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Pesquera Confident Of His Leadership…Calderon: Ready For 2003, Status Issue A Priority, Electoral Reform 2002’s Biggest Disappointment…NPP Leaders Welcome New Year… Dominican-Migrant Surge Continues

 Pesquera Confident Of His Leadership

December 26, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - Carlos Pesquera affirmed Thursday that his leadership in the New Progressive Party (NPP) is solid and that he will prevail in any challenge for the party’s presidency.

Pesquera also said his is willing to compete in a primary election with former Gov. Pedro Rossello, who returned to the island and whose leadership has been rumored during the past weeks, and assured that he would win such a primary against his political mentor.

"I would win a primary [with Rossello], and then I’m sure that I would have the statehood followers’ support," Pesquera said in a radio interview.

Pesquera reaffirmed that anyone seeking the NPP president post would clearly understand that the post is already occupied.

He said the party’s doors remain open to Rossello, former Resident Commissioner Carlos Romero Barcelo, and any other statehood supporter who wishes to work for the island’s statehood.

On the other hand, Pesquera described as normal his relationship with NPP Vice President and San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini, with whom he has had several differences that many see as a power play within the party.

"There is a normal relation, a friendship relation," the statehood leader said.

He said one of those differences is the resignation of NPP Rep. Jose Nuno Lopez.

Santini, as San Juan municipal president, recently led a meeting with leaders of Precinct I, who asked Lopez to withdraw his resignation.

"He has a responsibility in his municipality from a political point of view. In the end, he is going to understand my position," Pesquera said.

Gov. Sila Calderon Is Ready For 2003

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

December 26, 2002
Copyright © 2002 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

Two years after taking office as Puerto Rico's first female governor, Sila Calderon said she sees her administration as one that has faced difficult times and is ready to see "great results."

For Calderon, her first year in office was aimed at "cleaning the house."

The second year, 2002, was the year "to set her administration's public work on the right track while establishing a social agenda" for the island.

She is now ready to see the result of those efforts.

"I see 2003 as the year of the harvest, the year of great results," Calderon said.

The governor spoke with the media on Sunday during a nearly two hour-long press conference to inform what she considers to be her administration's greatest achievement.

A visibly relaxed Calderon met the media at one of La Fortaleza's second floor balconies overlooking the gardens of the governor's mansion.

The heavy rain might have delayed the end of the conference, but the governor used that opportunity to answer every one of the dozens of questions that were presented to her.

Sunday's meeting came to replace the traditional individual interviews granted by the governor at the end of each year. Therefore she gave an overview of what she considered to be the backbone of her administration and her promises for the new year.

But prior to discussing her achievements, Calderon digressed to emphasize the condition in which she took office.

Once again Calderon made reference to the corruption stigma following former Gov. Pedro Rossello's administration and the bad economic state in which the government was left.

She noted the extreme use of politics within every government agency and the "confrontational climate" which existed between the Rossello administration and the labor, religious, civil, and environmentalist groups.

After taking into consideration all those elements, Calderon defined her three-point work agenda.

"Clean government for Puerto Rico, giving a frontal attack to corruption. Economic development and the creation of jobs, as well as providing programs and projects that contribute to the well being of the Puerto Rican family," Calderon said.

The governor said her government has had many achievements in "providing a clean government for citizens" by creating the attorney general's post.

The governor then said her administration has achieved the biggest reduction of unemployment rate for the months of October, with 12 % and November, with 11% in the past 20 years.

Calderon added that while the world's economy has been shaken in recent years her team has been able to stay afloat by implementing a 12-step program for economic development that includes lobbying at the U.S. Congress to achieve to extend the Section 956 tax incentive of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code for the island.

Meanwhile, the governor also highlighted six bills aimed at establishing a social agenda for the island.

The projects include the allocation of $1 billion in public funds for the island's special communities; the after school program; water for all; public order codes; the healthcare smart card, and the extended work schedules for government agencies.

Calderon concluded her overview of the year with hopes for the new year. She acknowledged that the past two years have been difficult, but with a positive outcome.

"Ladies and gentleman, the outcome of these two years has been positive and we are on a good path. It hasn't been easy to straighten it, it hasn't been easy to clean it, but we are doing it. We are getting there," Calderon said.

Governor To Reintroduce The Status Issue In 2003

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

December 23, 2002
Copyright © 2002 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

The status issue will be discussed anew during 2003 and although it is important for Gov Sila Calderon to obtain an consensus on the matter there is a possibility that it will be discussed in the absence of the New Progressive Party (NPP) because of its president’s reaffirmed refusal to take part of the process.

Calderon called the refusal of the NPP to participate in her proposed Unity and Consensus Puerto Rican Committee to discuss the status a "tragedy" adding it was not fair for the process to be held up by one person.

"There are many Puerto Ricans, we are 3.8 million Puerto Rican and it is not fair to hold up process of such important public agenda because of one person," Calderon said.

NPP President Carlos Pesquera reacted to Calderon’s statements saying it was she who had failed to achieve a consensus to discuss status in spite of his refusal to attend any meeting on the matter.

"Sila Calderon is the one who has halted the process," Pesquera said in a brief reaction during an interrupted telephone conversation.

One of Calderon’s campaign promises was to call for a committee that would produce a petition to the US Congress on a definition of the island’s status.

It took the governor until summer 2002 to call for the committee but Pesquera immediately declined to take part in it.

Calderon affirmed that her preference remains that the matter should be discussed in consensus with all parties involved but noted that the status issue should be retaken in 2003.

"I have been clear in that the process to define our status must be started , my preference has always been that it would be by consensus and obviously in 2003 we should retake the manner again….Puerto Rico can be imprisoned by the individual will of those who want to put their political and party preferences before anything," Calderon said.

