Ted Kennedy Endorses Status Initiative
NPP Targets Commonwealths Limitations
Rodriguez Defends Avant-Garde Constitution
Old SJ Walls History Sought
PDP Mayors Invited To Debunk Commonwealth
UPS Ordered To Collect Excise Taxes
Romero Wants Anniversary Celebration Probe
J&J Factory Under Inquiry
Senator Kennedy Endorses Calderon Status Initiative
July 22, 2002
SAN JUAN (AP) - Senator Edward Kennedy supports Gov. Calderons initiative to begin a dialogue and consensus process to address the islands political status issue.
Kennedy expressed his support in a letter to Calderon in response to an invitation to the commemoration ceremony to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico .
"As you know, consensus as the procedural mechanism, is the best way to conduct a deep analysis on the status of Puerto Rico which would allow the people of Puerto Rico to express their will in a fair and open manner," continued the Democratic senator.
"The most important element regarding any decision on the status of Puerto Rico is the free will of the people," added the letter which was made known Sunday by La Fortaleza.
The Democrat leader also praised the commonwealth constitution which he said constitutes a democratic achievement that must be celebrated.
NPP Requests Investigation Of Commonwealth's Limitations
July 22, 2002
SAN JUAN (AP) - New Progressive Party (NPP) Sen. Lucy Arce asked on Sunday that Gov. Sila Calderon order a detailed study of the many federal economic aids for education that the local government doesn't receive under the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
During a joint press conference with pro-statehood leader Omar Negron, Arce urged Calderon to honestly tell the people about the disadvantages of the status quo.
"It is necessary to perform a detailed analysis so that Puerto Rican parents know how much they don't receive for being kept under a colonial status such as the commonwealth," Arce said.
Arce added that Puerto Rico doesn't benefit from the funds available for alphabetization, student transportation, school facilities, and computer access in the same way as the states do.
Rodriguez Defends The Commonwealth Constitution
July 21, 2002
MAYAGUEZ (AP) - For Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez, the Puerto Rico Commonwealth Constitution is an avant-garde constitution.
Rodriguez defended it from its detractors during a commemorative event held Saturday in Mayaguez.
"We must feel proud of the document that a few men and women left us for the future 50 years ago...[Our constitution] applies to our reality and that is one of its great virtues," the Justice chief said.
According to Rodriguez, the Commonwealth Constitution sets the guidelines of freedom, democracy, and human rights that should serve as example for many countries.
She also said the author of the Puerto Rican constitution, former Gov. Luis Muñoz Marin, "left us a culture of work, justice, generosity, and progress."
While defending the commonwealth as a political status, Rodriguez called it "our past, present, and future...It is our identity as a people, our language, our culture, and our hope for a better future."
During her speech, Rodriguez was applauded by a few Popular Democratic Party (PDP) supporters who met at the Eudaldo Baez Garcia Boulevard in Mayaguez.
Several other PDP leaders also participated in the event that served as a preview of what is to come on Thursday in San Juan.
Old San Juan Walls History To Be Investigated
July 20, 2002
SAN JUAN (AP) The saying "if these walls could talk" was made valid Friday when Transportation and Public Works Secretary Jose Izquierdo announced a project that seeks to extract all the history that the city walls of Old San Juan can tell.
The project is a historic documentation that will reveal, through the study of the walls materials, the restoration processes that were conducted during the past centuries.
The goal is to make "a diagnosis of the conditions they are in so that we can then repair them," the secretary said.
The walls were originally constructed of compressed mud and later fortified and restored with purposes that varied from military defense in the time of the Spanish and U.S. regimes to preservation in more recent times.
The information yielded from the investigation will complement the history that has already been written, Izquierdo said.
"But it will also establish the basis for the adequate restoration and conservation of the walls, which are unique in Latin America," he added.
Only Cartagena de Indias in Colombia and La Habana in Cuba have similar constructions, although none have the dimensions of the walls in Old San Juan, said architect Telma Valenzuela of the Cultural Patrimony Office.
The wall complex covers some 1,600 feet or 0.3 miles of cut stone and masonry, which date from the 17th century.
The project announced Friday consists of four stages: an historic study and analysis of materials, the diagnosis of pathology that determines the internal and external conditions that affect the walls, the preparation of an intervention plan, and the designing of a management plan that will determine how the surface of the walls will be worked, Valenzuela said.
Izquierdo said his department will initially invest some $218,370 in the project, although he warned that he has "no idea" of what the total cost will be.
However, he did not rule out the possibility that later on he could obtain federal and international funds since the walls were declared Patrimony of Humanity by UNESCO and are included in the Historic Places Registry in Washington D.C.
PIP Extends Invitation To PDP Caguas And Ponce Mayors
July 20, 2002
GUANICA (AP) Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) Rep. Victor Garcia San Inocencio invited Popular Democratic Party (PDP) mayors from Caguas and Ponce to attend the ceremony rejecting the commonwealth formula that will be celebrated by the PIP on July 25 in Guanica.
