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Naveira Nominated As Island’s First Female Chief Judge… Pesquera Asks Dismissal Of Riot Charge…Prison Sentences Possible In Fed Prasa Investigation…Puerto Rican, Oldest U.S. Veteran?…Acevedo Wants Post-Holiday Debate…K. Casiano Joins Ford Board…P.R. Tops D.R 14-7…Olympian Effort By Santiago…Basques March Against "Free State" Plan

Naveira Nominated As Island’s First Female Chief Judge

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

December 16, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Miriam Naveira

After much speculation, Gov. Sila Calderon announced late Tuesday the nomination of Miriam Naveira as chief justice of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court and Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado as a Supreme Court associate justice.

The governor immediately called for an extraordinary session at the Senate which will open Wednesday to evaluate whether the nominations will be ratified.

This would be the third time that Mercado has been nominated for a position at the Supreme Court. In October, Calderon was forced to withdraw Mercado's nomination to chief justice after widespread opposition even from members of her own Popular Democratic (PDP) such as resident commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila. Then she had to withdraw Mercado's nomination to associate justice because there no vacancy had been created for that position.

However, this time around Calderon said she didn't expect opposition to either candidate. She said no one questioned Mercado' capacity for associate justice the first time around and she believed Naveira's extensive experience in the judicial branch made her an excellent candidate for chief justice.

"It fills me with great satisfaction to submit these two nominations to the consideration and consent of the Senate for the well being of the people of Puerto Rico," the governor said.

Despite her praises for Naveira, Calderon declined to answer why she didn't nominate her the first time when she chose Mercado.

The nomination of Naveira, who has been an associate justice since 1985, comes seven months from her retirement, something which has raised the question of who will replace her once she leaves the position, should she be confirmed by the Senate.

"I am not jump the gun regarding next year," the governor said.

Meanwhile, the nominees had words of gratitude for the governor and promised to do their best to implement the new Judicial Law of 2003 and to meet the expectations of the people of Puerto Rico.

Naveira said she would give special attention to matters of minors and family, whom she regarded as the heart and the future of society.

"I know I have a tremendous work ahead and that if I plan to do it in seven months, my family won't see much of me, but I will do it," Naveira said as she promised to lay the groundwork of the new law implemented before she retires next year.

As for Mercado, he said he didn't feel less because of accepting a lower position than it was originally offered to him at the Supreme Court.

"Serving justice and the people of Puerto Rico in no way constitutes a degradation," Mercado stated.

Pesquera Asks That Riot Charge Against Him Be Dropped

December 16, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The defense attorney of former New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera requested on Monday that the riot charge against his client be dropped.

According to the defense’s petition to Superior Court Judge Carmen Vargas, no aggressive acts were seen on the video presented during the hearing to arraign NPP legislators Miriam Ramirez, Jennifer Gonzalez, and Jose Aponte, except when the door was opened and a mob pushed Pesquera.

The charge against Pesquera has to do with the violence that broke out June 20, 2002 when he and a group of NPP supporters stormed into the Women’s Advocate Office to place a U.S. flag in the lobby.

Former NPP President Leo Diaz, NPP Rep. Edwin Mundo, and NPP Electoral Commissioner Thomas Rivera Schatz are also accused of participating in the incident.

The trial has been set for Jan. 14, with jury selection in the court of Superior Court Judge Carlos Caban.

Prison Sentences Possible In Federal Investigation Of Prasa

December 16, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Puerto Rico Director Carl Axel Soderberg didn’t rule out that officials of the Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Authority (Prasa) or its operator could face prison sentences following the criminal investigation begun by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Soderberg said the same stipulations applicable in any other felony case apply in environmental criminal investigations.

"The criminal implications are the same as for any living person in society," Soderberg said in published reports.

On Friday, the Puerto Rico Commonwealth Comptroller’s Office announced that the federal Department of Justice was investigating environmental violations at six of Prasa’s water treatment plants.

Soderberg denied the comptroller’s allegation that he has been lenient with Prasa during the contract with Ondeo, the private operator of the government agency.

Puerto Rican Says He's Oldest U.S. Veteran

December 15, 2003
Copyright © 2003
EFE NEWS SERVICE. All rights reserved. 

Isabela, Puerto Rico, Dec 15 (EFE) - A 112-year-old Puerto Rican who served in the U.S. Army during World War I is trying to get military authorities to recognize him as the oldest living veteran in the United States.

