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Kerry: Commonwealth Status A Temporary Option…Legislators Deny Anti-Business Bias…Rossello Ducks Press Controversy, Calls Gay Tourism Ads Inapt…Thousands Expected At Annual Fiesta…Yes To Pork Barrel Funds, No To Bills… Popular Opens Nasdaq…NPP Holds Protest Rally: PDP & Media Denounced…Gov. Links Navy & Vieques’ Cancer…

Kerry: Commonwealth Should Be A Temporary Option

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – Commonwealth status should be a temporary option until a majority of Puerto Ricans support either independence, statehood, of free association according to the Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry’s electoral committee.

According to the committee, the goal of Kerry’s plan is to provide Puerto Rican’s a permanent status, which will be in a accord with the principles of ‘national democracy.’

"Senator Kerry has sponsored legislation that proposes commonwealth status as a temporary action, until a majority of Puerto Ricans sign on to a plan for independence, free association, or federated statehood," said Kerry campaign spokeswoman Fabiola Rodriguez.

However, Rodriguez maintained that it was up to Puerto Ricans to initiate the status selection process.

"The federal government can only identify proposals it would implement if chosen," she added.

House Majority Leaders Deny PRMA Statements

By Marvin Rodriguez of WOW News Staff

June 17, 2004
Copyright © 2004
WOW STAFF. All rights reserved. 

In an attempt to dispel the belief that the legislature’s majority is anti-industry, House of Representative vice-president Ferdinand Perez and Treasury Committee Chairman Francisco Zayas Seijo outlined on Thursday a series of bills that in their opinion demonstrate the contrary.

Both Perez Roman and Zayas Seijo voiced there discontent towards members of industry who accused the legislative majority of setting the stage for recent factory closings, arguing that within the last three years over 100 bills have been approved for the sole purpose of fostering economic growth and job creation.

"For the last three and half years the House has worked to facilitate and foster economic growth and job creation. We have created hundreds of laws in favor of development and in support of the Puerto Rican economy," said Perez in a press conference.

"Today, thanks to our commitment to industry and economic development we find ourselves in the midst of an economic boom. The gross national product has grown 2.5% while unemployment has dropped 1.2 in one year," he added.

In recent weeks the House majority has been criticized by members of industry and merchant associations for allegedly passing laws, which would make Puerto Rico unappealing to foreign investors. Among the chief critics were the Puerto Rican Manufactures (PRMA) Association and the Puerto Rico Chamber (PRC).

Both Perez Roman and Zayas Seijo were surprised that both the PRMA and PRC had so emphatically attacked their efforts.

"We are extremely hurt by comments made by the leadership of the PRMA and the PRC because we’ve had direct contact and meetings with both organizations…we are here to reject their accusations, let it be known that no other legislation has passed more laws to protect industry and foster economic growth in the history of Puerto Rico," said the House vice-president.

For his part, Zayas Seijo said, "I cannot believe that these two organizations, whose leaders are very bright men, could easily dismiss our effort to enrich the economic outlook in Puerto Rico."

"We have passed laws that have created and retained thousands of jobs in Puerto Rico, have fostered infrastructure, and have brought new companies to do business here," he added.

He credited Law 140 passed in October 2001, which provides tax credits for the building of homes, for over $20 million in revenues and providing 1,400 homes.

Perez Roman invited those members of the manufacturing, economic, and production sectors that are concerned about recent legislation to attend a legislative assembly to be held June 22, which will address their apprehension.

Rossello Ducks Press Controversy

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

June 17, 2004
Copyright © 2004
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Former governor Pedro Rossello--who has been known for his many clashes with the press during his administration--reminded journalists that he has never used abusive language with any of them and refused to discuss whether the New Progressive Party, through its electoral commissioner Thomas Rivera Schatz, has prompted public acts of aggression against members of the press.

"I won't participate in petty discussions," said Rossello following a presentation of his government proposal before the Hotel & Tourism Association Thursday.

Rossello--who has readily expressed his support for Rivera Schatz's style of calling names during press conferences--said he believes the relationship with journalists should be one of mutual respect.

