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House Members Seek Renewed Bush Pledge, Higher U.S. Medicare Allocation & $85M For Channel Dredging Proposed, The SJ Expos?, Navy Refuses To Commit To Cessation Of Maneuvers, NPP House Delegation Asks Pereira To Resign, Pesquera: Gov’t Worse Than NPP

Congress Members Renew Commitment To Vieques Cause

September 26 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — The three Puerto Rican members of Congress agreed with the Coordinadora Todo Puerto Rico con Vieques to increase their pressure at the White House so that the U.S. Navy’s exit from Vieques on or before May 2003 is confirmed.

Jose Serrano, Nydia Velazquez, and Luis Gutierrez, as well as Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila, determined to make a new call to President George W. Bush to approve an executive order that reiterates the order to cease training in Vieques.

According to published reports, the pressure will be through a new letter, in which they will insist on speaking with Bush and remind him of the letter sent by Gov. Sila Calderon.

In related matters, Democrat New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said "a commitment exists" with the Viequenses for the Navy to cease practices before May 2003 and that Bush has to honor it.

According to published reports, the former first lady said in the U.S. Capitol that she will "take the president’s word," and that this is a test of "how much his word is worth."

"He [Bush] said the Navy will be out by May 2003. I am under the impression that that is a commitment we are waiting to see fulfilled, and we will be very attentive to this situation," she said.

However, she declined to commit herself to asking Bush or the White House to put that commitment in writing through an executive order

U.S. Senate Approves Increase In Medicare Funds For Island

September 26 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — The U.S. Senate approved Thursday a group of bills that includes dispositions to increase Medicare in Puerto Rico in the proportion of 75% in federal funds and the remaining 25% in local funds.

The current formula is 50/50, and the increase will have the effect of an additional approximate contribution of $25 million, said the Puerto Rico Hospitals Association, whose directors lobbied in favor of the bill these last few weeks in Washington.

The bill will now go to conference, since the U.S. House of Representatives had approved a bill on this issue that provided much less, the association said in Washington, where its directors continue to lobby.

The Puerto Rico Hospitals Association’s efforts were led by Roberto Rentas, incoming President Jose Torres, and former President Dr. Richard Machado.

The organization highlighted the work of Democrat Sens. Edward Kennedy, Tom Harkins, and Robert Torricelli.

U.S. Funds For Martin Peña Channel Dredging Approved

September 25 2002
Copyright © 2002 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

The Infrastructure and Transportation congressional committee approved the inclusion of the dredging of the Martin Peña channel in the federal legislation for water projects throughout the U.S., which implies an injection of $130 million into the island economy and a projection of 2,600 new jobs, the Resident Commissioner Office informed.

According to the press release the legislation proposes an $85 million allocation in federal funds and that the remaining $45 million be allocated by the local government.

It also authorizes the U.S. Corps of Engineers to perform an initial study of the project.

"This approval represents a great victory for the Puerto Rican people. It is a great achievement only a year after presenting the project to Congress," said Acevedo Vila in the press release.

He said Republican Congressman Don Young, who presides over the committee, backed up the project and affirmed that the committee’s approval guarantees approval from the House before the current session ends.

The San Juan Expos?

September 25 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

ATLANTA (AP) -- An Atlanta businessman is leading a group of investors that are interested in purchasing the Montreal Expos and moving the team to San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 2004.

The future of the Expos, currently owned by Major League Baseball, is uncertain. There has been speculation that the team will be sold and moved within two years.

Charles Vaughn, a 33-year-old tax and finance executive, said he has been working for 10 months to put together a group to buy the club. It would play in Hiram Bithorn Stadium, which is scheduled to be renovated.

Vaughn sent a letter to commissioner Bud Selig last week saying his group would apply to buy the Expos.

Baseball spokesman Rich Levin acknowledged receiving the letter and said it is being evaluated along with similar letters of interest in the Expos.

Levin said it is too early to comment on the prospects of a team in Puerto Rico.

``At this point it would be very speculative,'' Levin said.

Vaughn said he also has talked with government officials in San Juan about the stadium, which would require a major renovation, include doubling its current seating capacity of 20,000.

There is a rich baseball history in Puerto Rico, whose native sons include Hall of Famers Roberto Clemente and Orlando Cepeda and current stars Ivan Rodriguez, Bernie Williams and Carlos Delgado.

