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Fortuño Dismisses Unilateral Action On Status, Bhatia’s Letters Unwelcomed… Tito Turns Down Tuneups… Cotto Clubs Corley… Pre-Kindergarten Bill Opposed… Miranda Marin Sticks By 1% City Tax, Court Precedent To The Contrary… Re-Evaluation Of UPR Subsidies Sought… "Independentistas" Decision On Hold… Rossello: Give Congress Deadline To Define Status Issue

Fortuño Warns About Unilateral Action On Status

February 28, 2005
Copyright © 2005 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Resident Commissioner Luis Fortuño warned Monday that any effort by Puerto Rico to "act unilaterally" to deal with the issue of status is a plan doomed to failure.

Fortuño, who said he was speaking as a member of U.S. Congress and not as a leader of the New Progressive Party, supported the idea that the North American government be asked to provide an electoral method through which Puerto Ricans choose what kind of relationship, if any, they wish to have with the United States.

"In Washington, simply, there is not going to be an atmosphere for unilateral demands on the part of Puerto Rico as regards this subject. There is not going to be that atmosphere because the mechanism for this process usually is one that takes into account the feelings of the voters of the territory or possession, same as those of the federal government," he said in public hearings of the House Government Committee.

Fortuño Displeased About Letters From Bhatia

February 28, 2005
Copyright © 2005 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Resident Commissioner Luis Fortuño spoke with Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila in order to, among other things, complain about the letters sent by the director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA), Eduardo Bhatia, to promote the legislative agenda of La Fortaleza in Washington D.C.

This was confirmed Sunday by the governor himself, who sought to minimize Fortuño’s displeasure about the letters sent by Bhatia.

"He told me that Bhatia has sent him a letter about veterans issues … I spoke with him (Fortuño) about important things," Acevedo Vila told a newspaper, without offering more details.

The resident commissioner has complained that the PRFAA director has been sending letters in which he defends federal legislative initiatives of last term, when Acevedo Vila was resident commissioner in Washington D.C.

Tito Turns Down Tuneups


February 28, 2005
Copyright © 2005 MIAMI HERALD. All rights reserved. 

While he holds out the possibility of securing a coveted rematch with Bernard Hopkins, Felix Trinidad continues to bypass tuneup fights.

Trinidad has agreed to fight 154-pound champion Ronald ''Winky'' Wright on May 14 in Las Vegas. For Trinidad, the bout with Wright confirms a stance he took after his return to the ring late last year after a two-year absence. Pushovers need not apply for a Trinidad dance ticket.

Ricardo Mayorga was far from a safe foe in Trinidad's comeback fight last October. Although Trinidad scored an eighth-round knockout, Mayorga repeatedly exchanged with Trinidad in the exciting bout.

The obvious advantage Trinidad will have against Wright, as he did with Mayorga, is division experience. Trinidad is an established middleweight, while Mayorga and Wright earned their stripes at lighter weights.

Cotto Clubs Corley

February 27, 2005
Copyright © 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

BAYAMON, Puerto Rico, Feb. 26 -- Miguel Cotto defended his WBO junior welterweight crown Saturday, stopping DeMarcus Corley in five rounds.

Cotto landed a powerful left hook to Corley's body midway through the fifth, sending the challenger to the canvas. Corley stood up but received another left to the body before dropping to his knee in pain.

Referee Ismael Quinones stopped the fight at 2 minutes 45 seconds of the round. Corley seemed alert and protested the decision.

Corley, a former WBO junior welterweight champion from Washington, had his best chance in the third round when he landed a right cross to the face that wobbled Cotto. But Corley (28-4-1) was slow in his attack and squandered the opportunity.

Cotto (23-0, 19 KOs) made his second title defense.

Lack Of Funds, Teachers Could Kill Pre-Kindergarten Bill

February 27, 2005
Copyright © 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The lack of funds and well-trained teachers were the main reasons that several groups on Friday opposed a bill that would make pre-kindergarten mandatory for four-year-old children.

Luis Ortiz, advisor for the Family Department, said there was a decline in public funds, as well as a reduction in teachers available for the education system, and he did not endorse the measure.

"Currently kindergarten does not exist in all public schools, and the majority only offer a half-day due to the lack of available rooms, and human nor economic resources to provide teams and necessary materials," according to a statement from the Senate press office.

William Ortiz Ramirez, vice president of the Teachers Association, said the measure that would have required a school psychologist at each facility was dropped due to lack of funds, and the same could happen with this bill.

He said to be approved, the bill must be implemented "in stages" in a way that gives island universities time to prepare teachers to teach at the kindergarten level.

