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House NPP Minority Leader Arrested

Supreme Court Upholds Vieques Referendum

Calderon, Legislative Heads At Odds

Vega Alta Mayor Arrested

Vivoni Responsible For Crime Increase

SEC Prepares For Referendum

Scientists Discard Vieques Vibroacoustic Theory

House NPP Minority Leader Arrested

October 26, 2001
Copyright © 2001 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - House New Progressive Party (NPP) Minority Leader Edison Misla Aldarondo was arrested early Friday at his home, his sister Rev. Migdalia Misla confirmed.

"We are praying to the Lord," said Misla Aldarondo's sister, who added that no one was told where he would be taken nor was anyone allowed to say goodbye to him.

A federal grand jury has been investigating Misla Aldarondo's possible intervention in the selling of the Arecibo Regional Hospital.

Four of Misla Aldarondo's employees, as well as two of his sons and Rep. Jose Luis Lopez, a former aide to the minority leader, have been questioned by the grand jury in relation to the selling of the hospital.

Misla Aldarondo has rejected the allegations made by Health Department Arecibo Regional Director Julio Rodriguez Gomez in the sense that he had received $90,000 for peddling influences in the selling of the hospital.

Misla Aldarondo admitted he had intervened in the selling as any other person would intervene to open the doors to someone who needed help in getting government officials to listen to his proposal.

NPP President Carlos Pesquera is scheduled to meet with the members of the NPP House delegation to discuss the situation, according to NPP Rep. Oscar Ramos.

Ramos said Rep. Anibal Vega Borges is his candidate to replace Misla Aldarondo as NPP minority leader.

Supreme Court Keeps Federal Referendum Alive

October 25, 2001
Copyright © 2001 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - The Supreme Court kept the Vieques federal referendum alive by declaring Thursday that the petition of a group of fishermen that want to eliminate the referendum "has no place."

The decision was handed down after a motion filed Friday by the lawyers of fisherman Carlos Zenon and another seven Viequenses, and asked for the State Elections Commission (SEC) be ordered to stop preparations.

Zenon's lawyers had filed a charge that the SEC had not followed the requirements by law for the use of the Commonwealth's public funds on the federal consultation.

The Supreme Court had decided last week that the preparations for the referendum should continue as the constitutionality question is decided.

Meanwhile, several anti-U.S. Navy groups officially announced Thursday their participation in the Nov. 6 federal referendum, and made a call to their neighbors to vote that day for the exit of the Navy in 2003.

The announcement was made by the Pro Vieques Rescue and Development Committee, the Vieques Women Alliance, the Vieques United Youth, and the Milivi Camp, as well as the Viequenses for Peace Coalition, which gathers various groups.

"We are informing people that despite all the faults the process has, we are going to vote that day for option No. 1," said retired teacher Ismael Guadalupe of the Pro Vieques Rescue and Development Committee.

Calderon And Legislative Heads Continue At Odds

by Proviana Colon Diaz

October 25, 2001
Copyright © 2001 PRWOW News Service. All rights reserved.

Differences between the government's legislative and executive branches continued Thursday when both the House speaker and Senate president remained firm on their position to file legislation to acquire shares of the Puerto Rico Telephone Co. (PRTC) in order to gain control of the company despite Gov. Sila Calderon's opposition to the bill.

House Speaker Carlos Vizcarrondo also said he will give course to the investigation on having the government become the sole insurance provider and sub-contract private health insurance providers as a way of solving the health reform fiscal crisis.

Calderon also flatly ruled out that possibility Wednesday, saying that "in theory, the idea was a good one," but it stands no chance of prevailing at the moment.

However, Vizcarrondo disagreed, arguing that the investigation is a good idea that will follow its due process in the Legislature and before the House Health Committee.

Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora said he will go ahead with his legislation to have the government buy at least 8% of the PRTC shares to regain control over the company.

But Calderon ruled out such possibility as the contract with the Verizon company establishes the additional sale of 15% of the government-owned shares.

According to the governor, the contract is binding to both parties, and making a financial transaction that could affect the contract could have direct effects on the island's economy and the evaluation of the government-owned bonds.

