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U.S. Officials, P.R. Leaders Discuss Status… Acevedo Says Constituent Assembly Nonnegotiable, He Meets With DEA… Marc Anthony Postpones Summer Tour…Rains Cause $5m In Road Damage… Cortijo's Wake…Plena Libre Drums Up Business…Bonds Puts On Show… PDP OKs Legislative Reform, Fas Demurs… Island In ECSO Accord… Puerto Rican Poverty Rate 26%

White House Officials Meet With Local Leaders

By Ricardo Zuñiga of Associated Press

May 24, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Two White House officials began on Monday in Hato Rey a series of meetings with local political leaders to discuss the resolution of the island’s status issue.

Upon their first meeting with former governor Pedro Rossello and New Progressive Party (NPP) resident commissioner candidate Luis Fortuño the co-chairmen for the White House working group for Puerto Rico, Ruben Barrales and Noel Francisco said they looked forward to the results of the meetings.

"We expect to have some good meetings with the political leaders," said Barrales.

Following the meeting Rossello said the Barrales and Francisco focused on what he and Fortuño had to say regarding statehood.

"They are here fact finding mission, not answering any questions," said Rossello.

"The leaders of all political parities understand that it is time for change," said the former governor.

For their second meeting Barrales and Francisco visited La Fortaleza where they met with Gov Sila Calderon.

In a written statement the governor said that any effort to attend the status issue has to include the will of the Puerto Rican people.

The White House officials are scheduled to meet, also on Monday, with Popular Democratic Party (PDP) president and gubernatorial candidate Anibal Acevedo Vila, and resident commissioner candidate, Roberto Prats.

The meeting with Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) leaders has been scheduled for Tuesday.

The White House working group for Puerto Rico was created by former President Bill Clinton. The group is in charge of studying possible alternatives to solve the island’s status issue. However Barrales and Francisco have said they will not issue their recommendations prior to the general elections in November. They have a December 2005 deadline to do so.

Constituent Assembly Nonnegotiable For Acevedo Vila

May 24, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Popular Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial candidate Anibal Acevedo Vila will deliver a resounding message to the co-chairmen of the White House Interagency Status Group: The Constituent Assembly is non negotiable as a method of resolving Puerto Rico’s 100 year status problem.

"We will meet with them and we will make it clear that the Puerto Rican people will initiate the self determination process based in the Constituent Assembly," said Acevedo Vila to newspapers.

The Resident Commissioner rejected the suggestion that his party’s refusal to considers others forums will lead to a stagnation of the status process.

The White House Interagency Status Group was created by president George W. Bush last December and is on the island to meet with various political sectors to discuss the controversial issues of status.

Acevedo Vila Meets With DEA Administrator

May 24, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila will meet on Monday with Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Administrator Karen Tandy, to discuss the possibility of creating a special task force to combat drug trafficking on the island.

The meeting between Acevedo Vila and Tandy, scheduled to begin at 9:15 Monday morning, will be held at the Office of the Resident Commissioner.

"I will discuss with the DEA administrator a proposal to create a special task force that will have the ability and agility to mobilize intelligence operations within the island network used by drug traffickers in the Caribbean," said Acevedo Vila.

According to the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) leader the purpose of the meeting is to request the stationing in Puerto Rico of an unit known as ‘Mobile Enforcement Teams,’ which will allow Puerto Rico to make direct requests to Congress in relation to fighting the drug war.

Marc Anthony Postpones Summer Tour


May 24, 2004
Copyright © 2004
BPI Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. 

BPI Entertainment News Wire

NEW YORK -- Latin superstar Marc Anthony has postponed his summer tour, which was due to begin June 1 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. "Due to the delay in production of my two albums, I have chosen to postpone my Nada Personal tour until November," Anthony said in a statement. "Instead, I will allocate the summer months to the promotion of my new CDs."

