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All Parties Broke Electoral Law In ’00…Pesquera, Religious Leaders Oppose Eliminating Art. 103…Eastern Corridor Re-Inaugurated… Rios Could Face New Charges… FCC Approves El Mundo Network Sale …Spain's Gas Natural Moves Into Puerto Rico…Senate OK’s Penal Code; Eliminates Sodomy Article… Rossello Dismisses LULAC Findings… Pesquera Defends Candidacy

All Major Parties Broke Electoral Law In 2000

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

June 25, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

The State Election Commission (SEC) audits for electoral year 2000 revealed that all the major political parties failed to comply with the Puerto Rico Electoral Law.

According to SEC President Aurelio Gracia’s reports, the PDP failed to comply with five of seven standards, the NPP failed to comply with four, and the Puerto Rican Independent Party (PIP) failed to comply with one of the parameters.

Gracia revealed the six-month audit report during a press conference held at the SEC headquarters in Hato Rey, and accompanied by De Angel & Co. owner Miguel de Angel, and firm employees Miguel and Oscar Figueroa.

Declining to describe the party’s actions as negligent, SEC Judge President Aurelio Gracia said Tuesday that the PDP and the NPP did not observe the dispositions of the law, which regulates and establishes procedures to run a political campaign, manage a political party’s administrative operations, and document advertising expenses.

When questioned by the press, Gracia refused to describe as "negligent" the parties’ violations noting that "non observance" also implies an action by omission.

Following the six-month audit process, the parties were given an opportunity to contest the allegations. After the political organizations submitted their statements, Gracia issued a final report on each party.

A visibly uncomfortable Gracia said that the PDP and then gubernatorial candidate Sila M. Calderon exceeded the $3.6 million limit on the party’s general and gubernatorial campaign expenditures by $198,414.39. According to the law, the PPD will be required to pay $396,828.78 as a penalty for the violation.

Gracia confirmed a pattern of illegal transfer between the central party account and Calderon’s campaign account. Transfers between the accounts totaled $266,147.63; transfers from Calderon’s account to the party’s totaled $109,240.67. Municipal committees transferred $96,800 to the gubernatorial candidate’s account. The biggest municipal committee contributor was ‘Comite Sila 2000 Arecibo’ which transferred $70,000.

"I will submit the findings to the Justice Department," said Garcia, who also said that the transfers violated the amount allowed to be transferred within a one-year period.

The Commonwealth’s party advocate also exceeded by $389,725.82 the legal limit for contributions made by individuals and corporations, including donations by public employees. For example (Energía Popular) "Popular Energy" donated $255,760 to the PDP. According to Gracia, the PDP objected to findings regarding the organization of PDP employees working at the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, since the group is part of the party’s organizational structure.

Gracia did not agree with the party’s position.

"Public employees and their organizations are not exempt from the financing limits established by the Electoral Law," said Gracia. "The fact that a political party acknowledges an employee organization in its ruling, and considers it as part of its structure, does not change our conclusion," Gracia stated in his report.

The audit report revealed the PDP received illegal or exceeding contributions from nearly 75 individuals and another 70 corporations, including physicians, law firms, construction, insurance and advertising companies.

In addition, the 75-page report revealed that the PDP did not state the origin of $448,205.02 in contributions of $50 or more as required.

Garcia explained that although the organization justified the contributions as collections during political events, the party did not present evidence of their exact origin as required.

Meanwhile the NPP and its defeated candidate Carlos I. Pesquera, exceeded the $3.6 million the limit by $23,116.70 and will be required to pay a $46,233.40 fine. The NPP also received $29,100 in illegal donations from 26 contributors, including individuals, and engineering construction companies.

The NPP owed $3.7 million to more than 70 creditors after the 2000 campaign.

The NPP’s 39-page report showed money transfer within Pesquera’s accounts for $6,690.33, and the party’s account transfers amounted to $76,571.39. The report "did not find deficiencies" committed by the NPP in this regard.

In addition the NPP did not report to the SEC $10,492 collected at political events.

Both parties failed to present a complete breakdown of their pending bills, and did not have appropiate internal procedures to comply with the electoral law.

The PIP, on the other hand, "complied reasonably with all auditing aspects," although it did not present a complete report of pending bills nor include in that report the expense report that must be submitted to the SEC.

Gracia urged political parties to revise their procedures to comply with the law, and said he will seek penalties for the parties’ violations.

Pesquera Supports Forbidding Sodomy In Penal Code

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

June 24, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

New Progressive Party (NPP) President and pre-gubernatorial candidate Carlos Pesquera condemned the elimination of the proposed Article 145 that in part, forbids sexual intercourse between people of the same sex.

Pesquera lambasted the Senate for eliminating the sodomy article from the proposed Penal Code.

"I condemn all the actions of those who are trying to destroy our families and lie to the people. Article 103 protects the integrity of the family as an institution and serves as a barrier to those acts that demoralize the Puerto Rican people," added Pesquera, who denied that the article represents a violation of the constitutional right to privacy.

Pesquera praised the NPP delegation at the Senate for voting against the measure that, if approved by the House of Representatives, will replace the current code enacted almost 30 years ago. The current code forbids sexual intercourse between people of the same sex through Article 103.

