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NPP Leaders Subpoenaed

Calderon: Law Applies To All

$500M GO Sale Moved Up

Sen. Ramirez Hoists U.S. Flag

Senate OK’s $30M Pork Barrel Fund

Million-Dollar Celebration For Commonwealth’s Anniversary

Governor Won’t Discuss Status Plans

Fajardo Returns $1M

Lopez Dances With Lavoe Biopic

NPP Leaders Subpoenaed

By Proviana Colon Diaz

June 27, 2002
Copyright ©2002
WOW News. All rights reserved.

New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera and several other party leaders will have to appear before a San Juan Superior Court judge Friday morning, who will determine whether there is enough evidence to sustain criminal charges filed by the Assistant District Attorney’s Office against them for their participation in last week’s violent incident at the Women’s Advocate Office.

NPP Electoral Commissioner Thomas Rivera, former House Vice President Edwin Mundo, former legislator Leo Diaz, and party supporter Peter Muller received the official citations Thursday at the party headquarters to appear before Superior Court Judge Isabel Linares at 9 a.m. Friday.

The citations did not specify which charges would be filed against the NPP supporters in question.

Sources, however, say those charges could include disturbance of the peace, restriction of liberty, destruction of public property, and aggravated assault.

If tried and convicted, the verdict would put an end to the political aspirations of at least two of the group, Pesquera and Mundo, as the Electoral Law establishes that no one guilty of a crime can run for an elected office.

Both leaders, however, have accepted the citation and are confident that the ruling will be in their favor, claiming the accusations are a political case fabricated by Gov. Sila Calderon.

"I have my head held up high. All they want to achieve with this is political benefit," Pesquera said.

Although rumors of possible citations against the elected officials who participated in the near riot quickly spread Thursday, the citations were not issued because that responsibility belongs to the Special Independent Prosecutor (SIP).

Those citations might be issued as soon as Friday, however, as Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez has called a press conference for 1:30 p.m. to announce a referral to the SIP.

Sources say Rodriguez will refer the actions of Sen. Miriam Ramirez de Ferrer and Reps. Jose Aponte, Jennifer Gonzalez, Jose Luis Guerra, and Iris Miriam Ruiz during the incident to the SIP.

Exactly one week ago Thursday, Pesquera and several dozen party followers marched from the Capitol to the Women’s Advocate Office in order to place an American flag alongside the Puerto Rican flag, arguing that Office Director Maria Dolores Fernos was not complying with the law by displaying only the island’s flag. The group was prevented from entering the government office.

After arguing that the melee’s attitude was violent and could put the lives of office employees at risk, Fernos declined to let anyone into the facilities.

Pesquera and the accompanying party leaders placed the flag in the office lobby, but videos and photos, as well as the testimonies of those inside the building, indicate that the group turned violent, broke the doors, and caused damage to others in order to place the flag.

Linares will rule Friday whether there is enough evidence to sustain charges.

Governor Maintains Law Applies To Everyone

June 27, 2002
Copyright ©2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – Gov. Sila Calderon called for tolerance and "profound reflection" after the San Juan District Attorney’s Office ordered New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera to answer for his participation last Thursday in the near riot that occurred in the Women’s Advocate Office.

"The law applies to everyone," said the governor, adding that she is leaving the matter in the court’s hands, when she was asked to react to the citations against Pesquera and other NPP leaders.

Calderon also said during a press conference in Santa Isabel that she regrets last week’s acts in which several people, including a policeman, were injured.

"This is a process that needs to continue its course. . .What I hope at this moment is that an incident of this nature never occurs again in Puerto Rico. It is important that we deeply reflect on the dialogue and respect despite the difference. That is the call," she said.

Last Thursday, Pesquera, along with legislators and other NPP leaders, burst into the offices of the women’s advocate with a U.S. flag.

Puerto Rico Moves Up GO Sale

By Michael McDonald

June 27, 2002
Copyright ©2002
Thomson Financial, Inc. All rights reserved.

Puerto Rico is planning to sell approximately $500 million in general obligation bonds in the next two weeks in order to fund projects in its 2003 capital budget. The sale, initially scheduled for the fall, is being moved up to the summer to exploit low interest rates in the municipal market, officials said.

"What we're trying to do is take advantage of long rates," said Jose Pagan, executive vice president in the financing department at the Government Development Bank of Puerto Rico, a commonwealth agency. "We think this is the perfect time to go out in the market."

