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Acevedo Vila Opposes Mercado’s Nomination, Calderon Shocked… Laffitte Warns Of Fed Ct. Delays…SJ Aids D.R. Earthquake Victims…Ondeo Demands More Money…Sen. Graham’s Bill Helps Island’s Poor…EPA To Meet With Viequenses…U.S. Senate Ratifies RR Closure…Rodriguez Favors More Women On Top Court…Delgado’s 4 Homers Make History

Acevedo Vila Opposes Mercado’s Nomination As Chief Justice

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

September 29, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Popular Democratic Party (PDP) President Anibal Acevedo Vila said on Monday nominee Ferdinand Mercado does not meet the requirements to serve as Supreme Court chief justice.

Moreover, Acevedo Vila said the political networks or achievements of a person cannot be the main reason to nominate a candidate to the chief justice post as allegedly happened in Mercado’s case.

"The mere fact of having a political background should not prevent someone to be nominated chief justice, but neither his political efforts nor his political loyalties could be the main reason to nominate him," he said.

The Commonwealth leader had the first turn in the Nominations Committee hearings on the nomination as chief justice of the current secretary of state, through which he said Mercado’s actions raise doubts over his future performance at the Supreme Court.

"It is obligatory to conclude what the people of Puerto Rico have concluded already; that [Mercado] would have not been nominated [as Chief Justice] if a political loyalty to the governor had not existed," he stated.

Acevedo Vila strongly opposed Mercado’s nomination and called upon senators to exercise their constitutional duty thoroughly, and to act according to their consciences guided by strict parameters, since the confirmation of the candidate would be a no-return decision.

"There’s no way to correct a judgment error when it is about a Supreme Court nomination," he said.

According to Acevedo Vila, Mercado’s nomination is rejected by the people, who advocate for the Supreme Court as an institution. The nominee, in his view, does not confer a neutral and independent projection to the judicial branch, and does not have the intellectual respect the Supreme Court demands.

In addition, Acevedo Vila said Mercado’s nomination goes against the PDP administration platform, which committed to free the government from politics, seek consensus and respect judicial independence.

He said the Senate cannot take the chance of confirming Mercado expecting he will develop necessary skills to fit the post while occupying it, or perhaps with the passage of the time, and said Mercado’s attributes as a good worker, a smart and responsible man are not enough to place him at the head of the Supreme Court.

Acevedo listed eight criteria senators should use to analyze Mercado’s qualifications for the post—quoting a law report published by Professor Michael Gerhardt—including leadership skills to head the Supreme Court, the acknowledgement and acceptance of peers, judicial preparation, experience and expertise.

"The standards to evaluate a candidate for chief justice have to be, without any doubts, the highest ones of all the parameters established by the Nominations Committee to evaluate other nominations," he said.

He also stated the candidate must have administrative skills, judicial character, and that his views do not contradict the island’s constitutional parameters.

Acevedo Vila acknowledged Mercado’s administrative abilities, but exemplified his arguments saying Mercado lacks judicial character because he was not able to make an analysis of recent events regarding his nominations aside from emotions.

Last week, after Acevedo Vila revealed his opposition to the chief justice nomination, Mercado said "people will have to assume the consequences of their beliefs and acts."

Mercado also said Acevedo Vila was opposed to the nomination because he served as Judge Federico Hernandez Denton’s law clerk.

"Judges cannot question someone’s motivations to make an argument. After he was nominated, he has even made political analyses on the possible consequences (for the PDP) if his nomination is rejected," Acevedo Vila said.

Calderon Shocked By Opposition To Mercado’s Nomination

September 29, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Gov. Sila Calderon returned from her honeymoon on Sunday and didn’t wait long to lambaste Popular Democratic Party (PDP) President Acevedo Vila and resident commissioner candidate Roberto Prats for opposing the nomination of Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado as Puerto Rico Supreme Court chief justice.

Calderon criticized Acevedo Vila, who is also running governor, for assuming what she believed to be an incomprehensible stance. The governor also said Prats is playing politics with this issue.

