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PDP Threatened With Loss Of Union Support…New Penal Code Bill Retains Sodomy…We Want Ricky…Calderon Submits Judicial Reform Bill, She’s Warned Not To Underestimate Rossello…Fortaleza Rejects $150 Pay Raise Proposal…Culebra Still Not Decontaminated… Acevedo Invites Aznar For Trade Talks

Union Voters Threaten To Withdraw Electoral Support Of PDP

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

May 13, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Four union leaders gave Gov. Sila Calderon a July 31 deadline to approve a legislative proposal that the $150-a-month salary raise for government employees be granted Aug. 1 or else they will withdraw their support of the governing Popular Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2004 general elections.

"We are talking about more than 150,000 workers who come November 2004 will let their indignation be known," said Jesus Delgado, president of the Teachers Federation.

However, he dodged WOW News’ question whether the unions would vote for the New Progressive Party in 2004 if Calderon refuses to meet their demands.

"Anyone who doesn’t support the workers’ interests and claims won’t receive our support," Degaldo said.

The union leaders said they aren’t satisfied with what Chief of Staff Cesar Miranda has announced, which is to defer the $150 salary increase until January 2004 and pay each public employee $900 in August 2004 for the first six months of FY 2004 (beginning July 31, 2003). They argued that the raise is sorely needed now and that it would be unfair to make the employees’ wait.

"Why is she claiming now that there isn’t any money when she has been ‘dangling a carrot’ [to government workers] for the past three years? The money is there, and we hope that she will come to her senses," said Carmen Daisy Rodriguez, president of the Public Schools Cafeteria Workers Union.

"We won’t accept any more injustice or disrespectfulness, especially when we are an agency that provide service 24 hours a day, particularly to the special communities that the governor protects so much," said Annette Gonzalez, president of the United Public Workers at the Family Department.

Meanwhile, Roberto Pagan, president of the Puerto Rican Workers Syndicate, announced that on May 23,unionized government employees would march from the Capitol to La Fortaleza to express their support for the legislative proposal and to insist that the governor comply with the union contracts that have been signed by the secretaries of the Education and Family departments.

However, Gonzalez added that they have yet to decide whether to strike to show their dissatisfaction.

"At this moment, we are not contemplating paralyzing operations," Gonzalez said.

The governor has said there aren’t enough recurrent funds to immediately grant the wage increase for approximately 70,000 government employees of the Education and Family departments.

However, PDP representatives such as House Speaker Carlos Vizcarrondo, House Treasury Committee Chairman Francisco Zayas Seijo, and Rep. Jorge Colberg Toro have stated the opposite. Colberg Toro even said he would vote against the budget bill for fiscal year 2004 if the executive branch doesn’t agree to honor the raise by the beginning of the next fiscal year. '

Sodomy: Intact In New Penal Code Bill

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

May 13, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Sodomy remains intact in the new Penal Code bill submitted Tuesday by Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Senators Antonio Fas Alzamora and Eudaldo Baez Galib.

Baez Galib explained that the language of Section 4065, which describes sodomy as the sexual relationship between people of the same sex, and classified as a felony in the current Penal Code, remained intact because a decision on the matter is pending in the U.S. Supreme Court.

"We have postponed the redefinition of sodomy. If the U.S. Supreme Court will be making a decision on this matter within days or weeks, since the court’s deadline is by June, it will be totally irresponsible to promote a debate between two sectors in Puerto Rico when, in the end, a decision is going to be made by the federal supreme court, and which will prevail," Baez Galib explained.

The senator said groups currently debating the issue have overtaken the facts, but noted the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court has to be reflected in the local code.

We Want Ricky

Caboolture Shire Herald

May 13, 2003
Copyright © 2003
Nationwide News Pty Limited. All rights reserved. 

MORAYFIELD Ricky Martin enthusiast Esther Alonso is working around-the-clock to ensure he comes to Brisbane in late July.

As the Ricky Martin United Fans Australia club president, Ms Alonso is in regular touch with Sony Music in Sydney.

She said at this stage Mr Martin was only planning to tour Sydney and Melbourne as those cities were linked-in with television chat shows, such as Rove Live. However, Ms Alonso is proposing a $250-a-head dinner in Brisbane, in conjunction with a Ricky Martin concert to raise money for the Royal Brisbane Children's Hospital.

