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"I Am In Love And Very Happy," Calderon Says, She Sees No Conflict of Interest With Cantero Frau…Federal Funds Could Solve Pay Raise Impasse…Ports Ordered To Pay $400K To PIP Supporter…Expos May Be Back In ’04… Pesquera Warns Of Urban Train Risks…Gov.: Pay Raise Deferral Decision Final

"I Am In Love And Very Happy," Puerto Rico Governor Says

May 15, 2003
Copyright © 2003
EFE NEWS SERVICE. All rights reserved. 

San Juan - Puerto Rican Gov. Sila Maria Calderon says she is "in love and very happy," confirming months of rumors of a romance with former Economic Development Secretary Ramon Cantero Frau.

"I don't know about you, but I am very happy," Calderon said at a meeting of her Popular Democratic Party Wednesday night, which she attended in Cantero Frau's company.

"I think we are in love," she said, adding, "I think we are all in love with the Popular Party and with the Free Associated State of Puerto Rico," referring to the island's status as a U.S. commonwealth.

Calderon, who has voiced the intention of seeking re-election in 2004, divorced businessman Adolfo Krans a little over a year ago.

Governor: No Conflict Of Interest With Cantero Frau

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

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

In the midst of rumors about Gov. Sila Calderon's alleged romance with former Economic Development & Commerce Secretary Ramon Cantero Frau, the governor denied that there may be a conflict of interest because Cantero Frau now manages the Special Community Trusteeship fund of $1 billion.

"The Special Communities will be positively affected. There is no conflict whatsoever," Calderon said.

The governor added that the main project of her administration was in good hands and that she had faith in the members of the board of directors who manage it.

"The Special Communities project is the most important project of my administration. It's a project of social justice, and every director I appoint to the Board of Directors works with autonomy and with my complete trust," the governor said.

Several of her detractors have been criticizing Calderon for giving Cantero Frau a powerful position within the government. She has been seen having dinner and at the movies with the former cabinet member but has refused to confirm if she has a romantic relationship with him.

On Wednesday evening, the couple arrived at a Popular Democratic Party (PDP) meeting together. A smiling Calderon said she was happy and in love, but after a brief pause, added "in love with the PDP."

The crowd called for the couple to kiss, but their petition was ignored.

The governor was divorced during the first year of her administration; Cantero Frau's divorce came through late last year.

The former Economic Development & Commerce secretary quit his post a week later. Calderon then appointed him to administer the $1 billion Special Community Trusteeship, which operates with a $500 million credit line from the Government Development Bank (GDB) and a $500 million one-time allocation, which is also from the GDB.

Federal Funds Could Solve Problem Of Salary Raises

May 15, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The lack of funds in the present administration to finance the promised salary increases of the employees of the Education and Family departments could be corrected by an initiative being considered in the U.S. Senate, Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila said.

The resident commissioner said in published reports that the money could come from a bill for tax reduction that is being promoted by President George W. Bush to which Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine) would add an allocation of $20 billion to stimulate the economies of the states and territories.

Acevedo Vila indicated that it is premature to know exactly how the money would be distributed but said the minimum amount for Puerto Rico could fluctuate between $40 million and $150 million.

The distribution of funds that Snowe is promoting would give Puerto Rico $77 million in block allocations, $12 million for Medicaid, and another $51 million for local governments.

Ports Ordered To Pay $400,000 To PIP Supporter

May 15, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Ports Authority will have to pay $400,000 to a secretary who was discriminated against and fired because she was a supporter of the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) after the Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed the previous decision of the Superior Court.

According to published reports, the panel, composed of Appellate Judges Carlos Rodriguez Marin, Gilberto Gierbolini, and Rafael Cordero, confirmed the sentence by Superior Court Judge Jose Lorie Velasco, who did not recognize management immunity for defendants Herman Sulsona, Hector Rivera, and Jose Baquero, former director of the Ports Authority.

The Superior Court judge ordered that the sentence be paid from the personal assets of Sulsona and Rivera, as well as from those of the agency’s former personnel chief Besabeth Guillany and former communications chief Ruth Montes.

The quartet was found to have discriminated against secretary Miriam Rivera Perez for being "independentista" and for testifying in favor of former communications chief Juan "Kike" Rivera Rodriguez, who has another political discrimination case awaiting judgment in the San Juan Superior Court.

The Superior Court judge ruled that the Ports Authority violated its personnel regulations when it fired the secretary citing personnel cuts for economic reasons.

Expos May Be Back In Puerto Rico In 2004

By Ronald Blum

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

NEW YORK - The Montreal Expos still could be playing some of their home games in San Juan next year.

Baseball officials have been talking with a Puerto Rican promoter about returning to Hiram Bithorn Stadium if no permanent decision is made on the Expos' future home.

"Throughout the process we have continued to examine temporary solutions so we don't cut ourselves short," Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, said Wednesday after a meeting of the sport's relocation committee. "Our primary goal is to get it done for next year."