"We will be in Guanica on July 25 to debunk the 50th anniversary of the commonwealth status and ratify the PIPs struggle against the U.S. militarys presence and the removal of the U.S. Navy in Vieques," Garcia San Inocencio said Friday.
Garcia San Inocencio said all Puerto Ricans who are "ashamed of Puerto Ricos colonial status" are invited to attend the ceremony.
"It will be a good change for the Caguas and Ponce mayors to be in Guanica instead of at the commonwealth ceremonies with the PDP in San Juan," said Garcia San Inocencio.
Caguas Mayor William Miranda Marin and Ponce Mayor Rafael "Churumba" Cordero have publicly questioned the commonwealth concept for defending radical changes to this status.
Garcia San Inocencio announced that PIP President Ruben Berrios will be the main speaker at the Guanica activity, a ceremony to reject what he called the "colonial control by the United States of Puerto Rico."
First Circuit Of Boston Orders UPS To Collect Excise Taxes
July 19, 2002
SAN JUAN (AP) The First Circuit Court of Appeals of Boston overturned Thursday the decision of Judge Carmen Consuelo Vargas de Cerezo that would hinder air cargo transport companies from charging their clients 6.6% in excise taxes.
Since early Friday morning, internal revenue agents from the Treasury Department have been visiting United Parcel Services (UPS) offices to ensure that no employees deliver any packages in noncompliance of the law which establishes that air cargo companies are required to ask for excise tax payments in advance.
Treasury Secretary Juan Flores Galarza estimated that the government has failed to collect some $6.6 million since the Puerto Rico federal court issued a permanent injunction in early May that would impede the Treasury Department from ordering air cargo companies to prepay the excise tax for the cargo under their possession.
In Judge Juan Torruellass order, the magistrate indicated that the Treasury would suffer irreparable damage from the considerable costs caused by not collecting these taxes and this money would be irrecoverable unless they won the case. The decision is the result of a lawsuit filed by UPS against the Treasury this past year.
Romero Asks Ethics To Probe Commonwealth Celebration
July 19, 2002
SAN JUAN (AP) New Progressive Party (NPP) Rep. Melinda Romero asked the Government Ethics Office to investigate possible ethics violations by various Calderon administration officials regarding the 50th anniversary celebration of the Constitution, an activity that she describes as "extremely political."
The legislators actions joins the criticisms regarding this issue made by two other minority representatives, Puerto Rican Independence Party Rep. Victor Garcia San Inocencio and NPP Rep. Albita Rivera.
The NPP legislator estimated that the Calderon administration is incurring expenses totaling $25 million for the celebrations to be held July 25 in the Capitol.
Romero said Calderon is using the millions from the failed shell monument to promote her image and the commonwealth status.
"She took away the shell and divided it, now its the same dog with a different collar, but more expensive. Between the $6 million for voter registration, $6 million for U.S. lobbying, the million-dollar expenses for the Commonwealth celebration, $5 million in sculptures, and $10 million for remodeling La Fortaleza, it totals $28 million, $3 million more than the cost of the shell," Romero said in a press conference.
Romero said to register Puerto Ricans as voters in the United States is of no benefit to the island residents who need it here.
Puerto Rico Drug Factory of Johnson & Johnson Under Inquiry
By ANDREW POLLACK
July 19, 2002
The government is conducting a criminal investigation into a Johnson & Johnson factory that makes an anemia drug that has been linked to a spate of serious illnesses in Europe and Canada, according to court documents and people close to the situation.
The factory, in Puerto Rico, manufactures Eprex, a drug that is used to increase the levels of red blood cells in people who are undergoing kidney dialysis or suffering from anemia caused by chemotherapy.
Health authorities in Europe and North America have become increasingly concerned over the last few months about a mysterious rise in the number of Eprex users who have developed pure red cell aplasia, a condition in which the body can lose its ability to produce red blood cells, leaving the patient dependent on blood transfusions to survive.
The investigation, by the Food and Drug Administration and the Justice Department, is tied to a whistle-blower lawsuit filed against Johnson & Johnson by Hector Arce, a former employee at the factory. Mr. Arce, who was fired in March 1999, contends he was pressed to falsify data to cover up manufacturing lapses and then was suspended a few days before an expected interview with F.D.A. inspectors.
Johnson & Johnson denies the accusations. It said Mr. Arce was a boiler operator not directly involved in the manufacture of Eprex and that he was fired for numerous violations of company procedures and for dishonesty.
It is unclear whether the government suspects that manufacturing violations are responsible for the illnesses suffered by Eprex patients. A person close to the situation said, however, that the government became active only this spring as concern about the illnesses grew. A year earlier, the government had declined to intervene in the lawsuit.