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Rossello’s Ads Call 62 PDP Members Corrupt… Acevedo Vila, Calderon Rebut, Blast Campaign…Decision On Vieques Future To Involve Gov’t… Pesquera Offers Infrastructure Proposals…Cordero Beatification Process Begins…Police Take Over 2 Housing Projects…Coliseum Updated For Olympic Hoops Trials

Political Parties Lambaste Each Other For Corruption

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

August 14, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

In what seems to be the beginning of a ferocious political campaign, major political parties placed full-page ads in local daily papers Thursday accusing each other of corruption.

New Progressive Party (NPP) pre-gubernatorial candidate Pedro Rossello opened his campaign with a three-page advertisement listing 62 members of the governing Popular Democratic Party (PDP) who were convicted or allegedly linked to corruption cases during the administrations of Gov. Sila Calderon and former Gov. Rafael Hernandez Colon.

The red and black advertisement paid for by the ‘Rossello 2004 Committee’ reads "The Calderon-Acevedo Vila administration: transparent corruption, and corrupts without punishment." Below the headline are pictures of Calderon and PDP gubernatorial candidate Anibal Acevedo Vila and then the pictures of 29 mayors, 14 senators, and 8 representatives. The ad also makes reference to eight government officials, including Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado, former Agriculture Secretary Fernando Toledo, and former Economic Development & Commerce Secretary Ramon Cantero Frau.

The ads were placed on the same day that Acevedo Vila will assume the presidency of the PDP.

Toledo faces charges in the federal sphere for alleged fraud, while Cantero Frau was named by Calderon’s Blue Ribbon Committee for allegedly disbursing illegal loans.

Mercado was PDP secretary general before assuming the island’s second leading post and allegedly created a scheme to violate the Electoral Law. Mercado, as well as nine other lawmakers, was linked to the violations. The scheme was validated by the State Elections Commission, but the Justice Department dismissed the referral because the time to press charges had expired.

Among the mayors listed, Rossello’s committee highlighted Vega Alta’s Juan ‘Mane’ Cruzado, Dorado Mayor Carlos Lopez, Humacao mayors Juan Higgins and Ramon Vega Sosa, Villalba’s Orlando Torres, and Francisco Rivera Toro of Hormigueros. Some were expelled from their posts, while others are under investigation or awaiting court verdicts.

Some of the alleged corruption cases are related to nepotism, improper disbursement of public funds–including to deceased people–, misappropriation of public funds, and obstruction of justice.

Rossello’s advertisement was answered by one placed by the ‘Anibal for Governor 2004’ committee in which the PDP calls Rossello corrupt.

"The one who accuses us today is the same one who headed the most corrupt and deceitful administration in Puerto Rican history," reads the advertisement in blue, red, and black.

The ad asks Rossello for an explanation of what happened during his administration and accuses the former governor "of not wanting to listen, see, or do anything about the theft of public funds."

Acevedo Vila’s advertisements were placed in the first 20 to 30 pages, while Rossello’s ads were at higher numbers from 41 to 63.

Rossello’s advertisement includes a third page with empty photo boxes and the headline: "the list is to be continued."

Calderon: Rossello’s Ads Are Disrespectful

By Jose Rivera Renta of Associated Press

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

GUANICA — Gov. Sila Calderon said the advertisement of former Gov. Pedro Rossello in local dailies linking Popular Democratic Party (PDP) government officials with corruption insults the people’s intelligence.

Calderon said during a press conference in Guanica that she wouldn’t give much attention to the matter because "the people who are conducting that campaign don’t respect themselves or the intelligence of the people of Puerto Rico."

When Rossello returned from political exile in March, the PDP ran a similar ad that displayed a list of 30 government officials and New Progressive Party contractors who had been convicted of corruption.

The three-page ad, which was paid by the Rossello Committee 2004, displays pictures of Calderon and of PDP gubernatorial candidate Anibal Acevedo Vila.