For Puerto Rico, the sale follows Standard & Poor's decision in May to downgrade the commonwealth's GO credit to A-minus from A, affecting $10.8 billion. The rating agency said it lowered the credit as a result of the Puerto Rico's budget problems, its growing debt, and the need to resolve a $7.4 billion unfunded pension liability.

NPP Sen. Ramirez Hoists U.S. Flag At Roosevelt Avenue

June 26, 2002
Copyright ©2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - For a second year in a row, New Progressive Party (NPP) Sen. Miriam Ramirez de Ferrer–known for her hardliner ways and her views in favor of statehood for the island and the permanence of the U.S. Navy in Vieques–hoisted a U.S. flag on a lamppost in front of the Roosevelt Avenue entrance to Plaza Las Americas.

Weathering midday sun, heat, and the insults of several drivers passing by the area, Ramirez de Ferrer climbed inside a metal basket that was lifted by a crane to the top of the lamppost where the senator hoisted the flag with the help of two other people.

Ramirez de Ferrer denied that her hoisting the U.S. flag on a lamppost may cause more clashes between pro-statehood and anti-Navy demonstrators.

"The act of violence didn’t begin with my hoisting the U.S. flag, the act of violence began when they yanked it down and tore it apart," Ramirez de Ferrer told reporters Wednesday.

Last year, the NPP senator hoisted a U.S. flag on the same lamppost only for it to be torn down by unknown detractors, who she said sent pieces of the flag to her home inside a box with several threats written all over it.

On Wednesday, Ramirez de Ferrer took down the remains of the first flag that still had a few stars on it and said she would take it home and keep it with the other pieces as a memento.

"This [star] I’ll take home with me, because it was the one at the very top, and not even the independentistas could take it down," said Ramirez de Ferrer.

The area was guarded by state and municipal police officers who tried to keep the traffic flowing, despite the congestion caused by drivers who would stop to ask for one of the many souvenir U.S. flags that the senator’s supporters were giving away. Others would just stop and look up to see what was going on, while Ramirez de Ferrer’s detractors would yell insults and even call her names such as "fascist" and "pig."

Ramirez de Ferrer appeared oblivious to such remarks and instead focused on what she was doing.

The NPP senator said although she has a previous engagement, she intends to participate in the event that several pro-statehood organizations on the island will hold Friday in front of the Capitol to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the so-called war of the flags on top of Winds Hill.

Last year, anti-Navy and pro-Navy protesters clashed when pro-statehood leaders placed a U.S. flag where the Vieques municipal flag had been flying on top of the replica of the Vieques Ecumenical Chapel.

Ramirez de Ferrer, however, didn’t specify if she would climb to the top of Winds Hill or if she would obey a court ruling that only allows demonstrators to stand where the flag posts are located.

So far, pro-statehood organizations have disclosed their intentions of going there to replace the flags with new ones. They have also promised that they have no intention of causing trouble.

Still, Police Superintendent Miguel Pereira said some 200 police agents have been assigned to the area to make sure the event doesn’t get out of hand.

Senate Approves New $30 Million Pork Barrel Fund

June 26, 2002
Copyright ©2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Senate approved the creation of a new pork barrel on Monday with $30 million destined to finance the Safe House municipal program on the island.

According to published reports, the proposal states that the mayors will be the ones to tell legislators how to distribute the money, contrary to past procedure.

For the bill to reach the governor, the House of Representatives would have to concur with the Senate within the next five days.

Meanwhile, Popular Democratic Party Senate Majority Leader Jose Luis Dalmau said the new pork barrel would add to the existing barrels of $19.2 million for permanent works and $9.3 million for social efforts. The bill would not include the $15 million super barrel that belongs to the presidents of the Legislature.

Million-Dollar Celebration For Commonwealth’s Anniversary

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

June 26, 2002
Copyright ©2002 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

On the very day that a Commonwealth Comptroller report revealed possible irregular use of public funds by the special committee commemorating the 100th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Puerto Rico in 1898, Gov. Sila Calderon announced the creation of a special committee for a year-long celebration of the Commonwealth Constitution’s 50th anniversary.

Calderon signed an executive order assigning $600,000 in public funds for the committee. Less than an hour later, Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado acknowledged that the amount could change.

"The committee was assigned an original budget of $600,000. Obviously that assignment is open to change depending on the needs of the committee," Mercado said.

