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House OK’s Judicial Reform…Locals Lose One…Martin To Run For SJ Mayor…Evangelists Protest Abolition Of Sodomy Law…Governor Signs Middle Class Tax Relief Law, Gives $25m To UPR…Pesquera Wants Primary Observers…Rodriguez Highlights Achievements…Island To Get $20.5m In Tobacco Agreement…Orlando College To Offer Bilingual Classes

House Approves Judicial Reform

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

SAN JUAN (AP) — The House of Representatives finally approved in the early hours of Monday the controversial Judiciary Reform bill that had been hung in the past ordinary session.

The bill passed with the minimum of required votes requiered;27, including the votes of Rep. Luis Raul Torres and brothers Severo and Jorge Colberg Toro, the same ones who had refused to approve the bill in the past ordinary session.

The trio endorsed the bill this time on condition that come August syndication for Judiciary Branch employees will be evaluated by August.

Popular Democratic Party (PPD) majority leader Roberto "Junior" Maldonado noted the minorities voted against the bill.

Locals Lose One

By Sharon Robb

July 13, 2003
Copyright © 2003
South Florida Sun-Sentinel. All rights reserved. 

FORT LAUDERDALE · Grenmarie Justiniano of Hollywood nearly missed her national debut because of a train Saturday night at the USA Boxing Women's National Championships.

The Hollywood Hills freshman from Puerto Rico and her trainer Benny Collins rushed into the Grand Ballroom at the Marina Marriott just minutes before she was scheduled to box for a gold medal in the 114-pound junior division.

Still flushed and out of breath, Justiniano (0-1) was no match for the more-experienced Vanessa Juarez of Fort Worth, Texas. Her combination punches and straight rights to the head stunned Justiniano early. Two standing eight counts in the same round ended the fight early in the first round.

"I was really nervous," said Justianiano, fighting back tears. "I can take a hit, I can take punches. I spar our women pros and all the guys but she hit hard. I want to come back."

Said Collins, "We were just looking for the experience."

Because there were only two boxers in the weight class, Justiniano walked away with a silver medal hanging around her neck. Still, she was visibly upset and had to be comforted by her cornermen and former IBF and WBO champion Michael Moorer from Warrior's Boxing Gym, where she has been training for the past nine months.

"I'm crying because everyone came to see me, and I let them down," Justiniano said. "The whole week was a big mess. My paperwork was late and then lost. We had to refax my papers. I had to make weight and lose four pounds. I didn't know until two days ago I was competing. Then the train. We were really late. I was so nervous I was going to miss the whole thing."

Fernando Martin To Run For San Juan Mayor

By Manuel Ernesto Rivera of Associated Press

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

SAN JUAN - Just as it had been expected, on Sunday Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) Sen. Fernando Martin was chosen as the party's candidate for San Juan mayor.

During a party assembly that gathered more than 500 PIP sympathizers, environmentalist Jorge Fernandez Porto and attorney Jessica Martinez were chosen as the senatorial candidates for the San Juan district.

"It was a very enthusiastic, very exciting, and well-attended assembly. In the next eight to 10 days I will call a press conference to announce the candidates for the municipal assembly," Martin said.

"The time has come to offer sanjuaneros an alternative of hope," Martin added.

The PIP senator said his candidacy represents a real option for San Juan residents who are discontent with the capital's current state of deterioration.

Many Evangelists Protest Abolition Of Sodomy Law

By Frank Griffiths of Associated Press Writer

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

SAN JUAN (AP) - Tens of thousands of Protestant evangelists skipped church services Sunday to crusade against Puerto Rico's elimination of a sodomy law. Top legislators want a Puerto Rican law banning gay sex or "unnatural sex" between heterosexuals taken off the books to comply with a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling but church leaders want the law to remain.

"The Senate offended the church and that's why we're here," said Angel Marcial, president of the Pentecostal Brotherhood, one of the main organizers of the event. "We're also here to affirm the morals of the family."

The Supreme Court's 6-3 decision last month struck down a Texas law that made homosexual sex a crime. Before the ruling, Puerto Rico's Senate approved a revision that would decriminalize sodomy. It has yet to go to the House.

Puerto Rico's Article 103, which dates back to 1902, carries a maximum 12-year prison sentence for "any person who has sexual relations with a person of the same sex or commits a crime against nature." Although no one has ever been prosecuted under the law, many interpret unnatural acts to include oral or anal sex, which don't lead to procreation.

Of the 13 mainland states with sodomy laws, four - Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri - prohibit oral and anal sex between same-sex couples. The other nine ban sodomy for everyone: Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia.

"We don't want sodomy for our people," said Rev. Stephen Rios, 46, of Catano, on a slippery stage near the Capitol's front steps. "We want Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve."

Many signs in the crowd criticized the Supreme Court's ruling, including one that said "The Supreme Court of the heavens says no to sin." Other signs said "Say no to immorality and to sodomy."

The president of the New Progressive Party, Carlos Pesquera, said if elected governor in 2004 elections, he would see that the sodomy provision remains on the books. The party supports making Puerto Rico the 51st U.S. state.

"I'm showing my support for this movement," said Pesquera, holding his wife's hand. As long as the sodomy provision does not conflict with the Supreme Court ruling, Pesquera said he wants to keep it in place.

Governor To Sign Law Of Tax Relief For Middle Class

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

SAN JUAN (AP) — Gov. Sila Calderon announced Saturday that she will sign this weekend a law to grant tax relief to people who have annual income between $10,000 and $75,000, considered to be the island’s middle class.

The governor said in her Saturday radio message that 70% of the population forms part of the middle class.

"This law that I will sign economically relieves the Puerto Ricans of middle class because now they will pay less taxes. This savings will leave $700 million in their pockets in the next five years," Calderon said.

