDP. When you represent the status quo, you win by keeping the status quo, not by changing it. The more you stretch the process, the more you distract the people; the more you derail the people, you will prevail," McClintock said.
Vieques And Status On PIP July 25 Agenda In Guanica
July 23, 2002
SAN JUAN (AP) The presence of the U.S. Navy in Vieques and the political relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States are among the main themes on the agenda for the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) ceremonies to be held Thursday in Guanica to condemn 1898 U.S. invasion of the island.
PIP Executive President Sen. Fernando Martin reported that the ceremonies condemning the U.S. occupation -- being held at the Guanica Embankment -- where the first American troops landed July 25, 1898 -- expects thousands of people, "many more than those who will be present for official ceremonies in San Juan," he said.
At a press conference held at PIPs main headquarters in San Juan, Martin reported that aside from PIP President Ruben Berrios, the podium will include other members of the collective: PIP Vice President Maria de Lourdes Santiago, Municipal Affairs Secretary Juan Dalmau, and Secretary General Vance Thomas.
Martin, who was accompanied at the press conference by Rep. Victor Garcia San Inocencio and Roberto Ivan Aponte, PIP secretary of organization, said Berrios keynote address will discuss steps PIP has taken regarding Vieques and other matters to advance the discussion of political status.
"Subjects will include status and our perspectives on the future. We also will touch on the subject of Vieques and its future perspectives," said Martin.
Garcia San Inocencio and Aponte emphasized during the press conference that they have coordinated with both the municipality of Guanica as well as state police so vehicle transit and people can pass through with no major inconveniences.
They also informed that after their activity, PIP leaders and members will stay in the area to participate in Nationalist Party ceremonies to be held at the same venue and that PIP will lend sound equipment and other services that will be installed on the site.
Hernandez Colon: Resolving Status W/O Minority Difficult
July 23, 2002
CAGUAS (AP) Former Gov. Rafael Hernandez Colon maintained Monday that it is "a little less than impossible" that the U.S. government, with regard to the political relationship between it and Puerto Rico, would give value to the will of the Puerto Rican people if the minorities "persist in defeating the will of the majorities."
He warned, however, that the efforts to give value to the will of the majority would be subject to the electoral swing of each elected office term.
In a clear reference to the boycott announced by the New Progressive Party (NPP) of the status dialogue called by Gov. Sila Calderon, Hernandez Colon noted that statehooders had previously "energized" the will of the majority when commonwealth was enhanced with 60% of the 1967 plebiscite votes.
After receiving this consultation, NPP candidate Luis A. Ferre won the governorship and put aside the plebiscite results in order to push forward his annexationist ideology, added Hernandez Colon.
"If the step to resolve the status dilemma involves the one who has governing power in Puerto Rico, then theirs would be a four-year office term that can be a critical term for carrying it through," said Hernandez Colon.
Participating in a forum called "The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico on the Threshold Toward Greater Autonomy," sponsored by the municipality of Caguas in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Commonwealth Constitution, Hernandez Colon indicated that development of this status formula is a complex issue that requires direct consultation with the U.S. government.
He emphasized that "the American mentality has a great deal of difficulty in understanding the desire of Puerto Ricans to perfect the commonwealth."
"This contributes to those who do not understand that the demands of Puerto Ricans for a greater autonomy is deeply rooted in our identity, our culture, our democratic principles, and our sense of national dignity," he stated.
For this reason, according to the former governor, "for the American mentality, statehood is the automatic solution to resolve the democratic deficit problem if it plants the desire of Puerto Ricans to preserve their U.S. citizenship."
Hernandez Colon emphasized that in order to solve the status dilemma, it is necessary to objectively review previous efforts to determine the skills and errors of those strategies.
"[Luis] Muñoz Marins experience with perfecting commonwealth was not in vain if we learn from what happened. We have to learn that this history is not simple or linear, but multidimensional and complex," he said.
NPP Ratifies Its Position Against Status Committee
July 22, 2002
SAN JUAN (AP) The New Progressive Party (NPP) directorate Monday ratified the position of its president Carlos Pesquera, to not participate in the Unity and Consensus Committee proposed by Gov. Sila M. Calderon to discuss the status issue.
Although Pesquera declared that the NPP would also not participate in the meeting, committee, or any congress whose objective is to legitimize the aforementioned committee, he made it clear that the NPP will defend statehood in any plebiscite held on the island.
"Our collective is not afraid to participate in a plebiscite. We will be there for any event and we are going to defend our statehood," he continued after his meeting with the directorate, which lasted for two hours.
According to the NPP Leader, the "strong and final" determination of not participating is based in his understanding that the process "will not go anywhere because it is a publicity stunt to divert public attention."
The resolution also urges that the governor publicly retract her statements that said Puerto Ricos status was resolved in 1952.
He also asked that the mechanism established by former president Bill Clinton and endorsed by his successor, George Bush, be utilized to handle this status issue.
On this particular issue, the resolution mentions the executive order issued by Clinton on December 23, 2000, establishing a presidential work group under the White House.
In this executive order it reaffirms that the status formulas presented to Puerto Ricans must be realistic and according to the constitution, reminded Pesquera.
In this manner the NPP leader demanded that Calderon offer one definition of status that is being promoted by her Popular Democratic Party.
"Today there are different versions, all different to what the PDP promotes as the definition of commonwealth," he added.
Calderon And Berrios Agree To Convince Pesquera
July 22, 2002
SAN JUAN (AP) Gov. Sila Maria Calderon and former Sen. Ruben Berrios agreed Monday to create a working committee whose objective is to make NPP president Carlos Ignacio Pesquera a part of the status committee.
After the meeting in La Fortaleza, which Pesquera did not attend as anticipated, Calderon said that they would take a reasonable amount of time so the conciliation committee, to be named in the next few days, can achieve bringing Pesquera to the committee table.
Calderon, as president of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) and Berrios, president of the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP), agreed that it would be a good initiative to have the three ideologies participate in this process.
"I am determined to seek this consensus and dialogue to start the process," said the governor indicating that on this level she is seeking a procedural expert.
She said that the conciliation committee has as its objective to evenly balance the possible disagreements that have impeded what Pesquera might have had in this first meeting in order for the three ideologies to be present in the process.
"I want to give him a second chance," said the governor.
Calderon said in this conciliation committee there would be non-politically affiliated people to assist in achieving acceptance for the work status committee.
Calderon reported that Berrios brought to the meeting a proposal for tasks that would be advantageous later on when they meet with the Puerto Rico Legislature to present a procedural mechanism by consensus.
Pesquera, prior to the meeting in La Fortaleza, announced at NPP headquarters, the decision of the collective not to participate in the proposed committee with Calderon to attend to the issue of the future political relationship between Puerto Rico and United States.