The ad also include photographs of former and current PDP government officials who even though they have not been prosecuted, have been singled out by Rossello for allegedly engaging in fraud schemes.

PDP Sen. Roberto Prats, who is running for resident commissioner, is also included in the list of allegedly corrupt government officials who participated in a fraud scheme to benefit from the candidacy of Calderon in the 2000 gubernatorial run.

Government To Intervene In Decisions On Vieques’ Future

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

SAN JUAN (AP) — The local government may intervene in the decision regarding the future use of the lands formerly owned by the U.S. Navy in Vieques, said Department of Natural & Environmental Resources (DNER) Secretary Luis E. Rodriguez.

Rodriguez said the U.S. Department of the Interior has invited the local government to join a panel which would decide how the land would be used. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Navy are also participating in the panel.

The DNER chief said in published reports that this decision will allow Puerto Rico to defend the vision of Viequenses, planners, and environmentalists with whom he has met to develop a plan for the future use of those lands.

The government plan is aimed at developing ecological tourism.

Rodriguez said they continue to lobby for the future tranfer of the lands to the Puerto Rico government and to include Vieques and Culebra in the so-called federal superfund to clean up highly contaminated areas.

Pesquera Presents Widespread Infrastructure Proposal

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

August 14, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera presented his ideas for the development of the local infrastructure that he intends to put to work should he become the official NPP gubernatorial candidate in November and governor in the general election of 2004.

Pesquera noted his achievements as secretary of the Department of Transportation & Public Works (DTPW) during the past NPP administration as proof of his ability to run large-scale government projects.

"We built more than 200 miles of roads; we completed 75% of the Urban Train; and we developed passive projects that have contributed to the betterment of the quality of life of Puerto Ricans," Pesquera said during a press conference at his committee headquarters in Santurce on Thursday.

Pesquera used the opportunity to lambaste Gov. Sila Calderon’s administration and to assure the people that should they vote for him, he would focus on promoting private and public infrastructure development projects to boost the local economy.

"The economic rut we are suffering today is greatly due to the halting of the infrastructure and urban development projects. We put in their hands the responsibility of completing projects for which we had already obtained permits, and they couldn’t even do that," Pesquera said.

The NPP president said the first thing he would do should he become governor is to create a new government agency by fusing the Infrastructure Financing Administration and the DTPW and naming it the Infrastructure & Urbanism Department.

"I firmly believe in investing, not spending. I am convinced that the public investment that I propose will reactivate the economy in Puerto Rico, promote private investment, and solve the economic problems of thousands of Puerto Ricans who have lost their jobs thanks to the abandonment of this administration," Pesquera said.

As part of his plan of infrastructure development, the NPP president proposed:

*Constructing Route 66 from Carolina to Canovanas and from Canovanas to Rio Grande

*Converting the PR-3 into an expressway from Rio Grande to Fajardo.

*Beginning the extension of PR-22 to Aguadilla in 2005.

*Converting PR-2 into an expressway from Aguadilla to Hormigueros beginning in 2006.

*Extending the Urban Train to Old San Juan, Caguas, and Carolina.

*Implementing electronic toll systems to alleviate traffic.

*Implementing electronic systems to enforce traffic laws in Puerto Rico.

*Completing the installation of "smart" traffic lights on the island.

Catholic Church Begins Process To Beatify Rafael Cordero

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

August 14, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

The Roman Catholic Church in Puerto Rico took a big step on Wednesday when San Juan Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez Nieves announced the beginning of the process for the beatification of profesor Rafael Cordero.

Gonzalez Nieves said the decision to start the process of beatification follows a request by Pope John Paul II who asked Catholics throughout the world to remember witnesses of faith. A group of Puerto Rican historians did this with Rafael Cordero, who lived according to the values taught by Jesus.

"Although all of us know of his virtues, when we thoroughly studied, his lifestyle, and his devotion, we found that Don Rafael’s life was an extraordinary testimony of Christianity," said Gonzalez Nieves.

