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Puerto Ricans Elected In U.S. On Rise… NPP Amends Its Federal Court Lawsuit… IAU Officially Rejects ASA Offer… Fernandez: Better D.R. Economy Will Cut Emigration… Dominoes Champions… UT May Miss Start Date… Over 1,000 3-Mark Ballots Found So Far… Hoteliers Sign Agreement To Promote Tourism… ASA Must Pay Christmas Bonus To Striking Workers, Has Power To Replace Them

Number Of Puerto Ricans Elected To U.S. Positions On Rise

December 6, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - The director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, Mari Carmen Aponte, said the campaign to register Puerto Rican voters in the United States led to a 30 percent increase among Puerto Rican officials in elected posts.

Aponte said the campaign, promoted by the administration of Gov. Sila M. Calderon, was meant to empower the Puerto Rican community in the U.S. political world.

"When we began the campaign in July 2002, there were 100 elected Puerto Ricans and today, there are 129. This is a rise of 30 percent in two and a half years. There is where we see the legacy of the governor's campaign," she said.

Nevertheless, other reports say that in 2004, the number of Puerto Ricans in elected positions in the United States was 150, while in 2003 it was 152.

NPP Amends Its Federal Court Lawsuit

December 6, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The New Progressive Party amended the lawsuit it filed before federal court over mixed votes, to argue that its candidate for governor, Pedro Rossello, won the Nov. 2 elections and the adjudication of the "pivazo" ballots is an attempt to steal his win.

The new document also implies that State Elections Commission President Aurelio Gracia changed the rules of adjudication of votes after the election, to allegedly favor the Popular Democratic candidate, Anibal Acevedo Vila.

"Given that the preliminary certification of the Nov. 2 elections showed that the margin between the candidates was not more than 3,880 votes, this rule change after the elections creates a significant risk that the election results will be snatched from Rossello, and he will be deprived of the charge that he won, under the rules that existed at the time of the election," the lawsuit reads.

"Gracia’s decision after the voting will give the vast majority of these votes to Acevedo Vila, whose party Gracia belongs to," it says.

Assembly Of IAU Delegates Officially Rejects ASA Offer

December 6, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — As the Independent Authentic Union strike against the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority enters Day 64, an assembly of union delegates ratified their opposition to the final offer made by company management for a new collective agreement.

The general delegate from the IAU San Juan chapter, Luis De Jesus, said they rejected the proposal because "the salary increases were not acceptable because they lose two and a half years of increases, and the membership is not ready for this."

He referred to the last collective agreement negotiated in July 2003 and the final offer of ASA management did not give increases during the first year of the new agreement, which will mean a total of two and a half years without salary hikes.

But in exchange, the management proposes an immediate payment of $1,800, and later increases of $100 monthly in each of the four following years of the agreement.

Dominican President Says Improved Economy Will Cut Emigration

December 6, 2004
Copyright © 2004
EFE News Service. All rights reserved. 

New York, Dec 5 (EFE).- Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernandez said in New York on Saturday that as the economy of his country grows, the number of Dominicans leaving the country by sea in an attempt to enter other countries illegally will diminish.

These sea crossings in fragile wooden boats are "an expression of the precarious economic and social situation that we have in the Dominican Republic," the chief executive said at a press conference in which he spoke about Dominican immigrants in the United States.

Principal destination of these sailings is Puerto Rico, increasingly used as a bridge for entering the United States.

On Friday at least eight people died when a boat carrying 93 undocumented Dominicans capsized on its way to Puerto Rico.

According to the Dominican navy, in the past three months some 87 illegal sailings headed for Puerto Rico have been stopped, with 64 boats confiscated and the detention of some 861 people trying to leave the country.

"I understand that as we emerge from this crisis and the Dominican economy gets stronger, these illegal voyages will disappear," said Fernandez, who arrived Friday in New York on his first visit to the U.S. since being sworn in on August 16 to start his second term as president of his country.

He insisted that in only three months since taking office, the economic situation of his country has improved, noting that in November there was "zero" inflation.

He said that for his country the Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. is "crucial, because it guarantees access to the American market for goods and services made in the Dominican Republic, within a preferential situation of import duties."

The incorporation of the Dominican Republic into the Free Trade Agreement is currently blocked by a Dominican import duty on a corn-based sweetener exported by the United States, a tax that political, commercial and diplomatic representatives of the United States have declared unacceptable.

According to official statistics, commerce between the Dominican Republic and the United States, where some 1.4 million Dominicans presently reside, totals more than $9 billion annually.

The president called a press conference to comment on the results of the most thorough study made to date on the Dominican diaspora.

As a result of the findings, Fernandez said, an 11-person commission will be created to make recommendations on how to integrate Dominicans living in other countries into the country's plans for national development.

The "New York-Dominican Republic Strategic Alliance Project," as the study is called, evaluated the areas of migration and labor, health, education, economic development, remittances, science and technology, sports, civic participation and leadership development.

The president is scheduled to meet on Monday with directors of the World Bank to discuss the launching of an anti-corruption program in his country.

Dominoes Champions

December 5, 2004
Copyright © 2004
THE MIAMI HERALD. All rights reserved. 

