Serrano: Give Island Real Status Options
Information Sought On BBVA Money Laundering Case
Acevedo Vila: NPP Should Participate In Status Committee
NY Democrats Criticize Calderons U.S. Registration Campaign
Muñoz Riveras Legacy Continues
Women's Advocate Funds Frozen
Pesquera Hails Decision Not To Appeal Flag Cases
Eli Lilly Breaks Ground For New Plant
Serrano Asks Congress To Give Island Real Status Options
July 16, 2002
WASHINGTON (AP) Puerto Rican Congressman Jose Serrano (D-NY) asked his colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives to give Puerto Rico "real options" regarding their political relationship with the United States in order to put an end to the territorys colonial status.
Serranos expressions stirred a debate, which prompted a postponement of the vote on a routine congratulatory resolution to Puerto Rico on the 50th anniversary of its Constitution.
"Instead of celebrating this anniversary, we should let the more than four million Puerto Ricans who are American citizens decide their own destiny," said Serrano.
Serrano said Congress is unable to acknowledge this anniversary because to do so would be the equivalent of celebrating the "colonial status" of Puerto Rico.
"Many here believe that this resolution is a worthy reaffirmation and celebration of the good relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico," stated the congressman. "But the real issue is status. It is clear that today Puerto Rico still has a colonial relationship with the United States and that has to end. Colonialism is not a cause for celebration."
US Seeks Information On BBVA Puerto Rico Money Laundering Case
July 15, 2002
MADRID (AFX) - The US Justice Department has asked Spain's Supreme Court Judge Baltazar Garzon to provide information on allegations of money laundering involving Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA's Puerto Rican unit, judicial sources said.
They said the US authorities are calling on Garzon to supply documentation, including the testimony made to the Spanish judge by former BBVA co-chairman Emilio Ybarra and chief executive Pedro Luis Uriarte.
The Justice Department in Puerto Rico is investigating whether BBVA Puerto Rico broke "US criminal laws related to the laundering of money from drug traffic."
BBVA Puerto Rico is alleged to have helped Colombian drug smuggler Marco Aurelia Royo Anaya launder money, using accounts in tax-havens such as the Cayman Islands, through the unit itself and its private banking arm, the sources said.
Acevedo Vila Insists NPP Should Participate In Status Committee
July 15, 2002
BARRANQUITAS (AP) Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila insisted that pro-statehood leaders of the New Progressive Party (NPP) should participate in the Puerto Rico Unity and Consensus Committee that Gov. Sila Calderon has proposed to deal with the status issue of the island.
Acevedo Vila made his statement during his speech at the commemorative event to mark the 143rd birthday of late Puerto Rican political leader Luis Muñoz Rivera in Barranquitas, Monday.
"Those who reject this patriotic invitation are relinquishing their responsibility as leaders," said the resident commissioner, who also deemed it ironic that a party such as the NPP, which was founded because of an ideological demand, now refuses to participate in a group to discuss the status issue.
Acevedo Vila referred to NPP President Carlos Pesquera, who queried the governors intentions in creating the committee.
According to Pesquera, who refuses to become a member of the status committee, Gov. Sila Calderon tries to distract public attention from the alleged irregularities found during her political campaign in 2000, by creating such a committee.
NY Democrats Criticize Calderon
July 15, 2002
SAN JUAN (AP) The Puerto Rican Democratic leadership of New York expressed their concern over the launch of an advertising campaign by the administration of Gov. Sila Calderon for the registration of Puerto Rican voters in the United States at a cost to the public treasury of more than $200,000.
According to published reports, Puerto Rican Democratic congressional officials José Serrano and Nydia Velázquez, President of the Bronx Democratic Party Roberto Ramirez and State Representative José Rivera, warned the governor that they will not attend the press conference she is holding today to announce the campaign.
The leaders continued that the ad campaign would benefit republican candidates each time Calderon is linked to the governor of New York reelection candidacy of Republican George Pataki.
