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Zorrilla Resigns Over Impasse With Calderon…Tall Tales…P.R. Most Like America…Fajardo Eyes Expos…Festival Celebrates Island…Congressmen Ask For Jail Time In E-Rate Case…Official Who OKd Pension "Will Speak In Due Time"…Marchand Nixes Judgeship…West Nile Virus Spreads…New Penal Code Signed; Effective May ‘05

Frank Zorrilla Resigns Following Impasse With Calderon

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

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

The impasse between Gov. Sila Calderon and Labor Secretary Frank Zorrilla ended with a resignation letter the governor quickly accepted even before the agency chief had the chance to announce his decision to the press on Monday.

In the presence of several union leaders and immediate staff, Zorrilla denied having any personal issues with the governor and insisted that his resignation resulted from irreconcilable differences of opinion.

"It would have been very difficult for me to stay here considering the vast differences the governor and I have," said Zorrilla after assuring the press that he gave the issue a lot of thought.

La Fortaleza has yet to announce Zorrilla’s replacement, since Labor Deputy Secretary Maria Diaz has also resigned her position after declining Chief of Staff Cesar Miranda’s offer to serve as interim secretary.

Diaz said she resigned her position to show solidarity towards Zorrilla and because she endorses the same policies that made him resign. Diaz said she would now work with the Administration of Traffic Accident Compensations.

Zorrilla, on the other hand, said he plans to return to his private practice as an attorney, which is what did for 17 years before he came to work for the government.

The now former secretary said that while he cannot rule out anything, he wouldn’t speculate on whether he would consider becoming a cabinet member for Popular Democratic Party President Anibal Acevedo Vila, should he win the November general elections.

Zorrilla’s resignation came after Calderon publicly warned him last week that she would not approve any bills that may be detrimental to the private sector and asked him to stop contradicting her public policies.

"It is my understanding that the governor is wrong in her labor policies," said Zorrilla, who favors salary increases for nurses, sick time and vacation benefits for part time employees, and amendments to monopoly laws to provide more benefits for consumers.

Contrary to Calderon’s belief, Zorrilla said it is possible to boost employment rate without sacrificing fair work benefits for employees.

Work leaders who showed up at the press conference took turns to express their support for Zorrilla and to call the governor a traitor to the working class of Puerto Rico.

Calderon Accepts Zorilla Resignation

By WOW Staff

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

One hour prior to publicly announcing his resignation, Gov. Sila Calderon issued a written statement through La Fortaleza Chief of Staff Cesar Miranda, accepting Labor Secretary Frank Zorilla’s resignation.

Calderon publicly warned Zorilla on Thursday that she would not approve any bills that are detrimental to the private sector and asked him to stop contradicting her administration’s public policies.

Zorrilla has favored, among other bills, salary increases for nurses, sick time and vacation benefits for part time employees, and amendments to monopoly laws to provide more benefits for consumers.

In his resignation letter Zorrilla allegedly stated that he would continue to support the efforts La Fortaleza has maintained are against the administration public policy.

"The Labor Secretary has done a great job, particularly in labor mediation laws. However, Zorrilla maintains his personal positions and has decided to quit his post. At this moment his policies clash with the government’s primary interest which is to create more and better jobs for Puerto Ricans," Miranda said.

Zorrilla will make public his resignation during a press conference at Labor Department headquarters.

Tall Tales

From Wire Services

June 20, 2004
Copyright © 2004
. All rights reserved. 

Players 7 feet 3 or taller entering Thursday's 2004 NBA Draft. Peter John Ramos, 7-3, Criollos de Caguas (Puerto Rico), born in 1985

He is listed by the NBA at 7-foot-3. The Utah Jazz measured him at 7-foot-1 1/2. An extra inch-and-a-half could mean a mile's worth of difference to NBA scouts and executives whose careers ride on little more than big decisions.

For Peter John Ramos, a just-turned 19-year-old who was born in Puerto Rico and raised in New York City, the seeming nuance embodies what he is all about: risk.

At 7-1 1/2, not 7-3, with some offensive skills but few on defense, and so many questions still to be answered, Ramos may not be nearly beautiful enough for the Jazz.

"You know," the Jazz basketball boss Kevin O'Connor said, "he's a risk, because of his age, and because of everything else, obviously. But when does it become an acceptable risk?" Let's go to the videotape. "You know, films don't lie," O'Connor said.

