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Fortuño’s Letter To Bush Criticizes AAV's Status Proposal, Sees Convergence On Issue… Rossello Denies Ulterior Motive In NPP Leadership Changes… Special Communities Restructured… ASA 1st In Client Complaints… AAV Ready To Testify On Status, Criticizes Municipal Tax Idea… $900k Of Cocaine Seized On Vieques… Maricao Fire Under Control… El Vocero Apologizes

Fortuño Sends Letter To Bush Criticizing Governor's Proposal

February 25, 2005
Copyright © 2005 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — In an act to counter the letter sent by Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila to President George W. Bush, Resident Commissioner Luis Fortuño also sent a letter to Bush, criticizing the consideration of a Constitutional Assembly to deal with the status of the island.

For Fortuño, the process of status must subscribe to the government platform of the Republican party, and not to an Assembly, whose members will be elected by Puerto Ricans.

"(The Assembly) would take away from the people of Puerto Rico their widely recognized right to self determination, which means the ability to select the status they prefer among constitutionally viable alternatives and not territorial ones," Fortuño said in his letter, which was reviewed by the media.

The New Progressive Party, Fortuño’s party, prefers that the delegates — for which Puerto Ricans on the island did not vote — define the options of status for the island, instead of a Constitutional Assembly, whose 100 delegates will be elected by the Puerto Rican voters.

Fortuño Foresees Convergence On Status Issue

February 24, 2005
Copyright © 2005 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — After a meeting of the Legislative Conference of the New Progressive Party (NPP), Resident Commissioner Luis Fortuño said he expected the filing of a replacement legislative measure to attend to the proposals on status from the three main political parties.

Fortuño said the conference agreed that the possible result of the legislative hearings on status, which will begin Friday, could be a harmonious bill.

"It seems to me that we have entered into a process of very healthy convergence," Fortuño said, according to media reports.

He said legislators showed "open minds" during the meeting on Wednesday.

Rossello Says NPP Leadership Changes Don’t Have Ulterior Motive


February 24, 2005
Copyright © 2005 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Sen. Pedro Rossello denied Thursday that the changes in the leadership of the New Progressive Party are part of a strategy to unseat Kenneth McClintock from the Senate presidency, so Rossello can take the post.

The former governor said the reorganization of the party leadership was done only because it was stipulated by party regulations.

"We are reorganizing the party as required at this time," Rossello said at a news conference after a Senate session.

He said it is "totally false" that the leadership moves are intended to obtain a balance of power that favors Rossello for the Senate presidency.

"This is totally false. This is malicious information, falsely put out there, based on a half truth," he said.

McClintock also denied Thursday that members of the NPP leadership can approve a resolution so Rossello can unseat him from his post.

"Rossello has told me repeatedly that the decision on the presidency is to be made by the senators and I took him at his word," McClintock said.

Governor Restructures Special Communities Program

February 24, 2005
Copyright © 2005 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila announced that "Special Communities" infrastructure projects will now be supervised by the Office for Socioeconomic and Self-Management Financing.

After meeting with community leaders, Acevedo Vila said the restructuring of the once "Special Communities Office" will improve coordination of the current infrastructure projects and future ones in poor areas of the island.

"This restructuring, which community leaders agree with, strengthens this program because it places the primary responsibility for works and projects of community empowerment in one entity, effectively combining the infrastructure part and the social and community component," the governor said.

He said the office — which will report directly to La Fortaleza — will be responsible for supervising and monitoring self-financing projects and infrastructure that are now in the departments of Housing, Transportation and Public Works, and also led by the heads of Special Communities.

Acevedo Vila said he has given instructions to separate $30 million from the $1 billion fund, for new investment in 25 special communities, in addition to those already existing.

The new communities must be identified this year by the program director, Julia Torres.

Currently, the Department of Transportation and Public Works has projects under construction in 411 communities, at an investment of $282.2 million. It has 88 other projects in 16 communities up for bids, with an estimated investment of $15 million. Meanwhile, another 78 projects are being designed for 15 communities at an estimated $9 million, he said.

ASA Ranks First In Client Complaints

February 24, 2005
Copyright © 2005 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (ASA) received the highest number of client complaints in the last fiscal year, Citizens Advocate Carlos Lopez Nieves said Thursday.

Lopez Nieves said they received 2,268 complaints about ASA, 1,150 against the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, 998 against the State Insurance Fund, 780 against the Education Department and 734 against the police.

