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NPP Res. Comm. Race Heats Up"Grito De Lares" Anniversary Celebrated…Rossello Reiterates Opposition To MercadoAcevedo Vila Tells Senators To Act On Their Conscience…Pesquera Urges NPP Caucus To Reject NomineeFas Alzamora: Mercado Will Be Confirmed

NPP Resident Commissioner Race Heats Up

By WOW News staff

September 25, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Putting an end to a week of controversy over whether he would face up to his challengers in a debate, New Progressive Party (NPP) resident commissioner pre-candidate Luis Fortuño said Thursday that he would show up next Tuesday to participate in a much publicized debate at a local radio station.

"I reaffirm my position, which is the same as that of Gov. Pedro Rossello, that debates in a primary between candidates of the same party are not healthy. The one we need to debate is the candidate from the Popular Democratic Party. Having said that, I won’t allow third parties to define Luis Fortuño and pretend to characterize my positions," Fortuño said.

Fortuño’s comments came following the conclusion of a debate, styled as a "panel," between NPP resident commissioner pre-candidates including Fortuño, former Resident Commissioner Carlos Romero Barcelo, former Senate President Charlie Rodriguez, and Sen. Miriam Ramirez de Ferrer, who was conferenced in via telephone from Washington. The event was sponsored by the Inter-American Businessmen Association.

The four pre-candidates already had a similar encounter at a TV morning show last week.

Still, Fortuño’s challengers have been lambasting him for weeks for his refusal to participate in a debate organized by local radio new station Noti Uno, now slated for next Tuesday, arguing that it shows that he doesn’t have the guts needed to be in the race. Romero Barcelo went further this week, questioning whether Fortuño’s refusal to debate might indicate that "he has something to hide."

Noti Uno has been running promos for the event highlighting the fact that Fortuño has refused to participate and that the station would nonetheless keep his empty chair available in case he changed his mind.

During Thursday’s panel, each candidate was given two four-minute turns and asked the same questions, with no turns for rebutting each other. The four were asked to explain why they’re running for the resident commissioner post and what would be the main components of their agenda to promote Puerto Rico’s economic development plan.

The four candidates appeared remarkably close in their positions, all agreeing that the current administration of Gov. Sila Calderon is responsible for what they characterized the "terrible" state of Puerto Rico’s current relationship with the United States and the poor performance of the local economy.

They also blamed the Calderon administration for the impending shut down of the U.S. Roosevelt Roads Naval Station in Ceiba but committed to work in order to maximize the facility’s economic development potential as it is turned over to civilian use.

Fortuño, Romero Barcelo, Rodriguez, and Ramirez de Ferrer all coincided that the Calderon administration’s effort to get congressional approval of its proposed amendment to U.S. Internal Revenue Code Section 956–to provide a new federal tax exemption to U.S. manufacturing companies on the island–would fail. They also agreed that the Section 956 proposal would not be good for Puerto Rico because it places the island in the category of "foreign jurisdiction" for federal tax purposes, something, they argue, that distances the island from the United States, which in turn, they say, is the worse that could happen to Puerto Rico’s economy.

The four candidates vowed that, if elected, they would work to increase the amount of federal funds Puerto Rico currently receives by seeking that the island be treated on par with the states in federal programs.

They all also committed to continue their party’s struggle to have Puerto Rico admitted as the 51st state of the union.

135th Anniversary Of "Grito De Lares" Celebrated

September 23, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

LARES (AP) – Hundreds of people gathered Tuesday at the town’s Revolutionary Square to celebrate the 135th anniversary of the historic uprising of Puerto Rican nationalist leaders against the Spanish government that came to be known as the "Grito de Lares."

The burning of the U.S. flag, an act that has become a tradition during the commemoration of the revolutionary act, again took place Tuesday. This time the Star Spangler Banner was burned by members of the Pro-Independence University Movement chapter of Mayaguez. The group was also protesting construction of a building within the local UPR campus for the ROTC.

A radio recording of the convicted fugitive revolutionary leader Filiberto Ojeda was also broadcast. In it, the leader criticized the pro-independence leaders who have failed to move the island close to its freedom.

"If a solid organization, willing to make the most in a revolutionary manner without entering into political contradictions, is created, pro-independence will be strengthened," Ojeda said.

The official acts began when singer Danny Rivera sang the revolutionary version of the Puerto Rico National Anthem.

The Congreso Nacional Hostosiano, a pro-independence group, used the opportunity to begin a campaign to collect funds aimed at purchasing a radio station.

Group President Hector Pesquera said the radio station will help promote independence for Puerto Rico.

We believe this project will cost $2 million, but the independence movement can unite efforts and finance it," Pesquera said.

