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Romero Abstains From Endorsing Pesquera For Governor... Calderon Denies Comptroller’s Findings Regarding SJ 2000… PIP: Status Discussion Will Resume… NPP Sets New Session Agenda… Burgos: Pro Navy Supporters Don’t Understand U.S. Constitution… Pesquera Won’t Allow CRB’s Expulsion… Gov’t Ad Expenses Increase

Romero Abstains From Endorsing Pesquera For Governor

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

January 16, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

After meeting for more than five hours, New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera emerged from the party directorate with a vote of support for his candidacy for the 2004 gubernatorial race.

"I have expressed to the directorate my gratefulness for that support. We will continue to work to strengthen our party and lead this party to victory in 2004," Pesquera said.

However, former NPP Resident Commissioner Carlos Romero Barcelo abstained from that vote. He said he believes it is still too early to express unanimous support for any candidate because the period to register each candidacy doesn’t start until June.

WOW News sources asserted Romero Barcelo originally had voted against the motion to support Pesquera as the next gubernatorial candidate, but was talked into changing it to an abstention.

"I abstained because I believed that by approving this resolution the party wouldn’t really be opening its doors to other candidates, so they would feel free to bid," Romero said.

Last week, Romero Barcelo raised some eyebrows when he called a press conference to express his dissatisfaction with the way the party’s internal affairs were being handled and in his view, could cost the NPP the general elections in 2004.

"There is a saying in the country that goes: ‘If you want oranges, you must rattle the trunk. We want to triumph. However, if we don’t rattle, we won’t make it," Romero said when he arrived at NPP headquarters in Santurce Thursday. However, after the meeting, he refused to publicly disclose what those problems were.

Still, the former resident commissioner said he didn’t know of anyone who was interested in challenging Pesquera in a primary. Nevertheless, he said we could discard the possibility of him bidding for the gubernatorial race.

However, he said as long as he can remember, he has always rallied for the NPP’s gubernatorial candidate, regardless of his differences of opinion and this time won’t be an exception.

In the eventuality that Pesquera, as well as NPP Electoral Commissioner Thomas Rivera Schatz, former NPP Rep. Leo Diaz, and NPP Rep. Edwin Mundo, are convicted of rioting, Romero Barcelo said Pesquera could still run for governor.

"Should Pesquera be found guilty, there is no way that would prevent him from running. The law and party rules refer to felonies that are immoral or related to public funds," Romero said.

The four NPP leaders have been charged by the local government of rioting after they forced their way into the Women’s Advocate Office June, 20, 2002, to replace a U.S. flag Maria Dolores Fernos, its director, had ordered removed from the lobby of the public office in Old San Juan.

Romero Barcelo and Pesquera said the party directorate also discussed the possibility of taking this issue to the federal court. However, they didn’t provide specifics.

On other issues, Pesquera announced the party directorate had reviewed plans for several events to be held this year. One will be held March 3 at the Capitol to express support for the permanence of military bases on the island and opposition to the administration of Gov. Sila Calderon.

A second event will be held Feb. 22 to urge citizens to register to vote and become a member of the NPP. Another two activities will be the Fourth of July in San Juan, and American Citizenship Day July 27.

The party directorate also approved an economic work plan for events to be held during the election year.

Pesquera also announced Aguadilla Mayor Carlos Mendez was chosen by the members of the Mayors Federation as its next president.

Governor Denies Comptroller’s Report Regarding San Juan 2000

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

January 15, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

On Wednesday, Gov. Sila Calderon defended herself against Commonwealth Comptroller Manuel Diaz Saldaña who referred to the Justice Department, the Government Ethics Office, and the State Elections Commission a report containing the findings of possible irregularities during Calderon’s tenure as San Juan mayor.

"I have always respected the institution of the Puerto Rico comptroller, and I will respect the person occupying that position. But I must say, I totally disagree with the conclusion of the comptroller regarding my actions in terms of Comision San Juan 2000," Calderon said.

According to Diaz Saldaña, the municipal government illegally transferred $5 million, as well as municipal equipment and space, to a nonprofit organization known as Comision San Juan 2000, which was formed by private citizens to prepare activities to celebrate the arrival of the new millennium.

However, the governor noted that all proceedings linked to the nonprofit organization were done according to the Autonomous Municipalities Law. She said its members were reputable citizens and that there was no misuse of public funds.

She also resented the comptroller hinting that Comision San Juan 2000 may have been a mechanism to help improve her image during the gubernatorial race in 2000.

"That is totally false. I don’t know what reason he had to make that insinuation. It is categorically false, and it wasn’t even included in the report so we would have the opportunity to respond," Calderon added.

