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Calderon: "No Wish" To Replace Strikers; IAU Ready To Go To Court, Acevedo Asked To Intervene… Elite Athletes Get Over $3m…UT Debuts… IAU Faces An Ultimatum… Winterfest’s ‘El Morro’… Soldier Who Refused Iraq Duty Is Declared A Deserter… Health Dept. Forms Agreements With States… Rossello To Ask Court To Reconsider, Unsure Of Appeal

Calderon: "No Wish" To Replace Strikers, But Offer Remains Final

By Manuel Ernesto Rivera

December 20, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Gov. Sila M. Calderon, who backed up the decision to replace workers at the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (ASA) who remain on strike, said Monday that the government "does not have any wish" to execute the controversial measure.

"On the contrary, the wish is that they return to work as soon as possible," Calderon said at a press conference at La Fortaleza. "There is no wish that they remain without work," she said.

But Calderon added that the ASA offer to the Independent Authentic Union is "final" and said that if union members accept it they will be, on average, the best-paid public servants on the island.

"The reality is that the offer that has been made is fair and generous," she said.

She said the strike, which began on Oct. 4, has most affected the 4,300 members of the union.

She said the process of worker replacement would not begin immediately Dec. 27 as the executive president of the ASA, Jorge Rodriguez, had said, declaring that the positions will remain open for the strikers while they are not filled by others.

"This will be a gradual process. During the process, as long as the posts are not filled by the Authority, they will be available for the workers that want to return to them," she said.

IAU Ready To Go To Court If Strike Workers Are Replaced

By Manuel Ernesto Rivera

December 20, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Independent Authentic Union (IAU) said Monday it has a legal response almost ready if the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (ASA) makes good on its threat to replace striking workers who do not return to their jobs before Dec. 27.

IAU President Hector Rene Lugo asked the membership of some 4,300 workers to not be frightened by the "illegal and reactionary" step, that ASA Executive President Jorge Rodriguez is trying to implement.

"This action will violate the most elemental principles of collective negotiation and our Constitutional right to strike," Lugo said at a press conference together with two lawyers for the union.

"No worker must feel intimidated nor must they allow them to intimidate our families with the ASA action, that intends to affect our stability," he added.

Lawyers for the union explained that in case the ASA follows through with this action, they will file a lawsuit for damages and appeal for a ban to paralyze any attempt to recruit replacements.

The head of the ASA said the law allows a public corporation to replace striking workers if the worker-company conflict is strictly economic. And, by his judgment, the conflict at the ASA fulfills this requirement.

"We already negotiated all the economic clauses," he said in a radio interview.

MINH Asks Acevedo Vila To Intervene In Water Strike

December 20, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The "Movimiento Independentista Nacional Hostosiano" (MINH) said that "before conditions worsen and spiral out of control," Anibal Acevedo Vila must finally intervene in the strike conflict at the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority.

The organization made an "urgent" call to Acevedo Vila to intervene in the matter "due to the threat of mass firings made by the president of the ASA" and noted that those affiliated with the Independent Authentic Union (IAU) had the right to strike and negotiate the collective agreement, and were covered by the Constitution.

"We are making an urgent call to the president of the Popular Democratic Party, Anibal Acevedo Vila, to intervene due to the threat of mass firings from the president of the ASA and instructed him to defend the postulates of the Constitution of the Estado Libre Asociado," said MINH spokesman Hector Pesquera.

Acevedo Vila does not currently have formal authority over Rodriguez.

Saturday, ASA President Jorge Rodriguez warned that those affiliated with the IAU who are on strike have until Dec. 27 to return to their jobs or they will be permanently replaced.

During his campaign, Acevedo Vila insisted on not intervening in the conflict.

Elite PR Athletes Have Received More Than $3 Million

December 20, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Elite athletes have received more than $3 million for their training and competitions, the director of the High-Performance Committee of the Puerto Rico Olympic Committee, Humberto Cintron, said Monday.

"Since the founding of the High Performance Sport Committee, they have been awarded economic support surpassing $3 million," Cintron said.

He did not specify which athletes received the most money for their training during the past four-year period, but some received monthly checks of more than $3,500.

The money used for the athletes comes from an Olympic fund and from allocations from the government.

The funds will continue to be assigned during the four-year period that ends with the 2008 Olympic Games in China.

For the new period, the president of the Olympic Committee, Héctor Francisco Cardona, requested that the new government assign $9 million to Olympic sport, not only for the training of the athletes, but also to devise a program to strengthen the knowledge of the coaches.

Commuter Train Makes Its Debut

December 19, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN -- Puerto Rico inaugurated its long-awaited commuter rail Sunday with officials offering free service for the first few weeks on Tren Urbano, or the Urban Train, which runs between San Juan and suburban Bayamon.

