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NPP Candidates File Lawsuit Over Vote Count… Over 2,300 Boricua Soldiers Active In War, GI To Be Buried On Island… New Governor Will Inherit $550 Deficit, 1st Public Gov’t Transition Session Begins… Calderon Will Govern Until Successor Is Named… Study: More Puerto Ricans In US Than On Island…

NPP Candidates File Lawsuit Over Vote Count

By Laura Rivera Melendez

November 11, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The NPP candidate for governor, Pedro Rossello, the NPP candidate for resident commissioner, Luis Fortuño, and seven other citizens filed a lawsuit in federal court against the government that seeks a simultaneous general vote count and recount.

Among those named in the suit are Gov. Sila M. Calderon, the State Election Commission – including its president Aurelio Gracia and the commissioners of the parties – the PDP candidate for governor Anibal Acevedo Vila, and the Incoming Transition Committee.

"The plaintiffs request a temporary order and/or a preliminary injunction and/or a permanent injunction order … to proceed with the finalization of the count, the general vote count of the voting lists and the obligatory recount immediately and simultaneously," the legal appeal said, dated Wednesday and sent to the Associated Press Thursday.

To justify the jurisdiction in federal court, the appeal cited alleged constitutional violations to the First Amendment, related to freedom of expressions and association; the Fourteenth Amendment, about equal protection under law, and Section 4 of Article 4 of the Constitution, that guarantees a republic form of government.

The appeal also asks that Calderon, Acevedo Vila and the Incoming Transition Committee be ordered to halt the transition process, as well as the receipt and divulging of "confidential" information, the negotiation of contracts and the spending of public funds during the process.

Also, it claims that Article 18 of Law 197, which regulates the transition process, be declared unconstitutional, arguing that it allows the transfer of powers to continue, although only a preliminary certification of the election results exists.

In another section, the lawsuit asks the court to guarantee the right of absentee voting to those that requested it and allegedly did not receive the forms in time. Based on this, two of the plaintiffs are Puerto Ricans living off-island who requested absentee ballots but allegedly received them after the Nov. 2 election.

On Nov. 3, Acevedo Vila was preliminarily certified as the winner with a lead of 3,880 votes over Rossello.

The SEC on Monday began a general vote count to determine the official winner of the election.

During the count, the lists were reviewed – that are the summaries of the electoral college results – as well as 2 percent of the total votes issued, that were not counted or allocated the night of the elections. In the recount, however, each ballot is evaluated individually.

The electoral law says that if the winner’s lead is equal to or less than 1 percent of the total number of votes, there must be a recount.

NPP Election Commissioner Thomas Rivera Schatz had asked the SEC that the general count and recount be done at the same time, arguing that it would speed up the process.

More Than 2,000 Boricua Soldiers Active In War

November 11, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The number of Puerto Rican soldiers actively serving in operations related to the war on terrorism is more than 2,309, the Department of Defense on the island revealed Wednesday.

The Boricuas belong to the National Guard and the U.S. Army Reserve with headquarters on the island.

It was also announced that since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks "7,500 Boricua reservists from some 41 local units have been sent out to operations related to the war on terror."

The total number of armed forces reservists from all U.S. jurisdictions is 180,184, the announcement said.

Puerto Rican Soldier To Be Buried On Island

November 11, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - A Puerto Rican soldier killed in Iraq last week will be buried in the island's national cemetery on Saturday, U.S. military officials said.

Army Sgt. Carlos M. Camacho-Rivera, 24, of Carolina, Puerto Rico, was killed Nov. 5 in a rocket attack in Fallujah, Iraq. He was assigned to the 368th Transportation Company, 11th Transportation Battalion at Fort Story, Virginia Beach, Va.

Wednesday, Camacho-Rivera was remembered at a memorial in the post chapel.

"Our nation, our Army, our battalion family, will all mourn the loss of Sgt. Camacho," said Lt. Col. Michael Martin, commander of the 11th Transortation Battalion at Fort Story.

