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July 4th Celebrations Emphasize U.S. Relationship… Hip Hix Island House… Island’s Fed Credit Exclusion Defended… Martin Calls For Civility In SJ Mayoral Race… PDP Backs Acevedo Despite SEC Report… NPP To Contest ‘04-‘05 Budget In Court… Youth Tobacco Consumption Declines… Huertas Commits To UF… Allentown P.R. Week Events Set… Calderon Won’t Appeal ‘Puerto Rico In Peace’ Ad Ban

Celebrations Emphasize Relationship With U.S.

By Frank Griffiths of Associated Press

July 5, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Puerto Rico's Fourth of July celebrations accentuated the island's peculiar relationship with the United States, with independence activists holding an anti-war demonstration and pro-statehood supporters pledging their approval of the U.S. government.

The island's government, which defends the status quo commonwealth relationship, held a separate event.

About 100 "independentistas" and pro-statehood partisans demonstrated in front of U.S. Army Fort Buchanan just outside the capital, one side waving Puerto Rican flags and the other holding U.S. flags.

Pro-independence supporters marched in a circle outside the military base's entrance, blaring their message over loudspeakers and calling the war in Iraq a hypocrisy. One man waved an Iraqi flag.

Steps away, pro-statehood activists waved large U.S. flags and held signs supporting U.S. President George W. Bush. Both sides were separated by police.

The governing party, which supports the status quo, held an official ceremony in a San Juan park. Gov. Sila Calderon of the Popular Democratic Party defended the territory's relationship with the United States.

"Long live the United States and long live the Free Associated State (of Puerto Rico)," Calderon said, referring to the island's official designation. "The political and legal relationship with the United States _ one of caring and affection _ is very important and fundamental for all Puerto Ricans."

The Puerto Rican Independence Party's message was the polar opposite.

"Fourth of July celebrations should serve ... as inspiration for those in Puerto Rico who fight for decolonization and the freedom of our people," said Ruben Berrios, party leader and gubernatorial candidate in November elections.

Elected officials from the pro-statehood New Progressive Party had a celebration planned for late Sunday, including a fireworks show.

Puerto Rico has been in U.S. hands since 1898 when it was wrested from Spain. Puerto Ricans became U.S. citizens in 1917 and many fought and died in the U.S. military, including 17 who were killed recently in Iraq.

They can't vote for president, however, and have no vote in U.S. Congress. They pay no U.S. income tax, but the commonwealth receives about $14 billion annually in federal funds.

With the help of U.S. assistance and tax breaks, Puerto Rico has become one of the wealthiest places in Latin America. More than 3.4 million islanders live in the U.S. mainland. About 4 million live on the island.

Puerto Ricans narrowly rejected statehood in nonbinding referendums in 1993 and 1998. In the last vote, status quo squeaked by with just over 50 percent.

The Independence Party receives 5 percent of the vote in elections.

Hip Hotel: Hix Island House

July 4, 2004
Copyright © 2004
The Observer. All rights reserved. 

Where can you go to feel sand between your toes by day but wear your Manolos at night? Jetsetting style-seekers can find the answer in the latest addition to the Hip Hotels range.

Hip Hotels: Beach contains lavish photography and detailed descriptions of 46 of the best wave-side locations in the world.

Alongside the inevitable barefoot chic of resorts in the Maldives, India and Africa, more unusual locations are featured such as Hix Island House on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. [It] resembles a trendy army bunker, testament to the island's history as a US naval base. The island is now the Caribbean's largest nature reserve, with views of unspoilt beaches from panoramic cut-outs in the concrete walls of the hotel, which was built in nature's strongest shape, a triangle, to protect against tropical hurricanes.

Hip Hotels: Beach is published by Thames and Hudson on 12 July at pounds 18.95. To order a copy for pounds 16.95 plus p&p call the Observer Book Service on 0870 836 0885.

Bush Administration Defends Puerto Rico’s Exclusion From Federal Credit

July 3, 2004
Copyright © 2004
The ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — United States government defended President Bush’s decision to exclude Puerto Rico from taking advantage from a federal tax credit which would allow for limited claims on child dependants.

U.S. Treasury Department spokeswoman Tara Bradshaw justified the Bush administration decision saying it would simplify tax form filling for 9 million taxpayers in the United States.

"Are objective is to lower confusion," said Bradshaw to newspapers.

The decision is part of the a proposal submitted by President Bush in February, but announced in Puerto Rico last week.

Bradshaw said that the proposal hopes to integrate those tax payers which pay income tax and receive tax credits allowed by law through Social Security.

The additional credit "is difficult to calculate and excessively complicated," reads the Treasury Department proposal, which is part of the "Blue Book" which compiles all federals tax paying proposals.

Bradshaw said that changes remove two pages from forms simplifying filling for U.S. citizens on the mainland.

