Governor Vetoes Status Bill, NPP Plans Override… AAV Signs Agreement To Strengthen Exports, Supports ASA Director On Water Rate Hike… Good Ferry… Clemente's Son Admits To Steroids Use… Water Rates Could Double… Pentagon Eyes Raising Buchanan Moratorium… SEC Wants Quick Decision On Unicameral Vote… UPR President Defends Tuition Hike

Governor Vetoes Status Bill

April 11, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila on Sunday vetoed a bill approved by the Legislative Assembly to authorize holding a referendum on status. He also said he intends to veto the unicameral legislature measure. According to reports from La Fortaleza, the bill was vetoed because it does not give the people the opportunity to choose an alternative from the constituent assembly on status as the process to deal with the issue.

The governor notified the presidents of the Senate and the House of Representatives, Kenneth McClintock and Jose Aponte, respectively, of the veto through a letter.

The governor had called the substitute status bill, approved in the House and the Senate by the New Progressive Party (NPP) and Popular Democratic Party (PDP) delegations, "deceptive to the people."

"I can not sign a bill if I am convinced... that it deceives the country," the governor said at a press conference Friday.

"I am not going to sign the status bill, because in one week the leadership of the NPP has shown the country that they want to deceive the people about the constituent assembly," he said.

Puerto Rico Status Issue Reaches Fever Pitch As Legislators Plan To Override Governor's Veto


April 11, 2005
Copyright © 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Puerto Rico's status issue reached a fever pitch Monday as legislators planned to override a veto of a bill that would have petitioned the United States for a firm commitment to honor any eventual decision to become the 51st U.S. state, increase its autonomy or become independent.

Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila vetoed the bill Sunday, saying it did not give solid guarantees for the method that he prefers to resolve the U.S. Caribbean territory's status -- a constituent assembly that would decide among the options.

The decision infuriated legislators, especially members of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party, which has a majority in both the 52-seat House and the 27-seat Senate. The governor "is disconnected with the Puerto Rican reality," Senate President Kenneth McClintock told reporters, saying the bicameral legislature unanimously passed the bill March 31.

McClintock said he would push for an override of the veto but the process would need to start in the House. The New Progressive Party would need to cobble together a two-thirds majority to override the governor's veto.

The bill provided for a July referendum in which islanders would have voted for or against a petition calling on the U.S. Congress and President George W. Bush to pledge that the results of another referendum on the island's status would be honored.

The bill said if by the end of 2006 the United States did not react to the petition or reacted unfavorably, legislators would pass a bill providing for another referendum in which voters would decide between alternatives on redefining the island's status -- among them an assembly of up to 100 delegates and a request for a binding referendum.

Acevedo Vila, whose Popular Democratic Party supports the island's status as a U.S. commonwealth, backs the assembly idea, while the New Progressive Party favors taking the issue to a direct vote.

Voters supporting statehood were defeated by a slim margin in previous nonbinding referendums in 1993 and 1998. Less than 5 percent voted for independence. The result has kept Puerto Rico's commonwealth intact -- a situation that has been unchanged since 1952.

The United States seized Puerto Rico from Spain in 1898. Its nearly 4 million people have been U.S. citizens since 1917. Islanders can serve in the U.S. military but are barred from voting for president, have no voting representation in U.S. Congress and pay no federal income taxes.

Many observers in Puerto Rico had predicted that Acevedo Vila would sign the status bill into law. But, after it was passed, some pro-statehood political leaders such as former Gov. Carlos Romero Barcelo said the bill did not bind legislators to consider the governor's constituent assembly as an alternative.

These statements "wipe out (the bill's) moral commitment to give the people an opportunity to chose the constituent assembly as the appropriate mechanism," Acevedo Vila said, in an open letter to McClintock and House President Jose Aponte.

McClintock, Rossello Want To Pass Status Bill Despite Veto

April 11, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Senate President Kenneth McClintock and the leader of the New Progressive Party, Sen. Pedro Rossello on Monday said they support the possibility of the Legislature passing the status bill despite Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila’s veto.

McClintock said the Senate has the votes to pass the bill and override the veto.

However, McClintock said the House of Representatives, where the bill originated, must be the first legislative body to pass it so that it can later be passed by the Senate.