Roberto Behar and Luis Hernandez of the Little Havana Nutritional Center placed first in a dominoes competition that was part of the celebration of Puerto Rico Discovery Day hosted by the De Hostos Senior Center in Wynwood on Nov. 19.

Second place went to Martiniario Rivera and Dionisio Rodriguez of the De Hostos center and third place went to Fausto Callavo and Ricky Martinez, city of Miami officials.

About 200 people attended the event, including seniors from Little Havana, Allapattah, Hialeah and Southwest Social Services.

Miami Police Officer Manny Gomez was the master of ceremonies.

New Train Service May Miss Start Date


December 5, 2004
Copyright © 2004.
All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN -- U.S. regulators refused to attend the inauguration of Puerto Rico's new commuter rail this week, saying local officials have yet to obtain certain safety certifications.

Puerto Rican Transportation Secretary Fernando Fagundo said the opening ceremony would take place Tuesday, and the long-awaited train could be running in two weeks.

But Federal Transit Administration spokesman Paul Griffo said the project must obtain safety approvals from the U.S. Caribbean territory's Transportation Authority and the Emergency Management Agency.

San Juan's Urban Train is supposed to decongest highways and provide speedy transport to a crowded metropolitan area of more than one million people.

More Than 1,000 Three-Mark Ballots Found So Far

December 3, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — With just 580 of the 7,177 polling places reported during the recount under way at the State Elections Commission, 1,055 split ballots with three marks had been set aside, as Federal Judge Daniel Dominguez had ordered.

Of these ballots, the election commissioner for the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Gerardo Cruz, only had available a breakdown of the results of 864. Of the 864 ballots, 823 favor the Popular Democratic candidate for governor, Anibal Acevedo Vila.

According to reports, PIP candidate Ruben Berrios earned 21 of these votes and New Progressive candidate Pedro Rossello earned 20.

"…At this time, most of them (the split ballots) favor Aníbal Acevedo Vila depending on the federal court," Cruz said in reference to the complaint that is being considered by a U.S. court about the ballots with three marks.

Hoteliers Sign Agreement To Promote Tourism

December 3, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN GERMÁN (AP) — Leading hotels in the western region on Friday ratified a cooperation agreement with several South American governments to establish a program endorsed by the Organization of American States (OAS) that will seek to promote tourism.

The OAS director of the support program for small hotels, Gonzalo Aguirre, participated in an activity in San German where an agreement was signed, together with delegates from Costa Rica, Panamá, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador, as well as the president of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives, Carlos Vizcarrondo, and the next House leader, Jose Aponte.

The agreement was achieved through the Mutisectional Summit for the Tourism and Commercial Development of Puerto Rico.

"This agreement sets the tone with what the New Party presented in favor of tourism for the island and the west," Aponte said.

"We also endorse the development of the multi-destination program on the island and the "Puerta del Sol" program promoted by the previous administration in the western region," he added.

ASA Must Pay Christmas Bonus To Striking Workers

By Jose Fernandez Colon

December 3, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

PONCE (AP) — The Aqueduct and Sewer Authority will have to pay the Christmas bonus to members of the Independent Authentic Union who have been on strike for approximately 60 days.

Labor Secretary Roman Velasco made the announcement that the striking members must receive their Christmas bonus no later than Dec. 15.

"The law does not say there is an exception, it says the minimum which is required is not exempted because there is a strike situation - every employee that worked for the period stated in the law, the employer is obliged to pay them the Christmas bonus," he said.

"It is important that they have accumulated at least 700 hours or more of work," in the year, he added.

Some 4,300 employees affiliated with the IAU are still on strike after almost two months, over a conflict in negotiations with the ASA.

Negotiations between the IAU and the ASA have been paralyzed since Wednesday night, when company management issued a final offer which the union later rejected.

Velasco said that after the ASA presented a final offer to the IAU, the Labor Department could not intervene in the case any further.

"To say it is a final proposal and the union does not accept it, does not allow us to continue intervening in the process," he said.

Velasco called for the company to explain to union members some of the points in the proposal that "are not clear" and asked union members to consider the current situation at the ASA.

Rodriguez Says ASA Has Power To Replace Union Workers

December 3, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Repeating his call to Independent Authentic Union (IAU) members to abandon the strike and return the work at the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority, ASA President Jorge Rodriguez said the agency has the legal authority to replace them.

Rodriguez, however, said that at this time he is not considering the possibility of replacing the 4,300 workers affiliated with the IAU that are still on strike after two months.

"...From the point of view of the law the employer has this option. At this time I am not considering it," Rodriguez said.

It was not possible to get an immediate comment from the IAU.

Rodriguez reiterated that the economic proposals that they have presented to IAU leadership are reasonable and union members have to do their part to improve conditions at the ASA.

"What we are putting on the table is very reasonable considering the circumstances we have. We have to work together. The problem of the Authority is not Jorge Rodriguez, it is everyone that makes up the Authority, including the union leaders," Rodriguez said.

He said also the IAU has large internal problems, with a divided, militant membership that looks with suspicion at the actions of its directors and its president, Hector Rene Lugo.

When he was asked if union members across the island are returning without Lugo’s knowledge, Rodriguez only said, "This is so."

Negotiations between the IAU and the ASA have been on hold since Wednesday, when the corporation publicly made a "final and firm" offer, which has been rejected by the union.

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