She did not rule out the possibility of meeting with Pesquera if he wished.

"I meet with anyone I have to meet with in Puerto Rico if it is for the well-being of the island.

The governor noted that in her opinion a petition to Washington supported by all the island’s political sectors would give it more strength.

"My preference is that this job be carried out by consensus and I think that a Puerto Rican consensus gives more strength to any effort made in Washington," said the governor.

Electoral Reform Was Calderon's Biggest Disappointment

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

December 22, 2002
Copyright © 2002 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

Gov. Sila Calderon acknowledged on Sunday that her biggest deception in 2002 was her failure to obtain the Legislature endorsement for the Clean Money Act.

The bill which was strongly opposed by many, including members of her party, was taken away from the Legislature and reevaluated at La Fortaleza, where Calderon personally met with people who were against it.

The governor, who still believes in the bill, said she would soon be making an announcement on the subject.

"I would certainly have liked for the electoral reform financing bill to have taken another path, but I retook it and everything in life has its purpose. Therefore, I am very pleased with the year. I feel both me and my cabinet have handled the difficulties with which we were presented," Calderon said.

Calderon made her statement on Sunday during an afternoon meeting with the press at La Fortaleza.

Following one of her most difficult weeks after her cabinet was hit hard with the resignations of Department of Transportation & Public Works Secretary Jose Izquierdo, Department of Natural & Environmental Resources Secretary Salvador Salas, and the switching of the Corrections & Rehabilitation secretary with the Police superintendent, the governor asserted her faith in her cabinet.

Calderon declined to pinpoint anyone in specific as a major loss for the government and noted that a government is defined by its agenda and all the people in her cabinet know what that agenda is.

She also used the opportunity to thank those who have stood by her during these difficult times, specially La Fortaleza Chief of Staff Cesar Miranda.

NPP Leaders Welcome 2003 With Optimism

December 22, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - Following one of its worse electoral defeats since its foundation in 1968, several leaders of the New Progressive Party (NPP) said they were optimistic with the political environment of 2003.

They all agreed that NPP President Carlos Pesquera has consolidated himself as the leader of the party and that from now on, he would begin to harvest the fruits of his work.

Former NPP Sen. Oreste Ramos said the party must explain to the public that Puerto Rico's economic model impedes the establishment of new industries on the island. He also said the NPP must let Washington know that the island's political relationship with the U.S. mainland must change.

Former Senate President Charlie Rodriguez said the public is very disappointed with Gov. Sila Calderon's administration and is searching for an option.

"The NPP is in the process of becoming that option," Rodriguez said.

Meanwhile, Bayamon Mayor Ramon Luis Rivera and NPP House minority leader Anibal Vega Borges said the electoral environment will be notably favorable for the NPP in 2003.

Rivera said the people has already perceived the government's instability and that the NPP only needs to keep up its good work until the 2004 general elections.

Vega Borges said he hopes the new year will bring the resolution of the legal case against four NPP leaders for the incident at the Women's Advocate Office.

He also said once the party has been reorganized, more people will be compelled to work in favor of it.

Dominican-Migrant Surge To Puerto Rico Continues

By Matthew Hay Brown | Sentinel Staff Writer

December 14, 2002
Copyright © 2002 Orlando Sentinel. All rights reserved.

ISABELA, Puerto Rico -- Public education and stepped-up patrols around the Dominican Republic have been unable to contain the continuing surge in undocumented migrants attempting to reach this U.S. commonwealth.

The arrest of 23 adults near Playa Montones early Friday brought to 537 the number of aliens detained by the U.S. Border Patrol in Puerto Rico since Oct. 1 -- more than 10 times the 51 held during the same period last year.

An additional 532 migrants have been intercepted at sea by the Border Patrol, Coast Guard or Puerto Rican police and escorted back to the Dominican Republic without being processed, according to figures released Friday.

Dominican authorities, meanwhile, reported breaking up more than 50 trips and arresting more than 750 smugglers and passengers last month as part of Operation White Water, a new campaign to stem the flow of migrants from the Spanish-speaking Caribbean nation.

Many others are thought to have slipped past authorities.

The Border Patrol arrested 835 aliens in Puerto Rico for the entire fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. The current spike, which appears to have begun in late August, remains largely unexplained.

"Generally, migrants are coming over for economic purposes," Coast Guard Lt. Heath Brown said Friday. "As for why we're seeing more now, we don't have answers for that."

Average income in the Dominican Republic is lower than that in Puerto Rico or the mainland United States, but the nation does not appear to be suffering the kind of economic, social or political upheaval generally associated with such a surge.

Authorities on both sides of the Mona Passage have launched public-education campaigns warning Dominicans of the dangers of the journey. As part of Operation White Water, the Dominican navy has increased coastal patrols looking for boats.

Migrants may pay smugglers based in the Dominican Republic more than $500 each to ferry them to Puerto Rico aboard an open wooden yawl built for a single journey.

The trip may last up to four days as the captain zigzags across the channel to elude authorities.

Once in Puerto Rico, the migrants are on U.S. territory. Some will head to San Juan to disappear into the large Dominican community. Others continue on to the mainland United States.

The 13 men and 10 women caught in Isabela on Friday had left the north coast of the Dominican Republic two days earlier in a 45-foot boat, Border Patrol Assistant Chief Victor C. Colón said.

Two were taken to an area hospital for treatment of exposure and severe dehydration.

The boat may have held as many as 50 passengers, Colón said. Border Patrol agents were interviewing neighbors and local merchants Friday to gather more information.

Colón said improved coordination among local enforcement agencies, better communication with their Dominican counterparts and the increasing willingness of private citizens to report suspicious landings are helping authorities catch more migrants.

"There are more people out there, more events," he said. "But also, we're working together better."

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