"I won’t even speak of Roberto Prats, because he himself told the nominee that this was a political issue. This isn’t something to play politics with and I am not going to play politics with it," Calderon said in published reports.

Last week, Mercado said that in his view, the statements Acevedo Vila had made against him resulted from an effort to distance himself from the Calderon administration.

Laffitte Warns Of Delays In Federal Court

September 29, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – U.S. District Court Judge Hector Laffitte warned of a potential accumulation of cases in that forum which could be caused by instructions to judicial authorities to limit negotiations between the accused and the prosecution.

"I don’t know what impact it will have, but I can predict that it will be negative. There will be an accumulation of cases because more people will be going to trial," Laffitte said in published reports.

Also, the federal court could lag behind even more as a result of strict guide rules judges must follow when sentencing an individual, Laffitte said.

Last week, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft sent a memo with new instructions to 93 chiefs of the district courts throughout the United States.

The directives ordered then to file the most severe accusations possible and to limit plea bargains with the accused.

San Juan Opens Aid Center For Earthquake Victims

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

SAN JUAN (AP) - On Sunday, the first lady of the San Juan municipal government, Irma Garriga announced that supplies have already began to arrive at the Pedrin Zorrilla Coliseum in Hato Rey to aid earthquake victims at the Dominican Republic.

Garriga said the idea is to collect basic materials to help the neighboring country reestablish school and medical services after last week's 6.5 earthquake.

"We urgently call on the San Juan community and other municipalities, particularly on community leaders and private sector representatives to support this effort," Garriga said in a prepared statement.

The aid center at the Pedrin Zorrilla Coliseum will remain open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Some of the products needed are canned or instant milk, bottled water, over-the-counter medication, school supplies, disposable dippers, toiletries, batteries, lanterns, and folding beds.

Garriga said people may also give monetary contribution to the Oriental Bank account number 1611001527 in the name of Puerto Plata Earthquake Aid Committee.

Ondeo Demands More Money For Contract

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

SAN JUAN (AP) - Ondeo, the company that administers the Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Administration (Prasa), asked the government for changes in the 10-year contract for $4 billion that could cost the treasury another $500 million throughout the term of the contract.

During a House Government Committee hearing, representatives of Ondeo did not want to talk about figures nor mentioned the word renegotiate, but used the term adapting the contract.

However, House Treasury Committee Chairman Francisco Zayas Seijo indicated that his calculations reflect a figure of an additional $100 million for this year. The legislator estimated that by the end of the 10-year contract, it could represent an additional $500,000.

According to published reports, Ondeo Director Charles Dupont said the contract needs to be adapted because the government misled them.

He acknowledged that the description presented of Prasa was bad, but he said when they began the administration a year ago, they perceived that it was critical.

However, before signing the contract with Gov. Sila Calderon’s administration, Ondeo sent its inspectors to the island to analyze the infrastructure and equipment it would have under its supervision.

To sustain his arguments, Dupont said he was informed that he would have 2,967 vehicles, but only 1,000 worked. Furthermore, he said he was not provided with the exact number of employees, accumulated vacation, and plants that faced problems with the regulation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, among others. He also said they were told that they would have to work with 139 projects, when the real number was 208.

The House called Prasa Board of Directors President Juan Agosto Alicea, who represented the government in the negotiation of the contract with Ondeo, to testify.

The government is paying $30 million a year to Ondeo, while the company informed that it will have a loss of $113 million this first year when it had estimated a loss of $50 million.

Congressional Measures Promoted For Island’s Poor

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

SAN JUAN (AP) - Puerto Rico would have access to the Supplemental Security Income program and complete rights to the federal tax credits for children or low income for poor families on the island if Democrat Sen. Bob Graham’s bill is approved.

The initiatives of the Economic Stimulus for Puerto Rico Project could represent in a 10-year term more than $2.5 billion additional a year for poor Puerto Rican families, according to published reports.

The Democrat presidential candidate and member of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee indicated that the bill he filed Thursday seeks to stimulate the Puerto Rican economy through the needs of the poor and not of the big corporations.

