Expos Opt Against Split Slate In '04 Stolen P.R. Birth Certificates Recovered Calderon Nominates Mercado For Chief Justice, Acevedo Vila Opposes Appointment, PIP Calls It Political Payback SEC: New Voters Could Decide Election Pentagon Might Have Final Word On RR 660 More Soldiers Mobilized For Iraq Govt Requests Clarification Of Powells Memos
Expos Opt Against Slit Slate In '04
By RAFAEL HERMOSO
September 20, 2003
Tired of being baseball's traveling sideshow, players on the Montreal Expos voted yesterday to play their entire 81-game home schedule next season in Montreal. They rejected a proposal by Major League Baseball to repeat this year's split schedule, with 22 home games in either San Juan, P.R., or Monterrey, Mexico.
Although the Expos are owned by baseball's other 29 teams and run by the commissioner's office, any home games outside a team's stadium require its players' approval.
Major League Baseball said that it would not respond with another proposal and would keep the Expos in Montreal for one more season while it tried to find a buyer to move the team.
The Expos went 13-9 in San Juan this season and 39-20 in Montreal. Major League Baseball proposed a similar schedule for next season to Gene Orza, the players association's associate general counsel, on Thursday. Orza delivered the proposal to the Expos before their 7-1 victory over the Mets last night at Shea Stadium, and players then voted on it.
"It seems guys were more tired of the possibility of being manipulated and pushed around," Expos third baseman Todd Zeile said after the team's player representative, Brian Schneider, declined comment. The vote was not unanimous, Zeile said.
Ocala Man Arrested With 1,000 Stolen Puerto Rican Birth Certificates
September 20, 2003
OCALA -- More than 1,000 blank birth certificates reported stolen in Puerto Rico have been recovered by the FBI with the arrest of an Ocala man.
Jose M. Aponte, 26, was arrested Thursday on federal charges after authorities said he attempted to sell 1,021 blank birth certificates to FBI agents.
The blank certificates, which could have been used for identity theft, fraud or obtain a U.S. passport, were stolen from the Bureau of Vital Statistics in Dorado, Puerto Rico.
A federal public defender appointed to represent Aponte was not available for comment Friday.
Aponte will remain in custody until a detention hearing in Ocala on Wednesday.
Special agent Douglas Astralago said the arrest was part of an ongoing investigation.
William Falls, special agent in charge of the FBI office in Jacksonville, declined to comment on the facts of the investigation.
Puerto Rico is a U.S. commonwealth and its natives are U.S. citizens. A foreigner who fraudulently obtained a Puerto Rican birth certificate could get a U.S. passport.
Calderon Nominates Mercado As Supreme Court Chief Justice
By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News
September 19, 2003
As expected, Gov. Sila Calderon nominated Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado as chief justice of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court.
Calderon named Mercado in a press conference Friday at La Fortaleza, accompanied by retiring Chief Justice Jose Andreu Garcia, Chief of Staff Cesar Miranda, and Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora.
"I dont have any doubt that Mercadothrough his academic preparation, his professional and judicial experience, his deep knowledge of the three government branches, his sense of justice, and above all, his sensitivity and youthwill lead the prestigious Supreme Court with excellence," said Calderon.
Calderon made the announcement a day before leaving the island for her three-week honeymoon, overruling the opinion of members of the Bar Association, politicians like Puerto Rican Independence Party President Ruben Berrios, political analysts, and other leaders who suggested the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Federico Hernandez Denton as chief justice of the islands highest court.
She also disregarded the opinion of Resident Commissioner and Popular Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial candidate Anibal Acevedo Vila, who opposed Mercados nomination. She denied that discrepancies between her and Acevedo Vila reveal a conflict within the party.
"(In my belief), there is no conflict. He has exercised his right to speech, as many others have done," Calderon said.
Initially, Calderon said she would announce Andreu Garcias replacement upon return from her honeymoon, but public sectors urged the governor to make the announcement as soon as possible.
On Friday, Calderon praised Mercados 22-year performance as a public servant and said his designation is an acknowledgement to Puerto Ricans who have studied in public schools and are members of humble families.
Mercado, wearing a red silk tie, said he would guarantee equal justice to all and said that once he begins wearing the judges robe, he would put aside political considerations, which would be secondary in his new profession.
He added that he would make changes to the judicial branchs strategic plan.