Camacho-Rivera's body was scheduled to arrive Thursday night in San Juan on a commercial flight from Philadelphia, Army spokesman Jose Pagan said. He will be buried at the Puerto Rico National Cemetery in Bayamon, he said.

A native of Puerto Rico, Camacho-Rivera left a wife, Tania, and son, Carlos Jr., 3, on the island.

Camacho-Rivera's death was not part of the current U.S. offensive in Fallujah that began on Monday.

At least 21 soldiers from Puerto Rico or of Puerto Rican descent have been killed in the U.S. government's so-called war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The U.S. Caribbean territory's 4 million people cannot vote for U.S. president and have no vote in the U.S. Congress, though they are American citizens and have served in the U.S. military for generations.

New Governor Will Inherit Large Budget Deficit

November 11, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The incoming governor will have to repay a loan of $550 million that the administration of Gov. Sila M. Calderon took out to balance next year’s budget and cover recurring expenses, outgoing officials said Wednesday.

The loan, from the Government Development Bank, creates what is known as a "structural deficit" because it uses non-recurring money to cover recurring expenses of the government.

In the past, Calderon was very critical of this practice, which had been used in the previous administration of Pedro Rossello. The governor in 2001 inherited a structural deficit loan of $420 million, and $1.3 billion in concealed debts.

First Public Session Begins For Government Transition

November 11, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The governor-elect will inherit a government with a consolidated budget of more than $24.6 billion, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, Melba Acosta, announced Wednesday.

Acosta said also that the central government, not including the public corporations, has an accumulated debt of more than $14.5 billion. Nevertheless, she said that between 2002 and 2005, the government had paid $11.2 billion toward the accumulated debt.

"This administration can state today to the citizens that at the end of this term it will have complied with the main budget … as well as with the unprecedented high salaries and benefits for public employees and government pensions," she said to members of both the outgoing and incoming governments.

Acosta said the government resources under the present administration have been invested primarily in the areas of education, health, security and economic development.

Calderon Will Continue As Governor Until Successor Is Named

November 10, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — If the State Election Commission has no officially certified a winner in the race for governor by Jan. 2, current Gov. Sila M. Calderon will have to stay in charge until her successor is named.

This was agreed by the president of the Outgoing Transition Committee and Secretary of State Jose Izquierdo, Justice Secretary William Vazquez and law professors José Julián Álvarez and Hiram Meléndez.

"In this scenario, if it occurs, which is not likely, Sila Calderon is the governor on Jan. 3," Alvarez said, referring to Section 2 of Article 4 in the Constitution.

He added that although this article establishes that the governor’s term is four years, "starting Jan. 2 of the year following the election" it is clear that the leader can stay in charge "until a successor is elected and takes possession."

Study: More Puerto Ricans Live In U.S. Than On Island

November 10, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — A study done by a state office said the Puerto Rican population in the United States now exceeds that on the island by more than 150,000 people, and that group contributes some $1 billion annually to the economy through their relatives in Puerto Rico.

The federal census said that in 2003 3,855,608 people of Puerto Rican origin lived in the United States. And although in the same year the island’s population rose to more than 3,878,532 residents, 3.4 percent were "other Latin Americans" and 1.2 percent were not Hispanic.

"Using the same percentages, we estimate that the population identified as Puerto Rican in Puerto Rico was 3,696,362," Angela Falcon, an analyst for the Puerto Rican Education Fund told a newspaper. She did the study at the request of the Administration of Federal Government Issues of Puerto Rico.

"If the census estimate about the Puerto Rican population in the United States is correct, then the Boricua population in the U.S., for the first time exceeded that on the island by 163,246," she said.

The study said the situation is "without precedent" and that the only similar situation is that of Mexicans in the United States, who represent 25.4 percent of their domestic population.

In 2003, 55.8 percent of the Boricua population in the United States lived in cities that were considered "central" for their large population. Fifty-nine percent lived in the northeast U.S.

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