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Vizcarrondo Rules Out Financing Primaries, Defends Trips…Island Might Recruit Coffee Harvesters In Central America…Acevedo Vila Candidacy For SJ Mayor Pushed… Governor Headed To Latin American Summit… Court OK’s Commemorative Plates…Puerto Rico Joins Latin American Youth Organization… No Deal On Expos' Games

Vizcarrondo Rules Out Paying For Primary Campaigns

November 4, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

PONCE (AP) - Using public funds to pay for primary campaigns isn’t among the proposed changes to the system for financing political campaigns in Puerto Rico, House Speaker Carlos Vizcarrondo said.

However, he noted there is still a possibility of paying political campaigns of independent candidates.

Vizcarrondo, who chairs the Electoral Reform Committee, also favored the creation of a structure separate from the State Elections Commission to manage the financial aspect of political campaigns to allow the commission to focus on the coordination of the electoral process.

The House speaker halted the public hearings on the subject until he meets with Gov. Sila Calderon to discuss the lack of sufficient votes to approve the reform.

The government has been urged to initiate a debate among several sectors of the island before taking the proposed amendments to the legislative forum.

Vizcarrondo said the governor would consult the people and not politicians about the future of the project.

Vizcarrondo Defends Trips Outside Puerto Rico

November 3, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

PONCE (AP) — House Speaker Carlos Vizcarrondo defended Saturday the frequent trips of legislators outside the island, which are at the center of strong public criticism, and warned that they will continue to travel with the idea of "internationalizing" Puerto Rico.

"I have done three trips, and I will continue to take steps to get Puerto Rico to become a country that makes commercial transactions with different Latin American countries and obviously with the United States, which is our main market," he said in a radio interview.

Vizcarrondo denied that he and Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora received a bitter reprimand from Gov. Sila Calderon this week for the bad image their official trips are projecting.

Published reports revealed that with six trips, Fas Alzamora has duplicated the number of trips taken by Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado, who is in charge of Puerto Rico’s external relations.

"I do not interpret a frank interaction in which the governor presented her viewpoint about the perception and the image, particularly of the Legislature, as a scolding or ear pulling," Vizcarrondo said.

He said both he and Fas Alzamora believe in the "internationalization of Puerto Rico and that the island occupy the space that it corresponds at an international level and particularly in the new order of world markets."

The House speaker denied that these steps distance Puerto Rico from the United States.

"To achieve that, we don’t have to have free association. I went to sell Puerto Rico as a trampoline of access to the North American market using the regulations and the federal law of frank zones. They see us as Latin Americans and Puerto Ricans," he said.

Puerto Rico Might Recruit Coffee Harvesters In Central America

November 3, 2002
Copyright © 2002 EFE NEWS SERVICE. All rights reserved. 

Ponce, Puerto Rico - Puerto Rican Agriculture Secretary Luis Rivero Cubano said Saturday that his government might recruit experienced field hands in Central America to take "full advantage" of the coffee harvest in 2003.

The measure would be a last resort, in case the Puerto Rican labor force does not suffice, he said.

If foreigners are deemed necessary, Rivero Cubano said he would request permission from the governor's office to "discuss with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) the possibility of importing skilled workers."

The secretary noted the existence of INS-approved programs of this kind, adding that Puerto Rican growers would pay the wages of the foreign harvesters.

"These workers would receive the current going daily rate, and the money would have to be sent by the worker back to his country of origin," Rivero Cubano told EFE,

He said that "if our initiative to attract workers to coffee plantations fails, I'll be asking my superiors to study the possibility of establishing an INS-approved program to contract non-Dominican foreign workers."

Rivero Cubano said that according to industry specialists, "part of the harvest is lost due to lack of labor."

Puerto Rican coffee is considered to be among the world's best, and more than 150,000 quintals (46-kilogram or 101-pound sacks) are harvested yearly.

Acevedo Vila Candidacy For San Juan Mayor Pushed

November 2, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

PONCE (AP) — The Popular Democratic Party (PDP) leadership in San Juan is driving the candidacy of Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila for San Juan mayor for the 2004 general elections, according to Luis Raul Torres, president of San Juan Precinct 2.

"We the leadership of San Juan have been asking the resident commissioner to consider the possibility of being our candidate for San Juan mayor. We have been asking him for a while," Torres said in a radio interview.

The also representative said for the moment, Acevedo Vila has not accepted the request.

However, Acevedo Vila has said he would run again for the resident commissioner’s post in Washington in the 2004 elections.

"The decisions about candidacies are mine. When I made this decision to run for resident commissioner, I was clear that it was an eight-year commitment," Acevedo Vila said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.

"He has said he is a candidate for re-election, but if the PDP leadership base wants him in San Juan and if the party at the central level asks, he should consider it," Torres indicated.

According to the legislator, the 37 presidents of the electoral units of Precinct 2 and the 560 electoral officials who work in the electoral processes of Puerto Rico and the San Juan base is demanding that Acevedo Vila launch as the candidate for San Juan mayor.