Meanwhile, Nationalist Party President Rosa Meneces said she is disappointed with Gov. Sila Calderon’s performance.

"I think she has been a colonial governor; she folded completely with the U.S. government, and any woman who truly feels Puerto Rican should reject and condemn her," Meneces said.

The Puerto Rican Independence Party used the activity to recruit members.

Rossello Reiterates Opposition To Mercado

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

September 22, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Former Gov. Pedro Rossello reiterated his stance on Monday that Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado is under qualified to become the next chief justice of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court.

"I have said that I don’t believe Mercado has the merits to be nominated, or the required judicial temperament, or an excellent judicial career," the former governor said.

Rossello—who seeks the New Progressive Party (NPP) gubernatorial candidacy to run in the 2004 general elections—made the statement during a press conference at his campaign headquarters to present his plan to develop an island-wide train as part of a multi-modal transportation system to improve traffic conditions in Puerto Rico.

On Friday, Gov. Sila Calderon confirmed the long-standing rumor that she would choose Mercado to replace outgoing Supreme Court Chief Justice Jose Andreu Garcia. A wave of criticism from all political parties, including Popular Democratic Party (PDP) President Anibal Acevedo Vila, former PDP gubernatorial candidate Hector Luis Acevedo, and six PDP senators immediately ensued.

On Monday, Rossello added to the issue by saying that there is nothing in Mercado’s professional resume that makes him more fit than other candidates to occupy the position and that, if anything, serves to prove his mediocrity.

"I think the nomination doesn’t do the Puerto Rico Supreme Court or the people of Puerto Rico any good, and I hope he doesn’t get confirmed," Rossello said.

PDP Sen. Julio Rodriguez said in published reports that Mercado’s nomination is not different from that of now Supreme Court Associate Judge Corrada del Rio, who was appointed to the higher court during the past Rossello administration. At the time of his nomination, Corrada del Rio had already been NPP gubernatorial and resident commissioner candidate and his pro-statehood stance was well known by all sectors of the island.

However, following Monday’s press conference, former State Elections Commission Judge Juan R. Melecio, who now chairs the Rossello’s Campaign Committee, said there are several differences between the two.

"Corrada del Rio, just like [Supreme Court Justice] Federico Hernandez Denton and [U.S. District Court Judge] Jaime Fuster, participated in politics at one point in his life. But they all have been renowned for their judicial depth and independent thinking, and especially for the support that they had, regardless of their participation in politics," Melecio said.

Before assuming the position of PDP secretary general and eventually of Secretary of State, Mercado had been a Superior Court judge. His detractors insist that Mercado’s intense participation in the political arena may make him less than ideal to become a fair and impartial Supreme Court chief justice.

The confirmation hearings are scheduled to begin next week. So far, both NPP and Puerto Rican Independence Party minorities will vote against Mercado and PDP Sen. Roberto Prats, Margarita Ostolaza, Jose Ortiz Daliot, Sergio Peña Clos, Juan Cancel Alegria, and Modesto Agosto Alicea have objected to the nomination.

Senators Urged To Act According To Their Conscience

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

September 22, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Popular Democratic Party (PDP) President and gubernatorial candidate Anibal Acevedo Vila called on Senators not to accept pressure from anybody, including him, and to comply with their constitutional duty thoroughly analyzing the nomination of Ferdinand Mercado as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Acevedo Vila made his remarks on Monday at a press conference held at the PDP headquarters in Puerta de Tierra, in which he reaffirmed his opposition to the nomination of Secretary of State Mercado to the leading post in the judicial branch.

"My position has been clear, aboveboard and unequivocal, that this decision (the nomination of Ferdinand Mercado as Chief Justice) is not the best option for the island. I reaffirm that, and I would say that at all appropriate forums," Acevedo Vila said.

The resident commissioner urged fellow PDP Senators to vote according to their conscience on the nomination of Mercado, and said he will ensure they won’t be reprimanded for acting according to their conscience and the people’s will.

"A vote of confidence is not requested by leaders, but by the people," he added.

When asked if he knows PDP senators who have been pressured to vote in favor of Mercado, Acevedo Vila said they should not allow pressure from anybody, including from him.

"They should act according to the people and their consciences," he stated.

Last Friday, the PDP leader headed the list of politicians, analysts, attorneys, former government officials including three former governors and former lawmaker as well as four PDP former presidents, who oppose the nomination of Mercado as Supreme Court Chief Justice made by Gov. Sila M. Calderon.

After the announcement, Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora said at La Fortaleza that Mercado’s nomination has all the necessary votes for confirmation, even though the PDP delegation at the Senate has not met yet.