She said Ricky was a humanitarian, who had received two awards for helping underprivileged children in Guatemala and Kosovo; and recording a song for the Sabera Foundation with Elton John, Penelope Cruz, and Antonio Banderas.

He also received the Hispanic Heritage award for his contribution to the Latin culture in American society.

"Ricky has his own foundation, People for the Children, to help fight child prostitution in India," Ms Alonso said. "This foundation, takes these girls into a home, provides education and medical attention until they are old enough to stand up in their own two feet."

Ms Alonso said years ago when Hurricane Mitch devastated Puerto Rico, Ricky was one of the first to put forward his money to help rebuild the town.

In the past two years Ricky has been recording two albums one in Spanish and one in English.

The first single Jaleo a flamenco/Arab-inspired dance track debuted on Australian radios on April 28 and the Spanish album Souls of Silence will be released in Australia on May 26.

For more information visit the fan club website

Governor Calderon Submits Judicial Reform Bill

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

May 13, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Governor Sila M. Calderon has submitted a bill to reform the present Judiciary Law of 1994, which will require an investment of $11 million.

She said the bill was drafted in consensus with every member of her special appointed judiciary reform committee. It establishes a formal public policy of the judiciary and confers total independence to the branch.

Calderon argued the bill will "provide equal access to justice for all citizens."

"The 1994 law was a ‘judicial deformation,’ disrespectful to the members of the Judiciary, and an attempt on its independence. Instead of satisfying the need of the judicial branch, it responded to individual preferences. This law (referring to the 1994 Judicial Law) instead of providing equal access to justice, limited it and resulted in less access for the poor," said Calderon.

Calderon made her comments during a press conference at La Fortaleza accompanied by Supreme Court Judge President Jose Andreu Garcia, Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado and the presidents of Senate and the House of Representatives, Antonio Fas Alzamora and Carlos Vizcarrondo, respectively.

Calderon had already enacted a bill conferring total economic independence to the judicial branch in December 2002.

Monday’s bill includes reforms that affect the core of the island’s court composition.

It proposes an increase of six judges of appeal, raising the total number of judges to 39 appointed for a 16-year-term. It also renames "Circuit of Appeals" as "Court of Appeals."

It also modifies the composition of the First Instance Court, lowering the number of municipal judges from 105 to 85, but increasing the number of superior court judges from 223 to 253.

In addition it strengthens the faculties of the Chief Judge allowing him to designate judges to work in specialized tasks that are not conducted by judges, like child support disputes, drug addiction cases, and medical malpractice. At present these cases are analyzed by examiners and not by judges.

Judges performing such duties will be trained in specialized law subjects, and will receive economic incentives for their work.

Moreover, the Chief Judge could appoint municipal judges to serve as superior ones, and create panels of judges composed of more than three members in the court of appeals.

Andreu Garcia explained that the proposal is intended to improve the system’s performance. The effectiveness was analyzed, but conclusions about the report weren’t revealed.

According to the proposal, continued education for judges will be mandatory. Ethical and disciplinary measures were clarified and broadened, and the objectives of the judicial code of ethics were also included.

Andreu Garcia expressed satisfaction with the bill, and said it was the product of a process of consulting with citizens and members of the judiciary since 1998.

"We expect the Legislature to analyze and approve the bill to allow the Judiciary to promote necessary changes that Puerto Rico needs and deserves," concluded Andreu Garcia.

Finally, the President of the Senate Antonio Fas Alzamora, and the Speaker of the House Carlos Vizcarrondo agreed to analyze the measure for its correspondent approval.

PDP Caguas Mayor Warns Calderon Not To Underestimate Rossello

May 12, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

CAGUAS (AP) – Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Caguas Mayor William Miranda Marin warned Gov. Sila Calderon not to underestimate former Gov. Pedro Rossello. He said the NPP leader knows how to win constituents’ hearts.

Rossello has expressed his intention of becoming the official NPP gubernatorial candidate.

"We must prepare ourselves for a tough campaign against Rossello because he is a person who has proven he has the ability to conceptualize and convey ideas as well as to win people over," said Miranda Marin, who is also the former president of the Mayor’s Association.

