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Rossello Unveils Universal Health Insurance Plan, Commits To Status Resolution…‘Chicos cantando y desnudos’ Must Go On!…Catholic’s Campaign Against Gay Marriages… Ricky Shanghai's "Friendship Envoy"…Xmas Bonus Increased…Rodriguez’s Fed. Enterprise Zone Boosted…Rossello, Berrios To Meet On Status…Bhatia’s Candidacy Contested…Island Edges U.S. 86 – 85

Rossello Proposes Universal Health Insurance For Puerto Rico

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

August 5, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

New Progressive Party pre-gubernatorial candidate Pedro Rossello unveiled Tuesday a new health plan, which would be mandatory for all Puerto Ricans and based on the health reform he established while governor.

On the premise that health is a human right, Rossello outlined a plan, which would include entrepreneurs and small businesses and redefine the duties of the Health Department.

The statehood leader explained that his proposal would continue the privatization of medical facilities, though there will be areas in which the government will have to offer the services directly.

"There are exceptions, there are some isolated communities that might not generate sufficient demand to support some services. In that case, the government must provide them. In the same manner, there are some medical procedures that hospitals won’t provide for economic reasons, and the government has to intervene," said Rossello, who explained that this is the reason behind the creation of a medical center with supra tertiary services.

He acknowledged that government must reach an agreement through medical insurance companies with health providers so that the capitation of physicians won’t be reduced when they refer their patients to another specialist.

That was the main objection of health providers who participated in the Health Reform during the 1990s and then withdrew from the system due to cost-effective reasons. Many providers also went bankrupt because there were too many patients using the system and inordinate delays in receiving payment from the insurance companies.

Rossello, who was accompanied by politicians and physicians, including former Health Secretary Carmen Feliciano, added that private companies that join the government’s health plan would benefit from lower rates because of the high volume of beneficiaries.

Entrepreneurs who enroll their employees in the government’s plan might receive tax incentives or might pay a fixed fee, like Medicare, to the government for their employees’ insurance. They could also remain with their private medical insurer.

Unions might negotiate with employers under the formulas established by the government.

Rossello said the initiative would also be applicable to small businesses, which might find providing health insurance to employees expensive, and to self-employed individuals.

Beneficiaries will be evaluated using the parameter of 200% under or above the federal poverty level, established by his administration in 1994.

Patients 65 years and older would continue receiving Medicare services provided by the federal government and could receive other services through Medicare Plus or Medigap.

According to the former governor, Health Reform beneficiaries are more satisfied with the services provided under the reform, than with those offered under the old public system, in which the government provided all health services.

In 2000, 47% of the Puerto Rican population received services from the Health Reform, while 40% had private medical insurance, 12% had Medicare, and only 1% was not insured.

Rossello’s proposal changes the Health Department’s role, refocusing its responsibilities through the formulation of public health policy, preventive medicine, the regulation of medical facilities and health providers, and the negotiation of medical premiums.

Although the former governor did not provide the cost of his proposal, he said the government would be able to finance the health program as it has in the past.

He also lambasted Gov. Sila Calderon for making adverse changes to the reform, calling it a whim to cut $300 million from the Health Reform’s budget and eliminating 241,000 beneficiaries.

He added that the proposal is for a uniquely Puerto Rican health system and models from Canada, Cuba, England, Germany, or Japan do not suit the reality of Puerto Rico.

Rossello Commits To Resolving Island’s Status

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

August 5, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Former Gov. Pedro Rossello refused to respond to comments by Popular Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial candidate Anibal Acevedo Vila about the island’s political status but insisted that the time has come to resolve the situation.

Rossello said a common ground must be found on the island’s status.

Last week, during the announcement of his candidacy, Acevedo Vila said Rossello was planning another Young Bill to resolve the island’ status.

The Young Bill was proposed by Alaska Rep. Don Young in 1999 to solve the island’s status.

"There are other opinions in the PDP and a more constructive vision of the current status, which shows that the island’s political status does not serve Puerto Rico well," said Rossello, who listed former Gov. Rafael Hernandez Colon and the late Supreme Court Judge Jose Trias Monge.

