Voters OK One-House Legislature, AAV Urges Action Timberland Closing Deltonas Cultural Center $50M Goya Investment Rossello On Fortuños Resolve, Anti-Statehooders Fortuño Booed, Praised Latino Pittsburgh McClintock: NPPs Measures Drastic Caricom Opening? $300M TU Investment Statehood Movement Threatened, McClintock Unyielding, Rossello Adamant ''Colonialism''
Voters OK One-House Legislature
Turnout was low, but 84 percent of voters endorsed the concept of replacing the state Senate and House of Representatives with a unicameral system
BY MANUEL ERNESTO RIVERA
July 11, 2005
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Puerto Ricans on Sunday voted overwhelmingly in favor of doing away with half their lawmakers with a one-house legislature that supporters say would be cheaper and more efficient.
Final results showed nearly 84 percent of voters endorsed the concept of replacing the state Senate and House of Representatives with a one-house, or unicameral, legislature.
Turnout was about 22 percent, extremely low by Puerto Rican standards.
The results won't bring about immediate change: The referendum directs the legislature to hold another referendum in 2007 that would ask voters to amend the island's constitution and establish a one-house system by 2009.
Opponents of the change to a unicameral system suggested that the results of the referendum may not be binding on lawmakers.
''If the electorate ignored this process, the legislature also should ignore it,'' said Thomas Rivera Schatz, secretary-general of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party, which controls both the Senate and House.
Adolfo Krans, a businessman and a leader of the pro-unicameral movement, said the results were a strong mandate for change, and would compel the legislature to set the second vote on the constitutional amendment.
''They are going to try to run away from it, but they are going to find themselves up against a wall because even though 80 percent didn't vote, there are many people who want a unicameral system,'' Krans said.
Those who favor the unicameral system say eliminating either the Senate or the House -- which one hasn't been decided -- would be more efficient and would reduce some of the political infighting that has dominated the political scene in recent months.
Opponents say the change would create a system that would be less open and democratic, with fewer checks and balances.
Only one U.S. state, Nebraska, has adopted the unicameral system.
The debate on the referendum has pitted supporters of Puerto Rican statehood against those who favor independence or maintaining the island's status as a U.S. commonwealth.
The pro-commonwealth Popular Democratic Party has not taken an official position, but Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, who is the party's president, has endorsed the one-house system as a way to reform the Legislature, which is under the control of the pro-statehood faction. Supporters of independence, a minority on the island, backed the unicameral system.
The New Progressive Party also didn't take an official position, but the pro-statehood leaders called for a boycott of the vote and argued against the change. Senate President Kenneth McClintock sought to curb some of the demand for reform by proposing budget cuts
McClintock and the leader of the House of Representatives, Jose Aponte, said Sunday they would follow the results of the referendum though both had previously said they weren't obligated to do so unless it was an overwhelming mandate.
The Legislative Assembly has existed since the 1952 constitution that established the island's status as a U.S. commonwealth. It has a 27-member Senate and a 51-member House of Representatives.
Puerto Rico's 4 million people are U.S. citizens and can be drafted into the military but cannot vote for president and have no voting representation in Congress. They also pay no federal taxes.
AAV Urges Legislators To Act On Results
July 11, 2005
Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila on Sunday said he was pleased with the referendum results that favored the unicameral option and urged legislators to abide by the peoples mandate at the polls.
"The democracy that we love and defend demands that we take immediate action to respect the will expressed at the polls. I will be pushing for that reform," the governor said.
Acevedo Vila also said those who favor the current bicameral system cant use the people who stayed at home as an excuse not to act on the referendum results.
"We all know that those who stayed home were disappointed at the Legislative Assembly and had even lost their hope that this Legislature could generate changes," Acevedo Vila said.
With 95% of electoral units counted, the State Elections Commission (SEC) announced that the unicameral option won 439,534 or 89.6% of the votes, while the current bicameral system obtained 84,611 or 16.1% of the votes.
According to SEC President Aurelio Gracia, the voters turnout was close to 20%.
Timberland To Shut Down Operations In Isabela
July 8, 2005
Timberland Company this week announced the shut down of its manufacturing plant in Isabela by years end in an effort to increase the manufacturing volume and operational efficiency of its facilities in the Dominican Republic.