Rossello asked that legislators "see the veto as an indication to pass over the veto. (Because) it can’t be that here, by the capricious veto of one person, all of Puerto Rico is immobilized."

He said during a press conference at the Capitol that Acevedo Vila had "left (senators and representatives) up in the air … after having made a genuine effort to produce a bill of unanimous consensus."

The status bill was unanimously approved in both legislative houses and Acevedo Vila had made statements indicating he would sign the bill

However, Acevedo Vila said Monday that he vetoed the bill because of "public statements" by NPP members, after the approval of the bill, that "put paid to the moral commitment to the people to give the country the opportunity to choose the constituent assembly," as the process to resolve the status issue.


Governor Signs Agreement To Strengthen Exports

April 11, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila on Sunday signed an agreement to collaborate with several private companies, in an effort to increase the export of Puerto Rican products and services.

The agreement was signed by the president of the Puerto Rico Products Association, Francisco Martinez; the vice president of the Export Council, Juan Manuel del Rey; the president of the Manufacturers Association, Reynaldo Encarnacion; and from the Chamber of Commerce, Leonardo Cordero.

The agreement’s objective is to "increase the export of our local products, to create new jobs and to increase economic activity on the island."

During the event, held at La Fortaleza, the governor said the value of exports for January of this year was higher than $4.6 million, an increase of $1.3 million compared to January of last year.

Acevedo Vila also said that trade agreements the United States has negotiated with other countries, such as the Central American Free Trade Agreement, represent "opportunities for Puerto Rico."

Acevedo Vila Supports ASA Director On Water Rate Hike

April 11, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila on Sunday defended the position of Aqueduct and Sewer Authority Executive Director Jorge Rodriguez, who said an increase in water rates is necessary.

"Either we pay the water with the money that the Aqueduct Authority produces or we pay the water with the money from the police overtime, with the money from the books in the schools, or with the money that goes to the Medical Center (in Rio Piedras) because funds are limited," he said.

"The executive director is taking steps so that (ASA) returns to standing on its feet and being self-sufficient," he said during a press conference at which he signed an agreement with local firms to strengthen exports of products manufactured on the island.

Good Ferry

April 11, 2005
Copyright © 2005. All rights reserved. 

Travelers headed to the outer islands of Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra, now have a new option for making the trip -- high-speed ferry.

The air-conditioned, 98-foot catamaran Athena, operated by Island Hi-Speed Ferry, now leaves from Pier 2 in historic Old San Juan once a day on weekdays and twice daily on weekends. Traveling at speeds up to 40 mph, the 250-seat vessel takes about an hour and 45 minutes to reach Culebra and another 30 minutes to arrive at Vieques.

Roundtrip fares to Culebra are $63 for Puerto Rico residents and $68 for nonresidents; fares for kids, ages 4-12, cost $48 and $53. The trip to Vieques costs $73 and $78 for adults and $58 and $63 for children. Passengers can buy roundtrip tickets between Culebra and Vieques for $33 and $23 for children.

For more information, call 1-877-228-3977, or visit

Report: Clemente's Son Admits To Using Steroids In Minors

April 10, 2005
Copyright © 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

NEW YORK (AP) - Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente's oldest son said he unknowingly took steroids from a trainer in Puerto Rico while rehabbing a knee injury in the minor leagues in the 1980s.

Roberto Clemente Jr. told the Daily News he met trainer Luiz Perez after undergoing a second operation for chronic pain in his right knee in 1987 while with the San Diego Padres organization.

Perez told Clemente Jr. he needed to start taking B-12 injections, along with steroids testosterone and androstendione to help increase his strength.

"He might as well have been speaking Chinese to me," Clemente Jr. told the newspaper. "I didn't know what they were, but he said they would help me and I said, 'OK, great.' Today you know what those things are, but then I couldn't even imagine anything like steroids, which could make you feel great and at the same time could be killing you."

Clemente Jr., who was 6 when his father died in a plane crash in 1972, estimates he got about 150 shots, and he added 20 pounds (9 kilograms) of muscle.

"I didn't think I was doing anything wrong. I was just trying to rehab my knee," the News quoted him as saying.