According to Rossello, both leaders have said the Commonwealth has a democracy deficit and acknowledged the colonial condition of the island.

"For me, those (statements) represent the true way of thinking of Commonwealth advocates, and not superficial expressions," added Rossello.

The statehood leader said he agrees with Acevedo Vila that the status issue must be put into the hands of the people, and again refused a constitutional assembly because it is a non-exit road since statehooders, commonwealth leaders, and pro-independence advocates wouldn’t be able to reach a consensus.

Musical ‘Chicos cantando y desnudos’ On At The Tapia

August 5, 2003
Copyright © 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Superior Judge Carlos Davila ordered the Tapia Theater on Tuesday to present the musical "Chicos cantando y desnudos" [Naked Guys Singing], which the theater’s board of directors canceled last week.

The musical’s producer, Gil Rene, said the show will finally be presented Friday and that "the public can now evaluate whether what we do is art."

The judge’s decision was made in response to a request by the producers of the musical to dismiss the ban.

Meanwhile, San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini said in a radio interview that he would not appeal the decision because that would fall to the Tapia Board of Directors.

"I believe and trust in the boards to which I delegate functions," he said.

Francisco Gallardo, president of the Tapia Board of Directors, said he would comply with the court’s decision, though he would evaluate possible alternatives.

"We will be evaluating the decision according to what is recommended," he said, insisting in reserving his opinion on the musical’s content.

After protests from fundamentalist activists and the municipality of San Juan, the Tapia Theater administration canceled the first presentation of the musical.

Tickets to the show, based on the New York success "Naked Boys Singing," were completely sold out during the first week of sales.

The theater’s management argued that Tapia has presented nudity before, but this particular show was considered disagreeable because it dealt only with that topic.

After seeing the first half of a rehearsal Thursday night, members of the Tapia Board of Directors left the historic theater.

The next day, Friday, a succinct press release from the San Juan municipality announced the cancellation of the event, explaining that board members believed that "the musical would put the Tapia Theater’s good name and prestige at risk."

The show, written by Robert Schrock and in its fifth year at the Actors Playhouse in Greenwich Village, New York, consists of eight men who sing and dance naked.

Catholic Campaign Against Gay Marriages Supported Here

August 5, 2003
Copyright © 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - San Juan Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez Nieves supported Tuesday the document from the Vatican that seeks to stop the initiatives in favor of the rights of homosexuals to contract marriage.

The document in question forms part of a global campaign of the authorities of the Catholic Church against marriages between people of the same sex.

"Marriage is sacred, while homosexual relations are against natural law and are inherently disordered as for the will of the Creator," Gonzalez Nieves said in a press release.

"The Archdiocese of San Juan of Puerto Rico, in echoing the words of the Holy See, exhort our legislators to take into consideration the document when legislating matters related to the family and especially the institution of marriage," he added.

In revealing the document Thursday, the Vatican warned that the Catholic politicians who support homosexual unions incur in "grave immorality" and urged those who are not Catholic to join the offensive.

Ricky Martin Becomes Shanghai's "Friendship Envoy"

August 4, 2003
Copyright © 2003 Xinhua News Agency. All rights reserved. 

SHANGHAI, Aug. 4 (Xinhua) - Ricky Martin, a Latin singing sensation from Puerto Rico, became a "friendship envoy" of China's largest city Shanghai on Monday.

At a news conference held in China's highest building Jinmao Tower, the black-clad Martin received a "golden key" to the city from Yang Xiaodu, vice major of Shanghai.

Martin said at the conference that as Shanghai's friendship envoy, he would try his best to introduce Shanghai to the world.

In order to improve foreigners' understanding of Shanghai and upgrade the city's international image, the local government has carried out a campaign called "Superstars in Shanghai", according to Jiao Yang, spokesman of Shanghai's municipal government.

Considering his outstanding achievements in his field and his ardor in common people's affairs, Martin became the first foreign superstar to be invited.

Martin arrived in Shanghai Monday noon. He will leave Shanghai for Singapore on Wednesday.

Chinese people became familiar with Ricky Martin when his song "The Cup of Life" became a hit at the France World Cup in 1998.

