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Kerry Taking A Trip To Puerto Rico If Elected…Gov’t Officially Retakes Control Of Prasa…5 Puerto Ricans In Yachting World Cup… Island May Get More MLB Games…USSC: Signature Notarization Law Unconstitutional…Roosevelt Roads Finally Shuts Down, A Half Victory For Some

Kerry Taking A Trip To Puerto Rico If Elected

March 31, 2004
Copyright © 2004 Capitol Hill Publishing Corp. All rights reserved. 

The Hill

It's no secret that doing well among Hispanic voters this fall will be a key to victory in the presidential race. Last week, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) seemed poised to fire a loud volley in the battle to court such voters.

Kerry vowed to do something no president has done in 42 years when he told Puerto Rico Senate Minority Leader Kenneth McClintock that, if elected, he would pay the first presidential visit to the island since JFK in December 1961, McClintock told The Hill. (President Gerald Ford visited the island briefly in 1976 for an economic summit, but McClintock said that really doesn't count.) McClintock, a prominent Democrat who has been critical of his party's outreach efforts to Hispanic voters, said a presidential trip to the island would help eliminate the stigma felt by some residents that the United States doesn't much care about Puerto Rico. "The sight of Air Force One would have a dramatic impact," he said.

It would not directly help Kerry's potential re-election bid, however. Puerto Rico residents cannot vote for president, but are required to pay some federal taxes and can be drafted into the military. McClintock said he has called for Kerry to demand statehood for Puerto Rico, but so far the Democratic nominee has not done so.

Government Officially Retakes Control Of Prasa

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

April 1, 2004
Copyright © 2004 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Authority (Prasa) has officially returned to the hands of the local government after almost a decade of private administration which ended with the cancellation Ondeo’s contract.

"When we implement changes, we will take into account the experience we have gained during the past few years as well as the new tendencies in government," said Prasa Executive President Juan Agosto Alicea during a press conference at the corporation’s headquarters in Rio Piedras on Thursday.

He said Ondeo would be a consultant for Prasa for the rest of the fiscal year ending on June 30.

Agosto Alicea assured Prasa clients that they don’t need to worry about an increase in service charges.

Agosto Alicea said that for right now, his main priorities are to finish the Water for Everyone Program, reduce the loss of water from 50% to 20% in the space of 10 years, and re-establish Prasa’s operational self-sufficiency.

According to Agosto Alicea, Prasa’s Board of Directors has whittled the number of candidates to replace him as executive president down to three.

"This means that I will be interim president until the beginning of May when the new executive president will assume his duties," Agosto Alicea added.

The new head will help select six executive directors; each will oversee one of Prasa’s five regions, and the sixth will be in charge of Prasa’s infrastructure plan.

"We believe that putting administrative control in the hands of the regions is the fastest and most efficient way of solving the problems with the water service in Puerto Rico. Each region knows its people’s needs and won’t have to wait on the main office in San Juan to be told what to do," said Agosto Alicea.

Agosto Alicea said Prasa directors will be appointed for a six-year period to ensure that the corporation’s long-term work plan isn’t interrupted by political changes.

He also said the corporation will retain 195 Puerto Rican Ondeo employees. However, he said they will have to pass a two-year probation period if they are to stay on permanently.

Five Puerto Ricans To Participate In Yachting World Cup

April 1, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Five Puerto Ricans will participate this Friday in the Laser Radial Cup, which is to be held in Mazly, Australia.

The director of the High Performance Committee of the Olympic Commission of Puerto Rico, Humberto Cintron, said that Francisco Medina, Carlos and Marcos Texidor, Gabriel Branches, and Angela Albela will participate in the yachting World Cup.

The coach for the Puerto Rican team is Russia’s Vladimir Bolotnikov.

"The competition is certified by the International Yachting Federation," added Cintron. It is part of the juvenile division.

The Olympic Commission also announced plans to raise funds for those participating in these types of events.

Cintron announced that a car will be raffled to raise funds. "A number of national sports confederations will participate in this fund-raising campaign," he said.

Major League May Stage More Baseball In Puerto Rico

April 1, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Major League Baseball may bring more baseball to Puerto Rico following the success of Montreal Expos games held last season in the U.S. Caribbean territory, officials said Thursday.

Struggling with years of low attendance in Montreal, the Expos played 22 of their 162 games in Puerto Rico last season, and are scheduled for another 22 on the island this year.

"With what's been done here, I hope to see (Major League) baseball every year" in Puerto Rico, said Lou Melendez, vice president of international baseball operations.

"I'm confident that other teams would be interested in coming to play here," he said, naming the Florida's Tampa Devil Rays as one possibility.

Melendez spoke Thursday while touring San Juan's Hiram Bithorn stadium, which has undergone $8 million in renovations during the offseason and can hold 20,000 people.

Local businessman Antonio Munoz paid $6.6 million to host the Expos last season, with each game pulling an average of 14,000 fans. This year Munoz was expected to pay $10 million to the league to host the Expos.

SC: Requirement To Notarize Endorsement Signatures Illegal

March 31, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - The United States Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to require that those collecting signatures to support forming new political parties get lists notarized.

The court’s ruling supported previous decisions emitted by the Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston and the Federal Court in Puerto Rico. It says that the requirements violate the federal Constitution’s first amendment right to liberty of association.

According to news sources, the Supreme Court justices reached his decision quickly and didn’t discuss the merits of an appeal.