The PDP mayor said leaders must win the people over and that he has no doubt that Rossello has already done that.

Miranda Marin also criticized his party, which he considered to be asleep behind the wheel from a political point of view.

"There is much uneasiness within the party because we haven’t been able to provide some things expected by the constituents," he added.

The Caguas mayor recommended that the governor and PDP president plan strategies that would help the party’s unity.

Fortaleza Rejects Proposal To Give Public Employees’ Raise

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

May 12, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

La Fortaleza Chief of Staff Cesar Miranda rejected a legislative proposal to confer a $150 raise to public employees effective August this year.

"We have a really tight budget, and it doesn’t give us the opportunity to do more," said Miranda who recalled that the government has already identified $30 million to honor labor agreements with public employees in 19 public agencies.

However the collective bargains, as negotiated, stated the increase would go into effect on July 1 but the government argues that there is no money and it will defer the payment for almost a year.

Last Friday, House Speaker Carlos Vizcarrondo and Treasury Committee Chairman Rep. Francisco Zayas Seijo, sent a proposal to the governor that would have allowed the Executive Branch to honor the promised raise for public employees of the Education and Family Departments effective August this year.

The proposal identified $30 million from the budgetary fund, $20 million from an excess of the Health Insurance Administration (HIA) and $13 million that would be taken from cuts on government advertising expenses.

On Monday, following threats from Popular Democratic Party Rep. Jorge Colberg Toro to vote against the proposed budget if the funds for the raise are not allocated, members of the Legislative and the Executive Branches met at La Fortaleza.

Miranda said the meeting was "very positive", but noted that the funds of the HIA cannot be transferred because the agency has a $40 million deficit.

He also quoted the Office of Management & Budget’s (OMB) Executive Director Melba Acosta, saying that "assigning $30 million from the Budgetary Fund could be understood as an irony" since that’s the source OMB uses to cover the constant deficit of the Education Department, and as a result it could turn into lay-offs in that agency.

On the other hand, Acosta explained that the proposed advertising budget for fiscal year 2003 is nearly $41 million and it includes resources for promotional and information efforts established by law such as tourism, Puerto Rican rums advertising campaigns and public advisories. The accountant said that using those funds requires additional legislation to amend those statutes.

Government will give public employees a $150 raise effective in January 2003, and will make a deferred payment of the raise from July through December 2002 in the fiscal year 2004-2005. The six-month deferred payment represents about $900 per public employee.

Culebra Still Fighting For Decontamination Of Land

May 12, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Three decades after the U.S. Navy moved from Culebra to Vieques, residents of Culebra are still fighting for decontamination and cleanup of the land that was used as target range.

Culebra mayor Ivan Ramos Peña urged Gov Sila Calderon’s administration to include the municipality in the government request to be included in the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Priority List for cleanups.

"It hasn’t been easy to get them (US Navy) to clean this land. We still have many bombs here in Culebra and are trying to get the Navy to clean them," Deputy Mayor Sonia Arrocho said.

The Navy left Culebra in 1975 and since then residents of the municipality have been trying to clean the thousands acres of corals and coast of explosives and artillery.

Acevedo Invites Spanish Prime Minister To Puerto Rico For Trade Talks

May 11, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Spain's prime minister has been invited to Puerto Rico for talks to strengthen commercial links between the two places, officials said Sunday.

Anibal Acevedo Vila, a nonvoting delegate to U.S. Congress, made the invitation to Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar in Washington last week during a meeting of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Acevedo's office said.

"The Spanish prime minister's visit to Washington was an excellent opportunity to strengthen decades-long ties, both culturally and commercially, between Puerto Rico and Spain," Acevedo said. "The prime minister expressed his interest in visiting Puerto Rico."

Spanish officials could not be immediately reached for comment on Sunday.

Last year, Puerto Rico imported $173 million in Spanish products ranging from shoes and meats to furniture and banking services, Acevedo said. Puerto Rico exported recyclable paper, electronics, pharmaceutical products and fruits, among other goods, he said.

The island has become one of the wealthiest places in Latin America, though poverty remains more severe than in the U.S. mainland.

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