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Island Gets $78M In HUD Loan Guarantees…Isolina Ferre Honored…Pesquera Attacks Port Delay, Invites Rossello To Citizenship Event…Senators Summoned Over Alleged Political Discrimination…Officials Discuss Vieques… Calderon Starts Reelection Campaign… New Convention Center To Open March 05… Anti-War Demonstration Set

Government To Facilitate Purchase Of Public Housing Units

February 27, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Public Housing Administration of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico will push forward plans to facilitate the purchase of public housing units by their residents.

HUD Secretary Mel Martinez said while visiting La Fortaleza on Thursday, that in accordance with President George W. Bush’s public policy, his department encourages local housing departments to prepare manuals for the sale of such units by the government to their residents.

"We have embarked on an active campaign for more and more people to become homeowners," Martinez said. "Our administration believes in not hindering anyone from being an owner," Martinez said.

Local jurisdictions prepare their plans in accordance with their particular needs and submit them to HUD for their approval.

Gov. Sila Calderon, a believer in helping low-income people to purchase their homes with programs already established under her administration like the Key to Your Home plan, said her administration will begin working on the manual that fits the needs of the Puerto Rican.

"I don’t want to give too many details because the manual is not yet made, but for instance, there are people who have lived in their units so many years that if the property had been their own, the mortgage would have been paid. Maybe in those cases that payment could be accepted as a down payment," Calderon said.

Martinez did not waste the opportunity to congratulate the government for their performance in the past two years in solving matters that were unclear.

"I’m happy to be here at this moment when the relations with the department that I now head are so positive, where so many problems have been solved and where we can congratulate you," Martinez said.

The secretary took the opportunity to visit the island to announce the granting of $78 million in loans, guaranteed by HUD, to be shared between the municipalities of San Juan and Barceloneta.

San Juan will receive the $72.5 million in loan guarantee assistance, and Barceloneta will get $5.5 million in low-cost financing.

In San Juan, the loans will help develop 17 projects, which include reconstruction of streets, lighting, and signs. They will also help construct a neonatal intensive care unit at the Rio Piedras Medical Center and convert an abandoned Coast Guard house into a development center for abused and orphaned children.

In Barceloneta, the funds will be used to buy and rehabilitate 20 properties.

The funds are guaranteed through HUD’s Section 108, which enables communities to borrow money at lower interests rates and thus promote economic development. The municipality of San Juan and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico on behalf of Barceloneta use funds from the annual grant known as Community Development Block Grant as collateral to secure the low-cost loans.

Governor Participates In Homage To Isolina Ferre

February 27, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - Gov. Sila Calderon participated in a posthumous ceremony Thursday to award the first Luis Muñoz Marin medal posthumously to community leader Sister Isolina Ferre, who was known for her many efforts to help the needy in Puerto Rico.

The medal bears the name of the former governor who many believe speared the socioeconomic revolution on the island in the 1950s.

Antonio Luis Ferre Rangel, grandnephew of Sister Isolina, received the medal on her behalf during a joint House and Senate session Thursday.

"It is a great honor for me to participate in this memorable event. In the name of the people of Puerto Rico, I express our eternal gratitude and admiration for the late Sister Isolina Ferre," the governor said.

Sister Isolina’s brother is former Gov. Luis A. Ferre, founder of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party. He will turn 100 in 2004.

Pesquera Denounces Delay In Port Of The Americas

February 27, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

PONCE (AP) – New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera claimed Thursday that the Port of the Americas project is heading for failure because Gov. Sila Calderon has not assigned sufficient funds.

The NPP leader highlighted the attention his mentor and now political opponent, former Gov. Pedro Rossello, gave to this project by assigning it $10 million.

"By what we have seen so far, everything points to the transshipment port being a total failure unless the government assigns it economic resources and the priority that it deserves," Pesquera said in a press conference in Playa de Ponce.

Pesquera said Calderon only assigned $3.7 million in the new budget to the Port of the Americas, which he described as "inexplicable" for a project, which to his understanding, is vital to the island’s economy.

"This project is severely behind, and what is worse is that it hasn’t received substantial investments from the government to advance its start. . .If the governor thinks that the project is not viable, she should say so," Pesquera said.

The Port of the Americas will be built in Ponce, Guayanilla, and Peñuelas.

The NPP president calculated that the total cost of the project would be $840 million, of which the central government has to assign $150 million.

"For me, there is no evidence that the transshipment port is an important matter to the Calderon administration despite the investment that Ponce, as a municipality, has made," he said.

In the surroundings of the port and on the extension of the Luis A. Ferre Highway, Ponce Mayor Rafael Cordero has placed big announcements that highlight that the city will be the port’s headquarters.

Pesquera Invites Rossello To Speak At Citizenship Event

February 27, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

PONCE (AP) – The New Progressive Party (NPP) invited former Gov. Pedro Rossello to participate Sunday in an event commemorating U.S. citizenship for Puerto Ricans.

NPP President Carlos Pesquera said an invitation was extended to Rossello and time was assigned if he wished to speak.

However, he could not say if the former governor would attend the event, scheduled to start at 9 a.m. in front of the Capitol.

"I will be the main speaker in the citizenship event," Pesquera said in a press conference in Ponce, where he went Thursday to promote the activity.

He indicated that he will use the occasion to talk about Puerto Rico’s status problem, a subject that "has been abandoned by Gov. Sila Calderon."

Former NPP Govs. Carlos Romero Barcelo and Luis A. Ferre will also speak at the activity.

In other matters, Pesquera said Rossello "would be a magnificent" candidate for resident commissioner in the 2004 general elections but admitted that the former governor does not seem interested in the position.

Both Pesquera and Rossello are running for the NPP gubernatorial candidacy for the next general elections.