Baseball's Opening Day 2001 took place in San Juan when the Toronto Blue Jays played the Texas Rangers at Hiram Bithorn. That game drew fans who paid up to $75 a ticket.

U.S. Navy Deputy Secretary Refuses To Commit To Cessation Of Maneuvers

September 25 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – U.S. Navy Deputy Secretary H.T. Johnson announced the Navy is not obliged to cease its exercises in Vieques by May 2003, because it must wait to comply with the statutory requirements under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2002.

According to the military official, until then, he would not recommend that the President issue an executive order declaring the removal of the military corps from Vieques, according to a letter sent to Democrat Congressman from California, Bob Filner, published in a local newspaper.

"As you may know, recent statutory requirements impose certain conditions before closing the Vieques target range, particularly, under the NDAA of 2002. Until an equal or superior facility is found, we understand that it is not appropriate to advise the President to sign an executive order committing to the immediate cessation of the exercises in Vieques," reads the letter.

The NDAA is the legislation approved by Congress and signed by President Bush canceling the date of May 2003 as the one established for the Navy removal from Vieques and starting the current of removing the Navy from the island.

Under this process, the Navy Secretary Gordon England, the Chief of Naval Operations Vernon Clark and the Infantry Com. James Jones, have to certify an adequate and available alternative and send the certification to the White House to be supported.

NPP House Delegation Asks Pereira To Resign

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – For the third consecutive week members of the New Progressive Party (NPP) delegation at the House of Representatives asked for Police Superintendent Miguel Pereira’s resignation because of the alleged failure of the anticrime plan.

This time the NPP legislators based their request on a recently published poll that reveals the island residents’ main concerns in which crime occupied the first place.

Anibal Vega Borges repeated that the plan to fight crime is not working and the governor should declare the police to be in a state of emergency and search for a new superintendent, or order Pereira to appear before the Legislature to explain why there have been no results from the plan.

Pereira has said the plan’s priority is prevention and crime solving.

Vega Borges insisted that during tomorrow’s session of the House of Representatives, the House should approve a resolution to have Pereira appear before the assembly.

The resolution was filed by Iris Miriam Ruiz requesting Pereira to present a report before the House about the current situation.

Pesquera: Calderon Administration Doing Worse Than NPP

September 24, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera accused the administration of Gov. Sila Calderon of emulating that which it had criticized of the past NPP administration by granting multimillion-dollar contracts to advertising agencies, as well as to law and accounting firms owned by people who either helped run the electoral campaign of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) in 2000 or are PDP members.

"They said they would be a government for all and that they wouldn’t favor anyone. They also said they wouldn’t engage in excessive advertising spending. However the evidence shows the opposite," he said.

Pesquera said that since Jan. 2001, the Calderon administration has signed 240 contracts with 11 of such agencies and firms at a cost of more than $71 million.

The advertising agencies are LIH Group Inc.[former Lopito Ileana &Howie], Arteaga, Arteaga Advertising, KPMG, LLP, Milestone Communications, Inc., and Flora Communications. The law firms are McConnell Valdes, Reichard & Escalera, and Pedro Ortiz Alvarez Law Office.

Other contractors are accounting firm Vila del Corral & Company--which was one of Calderon’s fundraisers and whose president co-chaired the current administration’s transition team—and Hector Rivera Cruz, former Justice secretary of the PDP of Gov. Rafael Hernandez Colon. Pesquera also announced the contract numbers and urged the press to verify them at the Comptroller’s Office.

Although admitting that what the Calderon administration has done isn’t illegal, he said it was morally wrong, since they have been such vocal critics of the practice. Thus, he urged the administration to file a bill to prohibit incoming governments from granting contracts to those who helped them get elected.

Pesquera stated that the PDP still owes millions of dollars to these companies for campaign expenses. He said granting contracts without a bidding process suggests that the Calderon administration is taking advantage of its position to pay for the PDP campaign with public funds.

"It is time that these contracts are made public so that the people can be aware [of what’s going on], reject it, and demand an explanation," Pesquera said.

The NPP president also lambasted the government for burdening island residents with higher excise taxes on cigarettes, alcohol, and sport utility vehicles while the governor spends millions of dollars in public relations campaigns.

"The quality of life of Puerto Ricans have not improved. Millions of them don’t have the resources to support their families. The people are desperate because they know this administration doesn’t have the capacity to solve their problems," said Pesquera.

He noted that the unemployment rate has climbed to 13.1% in August 2002 compared to 12.6% in August 2001, and 9.8% in August 2000.

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