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NPP Caucus Backs McClintock… Federal Death Penalty Trial Starts… 2 Puerto Ricans Die In D.R. Jail Fire… Military Device Found Off Culebra… Gov’t Payroll Under Scrutiny… McClintock Leaves Pro-Rossello U.S. Citizenship Rally… No Wooing Delgado… Aguadilla Airport Upgrading… Tañon Back In The Game… GDB Frees Up $17m For PLA… Santini Discussing Senate Presidency

NPP Caucus Ratifies McClintock As Senate President

March 7, 2005
Copyright © 2005
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Thirteen of the 17 senators at the New Progressive Party caucus on Monday ratified their decision that Kenneth McClintock should occupy the post of Senate President.

The senators also committed to not bring up the topic at meetings for the rest of the term.

"Thirteen signatures were received in favor of the ratification," McClintock said at a press conference, accompanied by other NPP senators.

The legislators issued their votes through signatures. Not voting in favor of the ratification was Jose Emilio Gonzalez, who arrived at the caucus after the vote, and Pedro Rossello, Carlos Pagan and Norma Burgos, who were absent.

Burgos was excused from the meeting because her father is having health problems, and Rossello and Pagan said they had legislative duties to deal with.

Death Penalty Trial Starts In Federal Court

March 7, 2005
Copyright © 2005
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The second trial in a death penalty case on the island in more than 75 years begins Monday in Federal Court.

The trial of Hernando Medina Villegas and Lorenzo Catalan Roman, accused of killing a security guard during a robbery in March 2002, is scheduled for Monday morning in the courtroom of Judge Juan Perez Gimenez.

According to media reports, they were part of five originally accused, including Pablo Sánchez Rodríguez, David Morales Machuca and Quester Sterling Suárez. It was not ruled out that some of them could now be cooperating with the prosecution.

The process of jury selection – composed of six men and six women, with four alternates – took three weeks, during which hundreds of potential jurors were interviewed.

Two Puerto Ricans Killed In Dominican Jail Fire

March 7, 2005
Copyright © 2005
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SANTO DOMINGO (AP) – Two Puerto Ricans convicted of cocaine trafficking along with television personality Laura Hernandez died in a fire early Monday morning at a prison in Higuey, Dominican Republic. Another two prisoners from the same case were wounded, officials said.

This was confirmed Monday by the Prisons Director, Gen. Ramón De la Cruz Martínez, who identified the dead as Arod Levy III and Edwin Adams Cotto.

The two wounded were identified as Jorge Ortiz and Antonio Rodríguez Morales.

Dominican authorities did not have details about the deaths of the Puerto Ricans. Approximately 133 people are thought to have died in the fire.

The fire started when gang members rioted in the jail, lighting fire to sheets and pillows, authorities said.

Military Device Found Off Culebra Beach

March 7, 2005
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ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – A diver in the waters off of Flamenco Beach, on the island of Culebra, found what is thought to be a military device.

The director of the Explosives and Public Security Office for the police, Jose Ruiz Vagas, said the area where it was found Friday morning was some 30 yards from the beach in water about 12 feet deep, in an area marked by buoys.

Ruiz Vagas said it is still not known if the object is dangerous, and said authorities are waiting for technical equipment from the U.S. Navy to analyze the situation.

"We are not trained to deal with military devices, therefore we have to notify the U.S. Army. They are supposed to arrive as soon as they can to evaluate the situation," he said.

Government Payroll Comes Under Scrutiny

March 7, 2005
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ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The Office of Management and Budget has presented a plan to Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila with ideas to control the government payroll. It includes a freeze period on the public employment sector, retirement incentives, not renewing contracts and restructuring agencies.

According to OMB Director Ileana Fas Pacheco, the plan could save the government $100 million, and was designed to reduce the government payroll without having to cut jobs.

Fas Pacheco declined to give concrete details about the plan "until the governor decides whether to adopt the recommendations."

McClintock Leaves U.S. Citizenship Celebration After Support Rises For Rossello

March 6, 2005
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ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

CABO ROJO (AP) - Waving American flags, at least 1,000 people who support making Puerto Rico a U.S. state celebrated the 88th anniversary of U.S. citizenship Sunday.

The New Progressive Party (NPP) rally in the southwestern town of Cabo Rojo was marked by division with one camp voicing support for former Gov. Pedro Rossello to become president of the Puerto Rico Senate.

Senate President Kenneth McClintock, also of the NPP, and two other senators who support him left the gathering during a speech by former party president Leo Diaz.

"I didn't come hear to beat around the bush," Diaz shouted. "The true leader of the statehood movement is Rossello and he should be Senate president!"

Many in the crowd cheered in approval and chanted Rossello's name. Rossello, governor from 1993-2001, recently became senator after a failed gubernatorial bid in November.

A freshman senator from the north-coast town of Arecibo resigned his seat and Rossello was able to fill it under a law that allows political parties to fill vacancies in legislative bodies instead of holding special elections.