Emiliano Mercado del Toro, who lives with his family in Isabela, was born Aug. 21, 1891, in Cabo Rojo, a town in western Puerto Rico. At the age of 25 he was recruited to serve in what was then called the Great War.

He told EFE that he entered the military on Oct. 7, 1918, at the Las Casas Camp in Puerto Rico, from where he was immediately sent to Panama for training.

Mercado said that while he was recruited to serve in the conflict then raging in Europe, the armistice of Nov. 11, 1918, pre-empted his deployment to the battlefront.

In 1993, Mercado del Toro was honored by then-President Bill Clinton with the medal commemorating the 75th anniversary of the signing of the truce that ended World War I.

The president of the Disabled American Veterans chapter in Isabela, Josue Cruz Sanchez, said Mercado del Toro is an honorary member of the group, which since 2002 has been trying to get the Pentagon to recognize him as the oldest living U.S. military veteran.

Mercado del Toro's birth certificate and 1918 Army discharge papers are among the documentation DAV has submitted to the Defense Department.

The vet, the elder of two brothers, never married nor had children, but says he has been well taken care of by his nephews and their families.

"I feel well, but my legs are weak and trembling, otherwise I would be up and running, but I can't complain, I'm grateful to God and happy with what I've achieved and with my family," added Mercado.

He credits his longevity to a diet consisting largely of boiled corn meal, cod, and milk - from both cows and coconuts.

He reminisced about being a child when U.S. troops invaded Puerto Rico in 1898, and said he clearly remembers the fighting that marked the end of Spain's colonial empire.

Acevedo Vila Wants Debate After Holiday Recess

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

December 15, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Popular Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial candidate Anibal Acevedo Vila announced on Monday that following his holiday campaign recess, he would insist on rescheduling the debate that New Progressive Party (NPP) gubernatorial candidate Pedro Rossello called off.

"We will recess our campaign to enjoy Christmas with our families, but starting in January we will resume our challenge. Our people want to have the opportunity to watch debates about several subjects of interest. Rossello must demonstrate that he is a man of his word," Acevedo Vila said.

The debate was called off at the beginning of December after representatives of Acevedo Vila and Rossello couldn’t agree on the subject of the debate.

Rossello challenged Acevedo Vila to prove the accusations that the PDP contender had been making against him in a series of campaign ads.

The ads tried to link Rossello to the multimillion-dollar fraud scheme that took place at the Education Department during his administration at the Education Department. Although Acevedo Vila’s representatives insisted that the debate should be about education, Rossello’s campaign director, Frances Rodriguez, said Acevedo Vila wasn’t challenged to discuss his platform on education.

For the time being, Acevedo Vila said he would focus on enjoying the holiday season with his family now that the campaign ads have, in his opinion, been effective.

"I feel very satisfied that our campaign has clearly established the difference between the lies and the bad government of the past, which is represented by Pedro Rossello, and what the new generation of the PDP and my vision is offering to Puerto Ricans," Acevedo Vila said.

Ford Appoints Kimberly Casiano To Its Board Of Directors

By WOW Staff

December 15, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Ford Motor Company announced on Monday the election of Kimberly Casiano, president and chief operating officer of Casiano Communications, Inc. to the Company’s Board of Directors.

Casiano’s election is effective immediately and increases the number of company directors to 15.

"Kim is a respected leader and entrepreneur in the world of magazine publishing and in the U.S. Hispanic business community. We welcome her to the Board of Directors and look forward to the significant contributions she will make to our company’s future success," Ford Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bill Ford said.

A magna cum laude graduate of Princeton University and Harvard University, MBA Casiano is the first Hispanic female to be elected to the Ford’s Board of Directors.

"The Ford Motor Company is truly a legend in the history of American business and to play a leadership role as such an institution is a great honor. Its a responsibility I look forward to fulfilling, particularly as the Ford Motor Company continues on as a global industry leader," Casiano said.

Ford Motor Company, headquarters in Dearborn, Mich., is the world’s second largest automaker, with approximately 335,000 employees in 200 markets on six continents. Its brands include Ford, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lincoln, Mazda, Mercury and Volvo.

Puerto Rico Beats Dominican Republic 14-7

By Ricardo Zuñiga de Prensa Asociada

December 14, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN - Raul Gonzalez homered twice leading Puerto Rico to a 14-7 victory over longtime rival Dominican Republic on Sunday in the first winter league all-star game between both sides.

Gonzalez, an outfielder for the San Juan Senators and utility player for the New York Mets, smacked his first home run in the second inning with a runner on base, and hit a three-run shot in the fourth.

