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NPP Offers Proof Substantiating Rossello’s Pension, Rullan Denies Document Destruction… PDP Backs Acevedo’s Fiscal Control Plan… Bhatia: Independentistas Will Back Him… New VA Medical Facility Okd…Sgt. Mora Saw Army As Ticket To College… Camden’s San Juan Bautista… Rossello Status Proposal Called Undemocratic… Ramirez Shares Plight Of DR & Haitian Flood Victims

NPP Presents Proof That Substantiates Rossello’s Pension

By Manuel Ernesto Rivera of Associated Press

June 8, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

The New Progressive Party (NPP) presented on Tuesday proof to the Government Employee Retirement Systems Administration that hopes to validate former governor Pedro Rossello’s $52,500, rejecting calls for its reduction.

With his trademark confrontational demeanor, NPP Electoral Commissioner Thomas Rivera Schatz insisted that the process inflicted on Rossello by the Government Employee Retirement Systems Administration is political ploy orchestrated by the Popular Democratic Party (PDP).

"This is politically motivated, surely, because they only investigate one pensioner, Pedro Rossello. The people know why," said Rivera Schatz in a press conference.

The deadline for submission of proof ended Tuesday. Government Employee Retirement Systems Administrator Marisol Marchand had warned Rossello that if he failed to summit proper documentation his pension would be readjusted to $29,536 annually.

Rivera Schatz presented certification issued by the Government Employee Retirement Systems Administration which show deductions made towards his retirement benefits and the interest gathered, which were used to calculate his $52,500 annual pension.

PDP gubernatorial candidate Anibal Acevedo Vila said that Rossello’s absence from the press conference demonstrated that "he did not want to face up to the controversy."

An investigation by the Department of Health found no evidence of certification that could substantiate that Rossello indeed completed 30 years of public service.

Among the documents presented by Rivera Schatz figured certification issued in 2000 by the former Director of the San Juan Psychiatric Hospital Ivette Molina claiming that Rossello had worked in that office during the summers of 1962-64.

Nevertheless, Rossello himself has admitted that during those summers he also participated in tennis tournaments stateside as well as attending classes at Harvard University.

Another document submitted was a sworn statement by the present Director of the Files Office of the Department of Education Joanna Marie Pagan Gonzalez, who claims that in January 2004 employee records from the decades of 1960, 1970, and 1980 had been destroyed.

This prompted Rivera Schatz to accuse Secretary of Health Johnny Rullan and File Administrator Hector Mendez Alvarado of a conspiracy to fabricate a case against the former governor.

Rivera Schatz strongly urged Secretary of Justice Anabelle Rodriguez to protect Pagan Gonzalez against persecution and also called for Rullan and Mendez Alvarado to be processed for alleged destruction of documents, use of improper influence, negligence in the exercising of their official duties as well as conspiracy.

He refused to say whether the NPP would make use of the courts to resolve the matter.

Rullan Rejects Claim That His Agency Destroyed Documents

June 8, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Secretary of Health Johnny Rullan on Tuesday wholeheartedly denied claims that his agency had destroyed documents in January 2004 that were related to the Rossello pension controversy, as was alleged by New Progressive Party (NPP) Electoral Commissioner Thomas Rivera Schatz.

According to Rullan, Department of Health Properties Administrator Joanna Marie Pagan Gonzalez "failed to tell the truth." He said Pagan Gonzalez is a well-known supporter of the NPP and stopped short of accusing her of political maneuvering.

Rullan emphasized that only surveys which had nothing to do with the investigation were destroyed.

"You cannot destroy what never existed…This veteran employee of the Department of Health has failed to tell the truth when she claims that personnel files were destroyed," said Rullan.

He added that the documents presented by Rivera Schatz do little to prove that Rossello worked for the Mental Health & Anti-Addiction Services Administration during the years 1962-64.

Rullan’s statements followed those of Rivera Schatz, who on Tuesday presented a series of documents to prove the legitimacy of Rossello’s pension.

Rivera Schatz to accuse Rullan and File Administrator Hector Mendez Alvarado of a conspiracy to fabricate a case against the former governor.

He refused to say whether the NPP would make use of the courts to resolve the matter.

PDP Legislators, Mayors Back AAV’s Fiscal Control Plan

By WOW Staff

June 8, 2004
Copyright © 2004
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Popular Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial candidate Anibal Acevedo Vila unveiled on Tuesday a fiscal control plan a geared towards cutting unnecessary spending at all levels of government as part of his governing program.

The PDP legislators and mayors joined their party president in calling for restraint and measure when the spending public funds is concerned, calling for an elimination of the pork barrel funds and greater fiscal responsibility when it comes to discretionary spending.

