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Fortuño Confronts Federal Persecution… Puerto Rico Edges Angola 83-80… Freed Nationalist Refuses To Comply With Terms Of Parole … Pesquera Limits NPP Convention Role… PRASA Won’t Bow To AIU Demands … Ports Activates Vieques & Culebra Contingency Plan… Berrios Says Calderon Is Responsible For Labor Crisis… Fortuño Lambastes Prats Over Tax Incentives…

Fortuño Confronts Federal Persecution

By Leonardo Aldridge

August 19, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Luis Fortuño, New Progressive Party (NPP) candidate for resident commissioner and a strong supporter of the Bush administration, said on Thursday that some federal agencies were engaging in persecution of the NPP and its gubernatorial candidate, Pedro Rossello.

Fortuño said that some officials from federal agencies in Puerto Rico have directed a campaign of harassment and persecution against the NPP, in an effort to derail their hopes of winning the November 2 elections.

"It is my understanding, that in the national security and economic spheres, the federal government has been working as it should, but I acknowledge that there are some third and fourth level federal officials in Puerto Rico who have been executing their duties in an irresponsible manner, this is my observation," said Fortuño.

When asked whether he supported federal Attorney General John Ashcroft, who has [not] responded to letters sent by Pedro Rossello requesting explanations about the alleged persecution, Fortuño dismissed the question by saying, "The day we can vote for US president, we will discuss national politics.

Rossello sent a letter to Ashcroft on July 28 complaining about the federal Justice Department’s local office, which requested State Elections Commission forward the agency all financial records regarding Pedro Rossello’s 1996 reelection campaign.

Both the federal prosecutor, Humbert Garcia, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have assured Pedro Rossello that he is not under their investigation, but said that other agencies may be investigating him on heir own prerogative.

Puerto Rico Barely Beats Angola 83-80

August 19, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

ATHENS, Greece (AP) - Puerto Rico, which shocked the basketball world in a rout of the United States in the opening game of the Olympic tournament, had to hold on until the buzzer for an 83-80 victory over Angola on Thursday.

Daniel Santiago blocked Carlos Almeida's 3-point attempt as time expired to clinch the win for Puerto Rico (2-1), which beat the United States 92-73 on Sunday night. That loss was the first by a U.S. team since NBA players started participating in the Olympics in 1992, and it was just the third ever for the United States in 112 Olympic games.

Angola (0-3) has won just one preliminary round game in its four Olympic appearances, and that was a 20-point victory over Spain in its debut in 1992. Its other two wins have been in classification games.

Edmar Victoriano's reverse layup with 2:12 to play brought Angola into a 78-all tie and had the crowd of about 6,000 in the Helliniko Indoor Arena cheering wildly and chanting "An-go-la."

Eddie Casiano hit a 3 with 1:06 left for Puerto Rico, and Almeida brought Angola within 81-80 on a drive with 44 seconds to play.

Carlos Arroyo restored the lead to three points with 23 seconds to go and Angola had two chances to tie -- a 3 by Angelo Victoriano with 6 seconds left, and after a turnover by Puerto Rico, Almeida's final shot.

Elias Ayuso had 17 points for Puerto Rico, while Arroyo and Santiago each added 16.

Antonio de Carvalho led Angola with 14 points.

Miguel Lutonda, Angola's second-leading scorer in the tournament with an average of 11 points, injured his left ankle with 4 minutes left in the third quarter and did not return. He finished with 11 points.

Freed Nationalist Refuses To Comply With Terms Of Parole

By Alexandra Olson of Associated Press Writer

August 19, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - A Puerto Rican nationalist who spent 15 years in a Pennsylvania prison for armed robbery said Thursday he was prepared to return to prison rather than comply with the terms of his parole.

Antonio Camacho Negron, who was freed Tuesday from a prison in Allenwood, Pennsylvania, vowed not to meet with his parole officer upon his return to Puerto Rico, refusing to recognize any institution in this U.S. Caribbean territory.

"Puerto Rico is a colony," Camacho, 59, said in a telephone interview from his sister's home in Hartford, Connecticut. "If I don't vote for president or for congressional lawmakers, why should I submit myself to their laws? No dignified or respectable American would accept these conditions."

Camacho was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 1988 for his involvement in the 1983 robbery of more than US$7 million from a Wells Fargo armored truck in West Hartford, Connecticut. He was released and returned to jail twice, in 1998 and 2002, for ignoring parole terms.

Camacho said he is trying to arrange his identification papers so he can return to Puerto Rico. He said he fully expects to return to prison once back on the island. "I've never been free. I'm still not free," he said.

Camacho said he wasn't sorry about the robbery, which was carried out by members of the Puerto Rican nationalist group Macheteros, or Cane Cutters. The money was allegedly used to support their struggle.

"I haven't committed any crime," Camacho said. "The criminal is the government of the United States."