In order to cover severance pay, retirement benefits, job relocations, and other issues, Timberland s restructuring plan will cost $2.5 million before taxes during the third quarter, $3 million in the fourth quarter, and $500,000 during the first quarter of 2006.
This new approach is expected to generate savings of approximately $4 million in 2006 and of about $5 million in subsequent years.
The companys tax benefits of approximately $4 million a year under Section 30A of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code in Puerto Rico will expire by years end. However, Timberland officials said they dont expect an increase in the general tax rate of 34% for 2006, as there are several global tax initiatives from which they expect to benefit.
Puerto Rican Cultural Center To Open In Deltona
By JEANNINE GAGE
July 8, 2005
DELTONA -- Most young Puerto Ricans in the area have grown up here and may have little knowledge of the culture of their ancestors' homeland.
"There is such a rich culture," said Volusia County Hispanic Association President Zenaida Denizac. "But the younger generation doesn't know it."
To help preserve traditional dances, music, food and history, a Center for Puerto Rican Culture will open in Deltona. The group's first slate of officers is to be installed at a meeting tonight.
The center's officers are: Nelida Rivera, president; Yaitza Denizac, vice president/secretary; Providencia Rodriguez, treasurer and Tony Rodriguez, vice treasurer.
Advisory board members include Magali Rojas, Matilde Zavala, Zenaida Denizac and Rafael Valle.
Deltona's Puerto Rican center will be an affiliate of the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueno (Puerto Rican Institute of Culture), which is a branch of the Puerto Rican government.
The institute, established in 1955, aims to preserve, promote, enrich and expose Puerto Rican culture, said Rojas, president of the Orlando Chapter of the Centro. The nonprofit agency seeks to find Puerto Rican artists and artisans in the United States, Latin America and Europe and provide exposure for their work, Rojas said.
For now, Zenaida Denizac said, the center will operate out of the Hispanic Association's office but is an independent organization.
The installation will be at Daytona Beach Community College's Deltona Campus, next to City Hall at 6:30 p.m. There will be entertainment and refreshments.
Goya To Invest $50 Million In Bayamón Plant
By MARIALBA MARTINEZ of Caribbean Business
July 7, 2005
Goyas $150 million investment over the next five years to expand and improve its manufacturing and distribution plants in Puerto Rico, the U.S. mainland, and Spain should increase the production of the 77 products prepared locally, said Goya de Puerto Rico Vice President & General Manager Carlos Unanue.
The company will invest $50 million in the construction of a new Manufacturing & Distribution Center (MDC) at its Bayamón complex, adding 306,000 square feet to its 500,000 square-foot manufacturing site. In Houston, Goya will build a new 138,000-square-foot MDC, with new packaging technology and enough warehouse space for the companys more than 1,200 products.
Goya also will invest in improvements to other corporate operations such as $6 million in Buffalo, N.Y.; $42 million for its New Jersey, Virginia, and Florida plants; and $12 million in Spain. In addition, $30 million will be invested in equipment and new technology throughout the companys operations.
Construction of Puerto Ricos MDC already has begun and is expected to be finished toward the end of 2006, when the company will celebrate its 70th anniversary. In Houston, construction will start soon and is scheduled to end in March 2006.
Rossello Implies Fortuño Shies Away From Controversy
July 7, 2005
New Progressive Party (NPP) President Pedro Rossello on Thursday criticized the leaders of his own party who have so far declined to take sides in the controversies surrounding Rossellos bid for the Senate helm.
Thats how the senator replied when he was asked in a radio interview what he thought about Resident Commissioner Luis Fortuños approach to avoid getting involved in the public discussions of the party.
"Controversy is an essential element in a democracy and it has been for our party since its inception. The NPP was born in controversy and has been very successful," Rossello said.
"Leaders should make clear where they are headed. I demand that those who consider themselves to be leaders let their vision, alliance, and position be known. Im not going to hide where I stand," Rossello added.
The Resident Commissioner had said in radio reports that Rossellos political future shouldnt be decided in a directorate meeting, but in a primary.
Fortuño was referring to the last directorate meeting where it was agreed that the party would hold a general assembly in August to decide who should be president of the NPP.