And that's no tall tale.

P.R. Most Like America


June 20, 2004
Copyright © 2004
THE MIAMI HERALD. All rights reserved. 

Retired jeweler Coby Senick estimates that he has been to Puerto Rico 25 times. On his most recent trip he stayed near his hotel, relaxing on the beach and gambling.

Senick, of Hollywood, says Puerto Rico is his favorite of all the Caribbean islands because it is most like America.

''You can get Caribbean food, but when you have had enough you can get a steak,'' he says.

When the craps table at his hotel had a locals-only game he simply went up the street to another hotel casino.

For those not interested in gambling and those who haven't been to the island several dozen times Senick highly recommends touring San Juan's forts.

"It is really exciting when you get into the dungeons.''

He also recommends visiting the Bacardi distillery.

"You can buy rum you can't get anywhere else. And you can get drunk for free.''

Puerto Rico Group Hopes To Buy Expos


June 19, 2004
Copyright © 2004
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

MIAMI (AP) -- A group hoping to permanently bring the Montreal Expos to Puerto Rico submitted a bid to buy the team.

Miami attorney Scott Shapiro said Saturday he sent the group's proposal to baseball commissioner Bud Selig on Friday.

The new proposal probably comes too late for baseball to give it much consideration. Selig hopes to decide on a permanent home for the team next month. Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia appear to be the leading candidates.

The Expos, owned by the other 29 major league clubs, are playing 22 ``home'' games in Puerto Rico for the second consecutive season in an effort to boost revenue.

Festival To Celebrate Puerto Rico


June 18, 2004
Copyright © 2004
The Oakland Tribune, ANG Newspapers. All rights reserved. 

Back in the late 1800s, Dia De San Juan was a Puerto Rican religious holiday celebrated with a good-luck walk of faith -- backward at midnight into the Pacific Ocean.

Fortunately, nobody will be trying such a thing at Saturday's 26th annual Dia De San Juan Festival at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in San Jose. Instead, the modern festival to honor the patron saint of San Juan, Puerto Rico -- San Juan Bautista -- has become a celebration of the Puerto Rican culture with salsa music and a variety of Latin American dances, such as boleros, cumbias and guarachas.

And because event organizers say the East Bay is home to the largest contingent of Puerto Ricans in Northern California, they are hoping to attract a good crowd from this area.

This year's entertainment headliner will be salsa legend Willie Rosario.

The one-day event is also the major fundraiser for a scholarship program of the Western Region Puerto Rican Council, providing financial assistance to Puerto Rican high school students.

U.S. Congressmen Ask For Jail Time In E-Rate Case

June 18, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — U.S. Congressmen involved in a Congressional subcommittee that investigates irregularities in the management of funds assigned to the E-Rate program under the past administration reacted heatedly to actions that may have resulted in the mismanagement of over $100 million of the programs budget.

Democratic Rep. Ed Markey pledge to send those involved in the mismanagement of the E-Rate program to prison. Convicted former Secretary of Education Victor Fajardo initially headed the program geared towards connecting schools to the Internet.

"I hope that those responsible go to jail," said Rep. Markey, according to published reports.

Subcommittee chairman Republican James Greenwood said that the violations perpetrated by the previous administration were among "the worst" ever investigate by Congress as it pertains to educational initiatives.

The conclusion of the congressional subcommittee, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Puerto Rico Comptroller’s Office and the Department Education is that there gross incompetence and lack of planning in the first years of the program’s implementation.

The accusations, made during the opening hearing by the House Investigative Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee, were focused on Fajardo’s administration which was responsible for the program from 1998 to 2000.

Republican Rep. Greg Walden (Oregon) added that "in connection to this matter there is someone receiving a free lunch in prison," referring to Fajardo who was convicted for violation not related to the management of E-Rate.

Official Who Approved Pension "Will Speak In Due Time"

June 18, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The official who certified former governor Pedro Rossello’s $52,500 pension stated that in "due time," if necessary, he would discus allegations that he awarded the pension without documents to support work during the summers of 1962-64.

The former director of the Mental Health & Anti-Addiction Service Administration (MHAASA) Jose Acevedo declined to confirm whether he received documentation from Rossello that prompted the certification of 30 years of Public Service, saying that he could not comment as the case was being reviewed by the Department of Justice.

"In due time, if deemed necessary, everything will be clarified," said Acevedo to reporters.