For their part, the U.S. House of Representatives Joint Committee on Taxpayer Affairs refuted the administrations assertion.

"There is no such simplification in filling, it simply excludes Puerto Ricans, who do not file federal income tax, from claiming a family tax credit which the law provides for," said the Committee.

The Bush proposal has been classified as "insensible" by the Kerry campaign saying it excludes 100,000 Puerto Rican families with three or moiré children, which could be eligible for the tax credit.

Of 100,000 families which may be eligible for the tax credit only 45,000 have filed federal income tax for the purpose of claiming the federal credit.

Although Puerto Rican’s don’t normally pay federal income, if they are being deducted funds for Social Security and Medicare they are eligible to apply for the federal tax credit, only if their income is not higher than $100,000 per year.

Martin Calls For Composure In San Juan Mayoral Race

July 3, 2004
Copyright © 2004
The ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) San Juan mayoral candidate Senator Fernando Martin on Friday called for "composure and civility" from his New Progressive Party’s (NPP) Jorge Santini and Popular Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Eduardo Bhatia.

Martin wanted to avoid turning the race into a "theatrical exchange of insults, accusations and confrontations."

"San Juan residents deserve a serious and responsible race, it is our duty to give an example of civility and composure that citizens expect," said Sen. Martin.

Martin’s plea comes a day after Santini and Bhatia began a new round of attacks stemming from controversy regarding the PDP candidates call for a press conference in a public park, which was interrupted by city sanitation workers on the behest of San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini.

The noise from the sanitation worker’s equipment mad impossible for Bhatia to conduct the press conference.

PDP Maintains AAV’s Integrity Despite Sec’s Audit Report

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

July 3, 2004
Copyright © 2004
WOW PRESS. All rights reserved. 

Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Electoral Commissioner Gerardo Cruz and Secretary General Anibal Jose Torres reiterated on Friday that PDP gubernatorial candidate Anibal Acevedo Vila didn’t violate the law when he accepted a $20,000 donation back in March 1999 for the party, contrary to what a report from State Elections Commission (SEC) Auditor Luis Mendoza said on Thursday.

"Right of the bat I say there is not violation of the Electoral Law here," Cruz said during a press conference at party headquarters in Puerta de Tierra.

The auditor concluded that Acevedo Vila may have violated the Electoral Law when Acevedo Vila receive a $20,000 donation from former pre-candidate for San Juan mayor Richard Machado.

Cruz reiterated Acevedo Vila’s claims that the money was used to pay for the party’s lobbying efforts against the Young Bill in Congress, regarding the status of the island.

Acevedo Vila has said he used the money to pay for the party expenses he had to cover with a personal credit card because, at the time, the PDP was in dire financial state.

According to Cruz, the Electoral Law cannot limit an elected official’s right to collect money for a cause other than an event in which political candidates are elected.

He said there are several precedents that even include the New Progressive Party (NPP) in which the SEC has concluded that the private money collected by a party or a group in favor of a political party cannot be regulated by the government unless public money is involved or is used for an electoral event.

"Lobbying against the Young Bill was not an electoral event," Cruz insisted on Friday.

NPP Electoral Commissioner Thomas Rivera Schatz said there is no question that the money was meant for the PDP and that is liable to be subjected to the Electoral Law. However, he didn’t go into details already discussed by Cruz.

The NPP, PDP, and Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) electoral commissioners are scheduled to meet on Wednesday to discuss the situation. Should they fail to reach a unanimous decision, SEC President Aurelio Gracia would have to decide the case. ?

NPP To Contest Fiscal Year 2004-2005 Budget In Court

By Proviana Colon Diaz — WOW News Editor

July 3, 2004
Copyright © 2004
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Acknowledging that their effort might not succeed, a group of New Progressive Party (NPP) lawmakers announced on Friday that they will file in the local courts a motion to contest the recently signed $24.6 billion budget for fiscal year 2004-2005, sometime next week.

Senate minority leader Kenneth McClintock argued the budget is unbalanced and includes more than $1 billion in non-recurrent funds to cover for recurrent expenses.

House minority leader Rep. Anibal Vega Borges argued that while Gov Sila Calderon continues to blame the previous administration for an alleged deficit, her administration has continuously approved budgets which have only achieved to place Puerto Rico at a risky position.

"Faced with this situation, we have no choice but to go to court and challenge the last budget of the Calderon administration to force her to approve a balanced and responsible budget," Vega Borges said.

The lawmakers were joined by House member Iris Miriam Ruiz and by senators Lucy Arce, Migdalia Padilla and Pablo Lafontaine.

Tobacco Consumption Among The Youth Declines

July 2, 2004
Copyright © 2004
The ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Mental Health & Anti-Addiction Services Administration (MHAASA) announced on Friday that Tobacco use among teens has been reduced.