The service is designed to unclog highways on the island, which has one of the highest rates of vehicles per capita in the world.

The date of the inauguration of the train was postponed several times due to faults in construction and because a certificate from the Federal Transportation Administration was needed.

The train was built at a cost of $2.25 billion.

Utility Strikers Face An Ultimatum

December 19, 2004
Copyright © 2004. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN -- The president of Puerto Rico's state-owned water company threatened Saturday to fire more than 4,000 striking workers if they don't return to their posts in nine days.

Jorge Rodríguez said the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority couldn't offer the Authentic Independent Union a better package than the one proposed in a collective contract.

Winterfest 'Bigger, Better' Boat Parade This Weekend

By Rafael A. Olmeda and María Travierso Staff Writers

December 17, 2004
Copyright © 2004 SO FL SUN-SENTINEL. All rights reserved. 

A famous fort will float up the Intracoastal Waterway Saturday on what's believed to be the first Hispanic-themed entry in the Winterfest Boat Parade.

"It's an honor to be there and to work so hard so that our boat is one of the most beautiful," said Frank Nieves, president of the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Broward.

Tourists will recognize the chamber's entry, 146-foot yacht Lady Liberty, from its likeness to El Morro, arguably Puerto Rico's most distinctive man-made landmark. Live music from the salsa band Potencia Latina (Latino Power) de Broward will emanate from the boat's deck as it takes its place in Fort Lauderdale's annual signature Christmas season event, with Miss Latina International Amy Diaz and Miss Teen Latina International Jackie Carbonell waving to the crowd in between dances.

Pollo Tropical is co-sponsoring the entry.

PR Soldier Who Refused Iraq Duty Is Declared A Deserter

December 17, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The U.S. Navy decided that Pablo Paredes, the soldier of a Puerto Rican mother and an Ecuadorean father who refused to participate in the war in Iraq, is a deserter. It will seek his arrest, however he is expected to turn himself in to authorities on Friday.

Lt. Jonathan Groveman, spokesman for the Southeastern Region of the Navy in San Diego, Calif., said Paredes, 23, was declared a deserter because he had announced his intentions to not fight in Iraq.

"He is considered a deserter because he made statements declaring his intention to not serve (in Iraq). We have notified the pertinent authorities to proceed with his arrest," Groveman said in a telephone interview with a Puerto Rican newspaper.

Paredes had orders to sail to the Persian Gulf Dec. 6 from the naval base in San Diego, but he refused to do so and held a protest on the pier in which he announced his opposition to the war in Iraq, calling it "criminal and immoral."

Health Dept. Forms Agreements With States

December 17, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Representatives from the Puerto Rico Health Department met with their counterparts from New York, New Jersey and the Virgin Islands to work on cooperation agreements that will benefit the four U.S. jurisdictions.

State Epidemiologist Francisco Alvarado said Puerto Rico agreed with the Virgin Islands to help in projects on biosecurity and epidemiological vigilance.

"This helps us to strengthen bonds with the Virgin Islands that already, at times, we have cruises that come here and travel there and we have to identify passengers with illnesses. This makes that process easier," Alvarado said.

Also, New York asked Puerto Rico to help create a group that will assist passengers traveling there from the island, and to write documents in Spanish for the Hispanic and Puerto Rican population living there.

Rossello To Ask Boston For Reconsideration, Not Sure If He’ll Appeal

December 17, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Pedro Rossello said Friday that in principle he does not want to ask for reconsideration from the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston about the mixed-vote decision, but he said that he now is contemplating this possibility, in order to make it clear that he does not agree with the ruling.

A panel of three federal judges on the appeals circuit decided unanimously that the controversy surrounding the mixed votes must be resolved in the Puerto Rico Supreme Court, which already decided the votes are valid.

"I have received a recommendation from my lawyers that they think we must ask the court of appeals in Boston to reconsider it, with all the judges on the panel. I am considering whether to make this decision, first because, although it is certain that it will require an investment of funds and resources, it also is certain that I don’t want it to be misinterpreted that we accept the decision (without problems). I want to make it clear that I think the decision was incorrect," Rossello said in an interview.

"My initial inclination was not to enter into this, recognizing that the possibilities are slim, but upon speaking with my lawyers, we must make our position clear that (we think) the Boston court erred … So, the decision to continue and present a petition of reconsideration is in response, mostly, to what I think is important - that they establish the basis of what was a wrong decision," he added.

Rossello said he still has not decided if he will appeal to a higher level in the judicial courts, up to the U.S. Supreme Court, to seek to annul the mixed votes with three marks, that favor his opponent Aníbal Acevedo Vilá.

"Frankly, I have not thought about this decision, I have not discussed it," he said.

He added that in the reconsideration to the Appeals Circuit, they will establish "the basis for how we think the Boston appeals court erred in not defending appropriately our rights under the U.S. Constitution."

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