The controversial issue is also being considered by U.S. Supreme Court, which is evaluating the issue after a resident of Texas sued the state for entering into his residence and arresting him while he was having intercourse with another man.

In addition, Pesquera praised the role of Christian denominations for standing against "an inexperienced and unaware government."

Pesquera urged the House of Representatives and the House delegation of the Popular Democratic Party to defend "our people’s morals," and ordered the NPP delegation to lobby against the elimination of the article.

Religious Leaders To Demonstrate Against New Penal Code

June 24, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The Puerto Rico Pentecostal Fraternity (FRAPE by its Spanish acronym) said it will demonstrate Sunday, July 13, in front of the Capitol in condemnation of the Senate’s decision to make the crime of sodomy applicable to only a nonconsensual act.

FRAPE President Angel Marcial said the senators who voted in favor of the amendments to the Penal Code "were mistaken in their decision" since they did not consider their arguments of morals and health.

He also renewed threats that politicians, including Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora and Sens. Eudaldo Baez Galib, Roberto Prats, and Roberto Vigoreaux, that would be judged on this decision in the next elections, invoking the powers of democracy.

"The groups are ready to exercise their positions. This group of senators will be evaluated when the elections arrive. We cannot support those who are against what we believe. The democratic system leaves space for that," Marcial said in a press conference on the Capitol’s steps.

Baez Galib, who led the project to revise the Penal Code, said the changes made were not the result of pressure from any group but were based on constitutional rights.

The Senate approved Sunday a new Penal Code that establishes that "nontraditional" relations will be criminalized when one of the parties does not consent and imposes specific penalties for those cases.

Religious groups have said that amending the original statute, which criminalizes all nontraditional sexual relations, is "against the laws of God" and morality.

Some cited unsanitary conditions for not supporting the amendments.

Meanwhile, other groups say Article 103 of the Penal Code invades people’s right to privacy, which is guaranteed by the Constitution.

Eastern Corridor Re-Inaugurated

June 24, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Gov. Sila Calderon inaugurated Tuesday the beginning of construction of the road that will be known as the Eastern Corridor and will stretch from Carolina to Rio Grande.

Calderon said the construction, which benefits the San Juan metropolitan area and southeast towns, will cost $203 million and will generate 2,000 jobs.

"The Eastern Corridor was conceived in 1965. The past administration attempted to begin construction of the road, under the name Route 66. They did not achieve it because in their hurried attempt, they did not listen to the people’s demands, violating environmental laws, to the detriment of our precious natural resources," the governor said during the inauguration.

Former Transportation & Public Works Secretary and New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera questioned the inauguration led by Calderon.

"The only aspect of this project that has changed from its original concept of the NPP administration is the name," Pesquera said.

He said the road’s cost and inconvenience to the people are incalculable.

"They have been in the administration for two years, and now they are starting one of the projects," said Pesquera, adding that what the governor has inaugurated is the same project started under the past administration, though it is much more costly.

Calderon said the Eastern Corridor is part of a major plan throughout the island that entails a public investment of $7.9 billion during this four-year term.

"It pleases me to tell you today [Tuesday] that we are moving forward on a well-planned project, one in which all the environmental aspects involved have been carefully considered, securing a rigorous environmental mitigation," she said.

Calderon explained that for the construction to move quicker, the project will be undertaken in two parts involving nine contracts, two of which have already been granted at a combined value of $45.2 million.

The first part requires a total investment of $123 million, officials said.

The initial stretch is from Barrio Trujillo Bajo in Carolina to Rio Canovanillas in Canovanas, with a length of 8.72 miles. This section is scheduled to open to traffic in September 2004.

The second section, which has an approximate cost of $80 million, stretches 5.09 miles from Canovanas to Rio Grande. Its construction will begin in 2005.

Osvaldo Rios Could Face New Charges

By Manuel Ernesto Rivera of Associated Press

June 24, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

CAROLINA – Although Osvaldo Rios trusts his career will not be affected by his Monday night conviction for violating the domestic violence law, the actor could face additional charges.

That possibility was revealed Monday night by prosecutor Ernie Caban, who led the case against Rios based on the complaint filed by Daisy Anette Santiago, the actor’s former girlfriend.

"A new charged is not ruled out because there is a clear perjury case," Caban said referring to the defendant’s testimony that he was in fact in Colombia from May 16-19, 1996, when Santiago was beaten.

The prosecutor said he has already referred Rios’ testimony to his superior, Carolina District Attorney Rufo Gonzalez, who will decide whether to file charges.

Upon exiting the court house Monday night, Rios had few comments to the press, though he said he still believes in God and that his career will prevail.

"My dignity and my career will never be taken from me," Rios said to which time a bystander yelled "let’s finish with the abusers."

Nine of the 12 member jury found Rios guilty of beating Santiago.

Sentencing was scheduled for Sept. 19. The actor faces a maximum prison sentence of 18 months and a minimum of nine months. However, since Rios has no prior criminal record, he could be sentenced instead to psychological treatment.

