Anibal Acevedo Vila Inaugurated As New Governor, He Calls For Unity And A Crack Down On Crime Fortuños Priority Is To Replace Federal Incentives, Rumors Of Senate Seat For Rossello Dismissed New Legislators Are Sworn In $400k Stolen From Casino Vault Stray Bullets Mar Festivities "Latin Hop" Call Me María Puerto Rico's Challenge
Puerto Rico Inaugurates New Governor
Calls For Unity And A Focus On Fighting Violent Crime
By ISTRA PACHECO
January 3, 2005
(HERMINIO RODRIGUEZ/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Jan 3, 2005
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- To the ceremonial boom of cannon fire, Puerto Rico on Sunday welcomed a new governor who opposes the war in Iraq and has vowed to fight this Caribbean island's spiraling homicide rate and unify its divided populace.
Anibal Acevedo Vila, who supports Puerto Rico's status as a U.S. commonwealth, took the oath of office after a nearly two-month recount and legal battle.
He narrowly defeated Pedro Rossello, a former governor from 1993-2001 who supports making Puerto Rico the 51st U.S. state. Last week, officials declared Acevedo Vila the winner of the re-count with 48.4 percent of the vote compared with 48.22 for Rossello.
Acevedo Vila's inaugural address centered on putting aside political differences. The disputed Nov. 2 election deepened bitter divisions among the 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.
``Let's forget the colors that divide us,'' he shouted several times during his address, referring to the official party colors of red (pro-commonwealth), blue (pro-statehood) and green (independence). ``Let us remember the colors of the flag that unite us. ... The people have demanded unity from us.''
Thousands waved Puerto Rican flags and packed the ceremony at Luis Munoz Rivera Park in San Juan. The chief justice of the island's Supreme Court swore in Acevedo Vila to a four-year term.
Many wore red, the official color of his Popular Democratic Party. Acevedo Vila, the U.S. territory's eighth democratically elected governor, walked more than a mile from the park, past the seaside Capitol, on the way to his new home -- La Fortaleza governor's mansion in Spanish-colonial Old San Juan.
He hugged and kissed well-wishers as tens of thousands cheered and residents showered him with confetti and flower petals from balconies overhead. At one point, he stopped to dance the traditional plena dance with his wife as residents beat hand drums.
Rossello, who does not recognize Acevedo Vila as the legitimate winner, did not attend the inauguration despite an invitation as a former governor. Rossello had disputed thousands of ballots favoring Acevedo Vila, saying voter intent was impossible to determine, and took the case to U.S. courts.
In December, a federal appeals court in Boston effectively ended Rossello's challenge by giving jurisdiction over the ballots to the island's Supreme Court -- which supported Acevedo Vila and ruled the votes were valid.
``I hope (Acevedo Vila) fulfills the promises of unity that he made,'' said Iris Vazquez, a 59-year-old retired teacher.
Acevedo Vila, who turns 43 next month, had been the territory's U.S. congressional delegate since 2001 and inherits an island ravaged by violent crime. Some 793 homicides -- mostly drug-related -- occurred in 2004, surpassing 2003's total of 780. In a recent interview, Acevedo Vila said violence is the No. 1 problem facing Puerto Rico.
Outgoing Gov. Sila Calderon activated the National Guard in July, sending troops carrying M-16s to join police in patrolling San Juan and other cities. Acevedo Vila said he may have to keep them on the streets for the immediate future.
The new governor also said he does not support the Iraq war and wants all U.S. troops -- including islanders -- withdrawn soon. At least 23 Puerto Ricans have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Puerto Rico faces uncertain economic times. It lost an economic powerhouse when the Roosevelt Roads naval base closed in March, taking with it about 6,000 jobs and an estimated $300 million a year. The closure followed the U.S. Navy's withdrawal from its Vieques bombing range in May 2003 following three years of steady protests after an errant bomb killed an islander.
Some islanders have worried the withdrawal could threaten a relationship that has brought the territory $14 billion a year in federal funds and helped it become one of the most prosperous places in Latin America.
Fortuños Priority Is To Replace Federal Incentives
January 3, 2005
SAN JUAN (AP) Luis Fortuño, resident commissioner-elect and a member of the New Progressive Party, will focus on the economy and promote a dialogue about the status of the island as soon as he is sworn in Tuesday to his position in Washington D.C.
In a newspaper interview, Fortuño said, for a short period, the priority on his agenda will be the replacement of federal incentives that could expire by the end of 2005.
Due to the possibility that the reports from the Government Accountability Office and the Joint Commission of Congress on Tax Issues about the economy did not arrive in the hands of the Senate Finance Committee until the winter, Fortuño said he decided to hasten measures to replace the taxes to U.S. corporations that have been awarded through Sections 936 and 30-A of the IRS code.
"We must insert ourselves immediately into the legislative process about economic proposals without waiting for the GAO," Fortuño said.
Fortuño Disputes Rumors Of Senate Resignation For Rossello
January 3, 2005
SAN JUAN (AP) Resident commissioner Luis Fortuño said on Sunday that he does not know if any senator has decided to leave their seat, so it can be taken by defeated gubernatorial candidate Pedro Rossello.
