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Garcia Promises Color-Blind Justice, Calderon Reprimands PDP Legislators, Statehooders Rally Outside UPR, Daly New FBI Chief, Padilla Seeks Legal Counsel, Legislative Reform Controversy Continues, Pesquera Claims Party’s Support

Bert Garcia Promises Color-Blind Justice

By Francisco Javier Cimadevilla, editor of Caribbean Business

October 31, 2002
Copyright © 2002 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All rights reserved. 

U.S. District Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico H.S. "Bert" Garcia vowed Thursday to press on with his office’s efforts to root out government corruption "without regard to political affiliations or political ideals."

"Public corruption is a crime that deprives the working people of their right to have a clean and honest government," said Garcia. "My message to all public officials in Puerto Rico is that our office will continue to investigate and bring criminal charges against any public official that engages in corruption regardless of their political affiliation or political ideals," he said.

Garcia made the comments as part of his luncheon keynote address to the Inter-American Businessmen Association, where he outlined the priorities of the U.S. District Attorney’s Office.

Garcia’s emphasis on a promise of color-blind justice comes in the wake of a complaint former Gov. Pedro Rossello sent last week to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft asking him to investigate several charges of prosecutorial misconduct against former Interim U.S. District Attorney Guillermo Gil.

Among other things, Rossello charges that while at the helm of the U.S. District Attorney’s Office in Puerto Rico, Gil misused his prosecutorial discretion and the weight of his office to paint a distorted picture of the New Progressive Party as a corrupt organization, including Gil’s now arch-famous quote to the press that in Puerto Rico "corruption has a name: the New Progressive Party."

Gil was replaced by Garcia last June and has remained in the office as Assistant D.A. under Garcia’s supervision.

According to Garcia, his office’s emphasis on government corruption cases is part of the overall priority the U.S. Department of Justice has placed on white-collar crime prosecution as part of a five-point agenda for each of the 93 districts across the United States.

The other four priorities include the war against terrorism through the establishment of Anti-Terrorism Task Forces in every district, the fight against crime, through the establishment of the Project Safe Neighborhood–both White House initiatives–the fight against organized crime and drugs, and the defense of civil rights.

"I assure you that we are working very hard at implementing this agenda that is common to every district across the country and that by implementing this agenda here, we are also attending to some of the most critical problems that affect Puerto Rico," Garcia told his audience.

Garcia said the three priorities specific to his office in Puerto Rico are implementing the national five-point agenda, continuing with the aggressive prosecution of government corruption cases, and recruiting the necessary personnel to fill a whole lot of vacancies that has been afflicting the office for months.

Calderon Reprimands PDP Legislators

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

October 31, 2002
Copyright © 2002 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

MOROVIS — Gov. Sila Calderon publicly reprimanded her legislators Thursday, demanding "prudence and good judgment" in their duties as elected officials.

Declining to reveal details of an extremely short Wednesday meeting with the legislative assembly executive committee, Calderon said the dialogue had been honest and frank.

"In that dialogue, I demanded prudence, good judgment, and care in the exercise of their public duties. That demand applies to all elected officials," Calderon said.

As WOW News reported from sources close to the legislators participating in the meeting, the reason it was so short was that the governor limited herself to reprimanding the House speaker and Senate president for, among other things, their repeated trips abroad.

However, Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora has affirmed that he will continue to travel and is leaving next week for Brazil, just a few days after having returned to the island from a two-day trip to Guatemala.

Calderon noted that elected officials were elected to their posts to solve the issues that affect the people’s lives and should reject other positions.

"The people of Puerto Rico want to see public officials involved in the issues that affect us and in solving them. I believe the people of Puerto Rico reject attitudes or actions that go against that fundamental responsibility, and I as governor of Puerto Rico and as president of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) also reject them," Calderon said.

During the meeting, the governor allegedly told the legislators that their image and performance could result in the PDP’s defeat in the 2004 general elections.

On Thursday, the party president reminded legislators that it is the people who will make the decision.

"They will make their own decision, and we will respond to the people of Puerto Rico," Calderon said.

Meanwhile, in matters related to subjects discussed during the meeting, the governor affirmed her decision to have her administration’s bill on public financing of campaigns evaluated by the people.

During the meeting, House Speaker Carlos Vizcarrondo was also scolded for failing to approve, as sent, the public finance electoral campaign bill filed by her administration. She allegedly said, "I gave you the bill, and you killed it."

Despite the alleged scolding, Vizcarrondo reiterated Thursday morning that the only way in which the bill would be approved is by introducing the amendments filed by the Legislature.

Calderon said the bill was important in "the fight against corruption" and she will continue to listen to the people.

"They (legislators) have expressed themselves publicly. I’m very interested in listening to the people because this is a bill for the people, not for legislators," Calderon said.

Statehooders Rally Outside UPR Rio Piedras

October 31, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Students from the statehood movement decided not to enter the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) Rio Piedras Campus as expected to hold an activity because alleged students from the independence movement were prepared to throw objects at them from the roofs of several buildings.

Felix Plaud, president of the Puerto Rican Statehood Youth, said the information came from students who became aware of the situation.

Charo Melendez, campus spokeswoman, affirmed that members of the Campus Security Board checked the area and were not able to confirm the presence of any students on the roofs.