He said the precinct that he presides will not back any other candidate besides Acevedo Vila.

In the internal competition for this candidacy, Sens. Roberto Vigoreaux, Roberto Prats, and Jose Ortiz Daliot have been mentioned.

The defeated pre-candidate for resident commissioner, Jose Alfredo Hernandez Mayoral, has also been insistently mentioned as a possible candidate, but he has rejected the nomination.

Governor Headed To Latin American Summit

November 2, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Gov. Sila Calderon will be participating in the 12th Latin American Summit to be held in the Dominican Republic in November.

The trip was confirmed by La Fortaleza Press Official Luis Torres Negron, who said Calderon will make the trip to the summit "responding to an invitation Dominican President Hipolito Mejia made to her."

However, The Associated Press was told that the governor will formalize her intention to become a permanent member of the entity and will take time to meet with several Latin American presidents.

The governor confirmed the trip and the meetings in a television interview, although she affirmed that she would not meet with Cuban President Fidel Castro.

"Definitively no. Fidel Castro is a person who has violated the most basic human rights and democracy," Calderon said.

La Fortaleza Public Affairs Secretary Jorge Colberg Toro refused to reveal details of Calderon’s schedule in the Dominican Republic and only said the government will be working in "efforts regarding economic development."

"In terms of her participation and possible efforts, we are in the process of determining a working calendar that will be ready by the end of the week," Colberg Toro said.

Calderon, who will travel with Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado, will be arriving to the Dominican Republic on Friday afternoon and will return to the island Saturday, according to Torres Negron.

The government’s public policy regarding Puerto Rico’s international relations has been changing dramatically with the membership of the Puerto Rico government in international events and entities, in which the Commonwealth wants to establish its international personality.

Court OK’s Commemorative Plates

November 1, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the sentence issued by the Superior Court, which had dismissed the lawsuit filed against the government for distributing license plates to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

The appellate court agreed that the plaintiffs lacked legitimacy to begin a case related to the freedom of expression and confidentiality. However, contrary to the Superior Court, it noted that they also lack grounds to start a case as candidates of the opposing party.

The lawsuit was filed by New Progressive Party former legislative candidates Luis Maldonado and Virgilio Melendez.

The court also concluded that the plaintiffs were unable to prove that they had suffered clear, palpable, and real damage as a result of the engraving and distribution of the controversial license plates.

It added that the use of public funds to produce and distribute license plates with the name of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico doesn’t constitute a political act because that’s the official name of the government of the island.

Island Joins Important Latin American Youth Organization

November 1, 2002
Copyright © 2002 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado announced Friday Puerto Rico’s admission to the Latin American Youth Organization (OIJ by its Spanish acronym) during the recently celebrated Youth Ministers Conference in Salamanca, Spain.

"With its entry into this recognized international organization, Puerto Rico could benefit from valuable technical assistance for the preparation of public policy in favor of all our young people," said Mercado, who is in charge of the government’s external relations.

The conference took place Oct. 21 and 22, where Puerto Rico was represented by the Youth Affairs Office Executive Director Anibal Jose Torres.

"This is a gigantic step for Puerto Rican youth, because this is the first time our young people have joined an international organization that will allow them to learn about the experiences of their peers around the world and share theirs with young people in the other member countries," the official added.

The OIJ is an international organization of an intergovernmental character that promotes dialogue, coordination, and cooperation between Latin American countries on matters that concern young people, a press release explained.

The organization, with headquarters in Madrid, Spain, includes Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Spain, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Dominican Republic, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

No Deal On Expos' Games In P.R.

November 1, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- Puerto Rican investors and major league officials have yet to reach an agreement on moving 18-20 Montreal Expos home games to San Juan next season.

Puerto Rican investors are awaiting figures from the commissioner's office on the estimated cost, Angelo Medina, who would be a promoter of the games, said Thursday.

Major league officials have not provided concrete figures during conversations with Puerto Rican investors, said Medina, who manages Latin pop artist Ricky Martin.

``What has been talked about is that in the coming days they will send us the numbers they are looking at right now and their conditions,'' he said. ``I understand that Puerto Rico is a logical place, and that they'll be able to arrive at a reasonable figure.''

Puerto Rican officials would like the Expos to play three six-game homestands in San Juan, in April, May and August, a lawyer familiar with the discussions said last week on the condition of anonymity. The other alternative would be to play two 10-game homestands.

Charlotte, N.C., Portland, Ore., and Washington, D.C., also have been mentioned as potential sites for the Expos' games, but the focus for now is on Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan.

The commissioner's office operates the Expos on behalf of the other 29 teams, which bought the franchise earlier this year from Jeffrey Loria, who purchased the Florida Marlins.

Baseball officials want to move the team from Montreal, where the Expos drew just 812,000 fans this season, but virtually ruled out a relocation for 2003. Puerto Rico has been mentioned as a potential site for relocation.

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