Rains Caused Over $5 Million In Road Damage

By Hilario De Leon of Associated Press

May 24, 2004
Copyright © 2004
Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Transportation and Public Works Department (DTOP by its Spanish acronym) Secretary Fernando Fagundo estimated that last weeks torrential rains caused over $5 million in damage to Puerto Rico’s roads.

"I hope the rain does not continue and that damage estimates remain at the current number. Not only have roads been damaged but also there has been delays in infrastructure construction," said Fagundo in a press conference.

Fagundo cited the Puerto Nuevo area, Kennedy, and Piñero Avenues as the areas worst hit by the rains in the metropolitan area.

Fagundo explained that flooding in those areas is caused by the Bechara Canal, which was diverted erroneously when construction began on the Puerto Nuevo Docks decades ago, which are adjacent to Kennedy Avenue.

He said the problem would be resolved if the canal were allowed to fallow is natural course.

"Before the dock’s were built the canal would empty into the bay, after construction the canal was diverted inland which cause the Puerto Nuevo area to become flooded during continue rain," said Fagundo.

Fagundo said that the Army Corps of Engineers had planned to correct the problem last year but the funds given for the project were reallocated to fight the war on terror in Iraq.

Fagundo said that such a project would cost over $30 million.

Cortijo's Wake


May 23, 2004
Copyright © 2004
Newsday, Inc. All rights reserved. 

Edgardo Rodríguez Juliá's "Cortijo's Wake," an essay about the 1982 funeral procession for Rafael Cortijo, one of Puerto Rico's greatest percussionist-bandleaders, has just been released in a new bilingual edition on Duke University Press, with Prof. Juan Flores doing the translation.

Two weeks ago, several of Cortijo's friends and relatives gathered at the Julia de Burgos Cultural Center in Spanish Harlem to pay tribute.

Latin Band Drums Up Some Business At Cypress Bay

By David Volz
Special Correspondent

May 23, 2004
Copyright © 2004
South Florida Sun-Sentinel. All rights reserved. 

About 500 Cypress Bay High School students were recently treated to a concert by the Latin musical group Plena Libre in the school's auditorium.

The group performed all its songs in Spanish with an upbeat, conga style. The band made extensive use of panderos, or hand drums.

"It was a fun, exciting opportunity for our kids," said Shari Bush, spokeswoman for the Weston school. "It was just a great opportunity to expose our students to Latin music during school."

Bush said Plena Libre was invited to Cypress Bay by the school's Foreign Language Department. She added that students were singing along and dancing throughout the show.

Plena Libre is from Puerto Rico and has been performing together for 10 years. In 2003, the group received a Grammy nomination in the Traditional Tropical Album category for Mi Ritmo.

Bonds Puts On Show For San Juan Fans

Henry Schulman

May 22, 2004
Copyright © 2004
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE. All rights reserved. 

San Juan, Puerto Rico -- Barry Bonds visited a charity hospital here Friday, saying it was tough to watch children go through chemotherapy because it evoked memories of his late father's ordeal. Then, Bonds played for the islanders after skipping five of the team's previous six games with what he describes as a pinched nerve in his back.

Bonds put on a good home-run show during batting practice. Fans blew whistles and sounded air horns every time he hit one out.

"I didn't want to disappoint the fans here," he said, "so my thing in Chicago was to take those two days off and try to play here, where there's a little warmer weather for us. We have another off day Monday, so they'll try to get me playing on a regular basis again."

PDP Approves Legislative Reform

By WOW Staff and wire reports

May 21, 2004
Copyright © 2004
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

The Popular Democratic Party (PDP) governing board approved late Thursday a proposal for a legislative reform that includes the elimination of pork barrel funds.

If approved by the current legislative assembly, the legislative reform will be included in the party’s platform.

That possibility is highly unlikely as Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora voted against the proposal and House Speaker Carlos Vizcarrondo abstained himself from voting.

In addition the proposal has to be ratified by the PDP general assembly on June 27 before it is included in the party’s platform.