MHAASA Deputy Prevention & Mental Health Promotion Administrator Julia M. Delgado said those were the findings of a study by the Teen Outreach VI and Inspections of Tobacco selling establishments.

"The MHAASA study has demonstrated a drop in teen smoking, demonstrating that are efforts are having an effect on raising awareness among the island’s teen populations and improving their health," Delgado.

She highlighted that the study by Teen Outreach VI (2002-2003) reflected a 5.8% drop in occasional tobacco use among 5th and 12th graders, presently at 21.5% from 27.3% in 2000.

She also said that that there has been a drop in the number of establishments which violate the ban on tobacco sales to minors, dropping 74% from 1995 to 2001.

"Our goal is to have no establishments selling cigarettes to minors while fostering within kids a zero tolerance to cigarettes.

Huertas Commits To UF

JEFF ELLIOTT, The Times-Union

The Florida Times-Union

July 2, 2004
Copyright © 2004
Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved. 

Arlington Country Day guard David Huertas announced Thursday his commitment to play for the Gators, while Raines guard Derwin Kitchen told The Times-Union this week he is leaning to Florida while still considering Wake Forest.

Huertas, who is 6 feet 4 1/2, 191 pounds, averaged nearly 17 points per game last season as a junior and made 87 percent of his free-throw attempts. He was a first team All-First Coast selection by the Times-Union and made Class 2A all-state.

"I've never had anybody shoot the ball with the skill and accuracy that he has," ACD coach Rex Morgan said. "His form is near perfect. He's one of the few young men that I've coached where, when his shot goes up, you're surprised when it doesn't go in.

"David is a workaholic. He'll go into the gym and shoot 500 shots a day. He's definitely a gym rat.

Huertas led the Apaches to the Florida Team Camp championship last week in Gainesville, scoring 39 points in a 74-61 win over Orlando Edgewater, the defending Class 6A state champions.

Huertas, who is originally from Puerto Rico, selected Florida over Arizona, Kansas, Louisville, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Miami and Virginia.

Puerto Rican Events Set For Week

July 2, 2004
Copyright © 2004
The Allentown Morning Call. All rights reserved. 

The Puerto Rican Cultural Week will be observed July 16-25 in Allentown with a parade, car show, and bowling and billiard tournaments.

Festivities will begin July 16, with a gala fund-raiser at 6 p.m. at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Allentown.

Several people will be honored, including Elizbeth Vazquez, Latino of the Year; Erlinda Agron, Latino Outreach Award winner; Noemary Vega, Student of the Year; and Hector Donato, grand marshal for the Puerto Rican parade in Allentown. Awards will be given to vendors for service to the Allentown community.

The cost is $50 per person or $90 a couple. For reservations, call 610-776-1168.

Other events will include:

Raising of the Puerto Rican flag, noon July 19 at City Hall.

Tournament bowling, 5:30 p.m. July 20 at Parkway Lanes, 1630 S. 12th St. There also will be Latin food.

Puerto Rican art and crafts, 6 p.m. July 22 at Puerto Rican Beneficial Society, 205 Third St., Bethlehem. Artisans from Puerto Rico and the Lehigh Valley will display handcrafted art.

Singer Vitin of Puerto Rico at Club Pachanga, 170 Allen St., at 7 p.m. July 24.

Puerto Rican parade and festival, 11 a.m. July 25. The parade will begin at Jordan and Gordon streets in Allentown, continue on Gordon Street to Sixth Street and turn north to Jordan Park, where a Latin festival will be noon to 8 p.m.

Governor Will Not Appeal ‘Peace’ Campaign Decision

July 2, 2004
Copyright © 2004
The Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Gov. Sila Calderon announced on Friday that she would not appeal a decision by judge Carlos Davila, which dismissed a petition by her administration requesting authorization to disseminate the ‘Puerto Rico in Peace Campaign.’

In press release Calderon expressed that she would not appeal the decision because the legal process would consume time and because political media campaigns are kicking off.

"It’s regrettable that campaign created with the most noble intentions falls under the pressure of a politicized atmosphere," said Calderon.

"I give my deepest thanks to those professionals and citizens that in one way or another helped to put this campaign together," she added.

Although Gov. Calderon acepts the decision, she said "that she still believes the campaign could have helped deter behaviors that lead to violance and affect some sectors of society."

Court’s decision upholds SEC’s ruling which deemed the campaign did not perform a public service.

"The ad campaign of ‘Puerto Rico in Peace’ would deliver a subliminal message highlighting achievements, plans, projects, and proposals," read the courts ruling.

Judge Davila maintained the ads would give the Popular Democratic Party an unfair advantage in the upcoming elections.

The campaign would cost the government $7 million in an election year.

Judge Davila said "government did not successfully argued that the campaign was needed to combat violence and crime."

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