In her closing arguments, defense attorney Lourdes Guzman reminded the jury that Rios was charged with one count that the prosecution failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

Guzman added a guilty verdict could have a terrible effect on the actor’s career and tried to convince the jury that Santiago’s real intentions was to get money from the actor.

Santiago has filed a civil lawsuit against the actor in which she seeks $1 million in damages.

FCC Approves Sale Of WKAQ And Other Radio Stations

June 24, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved the sale of El Mundo Broadcasting Corp. and its radio stations to Hispanic Broadcasting Corp. (HBC), the largest Hispanic radio company in the United States.

Huberto Biaggi, general manager of El Mundo Broadcasting, said the federal agency gave the transaction totaling $32 million the green light on May 30.

The agreement includes the purchase of WKAQ-AM, WKAQ-FM, WUKQ-FM, and WUKQ-AM, according to published reports.

Spain's Gas Natural Moves Into Puerto Rico

June 23, 2003
Copyright © 2003
REUTERS LIMITED. All rights reserved. 

MADRID - Spain's Gas Natural announced a move into the Puerto Rican power market on Monday with a deal to buy 50 percent of a combined cycle gas plant and a regasification plant from Enron for $130 million.

The Ecoelectrica plant - in which Edison International unit Edison Mission Energy has a 50 percent stake - accounts for around 20 percent of Puerto Rico's electricity production, Gas Natural said in a statement.

Gas Natural said it began a study of the Enron plants a year ago as part of a sale of the bankrupt energy trader's assets.

Ecoelectrica comprises a 540-megawatt combined cycle plant and a regasification plant with a capacity of 115,000 cubic metres in the south of Puerto Rico.

"In energy forecasts, natural gas could come to represent more than 40 percent of the fuel used to generate electricity over the next 10 years, in order to fulfil the government's energy objectives," Gas Natural said.

Gas Natural said the deal was an important step in its policy of overseas expansion, which has already seen it achieve more than four million clients in Latin America.

Senate Approved Penal Code; Eliminates Sodomy Article

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

June 23, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

In the early hours of Monday morning, the Senate approved a new Penal Code which, among other aspects, eliminated Article 145 that penalizes sexual relations between people of the same sex or heterosexual relations other than vaginal intercourse.

The bill was approved with 16 senators favoring the measure and 12 voting against it.

The measure, if approved by the House of Representatives, will replace the current Penal Code of Puerto Rico, enacted in 1974..

One of the most controversial issues during the process of analysis carried out by the Judiciary Committee in the Senate was the elimination of the Sodomy Article that penalizes sexual intercourse between people of the same sex. The current code forbids the practice under Article 103.

The homosexual community and civil rights organizations lobbied for the amendment of the article to punish the action only when it is not consensual, while religious and civic groups advocated for a permanent restriction.

As part of the discussion, President of the Senate Antonio J. Fas Alzamora said that it is important to limit the role of the church. "I recognize the contributions of the various religious denominations, but the fact that one dissents does not mean we are against them," said Fas Alzamora during the debate.

Rossello: Findings About LULAC Not Important

June 23, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Former governor Pedro Rossello said the irregularities found last week by the Federal Education Department regarding the diversion of funds from the local Education Department to the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) are mere administrative findings that "lack major importance."

"I believe that if you look at this in a fair perspective you will see that all findings are of an administrative nature, lack major importance and the queries were answered by the Education Department," Rossello said Sunday.

A report by the General Inspectors Office (GIO) ruled as irregular a $20,355 tab to pay for 69 employees of the Education Department to participate in the 1995 LULAC national convention.

The funds used to pay for the trip were part of the Federal Education Department’s Title VI program, and the GIO found that the convention failed to meet the purposes of the program.

Pesquera: His Candidacy Does Not Represent Special Interests Groups

June 23, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - Carlos Ignacio Pesquera stated on Monday that his candidacy does not represent the interests of special groups, and said that former Gov. Pedro Rosselló has not changed his style of work.

He also denied that the fact that he is a gubernatorial candidate does not cause divisions in the New Progressive Party (NPP) because Rosselló is the challenger in this battle.

"The one creating a division is the one who challenges -- I was a candidate", Pesquera said during a radio interview in San Juan.

Though questioned several times, Pesquera refused to state that he was referring to former Gov. Rosselló, who challenges his aspirations to become the gubernatorial candidate for the New Progressive Party.

He, also as president of the NPP, noted that in order to win the next general elections, the candidate picked by the NPP to run for that political group, must obtain not only the votes of the NPP but those of the incensed ‘Populares’ and the fluctuating votes.

On the other hand, Reps. Albita Rivera and Melinda Romero criticized Pesquera’s wife, Irasema, for lashing out at Rosselló for abandoning the assembly held by the NPP this Sunday.

Romero said it was the first time he saw someone who wants to occupy a position more than the candidate himself.

"She is a person obsessed with becoming the First Lady", said Romero backed up by Rivera.

Rep. Rivera, on the other hand, said that it was the first time in 25 years in active politics that he has observed someone wanting so badly to become First Lady.

Meanwhile, Pesquera, said he is the best alternative for the NPP for the next general elections because he has no commitments to any group, and the people that support him are not expecting any government jobs.

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