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Acevedo, Aponte, McClintock Clash Over Voters’ Mandate… Resident Comm. Transition Begins… Gracia Hopes Courts Don’t Block Vote Count… Meningitis Epidemic Is Under Control… Tourism Co. Will Promote PR In Latin America… Suspect Outwits Police… U.S. Senators Push To Protect El Yunque… IAU Leaders Pessimistic About Negotiations…

Anibal Says Split Government Will Need Open Dialogue

November 9, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Anibal Acevedo Vila said Monday that the new legislative leaders of the New Progressive Party need " a little time to assimilate the country’s decision," and to understand that in view of the possibility of a shared government, dialogue and consensus must be used.

The leader of the Popular Democratic Party, who was certified preliminarily as the winner of the race for governor, referred to statements from the future leaders of the House and the Senate, Jose Aponte and Kenneth McClintock, that they will drive the NPP platform and only will let pass the proposals of the PDP that coincide with their program.

"Their statements show that they have not understood the decision of the country," Acevedo Vila said.

He said his intention is to maintain an open dialogue with the legislative leaders and recognize that, to have the NPP majority in both houses, he will need to negotiate and have consensus to pass his measures.

He said the first group of measures he will send to the legislature will involve education, public security and the economy.?

Transition Begins For Office Of Resident Commissioner

November 9, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Representatives of the outgoing resident commissioner in Washington, Anibal Acevedo Vila, and of the resident commissioner-elect, the NPP’s Luis Fortuño, on Monday began the transition of the office with a review of the legislative issues that remain unresolved as the term ends.

The meeting was held at the federal capitol, and attended by the executive director of Acevedo Vila’s office, Paul Weiss, and a representative for Fortuño, Luis Baco.

"Before the end of the week, a list will be delivered with all the pending issues and the record on those subjects," Weiss told a newspaper.

The list of unresolved issues includes a study about the island’s economy requested by the U.S. Senate, the reauthorization of the transportation project that assigns more than $100 million annually to highways, the process of military base closures, a new tower for the Veterans Hospital, the reform of social welfare and revision of the Medicaid program.

Gracia Hopes Courts Don’t Block Vote Count

November 9, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Acknowledging that in the first two days of the general vote count things have gone slowly, State Election Commission (SEC) President Aurelio Gracia showed hope that Tuesday the federal court would not halt the process of checking election certificates.

New Progressive Party election commissioner Thomas Rivera Schatz went to federal court Tuesday to challenge Gracia’s decision to do the general vote count — in which the election certificates are reviewed - before the recount, in which every ballot is evaluated.

"I hope there is not a halt in the process, because last time … even when the court would stipulate a recount, I understand there is not justification to stop the vote count. No damage is done to the system by continuing with the vote count," Gracia said at a press conference before the second day of counting at the Operations Center of the SEC.

After only finishing Precinct 1 of San Juan on Monday, out of 110 precincts on the island, Gracia said he hoped that Wednesday the process would go faster.

"The first and second day are atypical, we hope to have a better process tomorrow. This is my first experience with this, but those who have been here many years told me everything will fall into place in time," Gracia said.

Rullan: Meningitis Epidemic Is Under Control

November 9, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The meningitis epidemic that affected the island for several months has been controlled, Health Secretary Johnny Rullan said Tuesday.

Rullan said that in week 44, which just ended, 10 cases were recorded, which represents a base figure - the average number of cases reported before the outbreak began.

"…In week 44, which ended last week, we reached only ten cases - that already is the base. This week it is very early to begin, but already we are on base, so the meningitis epidemic is controlled," he said at a press conference.

"Here statements were made that we should not open schools, we opened the schools. As of today, we arrive at (three) months with open schools, and at no time was any child at risk at any school," he said.

The state epidemiologist, Francisco Alvarado, anticipated a week ago that the epidemic could not be controlled until three or four weeks had passed.

After week 43, which ended Oct. 30, a total of 901 cases had been recorded on the island.

Tourism Co. Will Promote PR In Central, South America

November 9, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The executive director of the Tourism Co., Milton Segarra, on Tuesday announced the creation of a program to promote Puerto Rico as a tourism destination in Central and South America.

Segarra said the initiative, an alliance with the Panamanian airline Copa, will bring sales leaders, wholesalers and journalists from Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Argentina, Chile and Brazil to Puerto Rico from Dec. 2-7.

"This is to educate them and provide them with the tools to effectively sell Puerto Rico in their respective countries," Segarra said.

He said the visitors will be offered direct contact with the natural resources of the island and its people, so they can better promote the tourist attractions and increase the status of Puerto Rico in the Latin American market.

Suspect Outwits Police In Puerto Rico, Saying He Needed To Turn Off His Stove

November 9, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - A handcuffed burglary suspect escaped from police custody at his home in Puerto Rico after asking an officer if he could turn off his stove, officials said Tuesday.

The incident occurred Monday in the central mountain town of Utuado when Officer Luis Rios Rodriguez arrested 36-year-old Serrail Vega Villafane at his home, police spokeswoman Marisely Zambrana said.

Rios took Vega to the town's courthouse where he was charged with aggravated burglary and weapons possession, Zambrana said. But a prosecutor asked for the keys of the car allegedly used to commit the burglary.

The judge permitted Rios to take Vega back to his home to retrieve the keys, police said. Before leaving the house, Vega asked the officer if he could check his stove to make sure it was turned off.

Taking advantage of the officer's trust, Vega jumped from a second-floor deck and disappeared into surrounding woods, Zambrana said. He remained at large on Tuesday.

A judge fined Vega $36,000 for failing to reappear at the courthouse.

Rios, a 36-year-old officer with about 10 years on the force, was scheduled to go before a police review board to determine whether his actions were negligent.

U.S. Senators Push For Measure To Protect El Yunque

November 8, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The U.S. senators from New York, Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton, showed optimism that a measure approved by the U.S. Senate to declare the zone of El Toro (on the premises of El Yunque) a forest reserve will be ratified in a post-election session of Congress.

The measure, which protects some 10,000 acres from urban development, was approved in October by the U.S. Senate, and is on the final agenda of outgoing resident commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila.

"If this legislation is approved, (in the House) the forest reserve of El Toro will be a unique tropical forest reserve in the system of national forests of the United States. This designation will assure that the forest remains protected for future generations of Puerto Ricans," Clinton said, according to media reports.

"El Yunque is the oldest and most beloved forest in Puerto Rico," Schumer added.

IAU Leaders Pessimistic About Negotiations

November 8, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The leadership of the Independent Authentic Union (IAU) of the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (ASA) showed pessimism that the negotiations scheduled for Monday would bring the end of the strike that has been ongoing for more than a month.

The president of the San Juan chapter of the IAU and the spokesman for the negotiating committee, Juan Ramos, said that after Tuesday’s elections the readiness of the employer to negotiate has changed.

A newspaper reported that the negotiations will begin at 1 p.m. Monday.

The IAU began the strike Oct. 4 over disagreements in the negotiations for their new collective agreement.

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