In fact, Mercado co-chaired the Judicial Reform Committee, which worked on a new law for the judicial branch that among other things, relaxes the judicial structure and confers full authority to the chief justice to make changes, reorganize judicial districts, conform panels of the circuit of appeals, and designate municipal judges as superior court judges, superior court judges as appeals judges, and vice versa.
Calderon enacted the new Judicial Law less than a month ago, and Andreu Garcia resigned his post on Sept. 11.
"Being a judge for any law professional is a privilege and a legitimate aspiration. In my case, being appointed chief justice means there are no limits to making dreams come true," Mercado said.
Like Calderon, Mercado disregarded recent criticism toward his appointment and said it is a stimulus to perform a better job on the highest court.
"I will prove that they are mistaken. I know there are going to be challenges, and I will face them firmly; there will be obstacles, but I will overcome them with determination," he said.
Mercado said Acevedo Vilas statements caught him by surprise but that it is the opinion of the resident commissioner. He added that everybody is responsible for their beliefs and actions.
Mercado was appointed district judge by former Gov. Rafael Hernandez Colon in 1992 and remained in the judicial branch until 1999, when Calderon appointed him PDP general secretary.
He has been an active member of the PDP since 1983. While at the head of the PDP, he was severely criticized after the State Elections Commission revealed that the party established an illegal scheme to transfer money from party headquarters to municipal and legislator committees, exceeding the cap on advertising expenditures for the gubernatorial race.
He was appointed secretary of State in 2001 when Calderon took office as governor.
In that position, Mercado has been in the public spotlight after a weapon assigned to him for his protection was stolen.
Recently, U.S. Secretary of State Collin Powell issued two communications to his ambassadors in Latin America opposing efforts of the Puerto Rico government to have participation in international organizations and to request privileges that correspond "only to sovereign nations." Mercado has led those efforts.
He has a law degree from the Inter American University, is married to Michelle Waters, and has two children.
Acevedo Vila Opposes Mercados Appointment To Supreme Court
By WOW News staff
September 19, 2003
Popular Democratic Party (PDP) President Anibal Acevedo Vila opposed the decision of Gov. Sila Calderon to appoint Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado as Supreme Court chief justice on Friday.
The resident commissioner expressed his opposition in a press release issued shortly after the governor confirmed the rumors that Mercado would be her choice to replace resigning Supreme Court Chief Justice Jose Andreu Garcia.
Acevedo Vila acknowledged the governors constitutional right to appoint whom she wishes and noted the friendship he has with Mercado. However, the PDP president said he couldnt overlook the fact that there were other candidates with more experience and whose designation has the support of many sectors.
"Within our Puerto Rico Supreme Court, there are candidates of juridical stature, experience, with a professional trajectory, and with extensive consensus of the Puerto Rican society that I, with good conscious, cannot support the nomination of Ferdinand for the post of Supreme Court chief justice," said Acevedo Vila, who is also resident commissioner and PDP gubernatorial candidate.
"From a constitutional viewpoint, it does not correspond to me to interfere with this process. It is the turn of others to use this historic responsibility. I, in my moment, will assume the responsibility that corresponds me," he added.
After listening to Acevedo Vilas statements the governor limited herself in saying "he is exercising his freedom of speech, as other people in Puerto Rico have done."
PIP: Mercados Nomination Based On Political Loyalty
By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News
September 19, 2003
Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) leaders said Friday that the nomination of Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado as Puerto Rico Supreme Court chief justice corresponded solely to his political loyalty to the governing Popular Democratic Party (PDP) and said they doubted his capacity to be an impartial and fair chief justice.
"A nomination to the head of a government branch for the next 25 years cannot be made rashly, nor should it fall on anyone who doesnt have the gift of mastering it," said PIP Rep. Victor Garcia San Inocencio.
Meanwhile, PIP Vice President Maria de Lourdes Santiago said the nomination is a whim and that the governor has missed two opportunities: to choose someone based on judicial merits instead of its partisan loyalties, and to select a woman to the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico.
"It is now up to the Senate to act responsibly and independently when exerting its constitutional faculty to approve the nomination," Santiago told WOW News.
Santiago added that choosing Mercado was a political reward to someone who would have become unemployed as soon as the governors term comes to an end. She added that this being the case, there is no way to guarantee that Mercado will be able to make wise and fair decisions.
Meanwhile, PIP President and gubernatorial candidate Ruben Berrios said in a prepared statement that the governors decision was foolish and criticized PDP President and gubernatorial candidate Anibal Acevedo Vila for not exerting his leadership to stop the confirmation of the nomination, even when he has opposed it.
