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Fortuño Files For Resident Commissioner, Gets Ferre’s Endorsement…RR Tourism Promoted…Statehooders Commemorate Barbosa's Birthday…PIP Ratifies Berrios As Its Gubernatorial Candidate…Gov’t Funds $1.6m For P.R. 2025…Rossello’s RR Megaport Opposed…Basques Seek P.R. Style Self-Rule…Calderon Renews Call For Status Assembly…Soldier Dies In Iraqi Accident

Fortuño Files For Resident Commissioner

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

July 28, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Luis G. Fortuño

Accompanied by several New Progressive Party (NPP) leaders, attorney Luis G. Fortuño filed Monday his candidacy for resident commissioner for the 2004 general elections.

In a packed press conference held at a restaurant in Hato Rey, Fortuño said he and Pedro Rossello will "rescue Puerto Rico [from the Popular Democratic Party’s poor administration] and put it back on the right path."

During his speech, Fortuño lambasted resident commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila’s performance in Congress, saying that the federal delegate does not live in Washington, D.C. but on the island, which hinders the performance his on the mainland.

"The first thing I will do, once I win, is move to Washington D.C., where I met my wife," said Fortuño, provoking laughter from the crowd.

The secretary of Economic Development & Commerce during Rossello’s first gubernatorial term said his dedication and commitment to the NPP for over 25 years makes him the ideal candidate for the NPP ballot in 2004.

Fortuño promised to seek better alternatives for the people of Puerto Rico and to work incessantly for statehood.

He also linked current social and economic conditions of Puerto Rico in terms of medical services, high incidence of crime, poor economic performance, and quality of life to the status issue, and rejected Gov. Sila Calderon’s the constitutional assembly proposal to solve the island’s status issue.

"I, along with Pedro Rossello, will rescue Puerto Rico from those who claim permanent union with the U.S, but have free association [as a political formula] in their minds. We will rescue the island from those who speak of Puerto Rican fraternity and have hate and political intolerance against others in their hearts. We will rescue Puerto Rico from those who praise themselves as Puerto Rican advocates, but do not hesitate in damaging the reputation of all Puerto Ricans in Washington, D.C.," he added.

The attorney—who has been affiliate with the NPP since he was 16, and founded an organization of pro statehood students while studying at Georgetown University—predicted that the 2004 electoral term will be "the term for decolonization."

He added that there is discomfort in the federal capital because of the separatist actions taken by the Calderon administration.

"In the past few years, we have seen the relationship between Puerto Rico and the U.S. deteriorate it’s; getting to a point of no return, and we are in danger. In that sense, we have seen job creation, infrastructure development, and basic services deteriorate significantly," said Fortuño in a separate interview with WOW News.

He blamed Calderon for the poor perception Puerto Rico has on the mainland, and supported his argument by recalling her actions regarding the agreement between the jurisdictions on the matter of Vieques.

"I want to be a congressman for all the people of Puerto Rico. Working together, we would achieve equal political rights as U.S. citizens, and, with statehood, Puerto Ricans will lead the Hispanic movement on the mainland, because I know that when we want to, Puerto Ricans do it better!" said Fortuño, quoting the tourism advertising slogan adopted by his administration when he served as executive director of the Tourism Co. from 1993 to 1996.

During the event, Fortuño received personal endorsements from many NPP leaders, including Sen. Kenneth McClintock, Sen. Norma Burgos, Rep. Anibal Vega Borges, and Aguadilla’s mayor and chairman of the NPP Mayors Association, Cesar Mendez.

However lawmakers made it clear that their respective caucuses have not made any formal endorsement of Fortuño,

Fortuño said he delayed announcing his political aspirations because his family is top priority and he wanted their total support before seeking a position which would require him to move to the mainland.

He also denied rumors that he was not willing to seek the federal candidacy because he didn’t wish to run in a primary, and said he does not have the support of Rossello because the pre-gubernatorial candidate has adopted a neutral posture toward the four aspirants for the federal seat.

