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Santini: Harder For Pesquera To Unite Statehooders… Calderon Wants Higher Bails, She & Acevedo Vila Confirm Estrangement…P.R., D.R. Study Trade Effects…Pesquera Demands Rossello Apology, He Demurs…21 Legal Drinking Age Sought…Rossello Plans Huge Campaign Closing…Minority Congressmen To Work Together…Vigoreaux Promises Results

Santini: More Difficult For Pesquera To Unite Statehooders

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

SAN JUAN (AP) - San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini said Tuesday that it would be "more difficult" for pre-gubernatorial candidate Carlos Pesquera to unite statehood voters if he wins the Nov. 9 primary.

"It will definitely be more difficult for him because so far the one who has launched innuendos and attacks on [former Gov. Pedro Rossello] have been him and his campaign team," he told journalists at the Puerto Rico Art Museum, where the San Juan Cinemafest will soon be held.

Santini supported Rossello’s decision not to apologize to Pesquera for holding him accountable for the acts of corruption at the Ports Authority while president of the board of directors of that corporation.

"It is the first time that Rossello is heard saying something with some degree of greater strength, to call his statement that, which has caused a great stir. But everything that Pesquera has said of illegal transfers, no one has commented on it; it stays there, and died there," the mayor said.

Pesquera urged Rossello on Monday to retract the statements he said against Pesquera.

Calderon Gives Justice One Week For Amendments To Bail Rules

By Proviana Colon Diaz — WOW News Editor

October 28, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

The slaying of young musician Ricardo Morales, allegedly committed by a man free on bail pending trial for murder, has outraged Gov. Sila Calderon so much that she gave Justice Secretary Annabelle Rodriguez one week to present amendments to the criminal procedure, specifically those concerning bail.

"We have to raise those bails, respecting our constitutional rights, but raising bails," Calderon said.

The man charged with murdering the young musician, identified by police as Melvin Mendez Roldan, was free pending trial for another murder after posting 10% of the $60,000 bail imposed.

On Tuesday, San Juan Superior Court Elizabeth Linares found cause to arrest Mendez for the murder of Morales and set bail at $2.5 million, which he did not post.

The Commonwealth Constitution guarantees the right to bail. A 1990 referendum to amend the Constitution and eliminate that right was rejected by the people, and Calderon is not inclined to ask that question again.

Sill, she believes that criminal procedure rules can be amended to set higher bails.

"Under my administration, the possible elimination of the right to bail will not be contemplated because that is a right protected by our Constitution, but it can be imposed, the prosecutors can request, and the judges can set the highest bail possible," Calderon said.

Morales, a student of La Escuela Libre the Musica, the island’s most prestigious specialized public school in music, was described by fellow students and school teachers as a trumpet virtuoso.

He was the musical director of a salsa ensemble called La Clave.

At his young age of 16, he had already played with salsa stars like Andy Montañez and Roberto Rohena.

Montañez; La Selecta’s legendary singer Sammy Marrero, whose eldest daughter was killed two months ago in a shooting at a Bayamon pub; and Judge Luisa Lebron, whose son was murdered two weeks ago, attended the young man’s funeral.

Calderon left an activity in Carolina to attend the burial ceremony in Caguas. Morales had played at La Fortaleza during the Three Kings Day celebration.

"The death of Ricky Morales fills me with sadness and indignation as a mother and as governor. This young man was a model, an innocent victim, dedicated to his studies and his music," Calderon said.

Governor Confirms She Hasn’t Spoken With Acevedo Vila

By Proviana Colon Diaz — WOW News Editor

October 28, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

CAROLINA — Although they are supposed to be a team, Gov. Sila Calderon acknowledged Tuesday that she has not spoken to Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila since she informed him of her intentions to nominate Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado for the Puerto Rico Supreme Court chief justice post.

That was over a month ago. At that time, Acevedo Villa allegedly assured Calderon that he would not do anything to prevent Mercado’s confirmation.

"He told me he would not do anything to oppose the nomination," Calderon said.

It was precisely Acevedo Vila’s strong opposition to Mercado’s confirmation that started a fight for power in the Senate that lead to Calderon’s decision to withdraw the nomination because of a lack of votes.

Still, Calderon alleges that communication between her administration and that of the resident commissioner over important issues such as the closing of U.S. Naval Station Roosevelt Roads or the failure to include a tax benefit for Puerto Rico in U.S. Internal Revenue Code Section 956 in the last U.S. congressional session has not been broken since employees from both offices have spoken.

"You asked me when was the last conversation, and that was it. But there have been a lot of communication between members of his office and mine, and all issues have been taken care of," Calderon said.