The announcement was made by Acevedo Vila at the PDP Central Committee Headquarters along side PDP Mayors Association President Jose Aponte and the Presidents of the House and the Senate respectably Carlos Vizcarrondo and Antonio Fas Alzamora.

Acevedo Vila indicated that the fiscal control plan calls for the tight restriction of official vehicle use, limiting the use of these to only high ranking municipal officers and only when it is deemed necessary.

It also called for a serious effort to recalculate mayoral salaries to reflect the population size, the budget, and the exercise of good government of individual municipalities as well as doing away with tax exceptions for legislators.

Acevedo Vila maintained that the mayoral and legislative commitment fall in line with the PDP’s Positive Revolution which calls for a restructuring of government to reflect more fiscal responsibility and do away with institutionalized corruption.

Bhatia Certain Independentistas Will Vote For Him

June 8, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Popular Democratic Party (PDP) mayoral candidate for San Juan, Eduardo Bhatia, said he is certain he will win the electoral seat with the votes of independentistas.

Bhatia’s statement was a reaction to words uttered by Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) contender Fernando Martin a day before claiming that, in his opinion, Bhatia’s chances to defeat incumbent New Progressive Party (NPP) San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini were slim.

"The surveys show that independentistas in San Juan will vote for Eduardo Bhatia because they know San Juan is a disaster. This time they will vote for me," said Bhatia in a prepared statement.

Bhatia has already lost to Santini in the 2000 general elections. However, he said to be sure to win this time around, regardless of what Martin says.

"[The PIP] wants to defeat the PDP by helping the NPP. Lucky for us, the independentistas are smarter than that and they believe in forming coalitions. Vieques is our best example of that," said the PDP candidate.

On Monday, the executive president of the PIP said that Bhatia should have defeated Santini in the 2000 mayoral elections because the PDP controlled City Hall and then mayor Sila Calderon was running for governor.

Martin also pointed out that Bhatia’s decision to announce that he would run for the legislature and not for San Juan mayor only to reverse himself, damaged his chances to win the mayoral seat.

Martin did not mince words in his criticism of Bhatia, classifying his campaign as "as weak, ineffective, and demoralized."

He claimed that dissatisfaction with the job Santini has done and the total loss of steam by the Bhatia camp will benefit the PIP in November’s mayoral election.

In 2000, Santini received 101,012 votes or 48%, Bhatia 97,383 or 46.3%, and Vance Thomas running for the PIP received 10,753 or 5.1%.

Funds Allocated For New Tower In Veteran’s Hospital

By WOW Staff

June 8, 2004
Copyright © 2004
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

The U.S. Congress approved the allocation of $75 million for the construction of a new tower in the Rio Piedras Veterans Hospital, as had been requested by Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila, who had achieved that the project became a priority for the Department of Veteran Affairs.

The construction of the new facility in the Veteran’s Hospital complex was supported by Secretary of Veteran Affairs Anthony Principi, who during a visit to Puerto Rico assured that the facilities would receive improvement funds.

"We received the good news that on Friday the funds had been approved by the U.S. Congress for the building of the new tower. This is another unprecedented achievement for Puerto Rico’s veterans," said Acevedo Vila on Tuesday.

The announcement was made after the Senate and the House’s Veteran Affairs Allocations Subcommittee informed the resident commissioner that the $75 million had been approved.

"Getting the funds does justice to the island’s veterans who year after year travel to Washington to lobby for better services," said Acevedo Vila.

On January 14, Pricipi sent a letter to Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL) asking that the project be given the necessary funds, as was requested by Acevedo Vila.

"Principi has been an ally in our attempt to pass a bill for budgetary allocations in regards to the project, since last year he has helped in swaying the legislature towards our goal of a new tower," said Acevedo Vila.

The new tower will feature capacity for 314 patients, and intensive care unit, a surgery unit, mental health ward, and a spinal injury rehabilitation center. The first phase of construction will finish during the next 30 months. The second phase that will include refurbishing of existing facilities, will be begin in 2007.

Slain Sergeant Saw Military Service As Ticket To College

June 8, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - Irma Lopez, mother of the latest Puerto Rican casualty in the war on terror, recounted how her son saw military service as a means to achieving his goal of attaining an engineering degree.

Sgt. Melvin Mora was killed when a mortar exploded near him during a surprise attack on Camp Cooke, which was established in the former Al Taji Air Base 27 km northwest of Baghdad. He was stationed there with the Army Reserves’ 245th Maintenance Company based in St. Louis, Missouri. He is the seventeenth Puerto Rican soldier killed in action since the war on terror began.

Lopez said that her son wanted to take advantage of the economic aid offered by the armed forces to advance his professional career.

"The Army was a way for him to get to were he wanted to go," said the tearful mother to newspapers.