Vega Alta Mayor Arrested

October 24, 2001
Copyright © 2001 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

VEGA ALTA, Puerto Rico (AP) -- FBI agents arrested the mayor of a San Juan suburb Wednesday on charges that included embezzlement and witness tampering.

Juan Laureano Cruzado, of the governing Popular Democratic party, is the first elected official in the party to be accused of corruption since Gov. Sila Calderon took office on the U.S. territory earlier this year.

Cruzado, mayor of north-coast Vega Alta, is charged with embezzling or extorting approximately $28,945 between March and October 2001, according to Marlene Hunter, FBI special agent-in-charge for Puerto Rico, where all cities receive funds from Washington.

An 11-count indictment accuses Cruzado of money laundering, extortion, embezzling funds from a federally funded organization and witness tampering.

The indictment says Cruzado sought to influence witness testimony in a Federal Grand Jury investigation launched against his administration in August, Hunter said. He also is accused of carrying out financial transactions with the stolen funds, she said.

The investigation was launched after authorities received information of irregularities in a recent trip taken by many Vega Alta city officials, including Cruzado, to attend the Puerto Rican Day Parade last June in New York, said Guillermo Gil, U.S. Attorney for Puerto Rico.

Police Superintendent Held Responsible For Crime Increase

October 24, 2001
Copyright © 2001 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - New Progressive Party Reps. Albita Rivera and Melinda Romero are holding Police Superintendent Pierre Vivoni accountable for the registered increase in crime during the last few days.

"The superintendent does not have the organizational skills nor the adequate technical knowledge to issue effective instructions to the supervised," Rivera said in a Wednesday press conference.

They also agreed that the increase of 60 murders over those registered for this date in 2000 is evidence of the central government's lack of an integral plan to effectively fight against crime.

She described as irresponsible the attempt to lay the blame of the crime increase on the alleged shortage of drugs because of the war in Afghanistan and not on the reality that "the Calderon administration has not presented a concrete proposal to fight against the crime increase," because that increase started before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

SEC Prepares For Vieques Referendum

October 24, 2001
Copyright © 2001 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - State Elections Commission (SEC) personnel will travel Thursday to Vieques to establish the infrastructure needed to hold the federal referendum on Nov. 6, according to SEC Press Official Enrique Alvarado.

Alvarado said the first group to travel to the island municipality will be from his office, which will initiate the educational campaign.

As part of the campaign, TVs will be placed in the airport, the port, the hospital, and the post office. An orientation video explaining the voting process and presenting a ballot sample will be continuously showed.

Alvarado also indicated that a group of people will go house to house in all of the municipality's communities to deliver information brochures about the referendum, as well as ballot samples.

Scientists Discard Government's Vieques Vibroacoustic Theory

by Proviana Colon Diaz

October 23, 2001
Copyright © 2001 PRWOW News Service. All rights reserved.

An international panel of scientists concluded Tuesday that there is "no clinically relevant difference" in the heart pericardial thickness of the fishermen from Vieques and Ponce, thus contradicting the Ponce Medical School study that the government said proved the residents of the island municipality could be suffering from vibroacoustic disease.

The Commonwealth government and the medical school argued that such abnormalities in the pericardial thickness of the hearts of Vieques fishermen could be symptoms of the vibroacoustic disease, which in itself could be caused by the noise and vibration in the waters of the island municipality as result of U.S. Navy military practices.

After evaluating the results of the medical school study and the Mayo Clinic study that conducted an echocardiography test on 54 fishermen of Vieques and 42 from Ponce, an eight-member international panel found no difference between the two.

"The principal conclusion of the panel is that neither the Ponce nor Mayo readings contained information indicating a cardiac health problem in the fishermen from either location," states the executive summary published by the international panel.

Although Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez said the Ponce study is not part of the civil lawsuit being carried out by the Commonwealth against the Navy in a Washington D.C. federal district court, the findings were indeed used to sustain, draft, and approve the Noise Mediation Law, which was approved by the current Legislature as part of the government's attempt to halt military practices in Vieques.

Despite the international panel findings, both Gov. Sila Calderon and Ponce Medical School doctors defended the original study and do not rule out the possibility of carrying out additional studies as also suggested by the panel.

The idea of carrying out further studies on the matter, however, is yet to be decided by Calderon, who said she will follow the advice of Health Secretary Johnny Rullan on the issue.

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