The State Elections Commission, which opposed eliminating this requirement, has the option to appeal, although it is highly unlikely that the Supreme Court will change its ruling.

The decision will make it easier to register new parties.

The plaintiff, Jose Emilio Perez Guzman, is deciding whether to take legal action against government attorneys for what he considers to be rash behavior during their handling of the case.

"I understand that there is a long road ahead and that, considering the attitude of the three existing parties, they will change the current law to continue preventing people from creating new parties, but we will continue fighting until we win," said Perez Guzman.

Roosevelt Roads Finally Shuts Down Military Activity

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

March 31, 2004
Copyright © 2004 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

CEIBA - On the last day of the U.S. Navy’s military operations on the Roosevelt Roads naval base, several members from Gov. Sila Calderon’s cabinet met with community leaders from Ceiba and Naguabo to mark the beginning of the transition process that they expect will yield economic benefits to the eastern part of the island and the rest of Puerto Rico.

Economic Development & Commerce Secretary Milton Segarra reiterated on Tuesday that the Calderon administration is working full throttle to complete the government plan by August.

Although the decision as to which federal agency would stay at Roosevelt Roads was supposed to be made by the end of March, Segarra said that federal officials had told him on Tuesday that the decision should be announced in less than a week.

"It is very probable that the agencies that have already been mentioned—Homeland Security Department, U.S. Customs, and the U.S. Army Reserve—have a guaranteed space at Roosevelt Roads," Segarra said on Wednesday during a press conference in Ceiba.

Segarra also said that he believes that the roles of these federal agencies are compatible with the local government’s development plan for Roosevelt Roads, although he didn’t say how.

"I think these three agencies could make an immediate contribution to the area’s economy," Segarra added.

Segarra also said that, because it still owns the land, the Navy is responsible for decontaminating the over 8,000 acres that make up the base.

"We don’t expect any problem with that part of the process. However, it is too early to tell how much it will cost," said Department of Natural & Environmental Resources Secretary Luis E. Rodriguez, who was also present at the press conference.

Cabinet members Angel Rodriguez, chairman of the Planning Board; Health Secretary Johnny Rullan; Tourism Co. Executive Director Jose Suarez; and Department of Transportation & Public Works Secretary Fernando Fagundo were also in Ceiba on Tuesday. They too are helping draft the government plan to develop Roosevelt Roads.

Some of the draft’s proposals include preserving more than 3,000 acres of wetlands and developing 1,250 acres for ecotourism. The local government is also interested in obtaining rights for Puerto Rico residents to use the water and power facilities inside the base.

The local Health Department has also requested that authorities transfer control of the naval-base hospital so it can set up a rehabilitation center for stroke patients.

The plan also includes establishing a maritime route between Ceiba and the island municipality of Vieques that would be shorter than the one from Fajardo.

Segarra said that because 15% of the land is located in Naguabo, Mayor Robert Baez has been attending committee meetings. He announced that a meeting will be held in Naguabo on April 15 to discuss the ideas and concerns of the Naguabo community regarding the benefits of using the land at Roosevelt Roads.

Community Leaders Fear USNSRR Plan Is A Waste Of Time

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

March 31, 2004
Copyright © 2004 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

CEIBA - The official shutdown of the U.S. Navy’s military operations at Roosevelt Roads is only a half victory for some community leaders who believe the government’s plan to develop the land doesn’t guarantee that it will take into consideration residents’ interests.

New Independence Movement President Julio Muriente and Rev. Samuel Caraballo of the United Evangelical Church of Puerto Rico went to the base on Wednesday to observe the naval base shutdown and were hopeful about the economic development of the eastern region. Others, though, were far from optimistic.

Maria Migdalia Avila, president of Alliance for the Development of Ceiba (Aprodec by its Spanish acronym), met with the press on Wednesday at the entrance of the former military facility to criticize the way Gov. Sila Calderon’s administration has been conducting the meetings regarding the base’s closing; she claimed that they were rushed and disorganized.

"They are in such a rush to have [the plans] ready by August…This shouldn’t be done in a hurry," said Avila, who told the press that the government doesn’t make sure everyone knows of the meetings and sometimes cancels them without sufficient notice.

Although Economic Development & Commerce Secretary Milton Segarra has said that the government redevelopment plan for Roosevelt Roads includes around 10 community proposals, Avila told the press that she has yet to be informed of which ones he is talking about.

Avila owns an automotive center in Ceiba which she said will experience a drop in income once she stops providing service to clients who lived at the former military base.

Avila questioned the validity of the plan, which she said has been drafted primarily by Calderon’s cabinet members. The community leader worried that once a new administration takes charge following the November general elections, there will be no guarantees that the new government will use the same plans.

"Regardless of who wins, there will be a change in administration and the new agency chiefs will have us running around not knowing what to do. That is not what we want. We should be the ones making the decisions," Avila said.

In fact, New Progressive Party gubernatorial candidate Pedro Rossello already said on Tuesday that should he win, he would implement a different plan.

Part of Rossello’s plan is to develop the transshipment port that the Calderon administration intends to build in Ponce. Rossello has said he believes Roosevelt Roads is a strategic location which is superior to the one in the southern municipality of Ponce.

Avila said the board in charge of drafting the development plan shouldn’t be made up of government officials, but rather citizens who wouldn’t be affected by changes in administration.

As of right now, the board only has two representatives from the communities of Ceiba and Naguabo. The rest are government officials, she said.

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