Calderon’s statements come one day after Acevedo Vila confirmed that the relationship between the governor and himself had been cut off. But he hoped to meet with the governor soon.

Two weeks ago, Calderon said she would meet with Acevedo Vila when he requested a meeting. He did, and the duo will meet soon, but Calderon declined to give a specific date for the meeting.

"I won’t reveal anything else than what the resident commissioner disclosed," Calderon said.

Acevedo Vila Confirms Distancing Of Governor

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

SAN JUAN (AP) — Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila confirmed that he remains cut off from Gov. Sila Calderon, although he said communication with her government is "broad."

The distancing between the island’s main elected leaders emerged after the defeated nomination of Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado as chief justice of the Supreme Court, which Acevedo Vila opposed.

Despite the cooling in the relationship, the resident commissioner said in published reports that he expects to seen the governor "soon," but he did not specify a date.

He also denied that a situation of tension will arise with the governor, similar to what occurred between former Resident Commissioner Carlos Romero Barcelo and former Gov. Pedro Rossello during the past two terms.

Under his administration, Rossello considered his resident commissioner to be a mere legislator who did not necessarily have to be connected to the public policies of the governor on the island.

"[The difference] between the earth and sky. Calderon is not Rossello, and I’m not Romero Barcelo. For both of us, the first thing that is above all is Puerto Rico," Acevedo Vila said.

P.R., D.R. Study Trade Effects

From Miami Herald Wire Services

October 28, 2003
Copyright © 2003
MIAMI HERALD WIRE SERVICES. All rights reserved. 

Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic formed a bilateral trade commission to study how a U.S.-Dominican free-trade agreement would affect the two Caribbean economies, officials said Monday.

The memorandum of understanding, signed earlier this month, appoints officials from both governments to evaluate trade patterns between the U.S. Caribbean territory and the neighboring Dominican Republic, trade officials said.

The creation of the commission came as the United States and the Dominican Republic prepare to begin negotiating a bilateral free-trade agreement in January. The commission will report its findings to negotiators, officials said.

The Dominican Republic is the Unites States' largest Caribbean trading partner and fourth in Latin America after Mexico, Brazil and Colombia, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

U.S.-Dominican trade exceeded $8.6 billion in 2002. Florida, with nearly 16 million people, accounts for some 60 percent of the exchange.

Rossello Refrains From Apology Demanded By Pesquera

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

October 28, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

New Progressive Party (NPP) pre-gubernatorial candidate Pedro Rossello said Tuesday that he preferred not to answer a request for an apology for statements that, in his view, were never intended to hurt NPP President Carlos Pesquera, his contender in the primary race.

"I think what I said was clear and I, at no time, have attacked anyone," Rossello said during a press conference at his committee headquarters in Hato Rey.

But Pesquera said no one who listened to Rossello’s radio interview can believe that. However, although not a formal apology, the former governor’s careful demeanor during his press conference Tuesday could be read as such, Pesquera said.

"In a way, Rossello’s statements are a withdrawal," Pesquera said during a press conference at his committee headquarters in Santurce.

The dispute started last week when Rossello answered questions regarding corruption scandals during his administration. The former governor defended himself by saying that his contender has been closer to corruption scandals than he has, citing the illegalities found at the Ports Authority during Pesquera’s chairmanship of the agency’s board of directors.

On Tuesday, the NPP president said Rossello, of all people, knows that he immediately requested an internal audit and an investigation that ended with the resignation of then Ports Authority Director Herman Sulsona.

Pesquera said he kept Rossello up to date on the case and also informed him of his decision to ask for Sulsona’s resignation.

"Rossello, of all people, knows that I complied with my duty. Any attempt to stain my reputation cannot be allowed," the NPP president said.

Sulsona, who pled guilty to 28 charges of fraud, negligence, and government ethics violations, was sentenced to eight years of probation in a fraud case in which he admitted to bypassing the bidding process to grant contracts for a major repair project.

In 1997 and 1998, Sulsona awarded contracts to two companies to paint and repair the roofs of a wharf and a hangar without holding a public bid. Authorities said the companies belonged to Dominican businessman Ramon Cabral, the brother of one of Sulsona's close friends. Sulsona allegedly paid $1.2 million to the companies for services that were never rendered.

Pesquera went even farther by stating that it was Rossello’s Municipal Affairs Aide Eduardo Laureano who personally lobbied in favor of Sulsona on behalf of La Fortaleza. However, he was unable to say if Laureano had acted on behalf of Rossello.