He drove in another run with a single in the eight inning to end with six RBIs. Puerto Rican starter Dickey Gonzalez faced nine batters and struck out five, shutting down the more dominant Dominican offense.

The Dominicans entered the game with a roster stacked with big league talent, including American League Rookie of the Year and Kansas City Royals shortstop Angel Berroa; Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, who won the home-run hitting contest before the game, and All-Star shortstop Rafael Furcal of the Atlanta Braves.

Puerto Rico didn't have as much name recognition but compensated with a lineup including outfielder Luis Matos of the Caguas Creoles and the Baltimore Orioles and shortstop Alex Cora of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Caguas.

Puerto Rico also scored in the fourth with a run-scoring double by Matos and again in the fifth with a hit by Toronto Blue Jays prospect Alexis Rios. Edwards Guzman smacked a solo shot in the sixth inning and Yadier Molina drove in another run in the seventh.

Rios hit a three-run blast in the eighth and Olmedo Saenz also drove in one run in the inning.

The Dominicans could not capitalize on several opportunities. Their first run came in the fourth from Ortiz who hit a sacrifice fly to drive in a run.

Two more runs came in the fifth for the Dominicans, but they could not take advantage of reckless Puerto Rican pitching. Berroa opened the inning with a hit, Richard Gomez got on base on an error and Alberto Castillo was walked by Jaime Navarro to load the bases.

David Rosario relieved Navarro who threw fourth straight balls to Furcal to walk in Berroa for a run. After striking out Luis Polonia, Rosario walked D'Angelo Jimenez bringing in the third run for the Dominicans.

Ortiz, one of the most feared batters in the American League, grounded out to end the inning.

The Dominicans scored two more runs in the sixth with solo home runs from Berroa and Gomez, one run in the eighth and another in the ninth.

Next year's all-star game will be played in Quisqueya stadium in Santo Domingo. Then, the event will rotate between different cities with professional teams in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

Both sides have had a strong rivalry in baseball over the past several decades. They meet each year in the Caribbean Series, which the Dominican Republic won last year after beating Puerto Rico. Mexico and Venezuela also participate in the series although Venezuela didn't send a team last year because of political tensions in the South American country.

Olympian Effort By Santiago

By Bob Sakamoto
Tribune Staff Reporter

December 14, 2003
Copyright © 2003
CHICAGO TRIBUNE. All rights reserved. 

Angel Santiago is only a 17-year-old junior at Von Steuben, but next summer he could be going face-to-face against Philadelphia 76ers superstar Allen Iverson.

That's because Santiago, who led No. 3 Von Steuben to a 71-61 victory over Proviso West on Saturday at the Panther Shootout in Hillside, will be playing for Puerto Rico in the Athens Summer Olympics.

"I'll try not to think of Iverson as one of the best players in the NBA," said Santiago, who had 22 points and three steals against Proviso West. "He'll just be another player I'll have to try to stop. It probably won't happen, but there isn't anybody in the NBA who can stop him either."

Does Santiago, who is rated the No. 2 junior in the state behind 6-foot-8-inch Julian Wright of Homewood-Flossmoor, think he can work his crossover against the Answer?

"Maybe one time out of 100," Santiago said with a laugh.

After spending the summer playing with Puerto Rico's national team, the 6-1 Santiago knows how to elevate his game beyond the high school level.

"Everybody is so much bigger and faster," Santiago said. "I'd like to do well next summer and then take care of business in Illinois."

Thousands March In Basque Region Against "Free State" Plan

December 14, 2003
Copyright © 2003
EFE NEWS SERVICE. All rights reserved. 

San Sebastian, Spain, Dec 13 (EFE) - Thousands protested here on Saturday against the Basque government's plan to change the autonomous region's status to that of an "associated free state."

The protest was organized by the Basta Ya (Enough) civic organization, which promotes liberty and peace and rejects the acts of violence committed by ETA, the Basque separatist organization.

The Basque region of Spain has functioned since 1980 under a wide-ranging "Autonomy Statute."

The aim of the protest, held under heavy security, was to protest the "Ibarretxe Plan," an initiative promoted by the lehendakari, or Basque president, Juan Jose Ibarretxe.

The proposal was rejected by Spain's Constitutional Court and several Basque organizations, but the regional parliament is debating it.

Besides calling for associated free state status, similar to that of Puerto Rico vis a vis the United States, it calls for acknowledging the Basque nationality as separate from Spain's.

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