"Lawmakers will pay tax on their per diems, the legislative assembly’s budget will be cut down, and pork barrel funds will be eliminated," said Acevedo Vila.

The changes call for legislators to be responsible for their budgets.

No official vehicles will be assigned and all transportation expenses will have to come out of the legislators budget.

Fas Stands Firm On Not Approving AAV Legislative Reform

By WOW Staff

May 21, 2004
Copyright © 2004
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

A visibly upset Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora affirmed on Friday his opposition to the proposed legislative reform approved on Thursday night by the Popular Democratic Party governing board.

Calling the 11 point proposal a mere copy of the rules applied in the US Congress, Fas Alzamora noted that whoever drafted the rules lacks complete knowledge of the local legislative system.

The veteran legislator said that he was never asked his opinion on the matter and that it wasn’t until Friday morning that he saw the proposal completely.

Fas Alzamora said it was disrespectful of the party president to call for a meeting to present a legislative reform without the members of the legislature knowing about it.

Meanwhile House Speaker Carlos Vizcarrondo, who abstained from voting, said that like Fas Alzamora he too felt offended at not being asked for his opinion.

Puerto Rico Joins Caribbean Nation Organization

By Laura Rivera Melendez

May 21, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — In another attempt to strengthen Puerto Rico’s standing within the Caribbean region, the island’s State Department announced on Friday the signing of an accord with the Eastern Caribbean States Organization (ECSO), which will include educational and economic exchanges.

State secretary, Jose Izquierdo, recognized the limited political freedom that Puerto Rico enjoys, but Izquierdo said establishing this relation is important to Puerto Rico’s future.

"The Problems of the Caribbean are our problems and we cannot afford to see each country as an individual entity onto itself," said Izquierdo in press conference alongside Promoexport director, Antonio Sosa Pascual, and the President of the Environmental Quality Board, Esteban Mujica.

The accord includes Spanish language educational exchanges hosted by the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), export of Puerto Rican agricultural products, and the opening of an ESCO office to act as a de facto consulate for the organization.

ESCO was created in 1981 and presently counts with the membership of Saint Vincent, the Grenadine Islands, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Saint Lucia, Granada, the British territories of Anguila, Monserrate, and the Virgin Islands.

The accord also calls on law enforcement sectors of all member islands to work together in fighting drug trafficking, added Izquierdo.

Puerto Rico will participate in an ESCO environmental summit in St. Lucia in July, which will be attended by Puerto Rican Companies that offer environmental services.

Puerto Rican Poverty Rate 26%



May 20, 2004
Copyright © 2004
NY DAILY NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Even though they're long-established American citizens, Puerto Ricans have the highest poverty rate of any Latino group in the country, a newly released analysis of census data shows.

Of the 3.2 million Puerto Ricans in the 50 states, 26% live in poverty - roughly three times the national average.

"Everybody says, 'The key to success is to become a citizen,'" said César Perales, president of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, which conducted the analysis.

"But when you look at the Puerto Rican situation," Perales said, "you can't help but question the meaning of citizenship" for social and economic advancement.

The analysis also shows that unemployment among Puerto Rican men also ranks highest compared with other Latino groups and is almost twice the national average of 6.2%.

Puerto Rican families also make about $5,000 less than the average Latino household, with almost half the single-parent homes headed by women living in poverty.

"This is a crisis," said City Councilman Hiram Monserrate, a Democrat of Puerto Rican descent who represents heavily Hispanic Queens neighborhoods.

But the study also highlights some positive signs:

  • Some 14% of Puerto Ricans in the United States have at least a bachelor's degree - a rate that is higher than than the Latino average, but still half that of non-Latino whites.
  • Nearly 20% of Puerto Ricans hold managerial jobs and earn more than $50,000 a year, also more than the Latino average.
  • The average annual earnings of Puerto Rican men is higher than that of all Latino men living in the U.S.

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