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Hearings On Constitutional Assembly Set For November...Governor Proposes Restrictions On Right To Bail…U.S. House OK’s Bill To Reduce Excise Taxes…600 More Soldiers Mobilized…Wal-Mart Faces Santurce Opposition…Ted Kennedy Backs Acevedo Vila…Inhofe Trying To Stop RR Development

Public Hearings On Constitutional Assembly Scheduled For November

By Ricardo Zuñiga of Associated Press

October 30, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Legislature will hold public hearings beginning November 5 to study a proposed bill calling for a referendum in which Puerto Ricans would decide whether they want to call a Constitutional Assembly to resolve the status issue.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Eudaldo Baez Galib said a Constitutional Assembly was favored in the past Legislative Assembly by the Popular Democratic Party as a way to resolve the issue.

Baez Galib said that if the bill is approved and the people vote in favor of a Constitutional Assembly, it would have to be included in the U.S. Congress’ agenda so the issue doesn’t die.

"The order is to take the authority [away] from the political parties so that the people are the ones that decide," Baez Galib said.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Carlos Hernandez said the hearings will be open to people of all ideologies who which to express themselves on the matter.

"This is a matter of will on the status issue," he said.

New Progressive Party Senate Minority Leader Kenneth McClintock argued the public hearings are a political move on the part of the majority PDP.

Governor Proposes Restrictions On Right To Bail

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

October 30, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Gov. Sila Calderon announced on Thursday that she would file four bills to limit the right to bail in cases involving dangerous suspects who are pending trial for grave felonies.

The bills would widen the criteria, and allow a judge to determine the potential danger posed by a suspect; eliminate the option to post 10% of bail in specific cases of violent crimes; require house arrest in some cases; and require the use of electronic shackles in some cases.

Calderon said these measures would be filed along with a pre-bill Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez filed in May that was never acted upon.

"The bill sent by the Justice secretary that unfortunately for some reason we never received at La Fortaleza is welcome and perfectly complements the amendments I’m proposing today," Calderon said after her speech before the 16th Conference of the Puerto Rico Ministry on Thursday.

Rodriguez’s pre-bill would enable prosecutors to appeal a bail within 24 hours if they are dissatisfied with it.

The governor’s efforts are a result of the murder of young musician Ricardo Morales, allegedly committed by a man free on bail pending trial for murder.

The man charged with murdering Morales was identified by police as Melvin Mendez Roldan. He had posted 10% of a $60,000 bail imposed for the earlier charge.

On Thursday, Calderon urged prosecutors to seek the highest bail possible for crime suspects in order to prevent slayings such as Morales’.

"I believe in the constitutional right to bail, but that constitutional parameter cannot allow a delinquent to roam free to commit more crimes against the innocent," the governor concluded.

U.S. House Approves Bill To Reduce Excise Taxes

October 30, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The U.S. House Ways & Means Committee endorsed a bill that would reform the tax system of overseas national corporations.

According to published reports, the legislation would reduce from 35% to 32% the tax rate for manufacturers, including those established in Puerto Rico, starting in 2007.

The U.S. Senate Finance Committee had previously approved a similar bill.

The bill may represent an opportunity for the local government after its proposal to amend Section 956 of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code was dropped from the congressional agenda.

According to House estimates, the tax reduction will cost the federal government $60 billion over 10 years.

Another 600 Puerto Rican Soldiers Mobilized

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

SAN JUAN (AP) — Approximately 600 Puerto Rican soldiers of the National Guard were mobilized to serve in the U.S. war against terrorism, according to National Guard spokeswoman Millie Rosa.

Part of the group belongs to the First Battalion of the 162 Infantry, which will leave Thursday for Fort Bragg in North Carolina to complete the mobilization process.

Meanwhile, the third battalion of the same unit, which was also activated, does not have a confirmed date to leave, Rosa said in published reports.

The soldiers, who are stationed at the Santiago Military Camp in Salinas, are expected to replace other units in security missions in Europe and aboard ships of the Merchant Marine.

At the beginning of the year, 1,800 Puerto Rican soldiers were activated for the U.S. war; approximately 1,000 are still active.

Santurce Businesses Fighting Wal-Mart Plans

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

SAN JUAN (AP) — The United Retailers Association (CUD by its Spanish acronym) requested Wednesday that the Legislature and the Monopolistic Affairs Office of the Justice Department take immediate action to stop a proposed Santurce Wal-Mart.

CUD President Enid Toro said in a press conference that the establishment of a Wal-Mart in Santurce would mean the "disappearance of small and medium businesses," most of which have done business in the area for decades.

"It is time to say enough to this jostling and hoarding that Wal-Mart is trying to do in Santurce. We have to stop this, and that is why we are here to fight," said Toro, who did not rule out going to court with her demand.

Wal-Mart is in the process of buying the site that for several decades housed Ferreteria Merino, with the purpose of establishing a new location of the multi-national chain.

The company was the subject of a recent controversy when the government objected to Wal-Mart buying the Amigo supermarkets, viewing the purchase as a violation of the island’s anti-monopoly laws.

However, after a series of lawsuits and countersuits in the federal and local courts, the Puerto Rico government withdrew its objection after reaching an agreement that would keep the Arkansas-based company from having control of all the Amigo supermarkets.

Acevedo Vila’s Run Supported By Sen. Edward Kennedy

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

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Popular Democratic Party’s gubernatorial candidate, Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila, announced Wednesday that his candidacy has the support of U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.).

"I am sure that he will do an extraordinary job as governor, and I support his campaign," Kennedy said in a written statement circulated by Acevedo Vila.

Kennedy’s spokesman, David Smith, confirmed that the senator supports Acevedo Vila.

The resident commissioner described Kennedy as "an undisputed ally of Puerto Rico and a collaborator" of his in Congress.

"Kennedy has been a champion in the U.S. Senate in favor of the truly important issues for Puerto Rico. His commitment to the Puerto Ricans led him, at my request, to have a fundamental role [in helping] Puerto Rico to achieve equal and just treatment in the federal education reform law of the Bush administration," Acevedo Vila said in a press release.

Inhofe Trying To Halt Development Of Roosevelt Roads

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

SAN JUAN (AP) — Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila complained Tuesday that U.S. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) is allegedly attempting to halt the local government’s plans to convert U.S. Naval Station Roosevelt Roads into an economic development center after its closure next year.

Acevedo Vila said he sent a letter to President George W. Bush to intercede with Inhofe, who is allegedly seeking to alter the participation of the Puerto Rico government in the development of the lands of the military base in Ceiba, according to a press release.

"It alarms me that Republican senators have chosen, in a manner outside the legislative process, to undermine the agreement put in the allocations of the Defense Department that you made into law earlier this month," reads the letter sent to the president.

Acevedo Vila, who is also running for governor, said Inhofe’s motivations "threaten the island’s economic development and the creation of jobs that Puerto Ricans need so much."

He added that Inhofe’s actions are encouraged by "some statehood sectors in Puerto Rico."

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