Fortuño will now challenge Sen. Myriam Ramirez de Ferrer, former Sen. Charlie Rodriguez, and former governor and resident commissioner Carlos Romero Barcelo in the primary.

The attorney has been married to Luce Vela for 19 years, and is the father of three children.

Ferre Endorses Fortuño As Resident Commissioner Candidate

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

July 28, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

The founder of the New Progressive Party (NPP), former Gov. Luis A. Ferre on Monday endorsed Luis G. Fortuño, National Committeeman of the Republican Party (GOP) on the island, for the resident commissioner post in the general elections of 2004.

Ferre, who was expected at the announcing ceremony Fortuño held in a Hato Rey restaurant to announce his candidacy, did not attend due to his medical condition, but his wife Tiody reaffirmed Ferre’s support of Fortuño on his behalf.

Ferre sent a letter in which he praised the statehood attorney, and said that in the next elections, the people of Puerto Rico will vote to choose (Fortuño) as their congressman.

"No one understands better than you, my principles to found the NPP; no one knows better than you the philosophy of the Republican Party; no one has expressed the aspirations of our people to those who make the decisions in Washington better than you; and no one else will better translate those wishes into legislative action," wrote Ferre.

During the event in which Fortuño, 42, committed to search for better economic, health and education alternatives for Puerto Ricans, he received personal endorsements from many NPP leaders, including Pedro Rossello’s campaign director Juan A. Melecio, senators Norma Burgos, Pablo Lafontaine, Kenneth McClintock, and representatives Anibal Vega Borges, Antonio Silva, and Jose Aponte. In addition, Aguadilla’s mayor and NPP Mayors Association President Cesar Mendez endorsed Fortuño.

However, Tiody Ferre could not say if her husband has changed his opinion about the gubernatorial race, in which he favors the NPP president, Carlos Pesquera.

"He has not said anything (about the candidacy for governor), and we have not talked about that," she said.

A few weeks ago, Ferre publicly endorsed NPP president Carlos Pesquera in the gubernatorial race.

When asked if he would share the NPP’s ballot in 2004 with Pesquera if the NPP president wins the gubernatorial primary, Fortuño said he has a good relationship with Pesquera, but made clear that he was one of the first people to encourage Rossello to return to the political arena, and ruled out any hypothetical scenario which might exclude the former governor.

"Since the campaign of Dr. Rossello for resident commissioner in 1988, we have developed a personal, professional and political relationship. We have worked together many times," said Fortuño, who is also member of Rossello’s political workgroup.

During the event, Fortuño endorsed Rossello on his political aspiration to serve a third non-consecutive term as governor, but made clear that Rossello won’t interfere in the race for resident commissioner. Fortuño also said that he is willing to run under equal conditions with other aspirants.

Fortuño will compete against Sen. Myriam Ramirez de Ferrer, former Sen. Charlie Rodriguez, and former governor and resident commissioner Carlos Romero Barcelo for the Congressional post in the party’s primaries, scheduled for Nov. 9.

Ceiba Mayor Promotes Tourist Facilities In Roosevelt Roads

July 28, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The mayor of Ceiba proposed the development of a tourist complex in the facilities of the Roosevelt Roads Naval Base, which could include one or several amusement parks of Disney.

"What I visualize for Roosevelt Roads is a tourist development, and I don’t consider it adequate to promote industrial development," Mayor Gerardo Cruz said in published reports.

This contrasts with former Gov. Pedro Rossello’s proposal to create a transshipment port there.

"One cannot do much with that land if it is not to develop it for recreational use, and it would be fantastic if Disney could use the area as an aquarium," the mayor said.

Statehooders Commemorate Barbosa's Birthday

By Istra Pacheco of Associated Press

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

SAN JUAN - Nearly 500 pro-statehood demonstrators carrying U.S. flags were led by former Gov. Pedro Rossello to commemorate the 146th birthday of Jose Celso Barbosa at the Old San Juan cemetery on Sunday.

