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Governor To Address Electoral Reform, Takes Xmas Gifts To Women’s Prison…LegislatureTo Investigate Comptroller’s Proceedings…Clemente Honored…Wal-Mart Opposition Grows…FEMA Grants Island $1.7M For Training…Bush Appoints Puerto Rican To Nat’l Museum Bd, Cabinet Changes May Affect Economy

Governor To Address The Electoral Reform By Year's End

December 15, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - By the end of this year, Gov. Sila Calderon should make an announcement regarding her proposed electoral reform that, among other things, includes holding primaries on the second Sunday of June in an election year.

La Fortaleza Public Affairs Secretary Jorge Colberg Toro said the governor's intention is to cut down the electoral campaign.

The Electoral Law states that primaries should be held in November prior to election year, which would mean political parties and their candidates would be immerse in candidacy races more than 18 months before general elections.

However, the public official said the governor won't make any changes without consensus.

"The governor has finished meeting with different sectors to discuss the proposed electoral reform and she will soon make an announcement on the subject," he said.

The New Progressive Party doesn't support the plan that includes fully financing electoral campaigns with public funds.

The Puerto Rican Independence Party, on the other hand, has supported the electoral reform.

Earlier this year, the House of Representatives began a round of public hearings to discuss the subject with the public.

However, the public's lack of interest on the issue prompted Calderon to conduct a series of meetings with several sectors of the island to find out what the public really thought of her plan.

Calderon Takes Christmas Gifts To Women’s Prison

December 14, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Gov. Sila Calderon visited Saturday the Women’s Industrial School in Vega Alta to take Christmas gifts to the children of the inmates, according to La Fortaleza.

Surrounded by almost 500 boys and girls, the governor urged the inmates to "take advantage of every opportunity to rehabilitate themselves" through the programs provided by the Corrections and Rehabilitation Department.

"We need you. . .Your families also need you, so walk with assurance and your head held high, directed at achieving the goal of rehabilitation and renovation of you lives," the governor said.

Calderon indicated that the Corrections and Rehabilitation Department has established an academic and trade program for inmates to obtain work experience and a school degree, La Fortaleza said in a press release.

She said as part of this effort, her administration has proposed to "integrate family members. . .to the rehabilitation process, including improvements to the visitation program to facilitate frequent contacts with them."

Legislative Joint Committee To Investigate Comptroller’s Proceedings

December 14, 2002
Copyright © 2002 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

Commonwealth Comptroller Manuel Diaz Saldaña asked the Legislative Assembly on Friday to hold a public hearing regarding the request for information about the parameters and guidelines used by the Commonwealth Comptroller’s Office in their audits.

"We ask for the hearings to be public because of the importance of the matter being discussed. The matter was discussed publicly in my confirmation hearing in September 1997," said Diaz Saldaña, adding that he requested 10 more days to hand over the documents requested.

In a letter sent Thursday, the Legislative Assembly Joint Committee for the Comptroller’s Special Committee, presided over by Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Sen. Cirilo Tirado, requested the comptroller to appear before an executive committee in a private hearing Monday in what seems to be the saga of the controversy among members of Gov. Sila Calderon’s administration and the comptroller.

The information requested, according to the letter made public by the comptroller Friday, indicates that committee members are "interested in knowing the parameters and guidelines used by the comptroller to inhibit himself from an audit or delegate specific audits to the deputy comptroller."

The committee also requests a list of all the instances in which the comptroller has refrained from participating in an audit.

Diaz Saldaña recently affirmed that some of Calderon administration officials have tried to intimidate him. He affirmed that he will continue to issue his office audits and publish the reports that are still pending, among which one from San Juan municipality under Calderon’s tenure as mayor is yet to be filed.

David Noriega, president of the Blue Ribbon Committee, has severely criticized Diaz Saldaña for his work as president of the past administration’s privatization committee.

As part of the investigation being performed by the federal authorities regarding transactions related to the superaqueduct, Diaz Saldaña was called to appear before a grand jury.

Museum Exhibit Honors Roberto Clemente Legend

December 14, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - Thirty years after he died in a plane crash, Hall of Fame outfielder Roberto Clemente is being remembered in an exhibit of art and memorabilia in his native Puerto Rico.

The exhibit, which opens to the public Sunday at the Museum of Puerto Rican Art, pays homage to a player who perhaps more than any other has retained legendary status for generations on the Caribbean island.

"Here all his life is documented as never before," said Elliott Castro, an exhibit curator and sports journalist.

The exhibit includes traditional memorabilia loaned by collectors including signed bats, gloves, cereal boxes, and rookie cards. It also showcases art from paintings to sculptures and postage stamps from the United States, Grenada, and Turks and Caicos islands.

Some of the most unusual objects include a 1994 coin from the African nation of Liberia with Clemente's image, and an early photograph of the player wearing the number 39 instead of his traditional 21.

Clemente played in U.S. Major League Baseball for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1955 to 1972. He had 3,000 hits and 13 .300 seasons, with a high of .357 in 1967. He also starred on Pittsburgh's 1960 and 1971 World Series-winning teams.

On New Year's Eve 1972, Clemente died in a plane crash off Puerto Rico as he set out on a trip to take aid to Nicaraguan earthquake victims.

Many fans say he died the way he lived - not just as a baseball player but also as a generous person. Major League Baseball annually presents the Roberto Clemente Award to a player who combines outstanding playing ability with community service work.