When asked whether he believed the NPP was responsible for the clashes that several press members had with party demonstrators during Wednesday's anti-government manifestation, Rossello insisted on discussing issues that pertain to his proposals for Puerto Rico.

"I think we shouldn't be trying to put the blame on anyone, but to strive to maintain mutual respect and tolerance," Rossello said.

Rossello abruptly ended the press conference after one reporter asked him whether he would answer to a journalist who would call him names just like Rivera Schatz has done with several members of the press.

The former governor walked out of the room after the same reporter asked what would he do if a journalist would address to him as thief instead of by his name.

Rossello Calls Gay Tourism Ads Inappropriate

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

June 17, 2004
Copyright © 2004
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Should New Progressive Party (NPP) gubernatorial candidate Pedro Rossello win the November general elections, the Tourism Co. would be restructured and renamed Puerto Rico Tourism Authority, Rossello himself announced during a presentation before the Hotel & Tourism Association on Thursday.

"The idea is to focus on the areas of expertise," Rossello said.

The change would convert the agency into one whose sole responsibility will be to promote the island as a desirable destination for many industries. This means the company's current regulatory faculties would be transferred to other government agencies.

In Rossello's platform, the new tourism authority would be in charge of promoting the movie industry development and Puerto Rico's Convention Center.

The managing of the tourist transportation and regulating travel agencies would be transferred to Public Service Commission, Rossello explained.

He also proposed the development of 3,000 new hotel rooms on the island and the promotion of Puerto Rico as an ideal destination for retired people, marinas, and ecotourism. In addition to these assets, Rossello proposed highlighting the island as a main destination to receive healthcare services in the Caribbean.

Vieques and Culebra would also be touted as destinations for cruise ships with shallow drafts.

On another note, Rossello said that while he respects the rights of homosexuals as any other human beings, he doesn't think it is necessary to explicitly invite gay tourists to the island in the government's promotional advertising.

"I think that kind of message is inappropriate," the former governor said.

Rossello's statement regards the controversy that surrounded current Tourism Co. Executive Director Jose Suarez, who decided to advertise Puerto Rico as a gay friendly destination.

Thousands Expected At Annual Fiesta

Jaimie K. Wilson, Shorelines correspondent

June 16, 2004
Copyright © 2004
Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved. 

The Florida Times-Union

Fiesta Playera dia de San Juan Bautista gets ready to embrace Jacksonville Beach Saturday at the SeaWalk Pavilion.

"This is going to be our ninth celebration," said Victor Cora, the festival organizer and president of Latin Beat Radio. "It was created in Jacksonville Beach in 1996. I was asked to consider producing a Hispanic event at the Beach and that's when Fiesta Playera was born. Because of the time of the year it was, we came up with a festival celebrating Saint John the Baptist because that is what is celebrated in Puerto Rico.

Fiesta Playera, which is sponsored by WYMM (1530 AM), officially starts on Friday at the Jacksonville Landing. It ends at the Beaches with Fiesta Playera dia de San Juan Bautista on Saturday, when the festival culminates in a midnight walk backwards into the ocean, symbolizing a cleansing of the spirit for the new year. Fiesta Playera is one of the largest Latin American festivals in the country. Last year's festival drew about 50,000 attendees to celebrate Latin culture and customs.

Yes To Pork Barrel Funds, No To Bills

By Istra Pacheco of Associated Press

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

With nine days left before the end of the Senate ordinary session, senators decided not to work on any bills, but on three resolutions regarding pork barrel allocations.

Two of the pork barrel allocations are aimed at helping the Puerto Rico & Caribbean Cardiovascular Center. A total of $3 million are intended for the purchasing of surgical medical equipment, establishing a pediatric unit, and for rent expenses.

The third pork barrel allocation consists of $600,000 to install air conditioner systems in the Historic Conservation Office.

Popular Opens Nasdaq

By Luis Ramos of Caribbean Business

June 16, 2004
Copyright © 2004
CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All rights reserved. 

Popular Inc. opened the Nasdaq Stock Market on Tuesday, making it the first Puerto Rico-based financial company to participate in the traditional ceremony.

The honor is usually reserved for listed companies that have demonstrated outstanding performance. Popular has been listed on Nasdaq since 1985.