"We were not able to confirm whether there is anyone on the roofs," said Melendez, adding that the Security Board did everything possible to guarantee the group’s security.

Meanwhile, a group of students from the independence movement, not carrying any confrontation signs, gathered in front of the Business Administration School to repudiate what they described as violent attitudes characterizing the organization that organized the activity.

The group of students from the independence movement proclaimed their victory over the students of the statehood movement because they decided not to enter the campus.

Students from the statehood movement began early Thursday morning handing out U.S. flags without any incidents being reported.

Rio Piedras Campus Dean Gladys Escalona visited the area to make sure everything was normal and accepted a flag one of the students handed her.

"I have not said this is a confrontation flag or that it provokes confrontation. It is a symbol of expression that is allowed on the university campus, as well as in the rest of the society," Escalona told students.

The dean explained that she granted the permit to hold the activity even though not allowing political activities in the campus had been considered to prevent new confrontations.

Omar Negron, one of the statehood movement leaders, said he met with leaders from the opposing group in an attempt to prevent new confrontations like the one that took place in recent weeks, when U.S. flags were burned.

"I met with several leaders from these organizations, and they gave me their word that they were not going to intervene. Anyway, we are not in a position for confrontation or exchanging insults," Negron said in a radio interview.

The group planned to enter the campus as far as the Business Administration School to hand out more U.S. flags and information regarding statehood.

Daly Appointed New FBI Chief In Puerto Rico

October 31, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Special Agent Patrick Daly was appointed new FBI chief in San Juan, Washington FBI chief Robert Mueller announced Thursday.

Daly, 49, is a veteran of 20 years with extensive experience in violent crimes and terrorism investigations, the FBI said in a press release.

Daly will work with terrorist affairs and external intelligence, officials informed.

He will also work with corruption and drug cases, as well as violent crimes committed in the federal jurisdiction.

Jose Padilla’s Defense Requests Access To Their Client

October 31, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - Jose Padilla, linked to the terrorist group Al-Qaeda and declared an "enemy" by the U.S. government, demanded from a New York court access to a legal representation.

Attorney, Donna Newman said that Padilla’s right to a legal defense couldn’t be eliminated because the Justice Department’s custody was transferred to another government branch, according to published reports.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office insisted that acknowledging public enemies right to have an attorney will impede obtaining information about the enemy’s intelligence systems and will prevent them from collaborating in preventing any other attack against the U.S.

Padilla was arrested in May 8, at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, when he was returning to the U.S. from Asia, allegedly to carry out a terrorist attack with a radioactive bomb.

The man, was detained for one month in New York, despite a grand jury failing to find enough evidence to charge him, which was why President George W. Bush transferred the jurisdiction of the case to the Defense Department.

Padilla is now being held in a facility in South Carolina.

Legislative Reform Controversy Continues

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

October 30, 2002
Copyright © 2002 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Complying with his decision earlier this week, Popular Democratic Party Rep. Jose Luis Colon resigned as executive secretary of the House Special Committee for Legislative Reform.

He said his decision was made on "principle", following the controversy that arose from House Secretary Nestor Duprey’s proposal to eliminate the legislators’ public funding for official vehicles, wireless phones, and meals.

Colon announced Monday he would quit his post if Duprey was made a member of the committee because he believed that the secretary’s comments showed a bias.

Despite House Speaker Carlos Vizcarrondo’s decision to replace Duprey, Colon submitted his resignation, saying he had lost confidence in the process.

"The damage to the image of the legislator, to the caucus, has already been made, and it has no remedy, therefore my decision to quit stands," Colon said.

The resignation is effective Wednesday, the same day a legislative conference is scheduled to take place at La Fortaleza to discuss the possibility of replacing Vizcarrondo as a result of the issue with Duprey’s statements.

As it has been rumored in the Capitol for months, there are several rookie legislators who favor House Vice President Ferdinand Perez as speaker of the House and Vizcarrondo for a post at the Circuit Court of Appeals.

Perez has repeatedly denied his interest but has acknowledged a "general discomfort" with the way Vizcarrondo backed Duprey over fellow legislators.

Colon agreed with Perez.

"I have to express that I do not only agree with Perez, I have to admit that part of that decision to quit is a result of the way Monday’s issue was handled," Colon said.

Pesquera Says He’s The Only NPP Gubernatorial Candidate

October 30, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — In an effort to silence doubts about his leadership, New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera said Wednesday that he is the only gubernatorial candidate of that political party and urged those who want to challenge him to do so.

He maintained that he has the support of statehooders and that he is sure he will prevail in any contest in the NPP to challenge him as gubernatorial candidate.

"Carlos Pesquera will go to any electoral event to demonstrate that he is the best alternative," Pesquera said after a meeting with the party’s board in NPP headquarters in Santurce.

He said they will have no primaries as of now, but his duty is to conduct it if other gubernatorial candidates arise.

"I have no primaries, but I understand that it is my duty to allow it to occur. But what is most important is that I have the support of statehooders," said Pesquera, who sent strong attacks against the current administration for its poor performance.

He said in his visits throughout the island, there is a consensus that this administration does not have any new project and that Calderon should be defeated by any candidate who challenges her.

Pesquera insisted that he has the support of his party’s organizations and does not believe that he would be challenged.

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