De Castro Suspended From NPP, He Will Fight Decision… Former PDP Heads Oppose Unicameral Legislature, Additional Funds For Referendum Okd… $10M Allocated To Repair Schools… Sup Ct Refuses To Certify Pont, Parties React… Fish Farming Bill To Congress… McClintock Also Removes Arango, Rios… Adelphia Sells P.R. System… De Castro Expelled From NPP Caucus

Sen. De Castro Font Suspended From The NPP

June 7, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Sen. Jorge de Castro Font has been permanently suspended from the New Progressive Party (NPP), said NPP Secretary General Thomas Rivera Schatz on Tuesday.

He added that the directorate’s decision must first be ratified by the party’s state board or general assembly before the senator can be expelled.

Rivera Schatz said De Castro Font was declared persona non-grata at the NPP and has been relieved of all his leadership positions within that political organization.

De Castro Font was found in violation of the party’s Article 8, among others, for disobeying orders and defying the party’s authority in a disrespectful manner.

"We at the NPP don’t tolerate that conduct," he said following a directorate’s meeting.

Rivera Schatz noted that De Castro Font was also expelled from the Popular Democratic Party on August 17 for defying the party’s authority.

He said the other NPP senators who still oppose Pedro Rossello’s bid for the Senate helm are urged to reconsider their position.

De Castro To Defend His Position At NPP

June 7, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Sen. Jorge de Castro Font on Tuesday said he would defend himself from the New Progressive Party (NPP) Directorate’s decision to permanently suspend him from that political organization.

He said he would let the party know that he would always be an NPP member and would always fight for statehood.

"I will answer their letters tomorrow and will do whatever I have to do to tackle all circumstances that they may raise to try to shut me up," De Castro said in a press conference held at his office after learning of the party’s decision.

He also said he would continue to chair the Senate Rules & Calendar and Judicial committees, as it is Senate President Kenneth McClintock who determines who should chair all Senate committees.

NPP Secretary General Thomas Rivera Schatz said De Castro Font has five days to appeal the directorate’s decision.

Former PDP Heads Oppose Unicameral Legislature

June 7, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Three former Popular Democratic Party (PDP) presidents on Tuesday criticized the referendum to be held July 10 to decide whether the Legislative Assembly should become a unicameral legislature.

PDP former presidents Rafael Hernandez Colon, Victoria Muñoz Mendoza, and Hector Luis Acevedo described the referendum as the worst of two worlds.

Hernandez Colon said a unicameral system isn’t the solution to the problems people have noticed at the Legislature.

He explained that concentrating the legislative power into a single-chamber system would cause the legislative and executive branches to lock horns.

The former governor said the referendum is intended to send a message as to whether the Commonwealth Constitution should be amended in a second referendum.

Instead of a unicameral legislature, Hernandez Colon recommended holding single legislative sessions, with the option of holding additional extraordinary sessions to reduce costs and salary expenditures, which would address some of the complaints the people have about the legislature.

Meanwhile, Mendoza said she believes the Constitution shouldn’t be amended to punish legislators for their poor performance. She said the people should use the general elections to do that.

Acevedo, for his part, said the referendum law enables legislators to draft a proposal for a new legislature to accommodate their own interests, instead of the people’s.

Court OKs Additional Allocation For Referendum

June 7, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — The San Juan Superior Court on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit that the Puerto Rico Senate had filed against Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila’s executive order that had allocated additional funds for the referendum on the unicameral legislature issue to be held July 10.

The court said it had found nothing that would impede the use of additional funds to hold the referendum.

"We have resolved that the governor has the power to allocate additional funds to the State Elections Commission (SEC) through executive orders to hold the referendum," the court stated in a written document.

The law enabling the referendum’s celebration had allocated $1.5 million for the electoral event, but the SEC said it wouldn’t be enough.

The governor then allocated an additional $2.11 million, which the Senate believed to be illegal.

But the court disagreed saying that the need for additional funds constituted an unforeseen situation which the governor could resolve.

Governor Allocates $10 Million To Repair School Facilities

June 7, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

BAYAMON (EFE) — In yet another example of how Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila intends to allocate funds without the Legislature’s consent, the governor signed two executive orders on Tuesday to create an interagency group and allocate $10 million to help repair public school facilities in Puerto Rico.

The $10 million would go to the Office for the Betterment of Public Schools on the island. The interagency group will be comprised of 11 government agencies to help improve school surroundings and utility services.

"I’m using my prerogative as governor to resolve the problems of the Puerto Rican people," Acevedo Vila said during a press conference at Miguel Cervantes Saavedra School in Bayamon.

The governor said the $10 million were allocated following an analysis made by the Office of Management & Budget, the Treasury Department, in addition to the transactions made by the Government Development Bank.

He said the Public Buildings Authority would disburse $6.8 million to take care of the school facilities under its jurisdiction, while the Labor Department’s Job Opportunity Development Fund would disburse $3.2 million.

Supreme Court Denies Petition To Certify Pont

June 7, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — The Puerto Rico Supreme Court denied the government’s petition on Tuesday to certify Marisara Pont as Secretary of State.

The petition had been requested by Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila.

The Supreme Court announced its decision after a careful evaluation of the facts.

According to a prepared statement, the court justices said the circumstances didn’t justify their intervention in the case.

On May 9, the House of Representatives voted against Pont’s nomination.

House Speaker Jose Aponte Hernandez said Pont had failed to obtain an absolute majority at the House.

In order to be confirmed to the post, Pont needed at least 26 votes of the 51 members of the House. She obtained 24 votes. Another 16 representatives voted against her nomination.

Popular Democratic Party House Minority Leader Hector Ferrer objected the decision to apply the absolute majority rule.