The image of Cordero teaching his students in his humble classroom in Old San Juan is forever immortalized in Rafael Oller’s "Maestro Rafael" painting, which can be seen at the Puerto Rican Athenaeum.

Gonzalez Nieves called a press conference at this house in Old San Juan to introduce the committee in charge of the investigation who will the findings to the proper authorities in the Vatican.

The Archbishop appointed Abbot Oscar Rivera, OSB as the cause’s postulant to the Vatican. Historians, artists and well known Puerto Ricans including Arturo Davila, painter Osiris Delgado, Hermenegildo Ortiz, Rev. Carlos Perez Toro, and the chairwoman of the Teacher’s Association Aida Diaz will also form part of the 19-member committee.

Abbot Rivera said he learned about the virtues of the black teacher, who was born in San Juan in 1790, while conducting the investigation of Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, who has been already been beatified.

He added that during the investigation of Carlos Manuel, he found a book written by Jack Delano about Cordero.

"A few months ago, I was at the library, and the book fell in to my hands again. I thought something is here," said Abbot Rivera.

The Vatican approved the investigation last April. The committee is now gathering information to set the foundations for their proposal, and showed copies of documents written by Cordero’s students. The documents described the virtues of Cordero, who stayed single, and never accepted compensation for his teaching duties.

However, the process of collecting evidence might be more difficult than it was with Carlos Manuel since there are no witnesses alive, according to Father Perez. Another missing factor is the evidence of miracles attributed to Cordero.

Father Perez said that as a result, the Church will invest time collecting and verifying documents about Cordero.

He added that Cordero’s students, and other people of his time saw something extraordinary on the teacher, because at a time of marked social differences his students came from all social classes and races.

Father Perez said that the fact that Cordero was able to teach all students represented a transformation of the island’s political and social reality during the mid 1800s, when slavery was still in effect, and racial and economic segregation could be accepted.

He added that Cordero was loved and respected by the community evidenced by the fact that more than 2,000 people attended his funeral in 1868. The Catholic Church plans to search for Cordero’s remains which were buried at the old city’s cemetery, although the exact location is unknown.

Gonzalez Nieves made clear that the process does not guarantee a beatification as the Pope is the only authority on the decision-making process.

Rafael Cordero’s deeds have been acknowledged and praised by all Puerto Ricans, including the government. Dozens of public schools are named in his honor, and his contributions to Puerto Rico have been documented in various biography and history books.

Some of his students were later great personalities, including slavery abolitionists Jose Julian Acosta and Roman Baldorioty de Castro, and Puerto Rican literature master Alejandro Tapia y Rivera.

Aside from the investigation of Cordero the Catholic Church continues to gather information on Sister Maria Dominguez, whose beatification is also being sought.

Police Take Over Two Public Housing Projects

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

SAN JUAN (AP) — Police took over early Wednesday the Bayamon housing projects of Jose Celso Barbosa and Virgilio Davila, where drug dealing and related crimes are increasing, Superintendent Victor Rivera said.

Some 100 agents will remain in the two housing projects for a "reasonable amount of time," Rivera said.

"This is not necessarily a massive raid. . .it is a takeover," Rivera said.

Coliseum Remodeled For Pre-Olympic Tournament

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

SAN JUAN (AP) — Las Americas pre-Olympic basketball tournament will be held at the remodeled Roberto Clement Coliseum on Aug. 20-31.

San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini said Wednesday that the remodeling includes improvements to the locker rooms, specifically carpeting and showers, as well as installation of air conditioning.

In addition, the area of the stand was given a cleaning treatment, the floors were polished, 3,000 seats were remodeled and 800 new seats were installed. New baskets and 24 second clocks were also installed.

"Not only will the tournament attract the best basketball players in the world but they will play in the best coliseum in Puerto Rico," Santini said.

Argentina, Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico, Uruguay, United States, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Venezuela and the Virgin Islands will compete for a spot in the Olympic games of 2004, which will be held in Athens, Greece.

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