The amount could even double, as the order establishes that government agencies can contribute their services to the festivities.

That means the services provided by the Department of Transportation and Public Works, which could supply transportation or road signs for the activities, for example, would be paid by the agencies’ own budget and not that assigned to the committee.

Private industry will also contribute, though it is too early to say how much.

On top of that, funds from a $450,000 assignment from the island’s general budget will be used to pay for the official activity of July 25, but Mercado could not say just how much of that money will go toward that day’s events. The assignment is for both the July 4 and July 25 celebrations.

A $1.2 million expense of public funds, however, would be reasonable in Mercado’s opinion, as half of that would be from the agencies’ own budget, not a "direct allocation in question."

Meanwhile, the year-long celebration by the Special Committee for the Commonwealth’s 50th anniversary will expand beyond Puerto Rico, with additional activities to take place in U.S. cities with large Puerto Rican populations, such as New York City; Hartford, Conn.; Orlando, Fla.; among others.

Workshops on the Constitution will be established, educational spots will be promoted, and exhibits of the island’s architectural, historical, musical, sport, and art achievements will take place as part of the 50th anniversary.

The celebration, however, will not be used to promote or demand a change in the island’s status, as Calderon acknowledged that is not one of her priorities.

Although many believe she will announce the creation of the Unity and Consensus Special Committee during the upcoming Commonwealth Constitution’s 50th anniversary, that remains uncertain.

Governor Declines To Disclose Status Committee Plans

June 25, 2002
Copyright ©2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - Two years after being sworn into office, Gov. Sila Calderon has yet to comply with her campaign promise to call for a Consensus and Unity Committee regarding the island’s status.

Although it was believed that she would be announcing the formation of the committee during the upcoming Commonwealth Constitution’s 50th anniversary, it is unclear when exactly it will be convened because Calderon only says information will become available during the one-year anniversary celebration.

"Soon, I said soon," Calderon repeated when asked about the date she would be establishing the committee.

Last year, while attending a press conference in New York following the celebration of the Puerto Rican Day Parade, Calderon was asked the same question. The governor at that time said, "Status is not one of my priorities," and ended the meeting with the media.

On Tuesday, when asked if such an announcement would be made during this year’s celebration, Calderon gave a very similar answer to last year’s.

"Government has priorities. . .I work according to my priorities. Status is very important, but I have my priorities," Calderon said and then quoted the Bible’s Ecclesiastes passage that states there is a time for everything.

Fajardo Returns $1 Million In Public Funds

June 25, 2002
Copyright ©2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – Former Education Department Secretary Victor Fajardo returned $1 million to the U.S. District Attorney’s Office, just as he had agreed to do when he pleaded guilty to government corruption charges.

Fajardo and 16 others were accused of misappropriating $4.3 million in public funds for their personal gain and for that of the New Progressive Party. He complied with the agreement to restitute $2.4 million in public funds.

According to published reports, the payment was made on Friday at the U.S. District Attorney’s Office.

The accusations indicated that the former government official engaged in fraud and bribery schemes to misappropriate moneys that had been allocated for the public schools of the island.

Close to $1.4 million was found at his house when he began collaborating with the authorities in October.

Lopez Dances With Lavoe Biopic

June 25, 2002
Copyright ©2002 REUTERS. All rights reserved.

HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - Jennifer Lopez will produce and co-star in a feature based on the life of salsa legend Hector Lavoe. Marc Anthony is in discussions to star as Lavoe.

Known as salsa's bad boy, Lavoe had a crystal-clear voice and an incomparable talent for improvisation. His dramatic and difficult life included a childhood in Puerto Rico marked by poverty, a lifelong struggle with drug addiction and depression, his son's accidental shooting death and a passionate but fractious marriage. He died in 1993, aged 43.

The script for the untitled project will be written by David Maldonado, former manager of both Lavoe and Anthony. He originally acquired Lavoe's life rights from the musician's widow, Nilda Roman Perez, who will be portrayed by Lopez. Production is slated to start later this year. Sony-based Screen Gems will finance the picture.

Maldonado, who began his career as a promoter and manager, also wrote and produced the 1999 Off Broadway musical ``Quien Mato a Hector Lavoe?''Anthony and Lopez previously collaborated for the song ``No Me Ames'' on her multiplatinum album ``On the 6.'' Anthony's feature credits include ``Bringing Out the Dead'' and ``Hackers,'' while Lopez is currently in theaters with ``Enough.''

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