The market open, along with the related media tour, is expected to introduce Popular’s stock to a wider audience and helps to mark the 110th anniversary of banking subsidiary Banco Popular.

"We are honored to be celebrating this milestone," said Popular Chairman & CEO Richard L. Carrion. "Throughout our 110-year history, our mission has been to make dreams happen for the Puerto Rican community and all of the other diverse communities we serve. This day belongs to the dedicated men and women of Popular who share a vision of service and the belief that we are defined by the accomplishments of our customers."

NPP Protests Outside The Retirement System Administration

By Marvin Rodriguez of WOW News Staff

June 16, 2004
Copyright © 2004
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Undiscouraged by the blazing sun and noon heat, hundreds of New Progressive Party (NPP) followers gathered outside the Government Employee Retirement System Administration headquarters in Hato Rey to protest the alleged persecution of gubernatorial candidate Pedro Rossello by the current administration.

NPP followers not only protested against the Gov. Sila Calderon administration, but also voiced their indignation towards the media. NPP supporters surrounded and interrupted Univision correspondent Daisy Sanchez as she attempted to file a report. Hecklers quickly surrounded her calling her "a communist" and a "machetera," prompting police to provide an escort.

Demonstrators followed the example of NPP Electoral Commissioner Thomas Rivera Schatz, who for the past months has made personal attacks against certain members of the media whom he has even called liars.

His actions prompted media organizations to demand an apology from Rossello, an endeavor spearheaded by Sanchez.

Despite Tuesday’s attacks to Sanchez, Rivera Schatz reiterated his position.

"There are particular people within the media who have political agendas and are well known to the people. The majority of the Puerto Rican press is competent, professional, and responsible. Unfortunately, the industry has a few bad apples," Rivera Schatz said.

The rally, organized by former Bayamon Mayor Ramon Luis Rivera and Rep. Jose Aponte, drew NPP supporters from as far as Mayaguez, in what Rivera called "a wake up call for the current administration."

Rivera, who did not directly blame Retirement System Administrator Marisol Marchand for the investigation into Rossello’s pension, referred to the current administration as "the PDP Dictatorship."

"We are here in response to the people’s indignation with the persecution of Pedro Rossello. We are demonstrating against the actions of the Retirement System Administration, whose Administrator Marisol Marchand is just another victim of the PDP Dictatorship," said Rivera to the crowd.

Rep. Aponte expressed his satisfaction with the crowd’s size saying "that all their expectations had been surpassed by the gathering."

Police sources where not ready to divulge an estimate of the crowd’s size.

Among the speakers present were Tiody Ferrer, NPP candidate for resident commissioner Luis Fortuño, NPP Secretary General Maria Milagros Charbonier, and former First Lady Maga Nevares de Rossello.

Cataño resident Ana Garcia, said she attended the demonstration because "she understood that Pedro Rossello was a great governor who is being unjustly persecuted." She added that his administration did a lot for public works and deserves recognition.

President of the Ponce 62 NPP Youth Organization, Emmanuel Piñero, 16, who organized three buses on youth supporters from Ponce, said that he was interested in showing that young people were in support of Rossello and wanted to show their indignation against PDP persecution.

Calderon: "Clear Link Between Navy And Vieques’ Cancer"

June 15, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SALINAS (AP) – For Gov. Sila Calderon, there is a direct link between the cancer rate in Vieques and U.S. Navy ballistic exercises in the island municipality for more than 60 years.

That was Gov. Calderon’s reaction to comments made by Health Secretary Johnny Rullan, who recently said that although the cancer rate was unusually high, there was no evidence linking naval exercises to the high occurrence of the disease on the island.

"At least for me it is obvious has been a direct result of naval exercises," said the Governor in a press conference.

"I don’t need statistics because I have seen with my own eyes the effects of the disease on the island, I know that in almost every home someone has been lost to cancer," she added.

The Governor also reiterated that there was no doubt about the reasons the Navy was removed from Vieques, citing "an end to bombing runs as well as the end to a violation of the human rights fro Vieques residents."

The Navy has denied any connection between exercises and the high incidence of cancer in the island municipality.

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