Christmas Bonus For Public Employees Increased

August 4, 2003
Copyright © 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Gov. Sila Calderon signed Monday a law that increases the Christmas bonus this year to $1,000 for public employees and another law to increase employer contribution to health plans, according to the Office of Management & Budget (OMB).

OMB Director Melba Acosta said the signing of the Christmas bonus law complies with the commitment Calderon made of increasing the bonus to $1,000 before the four-year term ended.

"As for the Christmas bonus increase, when we arrived, it was at $500. We have given increases to $625, $750, and now $1,000, which is this one she just signed,", Acosta said in a press conference.

Meanwhile, starting January 2004, employer contribution to health plans will increase from $60 to $80 for public employees and from $60 to $100 for pensioners of the Central and Teachers Retirement System, Acosta said.

Acosta indicated that the laws signed Monday will have an impact of more than $50 million for the treasury, although she calculated that it will positively affect the economy.

U.S. Organization Supports Charlie Rodriguez’s Proposal For The Island

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

August 4, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Charlie Rodriguez

New Progressive Party (NPP) pre-candidate for resident commissioner Charlie Rodriguez said on Monday that his proposal of transforming the island into a federal enterprise zone was supported by the Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI).

The proposal, which forms part of Rodriguez’s 10 commitments if elected to the congressional seat, was discussed and analyzed by economist Lawrence A. Hunter in the IPI’s Policy Report No. 177 issued on July 28.

IPI is a non-partisan, non-profit organization in the U.S., founded in 1987, which analyses important issues affecting government, economy, taxation, and proposes innovative ways to deal with social and economic issues.

Rodriguez said that the IPI’ report validates his proposals and, according to him, also reveals which of the candidates seeking the congressional post is focused on Puerto Rico’s agenda.

According to the pro-statehood leader, Puerto Rico might qualify for the initiative, which confers better tax conditions for families, tax incentives for entrepreneurs, and creates jobs and boost municipal economies throughout the 50 states.

"My 10-point platform shows my seriousness to be a resident commitment. Being a resident commissioner is not about waking up today and saying ‘I will be resident commissioner’ or because there is a national party’s agenda to put forward. The agenda of the resident commissioner needs to be the agenda of Puerto Rico, said Rodriguez, who denied that his comments were in reference to his adversaries.

The former president of the Senate noted that Puerto Rico’s economy cannot rest on temporary incentives like the Section 956, and said that government needs to help the poor and middle-class, lifting 48% of the population out of poverty, according to U.S. parameters.

He also added that there is a need to create a Puerto Rico entrepreneurial class to ensure the island’s proper development.

The IPI report, on the other hand, lambasted the possible approval of Section 956 for Puerto Rico, saying that "the proposed successors to the Section-936 tax subsidy will always fail because they perpetuate the myopic policy of subsidizing a few large off-island and largely itinerant companies in particular industries without building a vibrant local economy with indigenous Puerto Rican businesses, entrepreneurs and jobs."

"Since the beginning of 2001, I have been working on an economic plan for the island focused on the Federal Enterprise Zones, and it pleases me to know that it is the main recommendation of the IPI," added Rodriguez.

When questioned about the probabilities he has of winning the race for resident commissioner, Rodriguez highlighted his commitment to Puerto Rico and the NPP, and reaffirmed his commitment to Rossello, while recalling that he was a team player during the former governor’s administration.

Rossello Agrees To Meet With Ruben Berrios

August 4, 2003
Copyright © 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Pre-gubernatorial New Progressive Party (NPP) candidate, Pedro Rossello, has agreed to meet with Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) President Ruben Berrios to discuss the status of the island, but the date has not been determined yet.

Rossello was responding to a letter sent by Berrios to gubernatorial candidates of the majority parties in the island, in which he invited them to a meeting to discuss the island’s status, and the possible closure of the Roosevelt Roads Naval Station in Ceiba.

"I called Ruben and told him that I had received his letter, and that I was available to meet him. We are making the arrangements to meet in the very near future to discuss the matters he is proposing, and possibly others," said Rossello. He did not give further details about those other affairs, according to published reports.

