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Acevedo Vila Officially Declared Governor-Elect… McClintock Insists He’s Next Senate President… Pro-Vida Attacks A Federal Judge… Water Strike Ends; 4,000 Return To Work… 3 Kings Arrive Early… Yanks Impress Beltran… "Parranda''… Homicide Rate Hits 8 Year High… Malave NSU Pharmacy Dean… U.S. OKs $4.5m In P.R. Disaster Aid

Anibal Acevedo Vila Officially Declared New Governor Of Puerto Rico


December 28, 2004
Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - The elections commission on Tuesday officially declared Anibal Acevedo Vila the new governor of Puerto Rico, ending a contentious recount that lasted nearly two months.

[``I accept this certification with a clear sense of the great responsibility that I'll assume,'' said Acevedo Vila, who will be inaugurated Sunday.]

Acevedo Vila, who supports keeping the island a U.S. commonwealth, beat out Pedro Rossello, who was governor from 1993-2001 and wanted Puerto Rico to become the 51st state of the U.S. federation.

With all votes recounted, Acevedo Vila of the Popular Democratic Party received 963,303 votes (48.4 percent) compared with 959,737 (48.22 percent) for Rossello, election officials said. Third-party candidate Ruben Berrios, who supports full independence for the island, garnered 54,551 votes (2.74 percent).

On Thursday, the State Elections Commission announced that Acevedo Vila was the likely winner of the recount with 99.9 percent of the votes counted. But officials held off on certifying Acevedo Vila until Tuesday after all the votes were counted.

Election results from Nov. 2 showed Acevedo Vila narrowly leading Rossello, 48.38 percent to 48.18 percent, forcing the recount. Rossello and his New Progressive Party quickly challenged thousands of ballots favoring Acevedo Vila.

Nearly two weeks ago, the federal appeals court in Boston effectively put an end to Rossello's legal challenge, giving jurisdiction over the ballots to the island's Supreme Court -- which supported the Popular Democratic argument -- instead of to a U.S. district judge who refused to adjudicate the disputed votes.

The New Progressive Party on Tuesday ruled out seeking an appeal at the U.S. Supreme Court, but Rossello has not yet conceded defeat.

The disputed election deepened bitter divisions in the Caribbean island of 4 million people who have argued for decades about whether to become a U.S. state, remain a U.S. commonwealth or move toward independence. Another 3 million people of Puerto Rican descent live on the U.S. mainland.

Rossello disputed ballots in which voters marked both the name of Acevedo Vila, who was the nonvoting delegate to U.S. Congress, and Roberto Prats, a legislator who was running for Acevedo Vila's position as Congress delegate, as well as marking an "x" for the tiny Independence Party. He said that made it impossible to determine voter intent.

Acevedo Vila's supporters say Puerto Rico's laws allow voters to cast "mixed votes" to support keeping the Independence Party registered while also supporting candidates from other parties.

In a Dec. 15 ruling, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston said "there is no clearly articulated Commonwealth policy, much less a statute" that indicates ballots marked for Acevedo Vila and the Independence Party are invalid.

But in his petition for reconsideration filed earlier this week, Rossello said the court's decision was "patently erroneous." Rossello claimed that the State Election Commission changed the rules governing the disputed ballots after the election.

[Mr. Rosselló said Tuesday that he still believed justice had not been served.

"We are not in agreement with the certification, but we do not desire to extend the uncertainty and anxiety that this long, irregular and unjust process has already caused," Mr. Rosselló said in a statement. "We reaffirm that his certification is an illegitimate one."]

Accusations of voter fraud marred the recount process. The pro-statehood party said prisoners -- who are allowed to vote in the territory -- were forced to vote for the Popular Democratic Party. The party also said a few votes had irregular marks in pencil and pen on individual ballots. Electoral officials dismissed the accusations.

McClintock Insists He Is The Senates Next President


December 27, 2004
Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) —Although he ruled out the success of offers made to some NPP senators to concede their seat in favor of Pedro Rossello, the Senate’s next President, Kenneth McClintock, urged to stop this kind of approach.

McClintock admitted that other elected senators have told him about the alleged offerings in favor of Rossello, but did not identify who are the people behind said approaches. He limited his statements to say they are a "reduced group of third or fourth level people."

"This kind of approach has unsuccessfully taken place in the past without success. Whoever is involved in this type of intrigue most stop it because they are diverting the attention of the people of Puerto Rico, and that of the New Progressive Party (NPP)", he said at a press conference.

Nonetheless, McClintock refused to say if there has been some kind of official NPP directive to stop offers made to elected senators in exchange for other non-elective positions at the Senate.

The legislator reacted to press information stating that NPP legislator Lucy Arce was offered $140,000 and Senate Secretary position in exchange of conceding her seat to Pedro Rossello.

Pro-Vida Attacks A Federal Judge

December 27, 2004
Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP)--The Pro-Life (Pro-Vida) organization last Sunday attacked Federal Judge Carmen Consuelo Vargas, who issued an order in favor of the presentation of the play "Chicos cantando y bailando desnudos."

Vargas issued the order Dec. 8, declaring the nudity of the eight actors isn’t reason enough for the San Juan municipality to prohibit the play from showing.

Pro-Vida spokesman Carlos Sanchez said, "To perform naked is a crime of obscenity."

The fundamentalist leader criticized the federal judge, and reminded her that in Atlanta, Massachusetts, and during the Republican Convention in New York, the play was suspended for indecent exposure.

Puerto Rico Water Union Strike Ends; 4,000 Return To Work

December 27, 2004
Copyright © 2004 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP)--Some 4,000 workers from the state-run water authority returned to work Monday, ending an 84-day strike, officials said.