"Acevedo Vila has achieved what seemed impossible: to surpass the governors irresponsibility," Berrios said.
In a prepared statement, Acevedo Vila had said he believed there were candidates who are more qualified than Mercado to serve as Supreme Court chief justice, but that he would respect the governors constitutional right to choose whom she pleases.
These reactions followed a noon press conference at La Fortaleza, at which the governor confirmed the rumors that Mercado would be nominated to the Supreme Court to replace outgoing Supreme Court Chief Justice Jose Andreu Garcia.
SEC President: Enough New Voters To Decide An Election
By Leonardo Aldridge of Associated Press
September 19, 2003
Since the 2000 general elections, some 300,000 new voters have registered, "enough to decide an election," State Elections Commission (SEC) President Aurelio Gracia said.
The official calculated that approximately 190,000 of these new registrants are young people who had not voted before, while the remaining 110,000 are citizens who did not participate in the last elections and were reactivated.
"That is plenty. That decides any election at this time," Gracia said in a telephone interview.
In the 2000 elections, 2,004,000 people voted, and as of Sept. 19, the electoral registry had 2,296,000 citizens registered, according to Gracia.
The SEC president indicated that Saturday is the last day to register to vote in the Nov. 9 primaries.
Some 247 New Progressive Party candidates and 130 Popular Democratic Party candidates will compete in the primaries for virtually all the posts. The Puerto Rican Independence Party will not hold primaries.
"In general terms, everything is going as planned," said Gracia, who explained that the agency has some $4 million to spend for the primary process.
Gracia said once the primaries conclude, the registration process will continue for the 2004 general elections.
He said citizens can register up to 50 days before the elections in November 2004.
Gracia supports, however, lessening the period of time between the registration deadline and the election day.
Pentagon Could Have Final Word On Roosevelt Roads
September 19, 2003
SAN JUAN (AP) The Pentagon would have the final word on the economic development of Roosevelt Roads should the U.S. Congress approve a bill to that effect.
The draft of the bill proposes the closing of the base, the separation of 150 acres out of 8,000 for the U.S. Army Reserve, and the inclusion of the Puerto Rico government in the planning of the development of the lands.
The document, which was reviewed in published reports, may be approved this weekend. It states that Roosevelt Roads would close as a naval base six months after the approval of the Defense Department allocations for fiscal year 2004.
The U.S. Navy would be required to do an inventory of the property and to detail the environmental condition of the land.
The bill also proposes that the Department of Defense grant economic aid to the government of Puerto Rico to help the community of Ceiba.
660 More Puerto Rican Soldiers Mobilized To Iraq
September 19, 2003
SAN JUAN (AP) By the end of the year, 660 Puerto Rico National Guard soldiers will be mobilized to relieve a similar number of soldiers serving in Iraq.
The soldiers belong to the first and third battalions of the 162nd Infantry, Luis Orengo, National Guard Public Affairs officer, said in published reports.
Starting this weekend, the 660 soldiers will go through a medical examination process that should conclude in 10 days.
Should they be mobilized, they would replace from 660 to 700 soldiers of the 92nd Infantry brigade who should be finishing their security mission at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
This is the first operation to relieve National Guard soldiers since the beginning of the war in Iraq. The local National Guard has around 2,500 soldiers mobilized due to the military conflict in Iraq.
Government Requests Explanation Of Powells Memorandums
September 19, 2003
SAN JUAN (AP) Puerto Rico Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado said the local government would like a clarification of the memorandums allegedly sent by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell questioning the islands international efforts.
Mercado said the documents have an ideological purpose to harm the Commonwealth ideology.
"I dont doubt the veracity [of the documents]. I doubt their purpose," Mercado said. He added that it is normal for memorandums of that kind to have Powells name at the bottom but that doesnt mean Powell ordered them done.
Mercado didnt say when or how he would ask for the explanation.
The memorandums, whic were sent to U.S. ambassadors in Latin America, showed reservations regarding the Puerto Rico governments efforts to establish cooperation agreements with other countries, alleging that such issues are to be held between sovereign nations only.
Mercado acknowledged that there had been discrepancies with regard to the islands interest in being affiliated with the Caribbean States Association, which the federal government didnt support.
However, Mercado said the cooperation agreements with Panama, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Uruguay all had the approval of the federal government.