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Recount Of Votes Resumes; PDP Will Obey Federal Order… New Vote Controversy Arises… NPP Ordered To Respond To PDP Appeal, Party Gathers At Federal Court… Thousands Demonstrate, Organizers Happy With "March For Dignity"… ASA Has $200m Budget Deficit… Calderon Remains Unbeaten… A GI’s Happy Thanksgiving…FirstBanCorp Buys Unibank

Recount Of Votes Resumes; PDP Will Obey Federal Order

By Leonardo Aldridge

November 29, 2004
ight © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The recount of votes from the Nov. 2 elections restarted Monday after the Popular Democratic Party accepted a report from the federal court that said some state ballots must not be adjudicated.

After a meeting of the election commissioners of the three parties, the president of the State Election Commission, Aurelio Gracia, said the resumption of work and an increase in the number of counting tables would help to get final results of the elections before the end of the year.

Federal Judge Daniel Dominguez decided last week that that the mixed votes with three marks must be counted but not adjudicated.

The Popular Democratic Party (PDP) has assured that it would not obey the order and that instead it would follow the decision of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court, whch decided that this type of votes must be adjudicated as valid.

But the PDP election commissioner, Gerardo Cruz, said after the meeting on Monday that, complying with a separate certificate to record the controversial votes, would comply simultaneously with the federal order and the Supreme Court decision.

New Controversy Threatens To Delay Recount

November 29, 2004
ight © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – A new dispute about the adjudication of votes threatened to delay the recount that restarted on Monday at the operations center of the State Elections Commission.

The election commissioner for the Popular Democratic Party (PDP), Gerardo Cruz, said New Progressive Party officials were allegedly trying to adjudicate as ‘true’ votes the ballots on which voters made marks to the side of the PDP candidate for governor, Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, and his partner on the ballot, Roberto Prats, without making an "x" under one of the three parties.

This, according to Cruz, was an attempt so that later the state ballots with three marks – one under the insignia of one party and two to the side of the candidates of another party – would be invalidated by containing two alleged true votes.

"Today (Monday) the NPP has given instructions to its officials to adjudicate the ballot as a true ballot … this constitutes a new trick by the NPP to continue postponing the work," Cruz said at a press conference.

Court Orders Political Party To Respond To Election Suit

November 29, 2004
ight © 2004 Orlando Sentinel. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- A federal appeals court has ordered Puerto Rico's pro-statehood party to respond to a lawsuit trying to block a district federal judge from ruling on a case concerning the disputed Nov. 2 gubernatorial election. The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston gave the New Progressive Party -- led by candidate Pedro Rossello -- until Wednesday afternoon to present a response to the lawsuit filed by his opponent Anibal Acevedo Vila.

Political Groups Gather At Federal Court Grounds

November 29, 2004
ight © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Members of the New Progressive Party (NPP) on Monday gathered on the grounds of the Federal Court in at attempt to counteract the march scheduled for the same day against the intervention of the U.S. judicial forum in the battle over mixed votes.

The youth president for the NPP, William Villafañe, said he was confident that no confrontations would occur between the parties with differing positions.

"From what I can see here, there is considerable distance … it seems to me that it has been coordinated well enough to avoid any type of confrontation," Villafañe said.

Villafañe added that the demonstrators would remain on the court grounds until the end of the events Monday about the lawsuit initiated by the NPP against adjudicating the mixed-vote ballots.

Thousands Demonstrate In Streets; SEC Arrives At Agreement

By Manuel Ernesto Rivera

November 29, 2004
ight © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Thousands of people carrying Puerto Rican flags, many dressed in red, on Monday marched to the federal court to support the Supreme Court and protest the intervention of the federal court in the election controversy.

The demonstration, called the "March for Dignity," which was said by police to have 20,000 to 25,000 people, left the Puerto Rico Coliseum and arrived at the grounds of the federal court on Chardon Avenue, where a group of statehooders were holding a demonstration to support the federal court.

Minutes before the march began, the State Elections Commission came to an agreement about the "mixed-vote" state ballots with three marks, which, according to SEC president Aurelio Gracia, fulfills the orders of federal judge Daniel Dominguez and the Supreme Court.

The ballots will be counted, but not adjudicated, as Dominguez ordered, and will be identified in a special certificate to await a final decision on their validity. The Supreme Court ordered that the ballots be counted and adjudicated.

