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Republicans Support "Non-Territorial" Status… Italy 83, Puerto Rico 70… Santini Censured For Position On Weapons Ban… Justice Secretary Will Be Responsible For PRIIF Inquiry… Prats Won’t Explain Calderon Snub… No Wrongdoing In Sec. 936 Tax Breaks… Senadores Sale Near… 21 Lagging Schools Will Get More Support

Republicans Support "Non-Territorial" Status

August 26, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — With one difference in the support of "non-territorial" status for Puerto Rico, the platform subcommittee of the Republican Party approved a definition that reaffirms its support of statehood for the island in the event that Puerto Rican voters favor this option.

Sen. Miriam Ramirez, who represented Puerto Rico in debates about the election plan of Pres. George W. Bush, predicted that the text of the platform would be approved Monday by the U.S. during the Republican convention in New York.

"We support the right of the United States citizens of Puerto Rico to be admitted to the union as a fully sovereign state after they freely so determine," read the text reviewed by the press.

"We recognize that Congress has the final authority to define the constitutionally valid options for Puerto Rico to achieve a permanent, non-territorial status, with government by consent and full enfranchisement," the statement said.

Italy 83, Puerto Rico 70

August 26, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

ATHENS, Greece (AP) - Massimo Bulleri scored 20 points to lead Italy to an 83-70 victory over Puerto Rico and into its first men's Olympic basketball semifinal since 1980 on Thursday night.

Italy (4-2) will face Lithuania on Friday night with the winner advancing to the gold medal game. Lithuania (6-0), which has won the last three bronze medals, beat China 95-75 in the quarterfinals.

Gianluca Basile added 18 points for Italy, including the 3-pointer that capped a 13-5 run to open the second half and give his team a 54-42 lead.

Elias Ayuso had 24 points and backcourt mate Carlos Arroyo, who plays for the Utah Jazz, added 23 for Puerto Rico, which finished 7-for-25 from 3-point range. It was 4-for-15 from beyond the arc in the second half when it got no closer than six points after the opening run.

Puerto Rico opened the tournament with the shocking 92-73 victory over the United States. It couldn't get any momentum from it, however, losing to Lithuania and Greece in the preliminary round while beating Australia and Angola, both of which didn't advance to the quarterfinals, by a total of eight points.

Denis Marconato had 15 points and 12 rebounds for Italy, which won its only medal in 1980, a silver. It reached the semifinals two other times _ 1960 and 1972 _ finishing fourth in both. Its only Olympic appearances since 1980 were in 1984 and 2000, finishing fifth both times.

Puerto Rico reached the semifinals in 1964 and finished fourth.

U.S. Group Censures Santini For Position On Weapons Ban

August 26, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a U.S. group that is leading the fight to extend the federal ban on the manufacture and sale of assault weapons, has censured San Juan mayor Jorge Santini, for his opposition to renewing the ban.

Brian Malte, spokesman for the campaign chairman, publicly endorsed Santini’s opponent in the race for the office of mayor San Juan, Eduardo Bhatia, and called Santini’s opposition to the Federal Assault Weapons Ban "irresponsible" and "shocking."

"Mayor Santini is putting at risk the lives of the children of San Juan, their families, and the police," Malte said.

"We do not know of a mayor in any major U.S. city that is opposed to this federal law. Mayor Santini is the lone wolf," he added.

Justice Secretary Will Be Responsible For PRIIF Inquiry

August 26, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

CULEBRA (AP) — Gov. Sila M. Calderon on Thursday delegated to the new Secretary of Justice William Vazquez Irizarry, all responsibility for examining the inquiry into the Puerto Rico Industrial Incentive Fund (PRIIF).

Federal authorities and the House of Representatives are investigating alleged mismanagement of public funds by PRIIF, but the Justice Department announced Wednesday that it may not have sufficient evidence to take the case before a court.

"I do not have to ask him (Vazquez Irizarry), I understand that he is already doing it (examining the investigation) … It is suitable that the secretary should decide about the complaints. It is not my job, never have I entered into a investigation and nobody has done it in my name," she said at a press conference on Culebra.

The governor denied that members of her administration obstructed the investigation made by the Blue Ribbon Committee, as alleged by David Noriega, former chairman of the now-defunct group.

Noriega confirmed yesterday that he was pressured by the former Economic Development and Commerce Secretary, and now the husband of the governor, Ramon Cantero Frau, to end an investigation into a $5 million

Prats Refuses To Explain Calderon Snub

August 25, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - Popular Democratic Party resident commissioner candidate, Sen. Roberto Prats, said Tuesday that Gov. Sila Calderon "is an important leader," of the party, but refused to explain why he had not invited her to be involved in the campaign.

Calderon revealed on Monday that the PDP candidate for governor, Anibal Acevedo Vila, had not asked for her help with his political campaign, although she assured that she was prepared to contribute.

"I am not going to enter into a controversy with the Governor … The Governor is an important party leader and her opinion is very important," Prats said at a news conference.

He also said that he did not want to say categorically whether the party had extended an invitation to the Governor for her to actively campaign for Acevedo Vila.

"The Governor has been consulted on multiple campaign topics and she will be very involved … as we will see in the next 75 days," Prats said.

He affirmed that as recently as last week he met with Calderon and they spoke about how he had developed the campaign up to this point, but he did not want to reveal specific details of the meeting.

Relations between Calderon and Acevedo Vila, who shared the ticket in 2000, were adversely affected when the Governor decided not to seek reelection and she supported José Alfredo Hernandez Mayoral as her replacement. She informed the Resident Commissioner of both decisions through the media.

Subsequently, when Hernandez Mayoral withdrew his candidacy because of his son’s health problems, the Governor showed reluctance to choose Acevedo Vila as the candidate for governor and it was rumored that she had approached Roberto Prats, who has never denied it.