"I warned her that if she were to be involved in this activity, the situation would be problematic for some of us", said Serrano.
The registration campaign is being produced two months prior to the Puerto Rican New York September primaries and four months prior to the state and legislative elections in the United States.
U.S. Puerto Rican Registration Campaign Begins
July 16, 2002
Govs. Sila Calderon and George Pataki
NEW YORK (AP) - Gov. Sila Calderon began a three-year, $6 million voter registration drive on Monday, saying Puerto Ricans must "make our voices stronger" in mainland U.S. politics.
The goal is to register Puerto Ricans living in New York, where she said only 40% of eligible Puerto Rican residents vote, compared to 80% in the Commonwealth.
"Today, more than ever, issues of great concern to Puerto Ricans are decided not only in San Juan but in Washington," she said in a speech. "By registering and voting, regardless of party, the Puerto Rican community in New York and throughout the U.S. can play a large role in communicating our views and making sure our voices are heard."
Some 3.4 million people of Puerto Rican descent live in the continental United States. Among the 1.7 million of voting age, 642,000 are not registered, said Calderon, whose Popular Democratic Party is not affiliated with either Democrats or Republicans.
"We must improve this record and make our voices stronger in matters of public policy that affect us all," she said.
The "Que Nada Nos Detenga" (Let Nothing Stop Us) campaign, coordinated with the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRAFAA), aims to register 300,000 new voters before the November 2004 election. The campaign is to include various events and advertising, the island's government said.
In a weekend interview with The Associated Press, Calderon said she could not explain why "when Puerto Ricans come to live here, the participation rate drops to 40%" - half the rate at home.
Researchers will study that phenomenon as part of the voter registration campaign.
The voter registration campaign comes at a time when both Democrats and Republicans in the United States increasingly view Hispanics as a crucial voting bloc. Both parties have worked to court the Hispanic vote in elections.
The increased attention has led some Hispanic leaders, such as Marcelo Gaete, senior director of programming for the National Association of Latino Elected Officials, to label Hispanics the new swing vote.
The association and the Hispanic Federation of New York are both working with Calderon on the voter registration campaign, which coincides with the 50th anniversary of Puerto Rico's status as a "Free Associated State" on July 25.
Muñoz Riveras Legacy Continues To Be Present
July 15, 2002
SAN JUAN (AP) The right for self-government, autonomy without restrictions, the right to vote, freedom of the press and creed were among Luis Muñoz Riveras ambitions, since the times of Spanish sovereignty.
Under U.S. sovereignty, Muñoz Rivera pretended that similar principles to those established by the U.S. Declaration of Independence be extended to island residents, but died without the opportunity of seeing his ambitions come true.
Muñoz Rivera was a commendable journalist, who practiced his profession with a great commitment to his principles of freedom well aware of the consequences, consequences, that led him to suffer persecution, and to be imprisoned during the final days of Spanish sovereignty.
Muñoz Riveras ambitions for autonomy suffered another setback with the U.S. invasion in 1898 and its military government. The first years were of frustration because of the U.S. refusal to grant concessions similar to those achieved under the Spanish government.
U.S. Government Freezes Funds For Women's Advocate Office
July 14, 2002
SAN JUAN (AP) - At least $2 million in federal funds destined to the Women's Advocate Office were frozen last year because the prior administration failed to file the office's financial reports from 1995 to 2000.
According to Women's Advocate Maria Dolores Fernos, the former directors failed to file those reports, thus causing the elimination of the funds.
Fernos added that she has filed the financial reports since she took office in April 2001. She also said all reports regarding her administration are up-to-date, which she believes eliminates the possibility of losing more federal funds, contrary to what a group of pro-statehood followers had denounced.
New Progressive Party leaders such as Rep. Albita Rivera have claimed that Fernos' separatist attitude has endangered the federal funds that the office receives.
The public official, who has openly supported Puerto Rico's independence from the U.S., has been criticized for ignoring Gov. Sila Calderon's order to hoist the U.S. flag at the agency's lobby.