In that meeting, the directorate also resolved to permanently suspend Sens. Kenneth McClintock, Orlando Parga, Lucy Arce, Migdalia Padilla, and Carlos Diaz. The directorate also reiterated its decision to extricate Sen. Jorge De Castro Font as a member of the NPP.
The senators were suspended for not abiding by the partys decision to support Rossellos bid for the Senate helm.
Fortuño held Rossello and McClintock responsible for the controversy that has somewhat divided the party.
The NPP President Pedro Rossello said leaders shouldn't shy away from controversy and reminded them that their party was born in controversy and has been very successful.
Rossello Lambastes Anti-Statehood Forces
July 5, 2005
SAN JUAN (EFE) New Progressive Party (NPP) President Pedro Rossello on Monday accused two local dailies of cooperating with a local economic oligarchy that is intent on fighting statehood by spreading misinformation and fear among the people.
On the 229th anniversary of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, Rossello lambasted those who have impeded a full development of democracy in Puerto Rico.
He said the fusion of economic and political interests of a privileged few who control the media and the public opinion is to blame for the perpetuation of the colonial status of the island.
Rossello said this group is comprised of those who represent the political interests of the Popular Democratic Party by trying to destroy those who seek to change the status quo.
He also made similar accusations against the Ferrer Rangel familywho owns El Nuevo Dia and Primera Horaand those who allegedly use federal entities to persecute pro-statehood activists.
Crowd Boos Fortuños Written Statement
July 5, 2005
SAN JUAN (EFE) The hundreds of people who attended the celebration of the 229th Anniversary of the U.S. Declaration of Independence in Old San Juan booed the reading of a message that Resident Commissioner Luis Fortuño had sent to excuse himself from the event.
In his written statement, Fortuño said that, due to previous engagements, he would be unable to attend the celebration in Old San Juan. He also expressed to San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini his wish that the event would turn out to be a success.
Fortuño had already announced that he would be attending the commemorative acts in Washington.
The Resident Commissioner has been criticized by members of his own New Progressive Party for declining Santinis invitation.
Fortuño has also been lambasted for accepting an invitation to attend the commemoration of Luis Muñoz Riveras birthday in Barranquitasan event which has traditionally been observed by members of the Popular Democratic Party.
Parga: Fortuño An Example Of A True Head Of State
July 4, 2005
SAN JUAN (EFE) Senate Vice President Orlando Parga on Monday said Resident Commissioner Luis Fortuño, has set an example of what a true leader and head of state should be by accepting the invitation to attend the event to commemorate Luis Muñoz Riveras birthday in Barranquitas.
Parga even said he would attend the event himself next Monday to show his support for Fortuño.
"Fortuño wont be alone in Barranquitas. I wont allow others to tarnish the image of a future leader just because he has chosen to pay his respects to the memory of Muñoz Rivera, who was our first Resident Commissioner in Washington," Parga said in a prepared statement.
Parga also reminded Fortuños detractors that the late pro-statehood leader Jose Celso Barbosa had paid his respects during Muñoz Riveras burial, even though they were political rivals.
"If Barbosa was able to go to Barranquitas to pay his respects to his long-time rival, why should Fortuño be lambasted for accepting any invitation that may foster consensus and unity among the people?," Parga said.
July 4, 2005
I read with interest your comments about the growth nationwide of the Latino population in America ("Hispanic Clout: The Color of America Is Changing," June 28 editorial). To complete your survey regarding our Latino population in Pennsylvania, I would like to add some facts and statistics from right here in the Pittsburgh metro area.
The Latino population in the Pittsburgh area is 1.6 percent, according to the 2000 Census numbers; and as a matter of fact we are the only group that did not lose numbers in Pittsburgh.
I'm the chair of the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. I'm from Puerto Rico and have been living here since June 1987. I've been working all this time with a high-tech company in the area.
The chamber has been in operation here since 1995, originally under the name Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Western PA, Inc. In 2004, we reincorporated it under the new name to highlight our commitment to the Pittsburgh metropolitan area. We represent a membership of around 30 firms composed of professionals, small business and some major corporations that are Latino-owned or that have an interest in Latino affairs.