Union leaders and management reached an agreement Friday and about 3,000 workers ratified a new four-year contract during a union assembly Sunday afternoon.

The contract will cost the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority $91 million through 2009, including immediate retroactive pay of $1,800 for each worker, a monthly salary raise of $100, among other benefits.

The Authentic Independent Union's previous contract expired in 2003.

The workers began striking Oct. 4 to protest the company's decision to replace the union-run medical plan with a private plan. The authority has agreed to allow workers to choose between the two plans, said Jorge Rodriguez, the president of the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority.

The company hadn't wanted to implement the monthly salary raise until 2006, but relented after workers agreed to reduce the duration of the collective contract from five to four years, Rodriguez said.

Water service ran normally during the strike except for isolated cases of sabotage. The water authority's managers had stepped in to fill staffing gaps.

Two months ago, Insurance Commissioner Dorelise Juarbe ordered the union to return $11.7 million that she said was misused by the medical insurance plan's board of directors.

Juarbe said that the money was used to underwrite salaries, purchase luxury vehicles for union officials and for other excessive administrative charges. Union leaders deny funds were misused.

Three Kings Arrive A Bit Early

By Lisa J. Huriash

December 27, 2004
Copyright © 2004 SO FL SUN-SENTINEL. All rights reserved.

FORT LAUDERDALE · Three Kings Day came early to the Las Olas Riverfront on Sunday, bringing the sights, smells, tastes and sounds of the Hispanic religious and cultural festival.

Tony and Marilyn De Jesus' two daughters, ages 3 and 1, grinned and clapped to the tunes of the mariachi band that entertained the crowd. In the couple's native Puerto Rico, the day is a major holiday. Here the couple decided to give presents on both Three Kings Day, which is Jan. 6, and Christmas.

"We put out presents for them Jan. 5 at night, and when they wake up, they open the presents, and we eat too much food," said Marilyn De Jesus, of Davie.

In Fort Lauderdale, the early Three Kings Day was marked with a small parade, musical entertainment and salsa dance lessons. It was the 10th year of the Fiesta de Reyes event.

The Epiphany, or Three Kings Day, is commemorated the twelfth day after Christmas. The festival celebrates the day the three kings followed a star to reach Bethlehem to honor the infant Jesus with gifts.

Carlos Beltran Impressed by Yankees Owner

December 26, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Carlos Beltran was impressed by George Steinbrenner after meeting with the Yankees owner earlier in the week, and told a newspaper in Puerto Rico that he would not be intimidated by playing in New York.

The free-agent All-Star center fielder who led the Houston Astros within one win of their first World Series, talked with Steinbrenner in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday. "The meeting with Steinbrenner was very good," Beltran said in a story published in Friday's edition of Primera Hora newspaper. "He is a professional person, super-educated. I've let them know my interest, and they have interest, too, about me joining their team."

Beltran thinks he would be prepared to play in a high-profile baseball environment, such as New York.

Millions Celebrate Christmas Across Globe

December 25, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

LONDON (AP) -- Worshippers brought hopes for greater peace in the coming year as they flocked to Manger Square in Bethlehem and to St. Peter's in the Vatican to hear Christmas messages urging an end to violence, particularly in the Middle East.

In Puerto Rico, many kept up local Christmas traditions.

Ruby Ortiz, 31, who grew up in San Juan and lives in Albany, N.Y., said she returned home this year to show her son a Puerto Rican Christmas. She and her friends spent Christmas Eve going door-to-door in the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan, singing and playing drums -- an event called ``parranda.''

Puerto Rico Homicide Rate Hits Eight-Year High


December 24, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Almost 800 people have been killed in Puerto Rico this year -- the U.S. Caribbean territory's highest homicide rate in eight years, police said Friday.

There were three victims on Christmas Eve, raising the toll to 788, police said. It's the highest rate since 1996, when 868 people were killed in the island of 4 million people. Last year, there were 784 homicides.

Crime has soared despite Gov. Sila M. Calderon's decision in July to sent National Guard troops to patrol alongside police officers in San Juan and other parts of the island.

After two triple homicides earlier this month, Calderon deployed an extra 1,500 police officers to patrol the streets of San Juan, reassigning them from guard duty in public buildings.

Police believe that at least 56 percent of the homicides this year were related to the drug trade.

"Puerto Rico is an important drug transfer point," said Jose Ortiz Montanez, a police commander in San Juan. Many "homicides were the result of turf warfare between drug gangs."

Ortiz Montanez said police have solved 44 percent of homicides this year.

Malave Selected NSU Pharmacy Dean

By Cindy Kent Staff Writer

December 24, 2004
Copyright © 2004 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. All rights reserved.

Weston resident Andres Malave recently was appointed dean of the College of Pharmacy of Nova Southeastern University.

He previously was the College of Pharmacy's associate dean for Research and Graduate Affairs and professor of Advanced Neuro-Pharmacology. He also helped in the development and administration of NSU's entry-level and post-baccalaureate doctor of pharmacy program in Puerto Rico.

Before joining NSU, Malave spent six years as dean of the College of Pharmacy at the University of Puerto Rico.

US Approves $4.5 Million In Disaster Aid For Puerto Rico

December 23, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) _ The U.S. government approved $4.5 million in federal disaster funds to reimburse Puerto Rico for recovery efforts after Tropical Storm Jeanne, officials announced Thursday.

The money will help cover the cost of repairing public buildings, roads, bridges, parks and utilities, , said Peter Martinasco, the local coordinator for U.S. agency. The FEMA can reimburse Puerto Rican agencies for up to 75 percent of disaster recovery funds.

Last week, the FEMA approved some $385 million in disaster funds for 205,000 residents in 58 eligible municipalities.

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