Senators Summoned To Testify On Alleged Discrimination

February 27, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – The U.S. District Court allegedly summoned Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora and Senate Nominations Committee Chairman Bruno Ramos on Thursday to testify in a lawsuit over political discrimination in the Tourism Co.

Bruno immediately responded that he had not received a formal summons by the court, although he did say he received a notification a month and a half ago that they could possible be summonsed.

According to published reports, the citation orders the senators to bring to the court a supposed list of New Progressive Party (NPP) employees that the Senate sent in June 2001 to then designated Tourism Co. Director Jorge Pesquera.

It is alleged that this list contains the names of people whom the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) legislators recommended to be fired.

"A month and a half ago, a letter arrived indicating that we could be summonsed, but I have not received any citation," Ramos said in a radio interview.

He also insisted that this list of Tourism officials who supposedly should be fired because they belonged to the NPP does not exist.

Ramos had admitted in the past that Pesquera was not confirmed director by the Senate because, among other things, he did not name PDP members to key positions in the agency.

Milton Segarra, who is now secretary of Economic Development & Commerce, was named to the Tourism post after legislators rejected Pesquera.

Puerto Rican And Federal Officials Meet About Vieques

February 27, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila and Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez met in Washington D.C. with a federal official to discuss the transfer of the military land in the eastern zone of Vieques to the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Acevedo Vila and Rodriguez met with the deputy secretary of the Department of the Interior’s Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, Craig Manson, to talk about the plans to create a wildlife refuge in the 14,000 acres in the eastern zone of Vieques.

The meeting, held Tuesday night, was a continuation of a meeting in Puerto Rico some weeks ago between La Fortaleza Chief of Staff Cesar Miranda and other officials of the Department of the Interior in representation of Manson, according to a press release.

Acevedo Vila said the purpose of the meetings is to guarantee that the lands are cleaned and are made available to the Viequenses and the rest of the Puerto Ricans as soon as possible.

"I feel very optimistic that we can continue working with the Department of the Interior for the cleanup of these lands and to provide Viequenses with alternatives of sustainable development through ecotourism," he said.

He said Manson assured him that the Department of the Interior is committed to working with Puerto Rico and with the Viequenses during the cleanup and in the planning process for establishing a refuge.

The U.S. Navy will stop military training in Vieques in May 2003.

Calderon Appears To Have Started Reelection Campaign

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

February 26, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

"Puerto Rico toward the future on a good path," a phrase that had been used in the promotion of Gov. Sila Calderon’s weekly radio program, seems to have turned into her reelection campaign slogan as it was prominently displayed during a Wednesday afternoon public activity.

Not only was the phrase included in the official propaganda for the Convention Center District, but personnel from La Fortaleza wore white long-sleeve shirts with the phrase on them.

With the repeated use of the phrase, Calderon continues to give signs of being on campaign for her reelection.

The first of such signs was the evident political context of her State of the Commonwealth address.

Delivered less than a week after former Gov. Pedro Rossello announced his return to politics, Calderon delivered a State of the Commonwealth address filled with references to the Rossello administration as one of corruption and irregularities. Calderon also urged the island’s youth to reject the styles of the past and to join her on the "good path."

Two days after her address, Calderon denied the political connotations and alleged that she "used her voice" to say what many Puerto Ricans would like to say.

She added that Rossello’s comeback did not worry her. She said she did not worry about her possible rivals being Rossello or current New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera as "that is a problem of the NPP."

On Wednesday and following the results of a poll that gave Pesquera a victory if the elections were to be held today, Calderon laughed and said she would win over either of the two.

"I win over both of them by far," Calderon said.

New Convention Center Will Be Completed By March 2005

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

February 26, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

The first 2,000 tons of structural steel that will be used for the construction of the Puerto Rico Convention Center arrived Wednesday and was received by Gov. Sila Calderon.

With a $415 million public fund investment and another $900 million from the private sector, construction of the Convention District will be completed by 2010.

Construction of the new state of the art convention center will be completed by March 2005.

"Once completed, the District will contribute close to $300 million a year," Calderon said.

To raise the private funds needed for the district, the government will hire the services of the real estate firm Collier International. The idea is to have international investors in the center, Calderon said.

The Puerto Rico Convention Center, however, has already begun to distribute information around the world and is accepting reservations for the end of 2005.

The Convention District, as it is now known, was conceptualized and started under former Gov. Pedro Rossello’s administration and was called the Golden Triangle of the Americas.

Calderon has argued that the idea was conceptualized erroneously with irregularities and numerous permit violations. Two years into her administration, Calderon has begun and renamed the project as the Convention District.

Demonstration Against War In Iraq Organized

February 26, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Approximately 60 religious, union, political, and civic organizations joined together Wednesday to announce a concentration to condemn the imminent military conflict between the United States and Iraq.

The demonstration, called "Peace on Earth; No to War," will be held Sunday, March 23, starting at 1 p.m., in front of the Monument to the Indigenous Woman on Road 1 of Caguas, officials said in a press conference at the headquarters of the Evangelical Seminary in Rio Piedras.

Rev. Wilfredo Estrada, president of the Ecumenical Coalition, which organizes the activity, said Puerto Rico should raise its voice in protest against the war, just as millions of people have done around the world.

"In this hour of world crisis, we assume our historic responsibility and call our people to participate in a demonstration of affirmation of peace and rejection of war," Estrada said.

He also made a special call to the family members of the thousands of Puerto Rican soldiers who have been deployed to participate in the possible war.

"The families of those who have gone to war have the strongest reasons to talk about peace," he said.

Estrada said Gov. Sila Calderon will be invited to participate in the activity, although she has said though she does not favor war, she firmly supports President George W. Bush if a military conflict occurs. Legislative leaders and mayors will also be invited.

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