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CRB & Fortuno Clash…Rossello Favors Extending Key Cabinet Appointments…Calderon Won’t Remove Gov’t Billboards Despite Electoral Complaints…Homicide Rate Rises…CreditSmart Espanol Launched…Summer Goal For Americas Port Permits…D.C. Case Could Affect Island Status, Says Rossello

Carlos Romero And Luis Fortuño Lash Out At Each Other

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

February 18, 2004
Copyright © 2004
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

What began as an alleged attempt of New Progressive Party (NPP) resident commissioner candidate Luis Fortuño to iron out differences with former primary contender Carlos Romero, turned into a full-blown grudge on Wednesday when they both exchanged strong words in separate written statements that were made available to the media.

Fortuño urged Romero to accept the fact that he lost the primary and asked him to join him and the party in their effort to win the November general election.

"I know it is not easy for someone like you—who has enjoyed the support of NPP voters—to accept the will of your people. For reasons that are difficult for any NPP supporter to understand, you have decided to turn your malaise against me," said Fortuño in a letter he sent to Romero on Tuesday night.

Fortuño said the former resident commissioner has refused to shake hands with him or even respond to his attempts to sit down and talk.

Romero’s rebuttal left hardly any hope of reconciliation after he called Fortuño a liar and a hypocrite in a prepared statement. He also admitted to holding a grudge against Fortuño for taking credit during the primary campaign for things others had done in the past for the betterment of the Puerto Rican people.

"I prefer not to have personal, professional or political relations with hypocrites and liars," Romero told Fortuño in a written statement.

The former governor accused Fortuño of falsely wanting to make peace and resented him for making the letter public without giving him a change to answer it first.

"Whether or not I decide to shake hands with you is a personal matter. It is you who, for reasons that I have yet to understand, has made this a public issue. [...] I have no choice but to also make this letter public," Romero said.

The former governor denied Fortuño has ever tried to contact him for anything, let alone to make peace. Romero urged the NPP resident commissioner candidate to stop using him for publicity stunts and to focus on his job instead.

"My advice to you is to stop gossiping and do your job," Romero said.

As of 6 p.m. neither NPP President Pedro Rossello nor any of his team members had commented on the matter.

Rossello Oks Appointing Chiefs For More Than 4 Years

February 17, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – New Progressive Party (NPP) gubernatorial candidate Pedro Rossello said on Tuesday that he would favor appointing some cabinet members for more than four years to ensure the continuity of important projects.

However, he disagreed with applying the same term to all agency chiefs because it could immobilize the government.

Rossello said the proposal should be evaluated to select only a few key positions which he didn’t specify.

"It would be good for some positions, but when the people elect a party, they do so based on certain public policy commitments," he said during a press conference at the NPP headquarters in Hato Rey.

Rossello’s statements were issued in response to a proposal from several of the island’s economic associations.

According to the Manufacturers and the Hotels & Tourism associations, as well as the Pharmaceutical Industry and the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce, the lack of long-term planning has interrupted projects, thus causing thousands to lose their jobs.

"The economic development cannot be based on strategies that change every four years," economic leaders said in an ad.

Governor Says She Won’t Remove Administration Billboards

February 17, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Gov. Sila Calderon said on Tuesday that she plans to keep the administration billboards right where they are, regardless of whether the State Elections Commission (SEC) decides they violate the electoral closed season on government ads.

However, Calderon said she is willing to remove the phrases that may be interpreted as party slogans.

Ramon Gomez Colon, who is the chairman of the SEC’s Advertising Examining Board, has said the billboards cannot mention the number of jobs created from a project, the governor’s name, or the phrase "Puerto Rico on the right track."

Although the hearing on the matter has been postponed until Feb. 27, Gomez Colon predicted that the ruling will be the same as that of previous cases involving similar circumstances.

The governor said she is working with the SEC and the examining board to reach an agreement.

Nevertheless, Calderon insisted that the billboards will keep her name and the number of created jobs.

She added that there are around 1,000 billboards on the island that would have to be altered.

Evaluation Of Complaints Against Calderon Postponed

February 17, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The evaluation of eight complaints related to advertising ads of the central government for alleged violation of the electoral closed season was postponed until Feb. 27 at 10 a.m.

The Advertising Examining Board of the State Elections Commission (SEC) decided to postpone the evaluation of Gov. Sila Calderon’s billboards after La Fortaleza legal advisor William Vazquez Irizarry filed a petition to postpone the evaluation.