Rossello, together with event organizer New Progressive Party (NPP) Sen. Orlando Parga and NPP San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini placed floral arrangements on the tomb of the father of the pro-statehood movement in Puerto Rico.

The former governor used the opportunity to reject Gov. Sila Calderon's idea to solve the status issue of the island through an assembly.

Rossello argued that the proposed mechanism denies the people's right to vote and has little chances of achieving a consensus.

"If you have statehooders, pro-status quo, and pro-independence followers in an assembly, what kind of agreement could they possibly achieve?," Rossello said.

During the commemorative acts, the former governor gave a brief speech to honor Barbosa's memory.

Former Tourism Co. Executive Director Luis Fortuño--who is expected to announce his aspiration for resident commissioner on Monday--also participated in the event.

PIP Ratifies Berrios As Its Gubernatorial Candidate

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

GUAYAMA (AP) - The Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) ratified the nomination of its president Ruben Berrios for gubernatorial candidate in the next general elections of 2004 during a general assembly on Sunday.

Nearly 1,500 delegates and another 1,540 substitutes unanimously ratified Berrios' nomination. They also confirmed economist Edwin Irizarry Mora as resident commissioner candidate.

PIP Rep. Victor Garcia San Inocencio will run for representative at-large and PIP Vice President Maria de Lourdes Santiago will run for senator at-large.

"Today my party has given me the task of running for the Puerto Rico Senate and I accept that task with great pride," said Santiago, the first woman to ever run for PIP senator.

Government Distributes $1.6 Million For Puerto Rico 2025

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – The central government informed Saturday the distribution at the beginning of this month of $1.6 million for the so-called project Puerto Rico 2025, which is in the hands of prominent figures, mostly from the private industry.

The money, from the Budget Fund, will be channeled through the Industrial Development Co. for the development of the Puerto Rico 2025 proposal, one of the government promises of Gov. Sila Calderon, La Fortaleza said in a press release.

The disbursement of $250,000 was also authorized through an executive order for the Government Development Bank to cover unforeseen expenses of the Puerto Rico Art Museum.

La Fortaleza Press Secretary Luis Torres Negron said Saturday that the executive order that authorized the disbursement for Puerto Rico 2025 was undersigned by the secretary of State in his function as interim governor, Ferdinand Mercado, at the beginning of July.

This order formalized the Puerto Rico 2025 project and created a commission to conduct the necessary studies to fix a public policy on future development and advances of medium and long term, officials said.

The commission is headed by Banco Popular President Richard Carrion and has among its members 23 personalities of the business and academic fields, as well as economists, who have the mission of planning the social and economic development of the island.

However, community leaders have asked the government to integrate into the group representatives of straggling communities so that they can have a more complete picture of the island’s real situation.

Haydee Colon Cardona, leader of the Citizens for the Conservation of Caimito, among others, has expressed that she is worried about the absence of planners and community leaders from the project.

Zayas Seijo Rejects Megaport In Roosevelt Roads

By Jose Rivera Renta of Associated Press

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

PONCE – Popular Democratic Party Rep. Francisco Zayas Seijo rejected Saturday the proposal of former Gov. Pedro Rossello, who is running for another term, of moving the projected transshipment port from Ponce to the Roosevelt Roads Naval Base in Ceiba.

"We vehemently defend the development of the transshipment port in Ponce and the south zone, which could begin operating in the next two years," Zayas Seijo said in a radio interview. "This is another deception of Rossello to win the elections."

Rossello proposed that the megaport and all the associated economic activities be built in the land of the naval base in Ceiba if the Pentagon orders the closure of the base.

In exchange, he said the south zone, where the government projected the construction of the megaport, be used as a regional pier.

Zayas Seijo said the proposal "is typical of Rossello, who was strangulating Ponce in the eight years he was governor."

He was referring to the halting of the Ponce en Marcha plan, which culminated in a lawsuit that went to the Supreme Court.

"Even then, he did not comply with the court’s order," the legislator said in reminding that the high court ordered the central government to continue to promised project.