The governor had previously said that the Puerto Rican middle class carries "the greatest weight in paying taxes."

In her radio message, she said the tax benefits will allow this group "to invest, acquire goods and services, buy products of the island, and open or increase savings accounts."

Among other measures, Calderon proposed increasing tenfold the deduction of a marriage when both work from $300 to $3,000 and increasing by 50% the deduction for child care when both parents work from $800 to $1,200 for one child and from $1,600 to $2,400 when there are two or more children.

She also proposed a deduction of $500 for the purchase of a computer for families with children.

She also recommended the implementation of three new tax reliefs: a increase in the exemption for non-university, disabled, blind, or elderly dependents from $1,300 to $1,600; an increase in the fixed deduction of 5% for all taxpayers; and a tax credit of $50 to $250 for those who file a short income tax form.

Governor Gives $25 Million More To UPR

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

SAN JUAN (AP) — Gov. Sila Calderon signed Saturday an executive order to assign $25 million to the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), which restores the funds that the past administration removed from the institution.

Calderon reminded in a press release that her administration has already assigned this year $15 million from the lottery collection, which adds to the $25 million.

"This administration understands that it is necessary to refocus the public policy and the economic resources to insure that the UPR can continue to provide an education of excellence to our young people and adults," the governor said.

Calderon indicated that on July 1, 1999, former Gov. Pedro Rossello decreased the budget assigned to the UPR by $40 million.

Pesquera Working To Have Observers In Primary

By Luis R. Varela of Associated Press

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

PONCE — New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera’s campaign for gubernatorial candidacy is concentrating on forming its group of delegates and observers for the primary in November, his wife, Irasema Rivera, said Saturday.

"To get to the governorship, we have to win the primary campaign, and I can state that we are working very hard in our electoral team," Rivera said in a radio interview. "We could be campaigning 24 hours a day until Nov. 9, but if we don’t have that electoral team and observers in the electoral colleges defending our votes, we lose everything."

Pesquera is being challenged in a primary for the NPP gubernatorial candidate by former Gov. Pedro Rossello, who is supported by most of the party’s leaders.

Rivera said her husband has still not insured the delegates in each college, but she said she was confident in finding them because there are still four more months before the primary.

Pesquera’s wife said they are also working on transporting voters to the colleges.

"We are preparing to win the primary because in the end, every vote is the same. It doesn’t matter if you are a mayor, a municipal employee, or a common citizen," she said.

Rivera said before November, Pesquera will convince the mayors who don’t support him as the only candidate who could win the 2004 general elections.

"From now to Nov. 9, we will have many mayors with us. What is important now is to work the base and the people," she said.

Rivera also reiterated that her husband will not withdraw his aspirations but maintains firm in his decision to participate in a primary with Rossello.

Justice Secretary Highlights Her Achievements

By Luis R. Varela of Associated Press

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

PONCE — The dismantling of mafia gangs and the filing of criminal accusations against people who incurred in acts of government corruption were marked Saturday by Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez as her main achievements in the 31 months of Gov. Sila Calderon’s administration.

"I have no doubt that in these two and a half years of my work in the government we have directly attacked government corruption, and since our arrival, we have noticed that it had covered the government," Rodriguez said.

As part of this battle against corruption, Rodriguez said she was pleased for disrupting several bands that included the participation of municipal police.

She also emphasized that a network that operated from the Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport as a base for drug sales and trafficking was dismantled two months ago.

The Justice secretary also emphasized that in the two years and a half of the Calderon government, 37 cases have been referred to the Special Independent Prosecutor Panel, while in the past four-year term of former Gov. Pedro Rossello, 32 referrals were made.

Rodriguez said the corruption in the past administration was disgraceful and that the impression existed that if the agency chief could rob, the subordinated could do the same.

"I have no doubt that today, the Puerto Rico government is much cleaner than how we received it in January 2001," she said.

Island To Receive $20.5 Million In Tobacco Agreement

July 11, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez announced that Puerto Rico was able to recuperate $20.5 million in funds from an agreement in the lawsuit against the tobacco companies.

Rodriguez indicated that the money had been initially denied to the island because former Gov. Pedro Rossello’s administration breached a stipulation of the original agreement.

According to the official, Puerto Rico lost the opportunity to receive $47 million because the past administration did not approve a model law that was required under the agreement before the June 30, 2000, deadline.

"Due to this inexcusable omission, the Puerto Rico government lost the opportunity to receive this money, but after innumerable steps and efforts. . .we have finally been able to recuperate a considerable portion of the funds that were denied to us because of the past administration’s negligence," she said in a press release.

The $20.5 million comes from a fund of over $160 million that will be distributed among the states involved in the multi-state lawsuit.

This fund, in which the tobacco companies that participated in the transaction were to deposit their contributions before June 30, 2002, is the product of an agreement between the manufacturers of cigarettes and the tobacco committee of the National Association of Justice Secretaries of the United States, the press release said.

Rodriguez explained that the $20.5 million will be assigned to the Children’s Trusteeship, an entity created by law to administer the funds and encourage non-profit organizations to develop programs to benefit Puerto Rican children.

Orlando College To Offer Bilingual Classes In September

From Orlando Sentinel staff reports

July 11, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ORLANDO SENTINEL. All rights reserved. 

A new college branch that offers bilingual education to adults will open in Orlando this fall, officials announced Wednesday.

The Ana G. Mendez University System will start offering four-year and master's degree program classes in September, said the branch's Executive Director Louis Zayas.

The private school plans eventually to accept applications from recent high school graduates, but it will restrict its initial classes to adults with previous college or trade-school experience.

The Ana G. Mendez University System currently has more than 28,000 students in Puerto Rico. The key component of its Orlando branch is that classes will be offered in Spanish and English, Zayas said.

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