Mora, who attended the University of Missouri, was two years shy of completing his doctoral thesis in Physical Engineering.

Sgt. Mora came from a humble family in the Jarealitos sector of the Islote neighborhood in Arecibo, which led him to seek better economic prospects in the Army, added his mother.

Mora had been in Iraq only four months, calculated family members. On Sunday Army personnel notified the family of Mora’s death but did not inform them when his remains would arrive in Puerto Rico

Mora’s father, Hermes Mora, has been making funeral arrangements.

Last Thursday was the last time that Lopez, who works at a child care center in Barceloneta, spoke to her son.

Puerto Rican Celebration Planned

June 8, 2004
Copyright © 2004
The Philadelphia Inquirer. All rights reserved. 

The red, white and blue Puerto Rican flag with a single star was raised next to the Stars and Stripes in Camden's City Hall Plaza yesterday to mark a month of festivities, culminating June 27 with the city's annual St. John the Baptist Parade.

The flag, symbolic of Puerto Rican pride, was raised to only half-staff to commemorate the death of former President Ronald Reagan. The annual Parada San Juan Bautista, named after Puerto Rico's patron saint, headlines weeks of activities that also include a health fair, a luncheon, a banquet, and a post-parade concert. Those on hand for yesterday's flag-raising included Mayor Gwendolyn Faison and such pioneers as Camden's first Hispanic federal judge and Camden's first Hispanic police chief.

Ferrer Dubs Rossello Status Proposal As Undemocratic

By WOW Staff

June 7, 2004
Copyright © 2004
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Rep. Hector Ferrer Rios accused former governor Pedro Rossello of not truly believing in democracy or the free expression of the people.

That was the reaction of Rep. Ferrer Rios to a proposal by Rossello to initiate a judicial process to force the federal government to make a decision regarding Puerto Rico’s political status.

This, however, is one of two proposals the New Progressive Party gubernatorial candidate intends to implement if elected governor in November.

According to Rossello’s Platform Committee Chairman Charlie Rodriguez, the other proposal involves a referendum to consult the Puerto Rican people whether they wish to have the local government and U.S. Congress conduct a decolonization process of the island.

"It will differ from previous efforts in the sense that we would go there with the people's mandate demanding a plebiscite process containing non-colonial and non-territorial formulas with congressional support," Rodriguez said last week.

Ferrer Rios insisted that Rossello has failed to garnish enough votes and convince the population of his views concerning the island’s political status during the 1998 plebiscite vote.

"Now he pretends to use undemocratic means to deprive the Puerto Rican people of the right of self determination," Ferrer Rios claimed.

Ramirez Shares Plight Of Dominican And Haitian Flood Victims

By Marvin Rodriguez of WOW News

June 7, 2004
Copyright © 2004
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Despite donations to the Dominican Republic and Haiti, New Progressive Party (NPP) Sen. Miriam Ramirez warned on Monday that much more aid is needed to ease the suffering of those affected by the heavy rain.

Ramirez, who after seeing pictures of destruction and human suffering left behind by the recent floods in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, joined a delegation of Dominican leaders residing in Puerto Rico in delivering supplies to the affected area.

Although originally the trip was scheduled to last one day, Ramirez decided to extend her trip and travel to Jimani and Haiti to witness the affected areas first hand.

"I went to assess the situation. Although I directly did not treat anyone, I used my medical knowledge to ascertain the most urgent needs of the population," said Ramirez in a telephone interview.

Ramirez, who met with religious, civic, and military leaders in the area, urged Puerto Ricans to continue bringing donations to collection centers, as the plight of the victims has really just begun.

"Among the most needed donations are nonperishable goods, clothing and medicine; but Jimani residents are also in need of basic household appliances, such as cooking implements, blankets, pillows, and construction materials," added Ramirez.

When asked to describe the mood near the affected areas Sen. Ramirez said, "survivors are still in shock and many walk around their community in a zombie like state not yet able to assimilate the terrible catastrophe."

Ramirez also explained that as the area dries, clouds of fine dust have made breathing difficult for both Jimani residents and aid workers.

"When people see pictures of aid workers wearing air mask they assume that there is an epidemic or the stench of dead bodies is too strong to bear. This is not the case. As the area dries, clouds of fine sediment make it very hard to breath. In my opinion respiratory problems are a greater cause for concern, as authorities were quick to vaccinate area residents," the NPP senator added.

While in the Dominican Republic, Sen. Ramirez met with Catholic leaders and participated in the only ecumenical service held in memory of the victims.

On a side note, an official government delegation, scheduled to delivered six shipping containers full of aid to the beleaguered area, has yet to depart to the neighboring island.

Official data puts the death toll 395 with another 274 people still missing.

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