The former governor asserted that he never tried to defend Sulsona and insisted that his record is clean and took pride in the fact that no one has been able to file charges against him on anything illegal.

Pesquera Demands An Apology From Rossello

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

SAN JUAN (AP) — New Progressive Party President and primary gubernatorial candidate Carlos Pesquera gave 24 hours to his contender former Gov. Pedro Rossello for him to retract the statements in which he implied that the former Department of Transportation and Public Works Authority Secretary was responsible for the acts of corruption that took place while he headed the Ports Authority.

Pesquera said that if Rossello does not publicly apologize, he would proceed to reply to what he calls "vicious attacks."

"We have no doubt that his attacks are the result of his desperation as he sees that he is losing the support of the NPP people more and more," Pesquera said.

Last Monday Rossello questioned Pesquera’s responsibility in the corruption scheme that occurred when he was the Ports Authority Chairman of the Board of Directors.

For Rossello’s campaign manager Frances Rodriguez, Rossello was only trying to set the record straight.

"Pedro Rossello has been very clear and it seems to me that he has assumed an attitude of seeing this primary as a brotherly competition and has had the discipline of not answering any attack but has rather set the record straight," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez added that in the campaign of the former governor no attacks have been launched against any statehood follower.

"I think that from this part of the campaign, you won’t hear any attack against any statehood brother," Rodriguez said.

Legal Drinking Age Should Be Raised To 21

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

SAN JUAN (AP) — A new study by the Department of Transportation revealed that 50% of deaths in traffic accidents are related to alcohol.

In addition, the study revealed that 45% of the drunken driving cases taken to court are dismissed.

Meanwhile, the nonprofit organization Mothers Against Drunk and Drivers (MADD) gave a "satisfactory" note to the Safety Transit Committee but noted that the legal drinking age should be raised to 21.

The proposal is one of 70, which include more restrictions to the traffic laws relating to drunken drivers.

Rossello’s Team Expect Huge Campaign Closing

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

October 27, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Former Gov. Pedro Rossello’s team announced on Monday that they are preparing for a massive event on Friday November 7, when the pre-gubernatorial candidate will hold a rally to mark the closing of his campaign.

The event will be held at the Pedrin Zorrilla Coliseum in Hato Rey at 5 p.m.

Rossello’s campaign director Frances Rodriguez said they expect the four resident commissioner pre-candidates to be there, since they have all expressed their support for the former governor.

The pre-candidates for resident commissioner are New Progressive Party (NPP) Sen. Miriam Ramirez de Ferrer, former Senate President Charlie Rodriguez, former Resident Commissioner Carlos Romero Barcelo, and Republican Party National Committeeman for Puerto Rico, Luis Fortuño.

"We expect a massive event just like all Rossello’s activities and we invite the people of Puerto Rico to be there," Rodriguez said.

The campaign director said the activity had been arranged with the San Juan municipal government and that they are renting the coliseum’s facilities with the same responsibilities as any other entity, but was unable to give exact numbers on the expenses of the event.

Local music groups Mayombe and Limite 21, as well as Puerto Rican singer Joseph Fonseca, will also participate in the rally.

The primary will be held Nov. 9.

Minority Congressmen Agreed To Work Together

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

SAN JUAN (AP) — Hispanic, Afro-American and Asian U.S. Congressmen agreed in their annual meeting to draw a common agenda to push the issues that affect minorities on a national level.

Hispanic Congress Caucus President Ciro Rodriguez and Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila who participated in the tri-caucus meeting held over the weekend in Fajardo revealed the agreement on Monday.

The decision to work on a common agenda is that the political and economic power of the three groups could become an extraordinary force if they join together.

This was the second time that the three delegations had met. They did so last year in Virginia.

Mayoral Candidate Vigoreaux Promises Results Within 100 Days

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

SAN JUAN (AP) —Popular Democratic Party (PDP) primary candidate Sen. Roberto Vigoreaux said should he become San Juan mayor he would implement a security plan that would produce measurable results within the first 100 days of his administration.

The plan is based on establishing a crisis management center that would operate 24 hours a day in which the services of the state police, municipal guard, emergency medical service, rescue teams and non profit community organizations are integrated.

The idea is have a quick response to any emergency that might occur.

Other promises include the use of municipal funds for the purchase of illegal weapons from those who might possess them as well as a financial reward retribution for any information that contributes to a criminal investigation.

Vigoreaux also vowed to increase lighting in dangerous areas, install security cameras in high-crime zones, and purchase three new helicopters for surveillance.

Vigoreaux said the municipality has the funds to buy all the equipment needed.

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