Clemente Jr. stopped taking the shots after almost a year when he left to play winter ball in Venezuela. Within a year, he began feeling tingling sensations at the site of the injections. In 1989 he signed with the Baltimore Orioles, but his career was over at 24 because of a back injury. He never made it above the Single-A league.

It was only when Mark McGwire caused a furor in 1998 after he said he took andro that Clemente Jr. realized he had been given steroids, the newspaper reported. He said he was saddened when he saw McGwire testifying before a congressional panel last month on steroids in baseball.

"We all make mistakes, and we will until the day we die," Clemente Jr. said. "You become a better person when you can admit you made a mistake."

Clemente Jr. now has his own radio show, works with his father's foundation, and talks to youngsters about the dangers of steroids. Last week, he spoke at Roberto Clemente Middle School in New York.

Water Rates Could Double

April 9, 2005
Copyright © 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The executive president of the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (ASA), Jorge Rodriguez, on Friday said the possibility exists that the water rate could double.

According to Rodriguez, this is necessary because $750 million annually is needed for the agency to be self-sustainable.

"Mathematically, yes, it would have to be done," Rodriguez said when asked at a Senate hearing by legislator Maria de Lourdes Santiago if it would be necessary to double the rates.

He said, nevertheless, that the amount of the increase has still not been decided, as they are awaiting the report from a committee assigned to study the issue.

It is expected that the final report will be ready by May.

Pentagon Eyes Raising Moratorium On Buchanan Construction

April 8, 2005
Copyright © 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Pentagon proposed raising the moratorium on new construction on land at Fort Buchanan, according to the executive director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, Eduardo Bhatia.

Bhatia said the draft of a bill that would authorize the Defense spending for fiscal year 2006, and includes raising the moratorium, has the preliminary approval of the Office of Management and Budget at the White House.

"This opens the door to the National Guard plan (for Puerto Rico)" to establish a training center at Buchanan and boost the military value of the fort, Bhatia said in media reports.

Resident Commissioner Luis Fortuño said the proposal is looked kindly upon by the White House and the Pentagon, but still requires official support in Congress.

SEC Wants Quick Decision On Unicamerality Vote

April 8, 2005
Copyright © 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The State Elections Commission (SEC) has invested almost $150,000 in preparations for the July 10 referendum on unicamerality, although the Legislature and Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila are contemplating postponing the vote.

SEC President Aurelio Gracia urged the Legislative Assembly and the governor to decide quickly if the referendum will be held or not, to avoid wasting public funds and to end the uncertainty.

"It is important that if there is going to be a decision to postpone the vote, it be made as quickly as possible," Gracia said in media reports.

As of now, the SEC has invested $150,000 of the special $1.5 million allocation the Legislative Assembly made for the special vote.

UPR President Defends Tuition Hike; More Students Join Strike

April 8, 2005
Copyright © 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - The president of the University of Puerto Rico insisted Thursday that raising tuition was crucial to keeping the school running, as more students joined a strike to protest the increase.

"I don't see how the university can possibly function in the next fiscal year without (the raise)," Antonio Garcia Padilla said.

Hundreds of students at the main campus in Rio Piedras, a suburb of the capital of San Juan, declared an indefinite strike Wednesday and called for Garcia Padilla's resignation. Students blocked the entrance to the campus Thursday, and no classes were held.

Students from the nearby campus of Bayamon started a five-day strike Thursday, while the Mayaguez campus in western Puerto Rico declared a 24-hour walkout. Eight other campuses were debating joining the protest.

University officials raised next year's tuition from $30 to $40 per credit for undergraduate students and $75 to $100 per credit for graduate students. Medical students, who pay per semester rather than per credit, are facing a tuition hike of $5,000 to $6,670 per semester.

Garcia Padilla said the raise was necessary to plug the university's budget deficit, estimated at almost $24 million for fiscal year 2005-2006.

Student leaders complained the decision was made without consulting them.

"The campuses are united. Everybody is against the raise and the way it was implemented, in a dictatorial and authoritarian way in a country where there is a lot of talk about democracy," Scott Barbes, a spokesman for the Union of Socialist Youths, said.

There are almost 60,000 undergraduate students and 7,500 graduate students at the university's 11 campuses.

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