Fortuño said it was not clear if unofficial stories were true, stating that the senator for Arecibo had agreed to vacate his position.
"I have not heard these rumors. I dont know where they came from, nobody has consulted me about this," he said.
He insisted that Rossello had told him it would be "unjust" for any senator to leave his or her seat, and that, as such, he had not made such a request.
Fortuño said the former governor had made a public statement about the controversy and added that he will see what happens after a meeting of the director of the New Progressive Party, scheduled for Jan. 11. He said he was interested in participating in the meeting.
New Legislators Are Sworn In At Capitol
January 3, 2005
SAN JUAN (AP) New members of the Legislative Assembly were sworn in Sunday, in brief ceremonies held at the Capitol.
Fifty-one representatives were sworn in at the House chamber by House Secretary Néstor Duprey, while in the Senate chamber 27 members were sworn in by Senate Secretary Ariel Nazario.
The Senate ceremony was attended by outgoing Gov. Sila M. Calderon, who was invited by her daughter, Sen. Sila Marie González.
The ceremonies were also attended by the resident commissioner-elect from the New Progressive Party, Luis Fortuño, who received a strong ovation, unlike Calderon.
$400,000 Cash Stolen From Casino Vault
January 3, 2005
SAN JUAN -- A masked robber made off with $400,000 in cash from a hotel casino vault in Puerto Rico's capital as authorities evacuated guests after a bomb threat Sunday, police said.
An anonymous caller told police there was a bomb on the second floor of the Radisson Ambassador Plaza Hotel & Casino in the tourist district of Condado in San Juan, police said. Police found an object with cables dangling out of it but determined it was not a bomb, authorities said.
Stray Bullets Hurt At Least 9 In Festivities In Puerto Rico
January 2, 2005
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Stray bullets wounded at least nine people in Puerto Rico as revelers shot into the air to ring in the New Year, ignoring an intense government campaign against the reckless tradition. The bullets injured a teenage girl, four women and four men in the capital of San Juan and three other towns in the U.S. Caribbean territory, police said. Police officers warned pedestrians off the streets in historic Old San Juan, where gunshots rang out from nearby rough neighborhoods. A flurry of broadcast and newspaper advertisements had warned Puerto Ricans against firing guns.
January 2, 2005
Readers interested in reggaetón, Spanish-language rap and hip-hop Latino-style will want to check out a new publication based in Puerto Rico called "Latin Hop" (latin email@example.com, or P.O. Box 56024, Baymón, PR 00960-6224). The premiere issue features coverage of Zion y Lennox, Spanish rapper Mala Rodríguez and point guard Carlos Arroyo of the NBA's Utah Jazz. While the glossy is heavily photo-driven, it has a well-defined aesthetic and an indispensable list of the top 20 reggaetón records of all time. There are even transcriptions of lyrics from acts such as dance hall MC Kevin Lyttle and mainstream rappers Black Eyed Peas.
Call Me María
January 1, 2005
Horn Book Magazine
Judith Ortiz Cofer Call Me Maria 129 pp. Orchard/Scholastic 10/04 ISBN 0-439-38577-6 $16.95 (Middle School, High School)
When her Papi moves back to the New York barrio, while Mami stays home in Puerto Rico, Maria must "decide between parents, languages, climates, futures."
She chooses the barrio in order to attend American high school and prepare for college, and because Papi "needs me more." In prose, poems, and letters, Maria tells of her adjustment to life in the barrio and of the beautiful island she has left behind. She assists her father with his duties as el super, the hero of the building who fixes leaky sinks and broken heaters. Maria is a poet, a collector of words in English, Spanish, and her third language, Spanglish, with its own rules of grammar.
Through the course of the book she describes the widening rift between her parents, acknowledging at last that Mami will not join them, but making peace with her own choice. Through Maria's story, Cofer evokes the clash between two distinct Puerto Rican cultures and a young girl's determination to claim both as her own.
Puerto Rico's Challenge
Our position: Now that the election is resolved, it's crucial to address the island's critical issues.
December 30, 2004
Puerto Rico's marathon gubernatorial election is finally over after nearly two months of on-again, off-again recounts and legal wrangling, making Florida's battle four years ago seem almost tame.
Now it's time for the candidates and their supporters to put the balloting behind them and focus on the island's pressing challenges.
This week Puerto Rico's Elections Commission officially declared Anibal Acevedo Vila of the Popular Democratic Party the island's new governor. He defeated former Gov. Pedro Rossello of the New Progressive Party by just two-tenths of a percent in a vote marred by disputes over the legitimacy of thousands of ballots.
The opposing positions of the two candidates on the perennial debate over Puerto Rico's relationship with the United States made their contest that much more bitter. Mr. Acevedo Vila wants to maintain the island's status as a commonwealth; Mr. Rossello favors statehood. Polls show Puerto Ricans have been divided on the question for years.
But there are big challenges facing Puerto Rico right now, from a stubbornly high crime rate to struggling public schools to double-digit unemployment. More economic trouble could be looming next year, when tax breaks for corporations that locate plants on the island are set to expire.
While Mr. Acevedo Vila has been declared governor, Mr. Rossello's party will control the island's legislature. Some analysts are predicting political deadlock.
Puerto Ricans have a right to expect better from the two candidates and their parties.