Upon arriving at the federal court grounds, demonstrators in the "March for Dignity" and statehooders, separated by a short distance, began to yell insults at each other.

Among the political leaders present were Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Rep. Héctor Ferrer, the defeated PDP candidate for resident commissioner, Roberto Prats, and the municipal legislator from San Juan, Luis Vega Ramos.

Election officials from the PDP joined the group at 8:45 a.m., after ending a meeting of commissioners of the three parties at the Elections Operations Center of the SEC, where they had arrived at the agreement.

Organizers Happy With Turnout At "March For Dignity"

By Manuel Ernesto Rivera

November 29, 2004
ight © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Organizers of the "March For Dignity" on Monday said they were satisfied with the massive participation at the event, which was held in support of the controversial mixed votes from the Nov. 2 election being counted and adjudicated.

"The country has responded with dignity to the injustices imposed by the federal court and the country has done its utmost to recognize the exclusive jurisdiction of the Supreme Court … our people have done their utmost to support the democratic process and clean vote reviews," said Noel Colón Martínez, of the "Movimiento Nacional Hostosiano."

Colón Martínez, a former president of the Bar Association, criticized the case that the New Progressive Party brought to the courtroom of Federal Judge Daniel Domínguez, whom they asked to void the state ballots with marks under the insignia of one party, as well as to the side of candidates from other parties.

"The election responsibility is transferring from the hands of the people of Puerto Rico to the federal court, and this is not permissible in a democracy," Colon Martinez said.

Meanwhile, union leader José Rodríguez Báez also said he was satisfied with the participation.

"We hoped for thousands of people, but this exceeded our expectations," he said.

ASA Has $200 Million Budget Deficit

November 29, 2004
ight © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The operational deficit of the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (ASA) for the fiscal year 2004-2005 could reach higher than $200 million, said the agency’s executive president, Jorge Rodriguez Baez.

In his presentation before the government transition committee, Rodriguez said the ASA budget for fiscal year 2004-2005 saw income of $392.8 million and operational expenses of $573.3 million.

He said his goal is to reduce the deficit in a period of five years.

Rodriguez said the ASA conducted a major regionalization, following the new administrative trends in the industry.

He said another goal is to complete the projects under the Water for Everyone program in the shortest time possible to provide water in areas without sufficient supply.

Calderon Remains Unbeaten

November 28, 2004
ight © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

LAS VEGAS · Ivan Calderon remained unbeaten and kept his 105-pound title Saturday night with a lopsided decision over challenger Carlos Fajardo.

Calderon, a 2000 Olympian from Puerto Rico, dominated the bout almost the entire way to remain unbeaten in 21 fights with a unanimous decision.Calderon outboxed the Nicaraguan challenger almost every round, winning 120-107 on one scorecard, 119-108 on a second and 118-109 on a third.

The fight was on the undercard of the rubber match between Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera at the MGM Grand.

Calderon, who defeated former title holders in his last three fights, was making the fourth defense of his WBO title against Fajardo (12-5-1), fighting in the United States for the first time.

He never seemed to seriously hurt Fajardo, but controlled the action all the way. Fajardo had a point taken in the 11th round for low blows, but the fight was out of his reach by then.

A Happy Thanksgiving

November 25, 2004
ight © 2004 National Broadcasting Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 

NBC News: Today

Mr. JAIME ERNESTO: Hi. My name is Jaime Ernesto. I am in the fire department from Camp Haji. I just want to wish my family a happy Thanksgiving and happy anniversary to my wife, Rebecca, who lives in Puerto Rico.

ANN CURRY, co-host:

A beautiful day for soldiers from the Army's First Cavalry Division in Camp Haji, Iraq.

Unibank Bought By Puerto Rican Firm


November 25, 2004
ight © 2004. All rights reserved. 

Miami's UniBank is being purchased by a Puerto Rican financial institution for an undisclosed sum.

FirstBanCorp, the second-largest financial holding company in Puerto Rico, is buying Ponce General Corp., which owns both UniBank and the Ponce Realty Corp., which has real estate holdings in Florida.

UniBank, a savings and loan, has nine branches in the South Florida and Orlando area. With assets of $471.4 million, it has specialized in real estate lending.

The transaction is expected to close in the first half of next year.

First BanCorp said it anticipates using the acquisition as a platform for further expansion into Florida, particularly cities with large Hispanic populations.

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