Zayas Seijo said "the record [of Rossello] against the south is known by all."

According to the representative, the process of approving the permits to build the megaport in Ceiba would take three years and require refilling the sea to create space for the containers.

He also said the depth of the military port is 39 feet, as opposed to the port in Ponce, which has 42 feet and will rise to 50 feet once the federal agencies approve its dredging.

PP And Socialists Side Against Basque Self-Rule Proposal

By A. E.

July 26, 2003
Copyright © 2003
EL PAIS, SL/IHT. All rights reserved. 

A day after calling for a united front against the Basque regional premier's plan, which set its sights on turning the Basque Country into what in effect would be a quasi-independent state, Deputy Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy confirmed Friday that "high level" talks are taking place between his Popular Party and the opposition Socialists.

Socialist representatives, including party leader Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, meanwhile said they would support the PP in defending the "territorial integrity of Spain" against a plan that is "unconstitutional" and "absurd."

The plan, made public in its entirety Wednesday by Basque Premier Juan Jose Ibarretxe, seeks to grant the Basque Country "free association" status with Spain, similar to that of Quebec in Canada or the US protectorate of Puerto Rico. It would put almost exclusive power in the hands of the Basque premier over internal matters, while granting the region an independent voice in some areas of foreign policy. Presented in the guise of a reform of the Basque autonomy statute that was signed in Guernica in 1979, the plan would nonetheless entail sweeping reforms of the Spanish Constitution.

"Ibarretxe is playing an irresponsible game with the coexistence and the rights of the Basque population," Rajoy declared yesterday. "I am convinced that the entirety of the Socialist party shares that opinion."

Both the PP and the Socialist PSOE have said they will do everything in their power to prevent Ibarretxe's plan from progressing, and therefore have effectively ensured that the proposal is stillborn.

Nonetheless, the plan is a lingering concern for both parties as Ibarretxe prepares to put it to referendum, possibly before the end of this year.

"The only plan Ibarretxe should have is to end the terrorism of ETA," Zapatero said, stressing that the Socialist party "does not support, rejects and will combat" the proposal.

Calderon Calls For Resumption Of Status Issue Discussion

By Sandra Ivelisse Villerrael of Associated Press

July 25, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

CAROLINA - While rejecting that Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, on Friday Gov. Sila Calderon proposed to begin a process aimed at creating an assembly to deal with the status issue of the island.

Calderon announced the proposal during the commemorative acts of the Puerto Rico's Commonwealth Constitution Day, less than a month after declaring Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila as the next gubernatorial candidate and president of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP).

Although the end of her term in office is still more than a year away, Calderon recommended that her proposal be applied in the next four-year term.

For the governor, the negotiations regarding the status issue should acknowledge that the people of Puerto Rico and the United States have equal rights and dignity.

She said the notion that Puerto Rico is a territory should be rejected and stated that it was the U.S. government itself who told the United Nations that Puerto Rico had ceased being a territory in 1952.

Acevedo Vila immediately welcomed Calderon’s proposal. However, he didn’t say much about how to develop it.

Puerto Rican Soldier Dies In Accident In Iraq

July 25, 2003
Copyright © 2003
Associated Press Newswires. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - A Puerto Rican soldier died in an accident while changing a tire on a military truck in Iraq, officials said Friday.

Army Sgt. Juan Serrano was changing the tire Thursday when the truck fell, striking his head, according to Jose Pagan, a spokesman for Fort Buchanan in suburban San Juan. He died two hours later in a hospital.

Serrano, a San Juan native who had been posted in Germany, was an outstanding soldier in Iraq, Pagan said.

Serrano will be buried in the U.S. Caribbean territory, but it was unknown when his remains would arrive.

Four other Puerto Ricans have been killed during U.S. military operations in Iraq.

Though islanders serve in the U.S. military, they cannot vote for president and have no vote in Congress.

The military has deployed more than 5,400 Puerto Ricans in its campaigns abroad - the largest deployment from the U.S. Caribbean territory of 4 million since the Korean War.

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