Rossello and McClintock have been at odds over the past few months since the former governor said he was interested in the Senate presidency.

Rossello's decision has created dissent within his party. McClintock has said he will not make way for Rossello. The body's president can be changed if a majority of the 27 senators agree.

McClintock said he was confident that the issue would not come up at the annual celebration on Sunday. "I met with 10 senators this morning and they supported me," he said as he left. "I was confident that this wasn't going to occur."

Puerto Rico has been a U.S. territory since the United States seized it from Spain in 1898 after the Spanish-American War. During World War I, U.S. Congress granted citizenship to Puerto Ricans with the Jones Act of March 2, 1917. Since then, many have served in the U.S. military.

Puerto Rico became a U.S. commonwealth in 1952. Islanders can't vote for president, however, and have no vote in Congress. They pay no U.S. income tax, but the commonwealth receives more than $14 billion in federal funds each year.

Nearly 4 million Puerto Ricans live on the island and another 3.4 million on the U.S. mainland.

No Wooing Delgado

Clark Spencer

March 5, 2005
Copyright © 2005
THE MIAMI HERALD. All rights reserved. 

The Latin connection didn't work for the New York Mets, at least as far as it concerned their attempts to woo Carlos Delgado this winter.

Delgado, who had spent his entire career with the Toronto Blue Jays until signing this offseason with the Marlins, told The Toronto Star he was put off by the Mets' attempts to play the ethnic card in their bidding war with the four teams, including the Marlins, for his services.

''It doesn't matter if you're Latin, American or Italian,'' Delgado told the newspaper. ``If we're talking business, talk business. I'm not doing any favors. You're not doing me any favors because you're speaking in Spanish. I'm a man first.''

The Mets sent a delegation, including new general manager Omar Minaya, to Delgado's home country of Puerto Rico when the first baseman was being courted.

Aguadilla Airport Will Get Upgrades This Year

March 4, 2005
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SAN JUAN (AP) – Rafael Hernández Airport in Aguadilla is on its way to an important transformation that will benefit the economic development of the western region, Fernando Bonilla, executive director of the Ports Authority, announced Friday.

Bonilla said the Ports Authority has projected an investment of $33.5 million for the airport until 2007, aimed at improvements to the existing structures.

"We are talking about the primary service area for the airport, which includes 28 cities in the north, west, and south region of the island, with an estimated population of 1.18 million residents according to the 2000 census. The number of (airport) users this region generates is some 650,000 passengers," he said in a statement.

Among the projects the Ports Authority has begun or is going to begin this year, are improvements to the passenger terminal and the runway, an extension of the taxiway and remodeling of the Air Rescue area.

Back In The Game


March 4, 2005
Copyright © 2005
MIAMI HERALD. All rights reserved. 

Puerto Rican merengue singer Olga Tañon is back to launch her latest album Una nueva mujer (A New Woman) after an extended maternity leave, reports the Spanish newswire Agencia EFE.

Last week, Tañon filmed the video on location in Puerto Rico for the album's first single Bandolero (Bandit), which she penned herself and is already on the airwaves in three different genres: merengue, pop and Tejano.

''I want Puerto Rico to participate in my return,'' she said. ``As an artist, I owe a lot to my native land, which is why I want the first video to be done here with my people.''

The album drops April 19 in the States.

Government Bank Frees Up Funds For Ponce Port

March 4, 2005
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ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

PONCE (AP) – The Government Development Bank (GDB) will free up some $17 million for the second phase of development on the Puerto de las Americas, bank president William Lockwood announced Thursday.

Lockwood said that for the funds to be available they are waiting for the Puerto de Las Americas Authority report on how they will use some $70 million from a line of credit approved by the past legislature.

"The Puerto de las Americas Authority met for the first time and we have an agreement to go ahead with the second phase … and we await detailed information as to how they are going to use the next financing, which is an investment of $70 million," he said.

The funds are part of a line of credit of $250 million approved last term.

Lockwood said the GDB will free the rest of the funds when the Authority details how they will use the money.

Santini Insists On Discussing Senate Presidency

March 4, 2005
Copyright © 2005
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – For San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini, the fight over the Senate presidency has not been resolved, and he said he will bring up the topic at a meeting of mayors and New Progressive Party senators that was requested by NPP Secretary General Thomas Rivera Schatz.

Although the main reason for the meeting will be to discuss the nominees to the Cabinet, the mayor said Friday that due to the alleged preoccupation some people have with the topic of whether Pedro Rossello should have the Senate presidency post instead of Kenneth McClintock, the subject should be discussed.

"Of course I am going to bring it up," Santini said, when asked if anybody would mention the subject at the meeting.

"I have the responsibility to inform them that the base (of the NPP) is sending a message for them to make the decisions," Santini said.

Santini insisted the NPP membership base wants former governor Rossello to occupy the Senate presidency post.

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