Miranda Marin Doesn’t Back Down On 1% Tax

February 26, 2005
Copyright © 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Although Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila insisted Friday that tax reform could not be fragmented by city, Caguas Mayor William Miranda Marin, did not show any signs that he would back down on the 1 percent sales tax he would impose exclusively on his city.

"A great number of mayors have called me to express their solidarity and their approval of what we are doing," Miranda Marin said, with the governor at his side, at a press conference after the General Assembly of the Mayors Association.

Miranda Marin, who showed impatience with the questions about his insistence on implementing the tax despite the governor’s criticism, said what would remain would be a "more agile, less costly government," and one that could effectively provide services for the population.

He said, also, that he does not feel alone in this initiative.

The municipal legislature of Caguas approved a 1 percent sales tax that would be used to pay for the cost of trash pick-up.

Supreme Court Case Set Precedent Against City Tax

February 25, 2005
Copyright © 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — In a decision that could serve as a precedent against the municipal tax of 1 percent that some city mayors intend to impose, the Supreme Court in 1994 decided that cities can not impose taxes at their discretion, they must be regulated by the Legislature.

The court’s decision was in response to a lawsuit by a construction company that sued the City of Dorado in 1989, because the municipal authority issued an order that levied a construction tax.

"In Puerto Rico, there is not a constitutional ban on double taxation; nevertheless, to impose it, the legislative intention must be clear and explicit, since it can never be presumed," the opinion reads, which was reviewed by the media.

"It’s well-known that these municipalities lack the inherent power to impose taxes. Through a clear and express mandate, the Legislature can delegate this authority," it adds.

Economists Propose Re-Evaluation Of UPR Subsidies

By Jose Fernandez Colon

February 25, 2005
Copyright © 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

PONCE (AP) — Two accounting and economics experts suggested Friday that the subsidies awarded to the University of Puerto Rico be re-evaluated, as part of the fiscal reform planned by the government.

The former president of the CPA Association, Jerry de Cordova, and the president of the Economists Association, Luis Benitez, participated Friday in an activity at the Commerce House of Ponce and the South about tax reform.

"The University of Puerto Rico, as economists say, must be rethought. Why am I subsidizing the education of the University of Puerto Rico when the majority of students that go there have the Pell grant, or their parents can pay," de Cordova said.

"At the University of Puerto Rico, they pay $35 per credit, when the education per credit is $120," said Benitez, who co-led the Commission on Fiscal Reform named by Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila.

Neither specified what portion of university students pay for their education with grants.

It was not possible to get an immediate comment from UPR.

Federal Committee Holding Out On "Independentistas" Decision

February 25, 2005
Copyright © 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Though the 21-day period they set has expired, the federal Conditional Freedom Committee has not yet decided whether to lift the conditions imposed on a dozen of the former "Independentista" prisoners linked to FALN, who were freed in 1999.

The group’s lawyer, Jan Susler, said that on Tuesday, when the period of 21 days ended, she communicated with the Committee but did not receive explanations about the delay on the decision about whether to halt the conditions.

"I spoke to them and they told me they have nothing. Then why did they tell me that it (the decision) was going to be in 21 days?" Susler said, according to media reports.

Susler said the lateness could be because two former prisoners, Alejandrina Torres and Alberto Robles, had their hearing Wednesday in Chicago.

Rossello Suggests 18 Months For Congress To Define Status Issue


February 25, 2005
Copyright © 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The president of the New Progressive Party (NPP), Sen. Pedro Rossello, has suggested awarding Congress a period of one and a half years to define the status options that would be presented to the Puerto Rican people for another vote.

If Congress does not take action in that time, Rossello suggested that the Legislative Assembly return to meet to study future actions.

"I have to admit that the procedures in Congress are torturous and slow. We have many examples … This is an obvious risk to be weighed, but I think that this period (a year and a half) should be consistent with the natural processes that are occurring," he said in public hearings on status.

The original proposal by Rossello did not impose a time limit on Congress, while that of the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) gave Congress one year to commit to respect the decision on status that Puerto Ricans make in a future vote.

Rossello rejected a proposal from the Popular Democratic minority that would have established from now that if Congress does not answer in the year-and-a-half period, then the issue would pass to a Constitutional Assembly.

He also said he opposed the central tenet of the PDP proposal, that in the summer Puerto Ricans vote on the method they prefer to resolve the status issue.

He insisted that a Constitutional Assembly "is not the wisest alternative."

Rossello, who had moved away from the calls for consenses by the shared government, made a call Friday for "unity" in the fight over the hundred-year-old problem of status.

The senator recently declined an invitation from Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila of the PDP to discuss the issue.

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