Rossello however refused to meet with Popular Democratic Party (PDP), Anibal Acevedo Vila.

In fact, the former governor lambasted Acevedo Vila calling him "the greatest fabricator of cases in the political history of Puerto Rico," because of the case in which he linked the candidate for Mayor of Salinas, Carlos Rodriguez Mateo, with bribes.

Vigoreaux’s Municipal Legislators Contest Bhatia At SEC

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

August 4, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

The Popular Democratic Party (PDP) candidates for the municipal legislature in San Juan challenged Monday Eduardo Bhatia’s candidacy for mayor at the State Elections Commission (SEC).

Angel Ortiz Guzman and attorney Manuel Suarez Jr., who represents the 14-candidate group, arrived at the SEC to submit their arguments to SEC President Aurelio Gracia.

The SEC received the document at 3:22 p.m.

"Time is a determinant factor since there is a date to hold a primary. After doing an analysis, we decided that the best thing to do was carry on a parallel process," said Suarez.

On Friday afternoon, after Bhatia filed for his candidacy at the PDP headquarters in the morning, the group contested Bhatia’s candidacy, claiming that the party showed the former senator preferential treatment when they allowed him to file his candidacy alone, and not with the 14 municipal legislators as Vigoreaux was asked to do.

There is an agreement between the party’s ruling and the candidacy ruling of the party, the party’s ruling does not explain this situation specifically, but the ruling to file candidacies at the SEC talks about group candidacies, specifically it includes the mayor’s candidate.

Suarez compared the situation at the PDP with Frankenstein, explaining that the party intends to use the body (referring to the municipal legislative candidates of Vigoreaux) with another head (referring to Bhatia). Bhatia’s candidacy did not have a body, said Suarez.

On Monday, Baez Galib said since Vigoreaux’s candidates for the municipal legislature are the only ones for those positions, they are the PDP’s candidates for San Juan municipal legislature.

Ortiz Guzman, on the other hand, said Sen. Eudaldo Baez Galib’s comments on the issue must be listened with caution because he has been neutral about the candidate for San Juan’s City Hall.

According to Ortiz Guzman, Eudaldo’s argument means that the group candidacy can be broken, even though the candidates for the municipal legislature are not required to gather endorsements, only the mayor.

"If, hypothetically, Vigoreaux does not gather the endorsement, we don’t either," added Ortiz Guzman.

Nonetheless, Bhatia said in a radio interview that the group’s claim was nonsense and described the group’s demands as foolish.

Suarez and Ortiz Guzman agreed not to respond to Bhatia’s argument but made it clear that their arguments belong to a new controversy.

Gracia refused to make comments on the dispute.

Puerto Rico Edges U.S. 86 - 85

August 3, 2003
Copyright © 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) -- There were no late heroics for the U.S. men's basketball team Sunday night at the Pan American Games.

Andre Barrett missed an off-balance jump shot at the buzzer and the Americans fell to Puerto Rico 86-85. The previous night, they rallied to beat Argentina 80-79.

``It was mainly to get me the ball and go off two screens and look for my options,'' Barrett said of the final sequence. ``But they denied me the ball and then we were forced to give it to somebody else. By the time I was able to get the ball back, I just had enough time to get to the basket and that's about it.''

He fell flat on his stomach after missing and his teammates had to lift up the dejected Seton Hall guard before slowly accompanying him off the court.

The game tied was at 68 at the start of the fourth quarter. A 13-4 run by Puerto Rico opened a lead it did not relinquish.

U.S. coach Tom Izzo of Michigan State thought the Puerto Ricans dictated the pace late in the game. The Americans also were hurt by turnovers.

But Puerto Rico's Ramon Dalmau missed two free throws with the score 86-85. His team got the rebound of the second miss, then lost it out of bounds.

The Americans struggled to find room to shoot, and Barrett saw his shot rim out.

Barrett led the American men with 16 points and Arthur Johnson of Missouri had 15. Puerto Rico was led by Carlos Arroyo with 24 points and Sharif Fajardo had 19, all in the second half.

``I just wanted to be ready for my team,'' Fajardo said through an interpreter. ``I trust myself. I know what I can do. I've been doing it for a long time.''

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