Her action upset pro-statehood leaders who went there to hoist the U.S. flag and became involved in a riot.
"We have no fear that the funds may be in danger. We are doing everything we can to have those previous funds available again," said Fernos.
Each year, the island receives $1.9 million that come from the Violence Against Women Act.
"Puerto Rico has the right to receive those funds and they cannot take them away unless we don't comply with the requirements, and that's why we are at ease," Fernos said.
Pesquera Describes Justice Decision As A Great Victory
July 13, 2002
New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera described as a great victory the Justice Departments decision to not appeal the cases in which no cause was found against NPP leaders regarding the events that took place at the Womens Advocate Office and warned that Gov. Sila Calderon will have a lot of explaining to do regarding these accusations.
"This is a great victory, even when Calderon used all the governments repressive forces to try to fabricate a case - harassing witnesses, altering evidence, and pressuring the media, among a lot of other irregularities," Pesquera said.
The NPP president affirmed that he has always been at ease and confident that the truth would prevail. Pesquera also accused Calderon of using her power for her own benefit.
"Those who should be concerned are the ones who have committed the crime of using the law for their personal and political gain, above the law and justice. Calderon has a lot to explain to the Puerto Rican people," Pesquera said.
The NPP president and three other NPP leaders still face charges for inciting a riot, which constitutes a crime and has a maximum jail sentence of five years.
Justice Will Not Appeal NPP Leaders Cases
July 12, 2002
Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez announced Friday that the San Juan Prosecutors Office will not appeal the no cause decision taken by a judge of the San Juan Investigations Division on the charges presented against New Progressive Party (NPP) leaders for the incidents that took place at the Womens Advocate Office on June 20.
Rodriguez said the prosecutors office was unable to file the appeal, since several key witnesses to support the charges presented changed the version given under oath and gathered in a sworn statement.
The secretary said the decision to not appeal was reached after a detailed analysis of the evidence gathered by the prosecutors office, as well as the testimonies presented by several witnesses during the hearing to establish cause, held June 28 before Judge Elizabeth Linares.
"The testimonies presented by the witnesses were not the original versions presented before the prosecutors," the Justice secretary said.
Linares determined that there was no probable cause for the arrest of Carlos Pesquera for two aggression charges and for one charge of damage to property; nor did she find cause for the arrest of former Rep. Edwin Mundo for charges of restriction of liberty and one of aggression, as well as a charge of riot against Peter Muller.
Regarding the charges of riot pending against four NPP leaders, Rodriguez said she was confident that the prosecution will be able to prevail in court.
The charges are related to the incident that took place June 20 at the Womens Advocate Office when a group of NPP leaders and supporters entered the government office to place a U.S. flag in face of the Womens Advocate Office Directors decision to only hoist the Puerto Rican flag.
Eli Lilly Breaks Ground for New Plant
July 12, 2002
CAROLINA, Puerto Rico (AP) -- Eli Lilly and Co. broke ground Thursday for a $450 million manufacturing plant, the Indiana-based drug maker's fourth Puerto Rican facility.
About 450 people will work at the new plant, including biochemists, microbiologists and support staff.
The workers will produce Humalog, used in the treatment of diabetes.
Puerto Rico's Gov. Sila Calderon also said the construction would create 900 jobs until the 300,000-square-foot plant becomes fully operational by late 2004.
Calderon said the expansion was the result of several strategies to lure investment. They include a new law that allows high-tech companies expanding or setting up shop in the U.S. territory to pay little or no taxes for the first five years of operation, with a chance to extend the exemption five more years.
Other firms like Johnson & Johnson, Amgen y Abbott have also expanded operation under the new law, the governor's office said Thursday.
Lilly's Puerto Rican operations already include about 1,100 workers at three plants in Carolina and Mayaguez, and 220 workers at sales and marketing offices in San Juan. Lilly's first plant on the island opened in 1965.
Lilly employs more than 41,000 people worldwide, spokesman Edward Sagebiel said.