In addition to us, at least two other organizations exist in the area that work closely with us: LACU, the Latin American Cultural Union, founded almost 20 years ago, and the more recent, Hispanic Center. Together we represent the business, arts and culture and social action for local Latino community.
The community here, while small, is very rich and diverse. We have many white-collar professionals and business owners, all the way to restaurant and farm workers. We are happy to live here.
We like Pittsburgh as a good place to raise our families, and we want to contribute to the success of the area.
McClintock: Rossellos Measures Too Drastic
July 4, 2005
SAN JUAN (EFE) Senate President Kenneth McClintock on Monday said the measures that New Progressive Party (NPP) President Pedro Rossello has taken against him and several other party members are too drastic.
McClintock criticized the decision to dismiss Bayamon Mayor Ramon Luis Rivera, Jr. from the party directorate without prior notification.
McClintock is part of a group of six senators who have been suspended from the party for refusing to abide by the general assemblys decision to let Rossello lead the Puerto Rico Senate. McClintock has so far refused to give up the Senate helm.
He said the NPP directorate has long ceased to represent the party, to become Rossellos personal directorate.
The senators who were suspended from the NPP are McClintock, Jorge De Castro Font, Orlando Parga, Lucy Arce, Migdalia Padilla, and Carlos Diaz.
De Castro Font said he is convinced that Rossellos actions have upset the NPP people.
"The people will say 'enough' (Rossello) no longer has the power to summon them to an electoral event His time has come to an end," De Castro Font said.
Possible Doorway To Caricom Treaty
By Yaisha Vargas
July 3, 2005
Puerto Ricos participation in the XXVI Summit of the Caribbean Community (Caricom by its Spanish acronym) which is being held in St. Lucia, has the purpose of tightening commercial ties that may lead to a Free Trade Agreement between the United States and the Caribbean.
Ricardo Rivera Cardona, who is the executive director of the Trade & Export Company and also the representative of the Puerto Rico government at the summit, told EFE that there is a possibility that the United States may try to negotiate a Free Trade Agreement with Caricom, just as it has done with Chile, Mexico, Canada, and has started to do so with Central America and the Dominican Republic.
"If this does take shape, it would be convenient to have strong relations If it does get negotiated we would be one step ahead," Rivera Cardona said before leaving for the meeting.
If the treaty doesnt come through, Puerto Rico would still be interested in tightening its commercial ties with other Caribbean countries, he said.
"At the end of the day we want to enable trade and establish those ties, regardless of what happens with the treaty," he said.
"We see export to the Caribbean as a fertile ground for small and medium size businesses in Puerto Rico," Rivera Cardona added.
He admitted that the possibility of negotiating something towards that end is still preliminary. However, he said he has received information that the U.S. government may be open to the possibility of having Puerto Rico put a foot in the doorway so that the U.S. could start negotiations.
Rivera Cardona said there is a possibility that the United States may try to negotiate a Free Trade Agreement with Caricom, just as it has done with Chile, Mexico, Canada, and has started to do so with Central America and the Dominican Republic.
AAV Announces $300 Million Investment Along TU
July 2, 2005
SAN JUAN (EFE) Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila on Friday announced a $300 million investment in private business projects to be developed along the Urban Train (TU by its Spanish acronym) route.
These new projects would be integrated to Acevedo Vilas Ciudad Red, an administration project aimed at repopulating the urban center while making the Urban Train more accessible to the public.
The $300 million investment will include residential and commercial developments as well as the construction of new office spaces in the metropolitan area.
These projects will also include the relocation of the State Insurance Fund Corporation headquarters near the Hato Rey train station.
Infighting Threatens Statehood Movement
July 2, 2005
SAN JUAN -- The pro-statehood party removed five senators from leadership positions on Friday, and banned them from seeking reelection under the party's name. The decision threatens to divide the movement to make Puerto Rico the 51st U.S. state.
Senate president Kenneth McClintock and four other legislators were removed from leadership positions for refusing to support former Gov. Pedro Rossello's bid to take over the Senate presidency, said Thomas Rivera Schatz, the party's secretary-general.
Schatz said the senators violated party rules by refusing to go along.
McClintock Refuses To Step Down As Senate President
July 1, 2005
SAN JUAN (EFE) Senate President Kenneth McClintock on Friday said he would continue in his post despite the decision of the New Progressive Party (NPP) directorate to suspend him and four other senators as member of the party.