She also said the organization’s work was evaluated by two external audits without finding a hint of corruption.

The governor said the comptroller’s report would be evaluated by the appropriate agencies as Diaz Saldaña announced Tuesday, and referred any other questions on the issue to members of her cabinet.

The comptroller’s findings included the possible conflict of interest in the participation of two municipal legislators and former San Juan Municipal Government Program Coordinator Melba Acosta in Comision San Juan 2000, as well as the extravagant, excessive, and unnecessary spending of $2.63 million in public funds.

PIP Optimistic That Status Discussion Will Resume Soon

January 14, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – The Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) believes that the proper conditions exist in Puerto Rico, as well as in the U.S. mainland, to resume the island’s status discussion.

PIP President Ruben Berrios said the Vieques issue demonstrated that the initiative to address Puerto Rico’s status has to come from within the island.

"This is another Puerto Rico," the PIP leader said in a press conference in which he revealed a letter sent by Gov. Sila Calderon, indicating that they will meet to discuss the matter soon.

Berrios said the Dec. 9 letter is important because it was written before the announcement regarding the cessation of bombings in Vieques.

The PIP leader is confident that once the process begins, statehood supporters will follow.

Regarding New Progressive Party President Carlos Pesquera’s refusal to participate in this kind of process, Berrios anticipated that he is at risk of being left alone by his followers.

He also insisted that there is adequate atmosphere within influential sectors in the U.S. mainland to address the status issue now, thanks to Vieques.

The PIP president urged the governor to resume the status discussion before the electoral process, scheduled to begin next year. The process is to be drafted before that date.

"The governor has a golden opportunity of leading a process that the people of Puerto Rico will support, and she should take full advantage of it," Berrios said in a press conference at PIP headquarters.

NPP Establishes New Session Agenda

January 13, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – After acknowledging that they would not file new legislation when the Legislative Ordinary Session begins on Monday, Senate and House of Representative Minority leaders announced that their priority will be watching over the efforts of Popular Democratic Party (PDP) legislators.

According to New Progressive Party (NPP), representative, Anibal Vega Borges and senator Kenneth McClintock, their agenda includes the capital improvements to be implemented by Ondeo which according to him is halted.

The NPP also proposes that the government should allocate more resources to the Puerto Rico Police to hire more agents and to the Health department to improve the services offered by the government through the Health Reform.

The legislative leaders announced their agenda in a press release along with NPP President Carlos Pesquera.

"This is going to be a very active year," Pesquera said.

The minority leaders said they are going to be watching over the budget presented by Gov. Sila M. Calderon, since they say the government finances are not balanced.

Burgos: Pro U.S. Navy Supporters Do Not Understand U.S. Constitution

January 13, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – New Progressive Party (NPP) Sen. Norma Burgos urged pro U.S. Navy activists who set up a camp in Vieques in support of the presence of the military to emulate the good things of those who demand the Vieques demilitarization.

"I expect them to emulate what they have to, the good things. The men and women who demand human rights, who demand peace," Burgos insisted.

Burgos served a 59-day sentence during Christmas of 2000 for trespassing on Navy restricted land in Vieques during training exercises.

The legislator was reacting to the attitude of pro Navy activists from the New Progressive Party, who established a camp during the weekend less than 30 feet from the main meeting center of the anti Navy protesters.

Pesquera Will Not Allow Romero’s Expulsion

January 13, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera on Monday rejected the possible expulsion of former Gov. Carlos Romero Barcelo from the party’ directorate.

The rumors regarding a possible expulsion came after Romero Barcelo’s statements regarding the serious problems the NPP faces, and that if those problems are not addressed it would affect the party at the next elections.

"I am not considering this agenda," Pesquera said in a press conference in which he acknowledged however, that the rumors respond to a call from the party’s supporters.

For the NPP leader, Romero Barcelo’s statements can be discussed within the party without the need of an expulsion.

Government Advertising Expenses Increase

January 10, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – The advertising expenses of Gov. Sila Calderon’s administration increased again when new ads were placed in the local newspapers to announce the next transmission of the governor’s radio program called "Gobernadora informa al pueblo."

For the second radio program, the governor will speak about the island’s education, just days before the beginning of the school semester.

According to the almost full-page ad, the governor and Education Secretary Cesar Rey will present an important message regarding the projects and initiatives that have been implemented to improve the public education system.

The radio program costs $5,000 per transmission and is produced by Flora Communications, whose owner Jorge Orama worked on the Calderon gubernatorial campaign.

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