Clemente's widow, Vera Cristina Zabala, said she was moved to tears when she visited the museum this week.

"I'm very happy," she said. "The exhibit has turned out very beautiful, very complete."

Clemente's family also is lending items from uniforms to photos and plaques to the exhibit, which was jointly organized by the museum and the art and cultural group Carimar.

Organizers said Clemente should be remembered not only for his playing, but also for his philanthropic work and for efforts against racism in professional baseball. An audiovisual presentation traces the major events of his life.

"He gave us an example to emulate," said Carmen Ruiz Fischler, the museum's executive director. "We carry him in our hearts. Our mission is to transmit this to the next generation."

The exhibit in San Juan, entitled "Home," includes some 1,500 pieces - ranging from art produced by recognized artists to simple drawings and songs penned by fans.

Some of the art was made by admirers too young to have watched Clemente on the field.

"We've had dozens of good athletes, a few as good as he was, and nevertheless they haven't developed that idolatry," Castro said.

The exhibit will be on display in Puerto Rico through May 5. Later, organizers hope to take the exhibit to cities such as Pittsburgh, where a statue of Clemente stands at PNC Park, and others such as New York and Chicago. Details of future exhibits have yet to be worked out.

Amigo/Wal-Mart Transaction Encounters More Opposition

December 13, 2002
Copyright © 2002 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

A multi-sector coalition announced Friday its intention to join the lawsuit filed by the Justice Department to halt the Wal-Mart/Amigo merger.

The Puerto Rican Associations Coalition, composed of representatives from the labor, cooperatives, and businesses sectors, as well as artists, expressed their firm opposition to the transaction for the alleged harm it could cause to the island’s economy.

"We are united in a non-partisan front defending the interests of the Puerto Rican people. Our objective is not only to continue to oppose the transaction, but to increase awareness regarding the impact of it," said Eduardo Torres Ortiz, coalition spokesman.

Torres Ortiz affirmed that the coalition would strategically join the lawsuits filed by the Justice Department.

"Next week the Retailers Association will file a request for the intervention in the lawsuit filed by the Justice Department in the San Juan court," said Torres Ortiz, adding that the purpose of the request is a response to Wal-Mart’s strategy of not allowing Puerto Ricans to defend themselves by filing a lawsuit in the federal court.

Members of the three political parties participated in the press conference where the launching of an orientation campaign was also announced. Dubbed "Estrecha tus lazos con Puerto Rico," the campaign is aimed at promoting Puerto Rican products.

Torres Ortiz, who described Wal-Mart’s strategies in the local and federal courts as abusive, said he expects the campaign to also serve to warn consumers about the dangers and consequences of a transaction such as this one.

"All businesses who join our strategy and all our associations will use the theme along with their logos in all communications," Torres Ortiz said.

Among the organizations that joined the coalition are the Puerto Rican Workers Union, the Puerto Rican Workers Federation, the Puerto Rican Pharmacies Cooperative, and the Electric Industry Workers Union.

Torres Ortiz said he was confident that the Puerto Rico government would achieve its goal of halting the transaction through legal action, but in case this is not achieved, they would consider calling for a boycott against the megastore and its affiliates.

FEMA Grants $1.7 Million For Training On The Island

December 13, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will grant $1.7 million to train state and municipal personnel on the island in cases of natural disasters or terrorist acts.

FEMA Director Joe Allbaugh said the funds are part of President George W. Bush’s Emergencies Management Initiative.

"This is critical for the support of emergency management and to prepare Puerto Rico for all types of disasters," the official said in a press release.

Of the $1.7 million granted, $1.33 million will be assigned to updating the plans and proceedings in response to dangers, including those related to weapons of mass destruction.

"It is required that at least 75% of the subsidy be allocated to the municipal governments," the FEMA specified.

Bush Appoints Puerto Rican To National Museum Board

December 13, 2002
Copyright © 2002 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

President George W. Bush has appointed Puerto Rican Maria Mercedes Noble de Guillemard to the National Museum Services Board, which advises the Institute of Museums and Library Services.

Noble de Guillemard, who lives in Puerto Rico, is connected with the Puerto Rico Museum of Art, where she presides over the Exhibits and Collection Committee. She also is a member of the board of the Colegio Puertorriqueño de Niñas.

Noble de Guillemard was confirmed unanimously by the U.S. Senate.

The National Museums Services Board is composed of 15 members, who along with the National Commission for Libraries and Information Science, advises the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), an agency with a $230 million annual allocation and takes all decisions regarding the nation’s museums.

The IMLS offers economic support and helps organize events in museums throughout the nation to conserve museums’ collections, expand their educational role, create alliances with community and educative organisms, and promote the use of new technology.

Bush Cabinet Changes Might Influence Island’s Economy

December 13, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — President George W. Bush has made important changes in his economic team, which might have an impact on the situation of Puerto Rico.

However, for Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila, the changes are an admission that the president’s economic agenda hasn’t produced the expected results.

He acknowledged that the initiatives to be supported by the new team do not include Section 956 of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code, which he justified by stating that the island’s initiatives have been channeled through Congress.

For Republican Committeeman Luis Fortuño, however, the changes in the president’s economic team reflect that the White House is going to take some aggressive actions in January, once the new session of Congress begins.

Economist Elias Gutierrez said the Bush administration will promote new initiatives to reduce taxes, which will be felt in the island’s economy.

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