Acevedo Vila noted the nomination of a candidate as chief justice is not a matter of caucus or party discipline, and said he will ask for a turn at Mercado’s confirmation hearings scheduled for next week.

Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora, however, disagreed from his political leader, and said PDP senators have acted according to the caucus decisions.

"Most of the time I have waited for the caucus decision on an issue before making public my personal criteria, but that does not mean I will rescind my right to make my own statements," Fas Alzamora said.

He praised once again Mercado’s virtues for the post, and said that not doing so, would be an act of hypocrisy because he knows the candidate very well.

He said that although he had another candidate for the post, he reaffirmed his support of Mercado after the governor made her choice.

He noted PDP senators have the right to decide on the issue, and said Sen. Bruno Ramos, chairman of the Nominations Committee at the Senate, will conduct Mercado’s nomination proceedings in which all people interested will have the right to present their arguments in favor or against the Secretary of State.

Pesquera Urges NPP Caucus To Reject Mercado

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

September 19, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

The nomination of Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado as Puerto Rico Supreme Court chief justice triggered the reaction of the New Progressive Party (NPP), which opposes Mercado’s appointment.

During a Friday afternoon press conference, NPP President Carlos Pesquera said he contacted the Senate NPP caucus to express his indignation and that NPP Senate Minority Leader Kenneth McClintock already assured him that the caucus would vote against Mercado’s confirmation.

"This appointment doesn’t do Puerto Rico any good, and it lacerates the institution of the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico," said Pesquera, who questioned Mercado’s ability to make fair and impartial decisions given his affiliation to the governing political party.

The NPP president also said he believes Gov. Sila Calderon’s decision to name Mercado responds to a desire to cover her back from the controversial "lavaton," in which the opposition has accused the governor of violating the Electoral Law to win the 2000 general elections.

"We must remember the "lavaton," which was coordinated during [Mercado’s] tenure as PDP secretary general," Pesquera added.

Pesquera also urged PDP President Anibal Acevedo Vila—who has expressed his displeasure with the nomination—to use his political power to sway the PDP Senate majority not to confirm Mercado.

"Acevedo Vila’s statement isn’t enough. It’s time he shows who is in charge in the PDP," Pesquera said.

Former Gov. Pedro Rossello also expressed his opposition to the nomination and stated in published reports that Mercado is a mediocre candidate who has no great achievement to his name that would make him worthy to lead the Puerto Rico Supreme Court.

Fas Alzamora: Mercado Will Be Confirmed Chief Justice

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

September 19, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora said Friday that Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado has the necessary votes in that legislative body for his confirmation as chief justice of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court.

Fas Alzamora supported Mercado for the highest court’s leading post and praised his performance as a public servant.

"If the governor would have nominated another [candidate] from the ones [people] mentioned, like Supreme Court Judge Federico Hernandez Denton, he would have had my endorsement. The governor exercised her constitutional prerogative and made a decision. Now, the Senate will accomplish its constitutional duty and will evaluate the nomination with the thoroughness this process requires," he said.

Gov. Sila Calderon nominated Mercado for the position of chief justice a day before departing the island for a three-week honeymoon.

Fas Alzamora said he instructed Senate Nominations Committee Chairman Bruno Ramos to schedule public hearings for the beginning of October, once Calderon returns to Puerto Rico.

Fas Alzamora said public hearings would be conducted with respect to Mercado and added that the deponents and those who wish will have the opportunity to address the committee.

Although the Senate Popular Democratic Party caucus has not met to assume a position regarding Mercado’s nomination, Fas Alzamora does not foresee problems for his confirmation.

"I’ve done a survey among some [senators], and the majority of the caucus members has favored [Mercado]. Counting those who I spoke to, I can say there is a majority to confirm him," Fas Alzamora said.

Mercado said, on the other hand, that he is ready for everything.

"I’m going to prove to the people that the criticism [against me] is wrong and that in some way that criticism is motivated for ulterior reasons, and perhaps, not the fairness and objectivity with which my nomination should be evaluated," Mercado said.

The Commonwealth Constitution establishes that the Senate must endorse the Supreme Court chief justice nominee.

If Mercado, 46, is confirmed as Supreme Court chief justice, he could remain in that position for nearly 23 years, since the law establishes mandatory retirement for chief justices at the age of 70.

In the past weeks, many sectors of society have expressed opposition to Mercado’s possible nomination as Supreme Court chief justice.

During the next three weeks, the nominee to the island’s highest court will also serve as acting governor and will be working on an eight-point agenda set by Calderon that includes among other things, strengthening government efforts against crime and adding medical detoxification services to the Health Reform premium.

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