McClintock said he believes the Senate and Puerto Rico shouldnt have to endure four years of the tension that has prevailed during the past six months.
The senator also said he believes the controversy has taken a toll on the party.
He mentioned that the cancellation of the traditional event to commemorate Jose Celso Barbosas birthday is an example of the negative effect that the controversy allegedly has had on the party.
NPP Sen. Rossello Ready To Hold His Ground
July 1, 2005
At the end of the last legislative session of the fiscal year that ended June 30, former governor and now New Progressive Party (NPP) Sen. Pedro Rossello assured the public that he wont abandon his commitment to the people or his intention to wrest the Senate presidency away from NPP Sen. Kenneth McClintock.
During a radio interview, Rossello said he would wait as long as it takes to achieve his goal.
"I wont leave here until the people say so. The issue will continue as long as I am here. This session ended today but the issue will go on tomorrow and the day after that until the will of the people has been made," Rossello stated.
The NPP president also reminded everyone that the issue over who should be at the helm of the Puerto Rico Senate had already been decided in a general assembly which favored him over McClintock. However, McClintock has so far refused to step down.
Rossello said the only way to understand his point of view is by seeing it from the stance of someone who believes in his ideals and who is willing to fight for them until the end.
"I will continue to fight because fights arent meant to be abandoned. I will use the mechanisms that are within my reach to try to seek better opportunities to forward the causes that unite the NPP people, like obtaining statehood for Puerto Rico and establishing a retirement system for all of us who live on this island," the senator said.
Chavez: Puerto Rico, A Clear Case Of ''Colonialism''
U.S. Free Trade Push a Failure
June 26, 2005
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- President Hugo Chavez called the U.S.-backed Free Trade Area of the Americas a failure and said Venezuela's plan to create a Caribbean oil company represents a better alternative.
Chavez also said Sunday he expects Cuban President Fidel Castro will not attend an oil summit with Caribbean leaders in Venezuela this week and will instead send his vice president, Carlos Lage.
The talks Tuesday and Wednesday in the northeastern city of Puerto La Cruz are to center on Chavez's proposal to create a regional company, called Petrocaribe, to offset high oil prices by distributing Venezuelan crude and refined oil products to the Caribbean at lower prices.
Speaking during his weekly radio and television show, Chavez called the proposed FTAA ''a perverse proposal of the Americans to turn us definitively into a colony.''
''We knew the FTAA was going to fail, because they would have to invade all of us to impose the FTAA on us,'' said Chavez, who accuses the U.S. government of backing repeated plots to oust him -- a charge Washington denies.
The FTAA, which was announced amid much fanfare at a summit in Miami 11 years ago, was supposed to take affect in January but has never gained the full support it needed.
''PetroCaribe is part of the alternative project, an integrating alternative,'' said Chavez, who along with Castro has proposed a so-called Bolivarian Alternative trade pact that he says would unite the region rather than exacerbate poverty through unbridled free trade.
Chavez's critics have accused him of selling off oil cheaply to Cuba and other Caribbean countries for political reasons. He has defended the preferential oil deals, saying they help both Venezuela and the region.
Cuba has sent thousands of doctors to treat Venezuela's poor, and Chavez said countries across the Caribbean have stood by his government in diplomatic disputes.
''Every time the Americans have tried to impose monitoring on us through the OAS, we have counted on the support of solidarity from the Caribbean despite strong pressures by the imperialist U.S. government,'' Chavez said.
At a meeting this month, the 34-nation Organization of American States watered down a U.S. proposal for monitoring threats to democracy after Venezuela accused the United States of trying to meddle in other nations' affairs.
Chavez said officials from countries ranging from the Dominican Republic to Guyana are invited to this week's oil summit.
Repeating criticism of Puerto Rico's status as a U.S. commonwealth, Chavez said the island cannot be invited.
''Unfortunately Puerto Rico is still -- one day it will no longer be -- a territory of the United States,'' Chavez said, calling it a clear case of ''colonialism.''
Puerto Ricans narrowly rejected U.S. statehood in nonbinding referendums in 1993 and 1998. A small but vocal minority supports making the island an independent country.