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SEC Will Count Mixed Votes Again… NPP Asks For Calm, Respect… Santini Campaigns Against Holiday Firearm Use… Prepa Negotiating For $100m Pipeline… New Daily LMM-Vieques Flights… Freddie's Emotional…More MLB Games?…ASA Mgrs Get $1m In Strike Overtime… SEC Reviews Prisoners’ Votes… Soldier Objects To Iraq Combat…Report: Legislature Can’t Elect Governor

SEC Will Count Mixed Votes One More Time, Just To Be Sure

December 16, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – To protect the transparency of the proceedings, the State Elections Commission will take another count of the mixed votes which were segregated, SEC President Aurelio Gracia announced.

He said after the decision by the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, revoking the jurisdiction of federal judge Daniel Dominguez, they will begin to count and adjudicate the mixed votes, starting with Precinct 64 in Juana Diaz.

Gracia said they will go back and open the containers holding the mixed votes from Precinct 1 in San Juan to Precinct 63 in Juana Diaz to count them and adjudicate them.

"I think that for the best appearance and the most pure process we are going to count them and this will take one day, a half day …" Gracia said.

Gracia said that although the statement from the Boston panel of judges said there were approximately 28,000 mixed votes, according to the advance recount he didn’t think there were more than 7,000 to 8,000.

NPP, PDP Commissioners Object To Mixed-Vote Recount

December 16, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The decision by State Elections Commission President Aurelio Gracia to reopen the boxes of mixed-vote ballots from the first 63 precincts was received with strong criticism from both the Popular Democratic and New Progressive election commissioners.

PDP Election Commissioner Gerardo Cruz said he didn’t have problems with the ballots continuing to be segregated, but he objected to the boxes being opened from where they are stored and being recounted.

The same feelings were expressed by NPP Election Commissioner Thomas Rivera Schatz, who said it is unnecessary to recount these ballots one by one.

Gracia said minutes before a press conference that to protect the "transparency and purity" of the proceedings they will recount the mixed votes that were segregated from Precinct 1 in San Juan to Precinct 63 in Juana Diaz.

NPP Asks For Calm, Respect After Boston Court Decision

December 16, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – After learning of the ruling of the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, which decided the federal court on the island does not have jurisdiction in the mixed-votes case, the New Progressive Party (NPP) asked its supporters to be calm and respect the judicial decision.

The appellate court on Wednesday revoked the jurisdiction of Federal District Judge Daniel Dominguez, and ruled the Puerto Rico Supreme Court - not the federal court - should decide the lawsuit brought by the NPP.

The Supreme Court has already decided the ballots are valid.

"I respect the decision of the court, I accept it gracefully. I am not going to give up the fight that I have undertaken in the name of the candidates of my party and my party itself," said NPP election commissioner, Thomas Rivera Schatz.

"Certainly, I disagree with the court’s decision. I am not in agreement with what they decided, but I have to respect it … We have to respect decisions of the courts. I call on all the voters and officials of the NPP to remain calm," he added.

The election commissioner said lawyers for the NPP will decide whether to appeal the decision.

He declined to comment on whether the Boston decision will affect the possibility of NPP candidate Pedro Rossello winning the governor’s race.

Rivera Schatz said that when the recount is over, the NPP will comply with the decision of the voters and the courts.

"There is hope until the last vote is counted. When the recount ends next week, we will accept … the decision of the voters and the decision of the courts," he said.

Election officials have calculated that the vote recount could end before Dec. 23.

Charlie Rodriguez, a member of Rossello’s legal team, reiterated that his party will accept the decision.

"This decision rejects the arguments we raised … but certainly Boston’s decision is on that we have to obey even if we disagree with the conclusions, we comply with it and we have to continue the local court proceedings to be able to safeguard our rights," he said.

He added that NPP lawyers will meet to discuss their alternatives and the actions they will take.

Santini Launches Campaign Against Holiday Firearm Use

December 16, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The mayor of San Juan, Jorge Santini, on Thursday launched a campaign to try to stop the use of firearms during the Christmas season.

Accompanied by a baby just over a year old who was injured by a stray bullet last New Year’s, the mayor said the campaign will be spread throughout several types of media at a cost of $77,000.

"The law prohibits shooting any firearm in a public place or any other place where there is someone who could be injured. The penalty will be five years in jail, and if someone is killed, is starts a perpetual chain," Santini said at a press conference.

The mayor, who is an aficionado of the practice of target shooting and owns nearly 20 firearms himself, denied that the initiative would contradict his stand on the use of firearms.

"This is not a contradction. I think it it ridiculous to insinuate that it is a contradiction. The practice of a sport and the use of firearms in a responsible manner does not have anything to do with illegal, negligent or criminal use of a firearm," he said.

The mayor said 22 people were injured by stray bullets in 2003.

Prepa, Spanish Firm Are In Negotiations For New Pipeline

December 16, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Executives of a Spanish firm recently met with directors of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) to discuss the possibility of constructing a $100 million pipeline that will diversify the island’s energy sources and increase government profits.

Energy firm Gas Natural Internacional and Prepa may establish a joint venture business to manage and operate the construction and financing of the pipeline, a newspaper reported.

"The first route of the pipeline will cross from the EcoElectrica plant in Peñuelas to Mayaguez. The plan is for the pipeline to continue to San Juan. To create the first route we are negotiating with the Power Technology firm to do environmental analysis of the construction," said Prepa Executive Director Hector Rosario.

Rosario said Prepa already worked with lawyers and financial advisers on the legal documents necessary for the joint venture with Gas Natural Internacional, a firm that will bring with it the Repsol YPF group.

