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Naveira Becomes First Female Chief Justice Of The Supreme Court... PDP Gubernatorial Candidate Promises To Limit Government Ads... Calderon Undecided On Tax Reform, Can’t Promise Salary Increase...

Naveira Becomes First Female Chief Justice Of The Supreme Court

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

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

The controversy that has surrounded the highest judicial court of the island since September was placed aside on Tuesday when Miriam Naveira was sworn in as the first female chief justice of the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico.

In front of a courtroom packed with members of all three government branches, Naveira took an oath to defend the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

"I will fight to banish that which the Supreme Court has been accused of: indifference to social reality […] The judicial system must respond to the people who call for something more than the strict judicial norm," Naveira said after being sworn in by interim chief justice Francisco Rebollo.

She was accompanied by her daughter Miriam Rodon de Mace, son Victor Arturo Rodon, as well as her granddaughters Sarahi Matilda Mace Rodon and Veronica del Mar Rodon.

Gov. Sila Calderon–whose first choice for chief justice was former Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado–praised the wide experience of Naveira, who besides her 18 years as associate justice, is also the first woman to have directed the Monopolistic Affairs Office at the Justice Department, and the first female to become General Advocate of Puerto Rico.

"The democratic foundation of our collective lives grow stronger, our juridical lives are richer, and our society more fair," Calderon said noting the constitutional mandate that calls for equality among all people.

Naveira received congratulations from her counterparts in Spain and the Dominican Republic, Milagros Calvo Ibarbucea and Ana Rosa Verges, respectively who were guest speakers at the swear in ceremony.

She was applauded for pursuing her professional life at the time when women were expected to just be wives and mothers.

Naveira–who will turn 70 in July–will only serve as chief justice for seven months when she reaches the age limit for retirement established by the Constitution. However, Naveira has promised to lay the groundwork for the judicial reform by that time.

The shortness of Naveira’s term was criticized by minority senators of the New Progressive Party and the Puerto Rican Independence Party who believed her nomination to be part of a scheme of the governor to ensure the later renomination of Mercado for the same position.

Mercado’s nomination for associate justice was withdrawn after a scandal that linked him with the death of a friend who died in a car accident in 1975. In his stead, the governor nominated Appellate Court Judge Liana Fiol Matta, who although pending confirmation at the Senate, received a warm welcome from Rebollo during the swearing in ceremony.

Other Supreme Court chief justices have also had short terms. Roberto H. Todd served for around 10 months in 1952 and Jaime Sifre, for only two months in 1957.

PDP Gubernatorial Candidate Promises To Limit Government Ads

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

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

Should Popular Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial candidate Anibal Acevedo Vila win in 2004, he said he would legislate to limit government expenses in advertising.

"As governor, I will legislate to limit government ads to what’s basic," Acevedo Vila said during a press conference on Monday at a hotel in Puerta de Tierra.

When asked if he agreed with the series of full page colored ads that Gov. Sila Calderon’s administration has been posting since November to promote her government’s achievements, Acevedo Vila declined to make a direct criticism.

However, he acknowledged that the issue has raised disapproving eyebrows among island residents.

"I believe some ads are justifiable, while other ads have probably caused some doubts in [Puerto Rico]," Acevedo Vila stated.

The resident commissioner said the ads should be limited to announcing bidding processes and other useful information for locals.

Acevedo Vila noted that his idea isn’t to create a permanent closed season for government ads, as is done during election years.

Instead, the PDP gubernatorial candidate said he would propose the creation of parameters and a fast mechanism to enable citizens to file complaints whenever they believe the government is misusing public funds on unnecessary ads.

Calderon: Tax Reform Yet To Be Decided

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

SAN JUAN (AP) — For Gov. Sila M. Calderon the implementation of a tax reform is an issue yet to be decided and she commented that such issue is not among her promises.

"I don’t have a commitment on that issue. That was not one of my commitments. It was not included in my campaign platform," Calderon said.

Several legislators are trying to propose a sales tax.

But the governor has ordered an economic study prior to reaching a decision on whether to impose a sales tax.

"I have to have all the elements before I can reach a decision," Calderon said.

Governor Can’t Guarantee Salary Increase

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

SAN JUAN (AP) — One year away from the end of her tenure in office Gov. Sila M. Calderon said this weekend that she still couldn’t guarantee a salary increase to government employees.

Calderon said she first needs to draft the proposed budget for fiscal year 2004-2005 to determine if it will be possible to grant the salary increase to the island’s 150,000 public employees.

"We are doing the mathematical numbers and that determination will be taken when the budget is finished. My wish is to comply with my commitments. At the same time, I am determined to finish my administration with balanced finances, a budget without a hidden deficit," Calderon said.

Prior to her election in 2000 Calderon promised a salary increase of $400 during her four years in office.

There are 110,000 government employees who are protected by collective agreements and are awaiting a $150 monthly salary increase for July 1. 30,000 who are not protected by collective agreements are 30,000 await $100. There are also nearly 20,000 police agents who were promised $500 for the electoral campaign.

During this year the governor tried to withdraw a $150 monthly increase in February that some 100,000 union employees with collective signed agreements were waiting for. But following protests and strike threats, the money was allocated and the increase granted.

At the same time earlier this month Calderon threatened not to include the increased $1,000 Christmas bonus to employees covered by the collective bargains. But again, following protests and strike threats the money was found and the bonus was given.

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