On the Thursday Acevedo was questioned for the first time concerning his alleged intervention in the controversial certification, performed on December 15, 2000 which motivated the investigation by the Department of Health, the Department of Justice, and the Government Employee Retirement System Administration.

Marchand Turns Down Judiciary Nomination

By Leonardo Aldridge of Associated Press

June 18, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — On Friday Governor Sila M. Calderon withdrew the nomination of Government Employee Retirement System Administrator Marisol Marchand to a Superior Judgeship, this after Marchand said she would not accept the nomination.

Calderon said that Marchand’s decision, taken to avoid any attacks on her integrity because of her investigation into former governor Pedro Rossello’s $52,500 annual pension, made her "very sad."

"I am going to postpone the appointment because we need her (Marchand) at her post," said Gov. Calderon in a press conference.

La Fortaleza’s Chief of Staff Cesar Miranda added that it is not just postponement, the nomination will not be reconsidered for the rest of the term.

Marchand said she learned of the nomination from the press, as was stated in a missive sent by the Retire System Administrator to the Governor and which was on Thursday released to the media by La Fortaleza.

"Mi background is as jurist, mi moral fiber, principles, and values given to me by my parents induce today to forgo any aspirations to a judgeship," said Marchand, who reiterated that her agency is currently dealing the with the "controversial" pension matter.

"I don’t want to leave the slightest space for my integrity nor the motives behind my decisions regarding the pension to be questioned," added Marchand.

The expressed that after seeing how Marchand conducted herself in she had developed a stronger admiration for her but regretted that she will not become an asset of the Judiciary Branch.

Immediately after the governor announced the nomination, Pedro Rossello dubbed it "a reward" for his alleged political persecution and a means to influence the investigation.

Claims Gov. Calderon emphatically denied.

Currently the Retirement System Administration is investigating the legality of the former governor’s $52,500 pension.

Rullan Announces New Spread Of West Nile Virus

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

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

Health Secretary Johnny Rullan announced on Friday the detection of three new cases of West Nile Virus on the island, this time found in horses, and urged the public to practice safety measures to avoid becoming infected.

The three horses that were otherwise healthy, were found in the Fajardo area. The first appearance of the virus was detected a week ago in two birds captured in Ceiba.

Rullan said there has yet to be a case of infection in humans on the island.

"We are at a very early stage of the virus detection, which is good, but we are going to have to learn to live with it, just like we learned how to live with dengue," Rullan said.

According to the health chief, mosquito bites are the only way to spread the infection to other animals, including people.

However, a mosquito cannot get infected by biting a person or a horse already carrying the virus. It is like this because the amount of viruses present in the blood of a human or a horse is too little for the mosquito to actually become infected and pass it on.

Rullan also said a person cannot be infected with the virus from just eating a chicken that has been inoculated by way of mosquitoes.

The Health chief said only 20% of people infected with the virus actually show symptoms, which usually appear from three to 14 days after infection. Infected people become immune to future exposures to the virus.

Even though the virus will disappear from a person’s body by itself, exposure to the virus automatically disqualifies the individual as a potential blood donor, just for safety purposes.

Rullan said people over 50 as well as those who have a weak health condition are more prone to show symptoms that are similar to those of the dengue fever. Such symptoms include headaches, skin eruptions, fatigue, and fever. Less than 1% of the people actually develop an inflammation of the brain or brain membrane.

There is no cure for the virus, Rullan said, only treatment to alleviate the symptoms until they subside.

Rullan urged people to eliminate water containers that may serve as mosquito breeding ground, to use skin repellents, wear light colors and wear long sleeve shirts and long pants when going outdoors.

People may dial 1-800-981-0023 and 1-888-246-2857 to report possible cases or to learn more about the West Nile Virus.

Governor Signs New Penal Code; To Take Effect May 2005

June 18, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — On Friday Governor Sila Calderon signed the new Penal Code which aims to impose longer prison terms while at the same time incorporating a philosophy of rehabilitation into the corrections system.

The new Penal Code, which will go into effect in May 2005, was the subject of discord between the legislature and Gov. Calderon over environmental aspects and the severity of prison terms, but the governor said that an agreement had been reached in which amendments would be introduced gradually to expedite the process begun during her administration.

"We reached certain agreements that would facilitate the speedy signing of the bill," said the Governor.

The new Penal Code would not be retroactive and will only affect those convicted after May 2005.

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