But in a second round, Pont also failed to obtain the necessary votes for her confirmation.

The House decided not to confirm Pont’s nomination despite favorable recommendations of the House Government Committee–which is chaired by New Progressive Party (NPP) Rep. Jennifer Gonzalez.

Parties React To Court Decision On Pont

June 7, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — House Speaker Jose Aponte and Puerto Rican Independence Party Rep. Victor Garcia reacted in favor of the local Supreme Court decision Tuesday to deny Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila’s petition to certify Marisara Pont as Secretary of State.

In separate press conferences, the two legislators urged the governor to nominate someone new as soon as possible.

"This decision represents an acknowledgement of the republican government system and reiterates the respect that should exist among government branches," Aponte said.

Aponte added that Acevedo Vila still has time to appoint someone else, but the governor told reporters that he has yet to decide who will take Pont’s place.

Pont said she would abide by the court decision and thanked the governor for believing in her.

Acevedo Vila said that by ruling against his petition, the court has made it clear that the Legislative Assembly has the power to hurt the country.

He also said Pont would continue to work for his administration in a different post.

U.S. To Send Congress Fish Farming Bill

June 7, 2005
Copyright © 2005 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Bush administration, seeking to tap into one of the world's fastest-growing food industries, wants to allow fish farming up to 200 miles off the nation's coasts.

Citing pilot projects off New Hampshire, Hawaii and Puerto Rico, the administration said Tuesday it was sending a bill to Congress to establish regulations for fish farming, known as aquaculture.

Currently, fish farming in the United States focuses largely on freshwater fish such as catfish, though there also are some ocean farms raising shellfish like mussels, clams and oysters as well as shrimp and salmon.

In countries from Canada to China to Scotland to Thailand, farming of saltwater species such as salmon and shrimp has become increasingly common, with much of the catch sold in the United States.

Fish farming has drawn criticism from environmentalists, however.

Gerald Leape, vice president of marine conservation at the National Environmental Trust, issued a statement saying the proposal was ''riddled with problems.'' He said problems with fish farms include the discharge of solid waste, the use of pesticides, antibiotics and other potentially harmful chemicals and the escape of farmed fish into the marine environment.

Seafood demand is expected to increase rapidly and officials of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say the United States has fallen behind other countries in farming fish. Currently the United States imports 70 percent of the seafood eaten here and 40 percent is from overseas fish farms.

''Today's action will create jobs and revenues for coastal communities and U.S. businesses by allowing for the expansion of an underutilized industry,'' Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez said in a statement.

Currently, the United States does not have a regulatory structure in place to allow aquaculture operations in federal marine waters.

The bill being sent to Congress would permit fish farming up to 200 miles off the coast, to be regulated by NOAA, a part of the Commerce Department.

''Our goal is to develop a sustainable aquaculture program that balances the needs of fishermen, coastal residents and visitors, seafood consumers, the environment, and the aquaculture industry,'' said NOAA Administrator Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr.

NOAA said there are advantages to locating fish farms farther off shore including water depth, currents and water quality. Pilot projects have used submerged cages for fish and long lines for mussels.

On the Net:

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:

National Marine Fisheries Service:

McClintock Also Removes Arango, Rios

June 7, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Senate President Kenneth McClintock also removed New Progressive Party (NPP) Sens. Roberto Arango and Carmelo Rios from their post as chairmen of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Tourism, Urbanism & Infrastructure and the Committee on Financial & Municipal Affairs, respectively, on Monday.

McClintock sent letter to both senators to inform them of the decision.

"The Office of the Secretary of the Senate will be reviewing the committees’ team as well as its documents in order to achieve an effective and orderly transition," he said in the letters.

On May 27, McClintock replaced Sens. Jose Emilio Gonzalez, Norma Burgos, Jose Garriga, and Luis Daniel Muñiz for expressing their support for Pedro Rossello’s bid for the Senate helm.

NPP Sen. Carlos Diaz will replace Arango and Jorge de Castro Font will replace Rios.

McClintock's action followed the caucus decision to oust De Castro Font from the party delegation at the Senate and relieve him of his duties as NPP majority leader.

Adelphia To Sell Puerto Rico System

June 6, 2005
Copyright © 2005 REUTERS. All rights reserved. 

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Bankrupt cable operator Adelphia Communications Corp. said on Monday it will sell its Puerto Rico cable operations venture to two private equity firms for $520 million.

London-based MidOcean Partners and New York-based Crestview Partners plan to buy the system, which has 137,000 subscribers in the San Juan area. The cable system is jointly held by Adelphia and ML Media Partners.

The Adelphia-ML had filed for protection under Chapter 11 of U.S. Bankruptcy Code separately from Adelphia's bankruptcy filing. The Puerto Rico system was not included in the proposed sale of most of Adelphia's assets to Comcast Corp.and Time Warner Inc.'s Time Warner Cable for $17.6 billion.

The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter and is subject to approval by U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York.

The company said the deal equates to $3,800 a subscriber.acquisition of Adelphia systems at $3,400 to $3,500 a subscriber.

De Castro Expelled From NPP Caucus

June 6, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Sen. Jorge de Castro Font on Monday was expelled from the New Progressive Party (NPP) delegation and relieved of his duties as Senate majority leader.

Following a caucus meeting, NPP President and Sen. Pedro Rossello said that at the moment, he wouldn’t occupy the Senate presidency because the motion must first be sent to the Senate floor. He didn’t say when this would be.

De Castro was expelled from the caucus following an 8-7 vote with two abstentions.

Sen. Margarita Nolasco was voted interim delegation leader 10-7.

The caucus voted in favor of relieving De Castro Font of his positions of trusts as chairman of the Rules & Calendar and Judiciary committees.

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