New Flights Offered Daily From LMM Airport To Vieques

December 16, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Cape Air, an airline based in Massachusetts, has started offering daily flights from Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in Isla Verde to Vieques.

The airline will make the trip three times daily, round-trip, between Isla Verde and Vieques, and on Thursdays and Sundays it will make a total of four round-trip flights.

"This is a collaborations between Cape Air and the Wyndham Martineau Bay resort, which will benefit the Vieques community and the tourists that go to the hotel," said Luis Mora, a local representative for Cape Air.

Cape Air on Wednesday also began to offer round-trip flights from Vieques to Saint Croix.

Freddie's Emotional Family Tribute

December 16, 2004
Copyright © 2004 World Entertainment News Network. All rights reserved. 

Freddie Prinze Jr broke down in tears on Hollywood's famed Walk of Fame when he paid tribute to his late father, who was being honoured with a star.

In paying tribute to his father, the Scooby-doo star sobbed, "This is for my family, my mother who has tirelessly loved him and my grandmother Miriam in Puerto Rico, who couldn't be here, who has honoured his name more than I could ever dream to.

"I love them both, love my family. I'm glad this could happen... I thank you from the bottom of my heart."

Promoter Wants More MLB Games In P.R.

December 16, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - The promoter who brought the Montreal Expos to Puerto Rico is talking with major league baseball to have other teams play on the island next season.

Antonio Munoz said Thursday the Florida Marlins and Tampa Bay Devil Rays are two candidates to play next year in San Juan's Hiram Bithorn Stadium. The Pittsburgh Pirates have also been mentioned by baseball officials as a possible team.

"We've been in communication with the teams' owners to look at the economic side," Munoz said. "It has to be done before January 15. At least that's the date I've set to make this decision."

ASA Managers Rack Up $1 Million In Overtime During Strike

December 15, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 


PONCE (AP) – As the 73-day strike of the Independent Authentic Union at the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority continues, the 167 managers of the public company in the south region have accumulated nearly $1 million in overtime hours.

The director of the south region for ASA, Juan Felipe Santos, who is in charge of all agency operations from Maunabo to Guanica, said Wednesday that they also hired a firm for repair work at a cost of $250,000.

"There are managers that are working around the clock, 24 hours, in these facilities. There are others working 12 to 14 hours from Monday to Sunday. These extra hours are being paid biweekly. In the region, I calculate it at about $1 million," he said.

Santos said he calculated that, if the strike extends for the entire month of December, the cost for overtime and subcontracted repair work could be higher than $2 million.

He said the ASA administration has agreements with the management employees that they will receive compensation for the extra hours they work during the strike.

He also said ASA clients have been paying their bills, and the number of people adhering to the tradition of not paying bills to support the strike has been minimal.

Prison Officials Meet With SEC President, Commissioners

December 15, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Several prison officials and voting college officials from the Ponce jail met Wednesday morning with the election commissioner from the three parties and the president of the State Elections Commission, Aurelio Gracia.

The subject of the meeting was alleged irregularities found with the voting ballots of prisoners in the penal institution.

The meeting also included discussion about the alleged illegal contributions received by the Popular Democratic Party, and about a complaint filed by the Puerto Rican Association of Victims of Medical Malpractice against the Puerto Rico College of Medical Surgeons.

They also talked about the recount requests from the candidate for representative, Ivan Rodriguez; from the NPP candidate for mayor of Comerio, Miguel Rivera Pérez; and from the municipal legislators of the NPP from Precinct 73 in Naranjito.

Another discussion subject was the request made by Rogelio Figueroa to the secretary of the SEC, Maximiliano Pérez Collazo, that they count and divulge the votes for direct nomination received by the gubernatorial candidate of the Puerto Ricans for Puerto Rico party.

Puerto Rican Soldier Objects To Combat In Iraq

December 15, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Pablo Paredes, a soldier with a Puerto Rican mother and an Ecuadorean father, called the U.S. war against Iraq "criminal and immoral" and is one of 5,500 U.S. soldiers that have refused to fight in the country.

In a few days, Paredes, 23, could be handed over to naval authorities in San Diego, Calif., reported the Washington correspondent for a local newspaper. Paredes earlier refused to board his Navy ship as it prepared to sail for Iraq.

Paredes said he is part of a population that joined military service looking for "education, maturity and economic benefits," and that at such a young age is it difficult to comprehend the significance of war.

"I am against the violence and almost all the wars the United States has participated in the last 50 years. The war in Iraq is due to the oil in that country and the interest the United States has in controlling the Middle East," Paredes said.

Report: Legislature Doesn’t Have Authority To Elect Governor

December 15, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – An analysis by the Office of Legislative Services concluded that, in the case the 15th Legislative Assembly begins without a certified governor, the legislators do not have the authority to elect one.

The analysis, signed Dec. 8 by the director of the office, Elba Rodríguez Fuentes, was in response to a request from Popular Democratic Sen. Eudaldo Báez Galib.

"The prerogative that Section 9 of Article IV (of the Constitution) awards to the Legislative Assembly to elect a governor is limited to those cases in which the governor, after being elected, is totally and permanently incapacitated or dies after taking possession of the post," the document says.

According to Rodriguez, if a governor has not been certified by the beginning of the Legislative Assembly, what takes precedence is the Constitutional rule that establishes a governor will exercise his or her post for four years, starting Jan. 2 the year following the election, and until a successor is elected and takes possession.

"Per this rule, the governor or someone in the line of succession, in this case, the Secretary of State, will continue in the office until the successor is elected and takes possession," he added.

A vote from the Legislature on the matter would be void, he said.

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