Finally, Prats chose to run for Resident Commissioner and Acevedo Vila was free to run for governor.

Since then, Calderon and Acevedo Vila have participated together in only a few public activities.

The distance between the two also was evident when the governor nominated Fernando Mercado for chief justice of the Supreme Court at the end of last year, a nomination that Acevedo Vila strongly opposed.

Mercado, who was the Secretary of State, was not named to the Court because of his alleged involvement in an automobile accident in the 1970s in which his friend was killed.

Justice Department Found No Wrongdoing In Tax Breaks For U.S. Corporations

August 25, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - Justice Department officials have found no criminal wrongdoing in a decision by the previous Puerto Rican government to exempt certain U.S. companies from paying penalties for repatriating earnings, the attorney general said Wednesday.

The exemptions cost the U.S. Caribbean territory US$961 million, according to a commission formed by Gov. Sila M. Calderon to investigate corruption under the previous administration.

But the Justice Department found no criminal wrongdoing after evaluating the commission's findings, said Attorney General Pedro Goyco Amador.

"Independently of whether it was good or not good, we determined there was no crime," Goyco said.

His comments came a day after Puerto Rican lawmaker Nilsa Garcia, who is leading a congressional investigation into the matter, said the FBI had been looking into the case for several months.

FBI officials did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Former Gov. Pedro Rossello granted U.S. companies an exemption from a 10 percent penalty tax for repatriating their earnings if they contributed between 1.5 and 2.5 percent into the Puerto Rico Industrial Incentive Fund.

Rossello created the fund in an attempt to keep American businesses in Puerto Rico after the U.S. Congress repealed section 936 of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service tax code, which had allowed companies operating on the island to send all profits tax-free to the U.S. mainland. The incentives brought wealth to Puerto Rico but some U.S. lawmakers vilified it as corporate welfare.

Senadores Sale Is Almost Complete

August 25, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

ARECIBO (AP) — In two weeks time, Josue Vega, ex-owner of the former team known as the Arecibo Lobos, it was reported Wednesday, should own the San Juan Senadores professional baseball team.

"I think that in two weeks the sale of the Senadores will be complete," Vega said in a radio interview. "Everything is ready for the sale."

Vega said that the current owner of the team, the intermediate coach of Arizona, Carlos Baerga, had almost arrived at an agreement to sell the Senadores.

"All shares of the Senadores are going to be mine," he said.

Vega had sold his team several years ago to Baerga, who moved them to Bayamon, but he did not have the support of fans.

Vega said then he would take the team to Arecibo because the fans were not supportive.

Vega said he received from Baerga $125,000 of the $500,000 that he has agreed to pay to buy the Lobos.

"The amount of money for the sale of Arecibo was left out," he said.

He estimates that now the Senadores franchise is worth $1.6 million, but he did not specify how much he will pay to Baerga for the San Juan team.

He said that to complete the sale, Baerga will remain with the team as a player.

The original San Juan Senadores played in Carolina after they were bought by entrepreneur Benjamin Rivera, who didn’t have success operating it.

Another San Juan team, the Santurce Cangrejeros, will become Manati Atenienses in November after they were bought by Chicago White Sox player Jose Antonio "Tony" Valentin.

21 Lagging Schools Will Get More Support

August 25, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Education Department still does not know exactly what factors caused 21 schools to not comply with the academic criteria of the federal law known as the "No Child Left Behind Act," but it announced a plan for reforming those schools.

The agency on Tuesday presented a report on the schools, but it did not deal with the characteristics of the student population and the particular situations of the staff that would be affecting the academic performance.

"We are doing another study. There has to be a common warning sign. It could be the absenteeism of students or teachers," said Brunilda Martinez, undersecretary for academic affairs at the Education Department, according to newspaper reports.

The report, prepared by the assistant secretary for planning and educational development, showed that the number of students, the level of poverty or geographic areas were common factors in the schools that are falling behind.

Of the staffs, ten are in rural areas and 11 are in urban zones. In some, the student population is very small, with 300 students or less, and in others it rises to some 1,400 students. Only one does not have a principal and in all of the schools, 80 percent of the students live in households below the poverty line.

For the most part, the schools were in the metropolitan area. Two of the schools are in Morovis, one in Mayaguez, two in Humacao and three in Fajardo.

The 21 schools included in the plan have not complied for three consecutive years with the standards for Puerto Rican Academic Achievement Tests, and if they fail a fourth consecutive time, drastic measures will be taken, including the possibility of closure.

The results of the achievement tests, which the students took in March and the results of which will be known soon by the Education Department, will determine which of the schools, if any, will fail for a fourth time to achieve the academic requirements.

The report stated that of 21 schools, five did better on the achievement tests than they did last year, so it will be left to see if the improvement plan can maintain the performance for two consecutive years.

The tests are offered in Spanish, mathematics and English as a second language for third, sixth, eighth and eleventh grades.

Twenty of the 21 schools made progress in English. But 11 have not achieved the established goal in Spanish and 13 continue to lag behind in math.

In all of the subjects, the third grade had the most improved results. Yet, from this level on, the results lower consecutively in the areas of Spanish and math, the study said.

The undersecretary of academic affairs said that Education Secretary Cesar Rey was working at a federal level to achieve a measure of flexibility in order to adapt to Puerto Rican reality. Rey has said that the Education Department is determined to keep all the schools open.

The measures announced by the Education Department include developing teaching strategies for special education students, administering the standards of excellence that the law demands, and developing reading skills and English conversational skills.

Martinez said the Education Department plans to hire 63 "highly experienced" teachers that will serve as support for the teachers in the schools with problems.

They also will offer workshops on the consequences of the law and new educational approaches that could help to improve the students’ educational performance.

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