Northern Virginia, Portland, Ore., and Washington, D.C., are trying to lure the Expos, but baseball wants financing in place for a ballpark before making a decision. To raise revenue this year, baseball moved 22 of the Expos' 81 home games from Montreal to San Juan.

Antonio Munoz, the promoter who guaranteed baseball $7 million for this year's San Juan schedule, thinks the island commonwealth can support up to 40 games.

"We've had conversations but we have not defined the amount of games we would bring, if any, or if it will be done or not," he said Wednesday. "There isn't anything solid yet."

No action on the Expos is expected Thursday, when all owners meet. The primary topic on the agenda is a vote to approve the proposed sale of the Anaheim Angels from The Walt Disney Co. to Arturo Moreno, a deal worth about $185 million.

Moreno, a native of Tucson, Ariz., would become the first Hispanic controlling owner in the major leagues, and approval is likely.

"Baseball has been encouraging diversity since Jackie Robinson," DuPuy said, referring to the Brooklyn Dodgers player who broke the color barrier in 1947. "This is just another step, obviously a very important step, in the continuum."

Angels general manager Bill Stoneman said Wednesday he already had spoken with Moreno but wouldn't go into details, saying it was inappropriate to discuss the conversations because the sale had not yet been approved. Mike Scioscia, who managed the Angels to their first World Series title last year, has not yet spoken with Moreno.

"Ownership change is obviously big, because any owner has the prerogative - it's his business to make changes if he sees fit," Scioscia said before Wednesday night's game against the New York Yankees. "I don't think it's anything you can control, or there's any indication that there will be major changes."

Disney bought a 25 percent share of the Angels and took control of the team from founding owner Gene Autry in 1996 and purchased the remainder of his team following his death in 1998.

The other Los Angeles-area team, the Dodgers, also is up for sale. News Corp., which bought the team for $311 million in 1997, has been talking with Malcolm Glazer and his sons, the owners of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

DuPuy said discussions are continuing but no deal has yet been presented to the commissioner's office for approval.

Baseball officials have said they hoped to have a decision on the Expos' future by the All-Star break in mid-July, and DuPuy said Wednesday "it is possible to get it done for next season - we have not given up on that goal." But none of the three areas has completed financing plans for a new ballpark.

Baseball has had some contacts with potential ownership groups, but has focused more on government officials and ballpark financing.

"If we can get it done by the All-Star game, that would be great," DuPuy said.

But if no decision is made, Puerto Rico's government would be interested in more games, and DuPuy said baseball would be willing to consider a second season there. The Expos averaged 14,282 for 10 games in San Juan last month and 10,613 for their first 12 games in Montreal. They have six-game homestands in Puerto Rico in June and September.

"The position of the San Juan municipality has always been to have open arms. We are available," said Maria Elena Batista, San Juan's sports and recreation director. "We've had follow up conversations (with MLB). Those conversations have been about how successful it's been so far, how happy the players are, the fan support, and that San Juan continues to be an option (for more games)."

Associated Press Writer Ricardo Zuniga in San Juan contributed to this story.

Pesquera Reiterates Warning On Risks Of Urban Train

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – New Progressive Party President Carlos Pesquera reiterated Wednesday his warning that "the capricious inauguration" of the Urban Train in September represents a security risk for the users and the quality of the project.

In making the warning, Pesquera presented evidence of a letter sent by the U.S. Transportation Department to Roads Authority Director Jack T. Allison that expresses concern about the work, the tests, and the training that is missing to enable the inauguration to be held this year.

"It is an expensive and dangerous whim for Puerto Rico and detrimental for the Urban Train project," Pesquera said in a press conference in front of one of the train’s terminals in Hato Rey.

Pesquera asserted that the urgency to inaugurate the train in September has cost the government an additional $81 million and that the federal authorities have estimated that the project with its 16 stations could be completely inaugurated in the summer of 2004.

He also said the company Siemens Transit Team, in charge of the train’s operations, has also expressed to the Roads Authority that it is not viable to inaugurate in September the project from one extreme to another with six stations closed, as planned by the government.

"If the Urban Train does not start well, it will derail forever," warned Pesquera, who said a system like this one cannot be put into use until it has been tested over and over again.

Last September, then Transportation & Public Works Secretary Jose Izquierdo denied Pesquera’s previous allegation that the inauguration date in September 2003 corresponds to a "political calendar."

Governor’s Decision On Raise Final; Will Talk To Unions

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

May 14, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Gov. Sila Calderon said Wednesday that her decision to defer the $150 salary increase for government employees working at the Departments of Education and Family is final, but that she is leaving a window open for discussion with union leaders.

The governor issued her statement a day after union voters threatened to withdraw their support of Calderon if she didn’t approve a legislative proposal that the $150-a-month salary raise for government employees begin Aug. 1.

Union leaders have rejected the plan.

Calderon denied that her administration isn’t complying with her campaign promises, stating that the Family and Education Departments are the only two agencies which would receive a deferred payment of the salary raise. She insisted that the economic situation of the island makes it impossible to grant the salaries as of July 2003.

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