Of all the claims, the majority were related to labor rights violations. The Education Department had the most of that type of complaint, with 589.

"The Education Department has recorded an increase in the claims of its employees during the last two years, all related to the lateness with which the department pays its temporary employees ... in open violation of the labor rights that guarantee timely payment, that is adequate for the work done," he said at a press conference.

"I’m Ready" To Testify About Status Issue, Acevedo Vila Says

February 23, 2005
Copyright © 2005 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — When Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila was asked Wednesday if he will testify in Legislative hearings on the island’s political status, he answered with a phrase used often during his campaign.

"I’m ready," the governor exclaimed, during a press conference after an activity to celebrate Police Week.

However, Acevedo Vila said he was informed through the press of the summons to appear before the House Commission of Government and Federal Issues, and he will be out of the country on the assigned date.

The governor has said the hearings on the different proposals about status will begin Friday with the presentation of Sen. Pedro Rossello, in his role as president of the New Progressive Party.

Governor Criticizes Idea For Municipal Taxes

February 23, 2005
Copyright © 2005 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila on Wednesday dealt a cruel blow to the plans of Caguas Mayor William Miranda Marin to establish a municipal tax of 1 percent on sales.

Acevedo Vila criticized the municipal tax, approved Thursday by the Caguas municipal assembly, saying that Puerto Rico "can’t take more repairs" on issues of tax reform and any remedy has to cover the whole island, not certain municipalities.

"We can’t continue to see these things in parts," the governor said at a press conference in which he said the cities are not the only entities with deficits, and that public corporations and the central government are also in the same situation.

The governor said he will amend the executive order through which he created the committee that evaluates fiscal reform, to integrate the president of the Mayors Association and the NPP's Federation of Municipalities.

So, according to Acevedo Vila, the proposal of Miranda Marin or "any other idea will be evaluated in the context of fiscal reform that all of Puerto Rico needs."

$900,000 Worth Of Cocaine Seized On Vieques

February 23, 2005
Copyright © 2005 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - Authorities seized a large cocaine shipment on the former U.S. Navy bombing range in Vieques, police said Wednesday.

The 50-kilogram (110-pound) haul was discovered Tuesday after a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent received a tip that a boat from the U.S. Virgin Islands dropped a large shipment in the area, police said.

The agent and several police officers searched a wooded area of the former bombing range and found two large sacks filled with cocaine, authorities said. The officers heard several gunshots as they conducted the search but no arrests were made.

Agent Jose Fernandez, of the Air Services Division of the police, said the drugs have an estimated market value of $900,000.

The U.S. military began bombing exercises in 1947 on Vieques. In 1999, errant bombs killed a civilian guard, sparking a wave of protests on the island of 9,100 residents. The Navy abandoned the range in May of 2003 and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took jurisdiction of the area.

The former bombing range is part of some 15,000 acres handed over to the U.S. Department of the Interior to become a wildlife refuge.

Fire In Maricao Forest Is Under Control

February 23, 2005
Copyright © 2005 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

MARICAO (AP) — Three days after a fire began in the Maricao Forest Reserve, authorities have been able to bring it under control.

Commander Jose Sanchez, regional director of the Firefighter Service for Aguadilla and Mayaguez, said the fire was practically controlled Monday morning, and he hoped that winds would not revive it.

"We left some brigades there who will penetrate the affected area, to put out any tree trunks that are still burning, but we are confident the fire will not return," Sanchez said.

Firefighters have determined that the fire, which originated on a private farm in San German, was set intentionally.

Julio Mendez, interagency coordinator for the Environment and Natural Resources Department, said a total of 70 cuerdas of land burned, 30 of them belonging to the national forest.

El Vocero Prints Public Apology After Calderon Settlement

February 23, 2005
Copyright © 2005 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — El Vocero newspaper printed a public apology on its front page Wednesday, for a report published in 2000 that said a domestic employee was mistreated by then-governor Sila M. Calderon and her family.

The newspaper, part of Caribbean News Corp., said that "due to the seriousness of the accusations made by (the domestic employee) Jennifer Colon, there should have been an investigation to get to the heart of the matter and corroborate with the people in question, instead of trusting only in her testimony given under oath."

El Vocero’s public apology is part of an agreement to settle a lawsuit brought against the paper by Calderon, her ex-husband Adolfo Krans, and their two daughters. The settlement also calls for El Vocero to pay $75,000 to the plaintiffs.

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