Camacho said the most difficult thing about prison was not seeing his four children grow up. The youngest is now 16.

FBI officials have said they are still searching for four fugitives in the robbery.

Puerto Rico has been a U.S. territory since the United States seized it from Spain in 1898. Puerto Ricans who maintain an address in a U.S. States while living on the island must choose between voting in local elections or the U.S. presidential elections. Those without state addresses cannot vote for president, and Puerto Rico only has a nonvoting delegate to the U.S. Congress.

Puerto Ricans also don't pay federal taxes, though they may be drafted and have fought in conflicts from World War II to Iraq.

Cases of political violence have dropped on the island in recent years, and a large majority of voters have shunned the Puerto Rican Independence Party in past elections, instead choosing parties that support making Puerto Rico a U.S. state or leaving it as a U.S. commonwealth.

Pesquera Confirms He Will Attend NPP General Convention

August 19, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The president of the New Progressive Party (NPP) Women’s Organization, Iris Miriam Ruiz, announced that former NPP president confirmed that he will attend the party’s general assembly, to be held this weekend in Fajardo.

According to press reports, Ruiz said he would only appear bore the Women’s caucus, to receive an award as former NPP president.

Pesquera has distance himself from the NPP after a defeat in the primary elections at the hands of former governor Pedro Rossello.

PRASA Will Not Bow To AIU Demands

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – Faced with the threat by the Authentic Independent Union (AIU) of a general strike the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA) Executive President Jorge Rodriguez, said Wednesday that substituting the union’s health plan with Triple S is not negotiable.

Rodriguez regrets that the union is considering a general strike as a result of the change in the medical health plan and without going into detail he assured that the public corporation has a contingency plan ready to prevent water shortage in the island.

"We are negotiating 19 articles, (of the collective bargain agreement) We can negotiate those articles when ever they want to. But the decision regarding the medical health plan is final," Rodriguez said.

PRASA cancelled the union health plan and substituted it with Triple S when a Insurance Commissioner report revealed irregularities in the union administration of the plan.

"It’s a shame that they are willing to go on strike for an improved medical health plan, but that is their decision," Rodriguez said.

Ports Activates Contingency Plan For Vieques And Culebra

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

SAN JUAN (AP) - The Ports Authority on Wednesday activated a contingency plan to provide transportation to Vieques and Culebra residents affected by a strike declared by Ports union employees to last until Friday.

Ports Authority Executive Director Miguel Soto Lacourt said the agency hired the private airlines M&N Aviation and Air Flamenco to provide free transportation to Vieques and Culebra residents.

"Vieques and Culebra Mayors Damaso Serrano and Ivan Romero, respectively, are in charge of coordinating the flights. Residents must go to city hall where they will get their boarding passes," said Soto Lacourt in a written statement.

Two planes available from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. offer services between Vieques and Fajardo and another will operate during the same hours between Culebra and Fajardo.

The union Brotherhood of Employees of Office, Commerce & Annex Branches and its 700 Ports Authority members declared a strike Tuesday to protest Soto Lacourt's alleged refusal to negotiate a remuneration and reclassification plan.

Brotherhood General Secretary Nilsa Garcia said the union is ready to negotiate with Soto Lacourt, but he refuses.

"We are ready and available to negotiate any time they want to call us," said Garcia, adding that the Ports Authority board will meet Wednesday but not with union representatives.

Soto Lacourt said Tuesday that the strike was called to pressure Ports to discuss issues already scheduled.

Berrios Says Calderon Is Responsible For Labor Crisis

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

SAN JUAN (AP) - Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) President Ruben Berrios accused Gov Sila Calderon of being responsible for the threat of a general strike on the island.

Berrios said lack of communication between the government and the unions is the most antiworker attitude by an administration since the ‘50s, which has resulted in the tension between the government and its unions.

"The government wants to portray the workers as demanding something they don’t deserve. The governor and Anibal Acevedo Vila are responsible, and it is in their hands to establish a different climate to prevent a tragedy," Berrios said.

The alleged irregularities in the Authentic Independent Union’s administration of the Aqueduct & Sewer Authority health plan is no excuse for trying to eliminate employees’ rights.

Fortuño Lambastes Prats Over Tax Incentives

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

SAN JUAN (AP) - Luis Fortuño, New Progressive Party (NPP) candidate for resident commissioner, attacked Roberto Prats, Popular Democratic Party (PDP) contender for the same position, saying the PDP candidate favors bills that increase taxes and alter tax incentives.

Fortuño said PDP administration decisions have cost the people of Puerto Rico some $1.4 billion.

He mentioned as examples the excise tax imposed on cars, cigarettes, and alcoholic beverages.

"All the additional taxes the Calderon administration has imposed allegedly were made to balance the budget and reduce the deficit created by this administration," Fortuño said.

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