Vazquez Irizarry claimed in published reports that he didn’t receive the SEC’s subpoena on time to prepare for the case.

Meanwhile, the evaluation of the complaints filed against San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini regarding cement walls that bear his name, were also postponed until Feb. 27 at 3 p.m. after municipal government attorneys raised the same plea for more time to prepare for the case.

New Progressive Party Rep. Iris Miriam Ruiz, who filed the complaints against the governor, said the postponement of the hearing was another subterfuge of La Fortaleza. However, she declined to react to a similar petition of the San Juan municipal government.

According to the SEC, more than 100 complaints have been filed since the closed season began in January.

Murder Rate Continues To Be On The Rise

February 17, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Two young men were fatally shot Monday night at the basketball court of Villas de Lomas Verdes Condominium in Rio Piedras.

The police identified the victims as Jamil Reyes Santiago, 17, and Cristobal Merced Rivera, 22.

San Juan Criminal Investigations Agent Zaida Tirado said the murders took place after 10 p.m. when several individuals armed with assault rifles opened fire against Reyes Santiago and Merced Rivera.

The police didn’t offer additional details of the double murder which elevates the number of violent deaths to 120 so far this year; 20 more than last year during the same period.

Local authorities also announced the violent death of Axel Perez Santiago, 35, who was killed in front of his home in Toa Baja.

The police said an unidentified person shot Perez Santiago, who received at least eight bullet wounds to the back.

Bayamon Criminal Investigations agents continue to investigate the case.

Education Program for Puerto Rico

February 16, 2004
Copyright © 2004
Thomson Media Inc. All rights reserved. 

National Mortgage News

SAN JUAN, PR -- Freddie Mac and R&G Financial here have launched CreditSmart Espanol, an extensive credit education initiative designed to educate Puerto Rican families about homeownership.

It includes a wide range of consumer credit and money management skills, as well as achieving other financial goals such as saving for a college education.

It consists of 11 modules that cover specific topics such as becoming a homeowner, thinking like a lender, your credit and why it is important, establishing and maintaining good credit, banking services, and goal setting.

Port Of The Americas Permits May Be Ready By Summer

By Jose Fernandez Colon of Associated Press

February 16, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

PONCE - The Puerto Rican government hopes that the federal and local environmental permits to develop the Port of the Americas in Ponce will be ready by this summer, said Milton Segarra, who is the secretary of Economic Development & Commerce.

"By summer of 2004, we hope to have the federal and Commonwealth permits to dredge the Ponce bay and build the port without a problem," Segarra said.

He estimated that the dredging to bring the bay's depth to 50 feet may take a year.

Segarra, who presides the Port of the Americas Authority, said he hopes to select the operator of the transshipment port by August to sign the operation contract for the next 40 years.

The agency chief also estimated that three or four consortiums will submit their proposals by April or May to begin the evaluation process.

"As soon as the end of this year or the beginning of the next one, there could be some kind of operation with a movement of 300,000 to 400,000 cargo trailers a year, which would be very good, but we hope to have postpanamax ships by 2006," Segarra said.

Washington DC Case Could Help Island Status

Por Jose Fernandez Colon de Prensa Asociada

February 16, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

PONCE – The former governor of Puerto Rico and President of the New Progressive Party (NPP) and now candidate to the same position, Pedro Rossello, said on Sunday that a new international report about the lack of representation in Congress by District of Columbia’s citizens, becomes a new opportunity to resolve Puerto Rico’s own political status.

Rossello pointed out that this is the first time that the Human Rights Anti-American Commission, subscribed to the American States Organization (ASO), considers statehood as an option for Puerto Rico.

"The Anti-American Human Rights Commission presented a report about the case of the habitants in Washington, District of Columbia and their representation in Congress, and stated that there is a democratic deficit to have a group of citizens that do not have their right to elect their own congressional representatives.

Rosselló, participated in Ponce in the commemoration of the 100 years of the birth of Luis A. Ferre, founder of the New Progressive Party and who died late last year. He added that almost nobody in the Island supports a colonial or territorial political system for Puerto Rico.

A major newspaper informed on Sunday that the commission concluded that the lack of Representation by the habitants in Washington, D.C. is a clear humans rights violation against these citizens.

The NPP candidate also said that the Cuban delegation to the United Nations recognizes statehood, free association and independence as options to resolve Puerto Rico’s status.

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