Graham said he seeks to gradually benefit the family of low resources - 10% each year until reaching 100% in 2013 – with the Supplemental Security Income and the credits for poor families for income and children.

The federal tax credit for children is currently granted in Puerto Rico through reimbursements, but only poor families with three or more children have access to it. Graham proposes to extend it to families who have one or two children.

The "poor families" – a term in the United States that means an annual income of $26,625 or less – will have access to a reimbursement of up to $1,000 for each child.

It is estimated that in Puerto Rico there are some 100,000 families with three or more children with the right to the federal reimbursement of $1,000 for each child, but only 42,000 ask for the reimbursement. If Graham’s bill is approved, at least 100,000 families with one or two children could also benefit from the reimbursement, according to the analysis of experts.

EPA To Meet With Residents Of Vieques

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) representatives will meet early in October with residents of Vieques in an effort to identify the areas contaminated by over six decades of military exercises there.

EPA Deputy Director for Puerto Rico and the Caribbean Jose Font said they will discuss the contaminated sites on a general basis.

According to Font, the U.S. Navy, which controlled the land for over 60 years, has already presented a working plan to decontaminate five locations.

That list is independent of the Commonwealth’s request to include Vieques and Culebra in the Superfund priority list.

U.S. Senate Ratifies Roosevelt Roads Closure

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – The U.S. Senate ratified Thursday the closure of the U.S. Roosevelt Roads Naval Base in Ceiba.

By a vote of 95 to 0, the U.S. Senate approved the Defense allocations bill for 2004, which contains language on the closing of Roosevelt Roads, according to published reports. The bill now goes to President George W. Bush for his signature.

After Bush signs the bill, the U.S. Navy will have six months to close operations at the base.

Rodriguez Favors More Women In Top Court

By Manuel Ernesto Rivera of Associated Press

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

Her aspirations for the judicial branch were dissolved twice when politicians halted President Bill Clinton’s 1996 and 1998 nomination of Anabelle Rodriguez for a U.S. District Court post.

Still, her smile when asked about the possibility of being appointed to associate justice at the Puerto Rico Supreme Court revealed that she has yet to drop her aspirations of becoming a judge.

Insisting that the nomination is the sole responsibility of Gov. Sila Calderon, Justice Secretary Rodriguez said she has not discussed the possibility of becoming the next female associate justice once Miriam Naveira retires next summer.

Rodriguez agreed with Naveira and Calderon that there should be more women on the Supreme Court, composed at present of six men and one woman.

The Justice secretary said women compose a broad sector of society and noted that women are the majority in the island’s law schools.

"In general terms, people are obviously judged based on their qualities and criteria," Rodriguez said.

And although she acknowledged that she was nominated twice for a judicial post, she does not regret that she was not confirmed.

Rodriguez said nothing has given her more satisfaction than having served as the island’s secretary of Justice.

She declined to comment on the controversy that has surfaced over the nomination of Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado as chief justice of the Supreme Court.

Dynamic Delgado Belts Four Homers For Blue Jays

September 26, 2003
Copyright © 2003
REUTERS. All rights reserved. 

TORONTO (Reuters) - Carlos Delgado of the Toronto Blue Jays clubbed four home runs in the 10-8 American League (AL) win over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays Thursday, becoming the 15th player in major league history to achieve the feat.

Delgado homered in four straight at-bats, the last a long drive to center field to lead off the eighth inning. His first home run of the night was the 300th of his career.

The 31-year-old left-hander is the first player to hit four home runs in a game since Shawn Green of the Los Angeles Dodgers accomplished the feat against the Milwaukee Brewers in May last year.

Delgado is only the fifth player in AL history to record four home runs in one game. Mike Cameron, for the Seattle Mariners against the Chicago White Sox, was the last in May 2002.

Puerto Rican Delgado is the sixth player to thump four homers in successive at-bats in the same game. Cameron also hit his consecutively.

Delgado set a new team record for RBI in a season during the game and now has a major league-best 141, six coming Thursday.

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