Nationalists Mark Birth Of Flag… Cotto Remains Undefeated… The Jewish Caribbean… What's In A Name?… Nat’l Guard To Mobilize More Soldiers… Bond Issue Justified… Guaynabo To Impose City Tax… De Castro Appeals… Fortuño Supports Bicameral Legislature… PIP Pleased With Elimination Of Constitutional Assembly… Major Step For Tego… S&P: PREPA Outlook Negative

Nationalists Mark Birth Of Puerto Rican Flag

June 12, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — The Nationalist Party and the organization known as Los Amigos de la Bandera held a ceremony Saturday to mark the anniversary of the Puerto Rican flag and to celebrate the birthday of Antonio Velez Alvarado, the man who helped design it.

"On this day we not only commemorate the birth of the flag, but the memory of Don Antonio, whose birthday is (today) Sunday," historian Ovidio Davila said.

According to Davila, Velez Alvarado designed the Puerto Rican flag June 11, 1892 in New York, where a group of revolutionaries were helping start the Cuban Independence War.

"On June 11, he came up with the idea of inverting the colors of the Cuban flag so that Puerto Ricans could also have a flag of their own, therefore joining each country’s fight for independence," EFE said.

Velez Alvarado was born June 12, 1864 and died Jan. 16, 1948.

Cotto Remains Undefeated After Win In N.Y.

June 12, 2005
Copyright © 2005
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

NEW YORK (AP) -- Miguel Cotto remained the undefeated WBO super lightweight champion Saturday night when his scheduled 12-round fight with Muhammad Abdullaev was stopped 57 seconds into the ninth round because the challenger's right eye was completely shut.

The win at Madison Square Garden improved Cotto, of Puerto Rico, to 24-0 with 20 knockouts and avenged his loss to Abdullaev in the 2000 Olympics.

Abdullaev, ranked No. 5 by the WBO, lost for only the second time in 17 fights. He signaled for referee John Callas to stop the fight.

''He took a hard right to the eye in the sixth round,'' said Fritz Sdunek, the head trainer of the 31-year-old native of Uzbekistan. ''That's when the trouble started and even though we kept applying ice, it kept getting worse.''

Cotto was leading on all the cards, 79-73 on two, 78-74 on the other.

Both fighters weighed 138 3/4 pounds.

Abdullaev beat Cotto in the opening round of the 2000 Olympics and went on to win the gold medal.

''He still had the same style from when I fought him in the Olympics,'' said Cotto, who was making his third title defense. ''He was strong and came forward through the fight just as he did in the Olympics, but tonight I worked him well. He's a great athlete, but he was hurt and he knew his body couldn't go on any longer.''

A Travel Guide To The Jewish Caribbean And South America


June 12, 2005
Copyright © 2005 MIAMI HERALD. All rights reserved. 

A Travel Guide to the Jewish Caribbean and South America by Ben G. Frank (Pelican Publishing Company, $25) includes information and tips on Jewish sites from Buenos Aires to Mexico City. There's the oldest surviving synagogue in the Western Hemisphere, Mikve Israel in Curacao; the largest Jewish community in the Caribbean, in Puerto Rico; the three synagogues in Havana, Cuba; the Israeli cafe in Cuzco, Peru, near the historic Inca site, Machu Picchu; and more. In bookstores.

What's In A Name? For Local Banks, A Lot

Banks in South Florida are changing their names and looks as mergers and acquisitions consolidate and materialize.


June 11, 2005
Copyright © 2005 MIAMI HERALD. All rights reserved. 

Changing names is the name of the game in South Florida banking this week.

[T]he Banco Popular moniker is taking the place of Kislak National Bank, the Miami Lakes institution it purchased earlier this year for $158 million.

In addition, the SouthTrust name is coming down and being replaced by Wachovia. The North Carolina-based bank purchased SouthTrust, based in Birmingham, Ala., last November in a deal valued at more than $13 billion.

Banco Popular, based in Puerto Rico, and a unit of the Popular financial organization, sees the Kislak acquisition as part of its full-fledged foray into deposit-rich Florida.

Although South Florida has a large Hispanic population, Banco Popular North America President Roberto Herencia said his institution doesn't intend to be a niche player.

''Our strategy is to position ourselves as a community bank,'' he said. ``In fact, over 50 percent of our customers aren't Hispanic.''

Although based in Puerto Rico, Banco Popular has extensive operations on the mainland. Its North American headquarters is in Chicago, and it has divisions based in New York, Southern California, Houston and Central Florida.

The bank has long had a sizable presence in the Orlando area, where there is a substantial Puerto Rican population. It has nine branches in the region. The Kislak acquisition means Florida will now rank second in the number of Banco Popular branches, after New York.

However, Herencia sees the Kislak offices as a platform for growth in South Florida, which will be the organization's sixth region.

''In South Florida, we're talking 40 branches instead of nine,'' he said, referring to growth plans. ``At that size you're offering more convenience, services and you can advertise it a bit more.''

Popular also operates a chain of check-cashing stores in South Florida, Popular Cash Express.

National Guard To Mobilize More Soldiers

By Femmy Irizarry Alvarez

June 10, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN — Puerto Rico National Guard Adjutant General Francisco Marquez on Saturday confirmed that in the next few days the aviation unit will be mobilized to participate in the military conflict in Iraq.

"They keep calling more units. They have asked for an aviation unit that will be mobilized in a week or so. They also want a military police unit and an engineering unit," Marquez said while participating in the inauguration of a housing building for women at Camp Santiago in Salinas.

"The aviation unit is a small group of about 20 soldiers who are mostly mechanics. The military police unit has 125 soldiers and the engineering unit has 500," Marquez stated.

Once a unit has been alerted, soldiers are mobilized to Camp Santiago, where they go through a series of trainings before moving to another military base on the mainland. Then they go to Iraq.

The military police and engineering units are expected to be mobilized by the end of next year, Marquez said.

On another note, the Adjutant General said he was satisfied with the inauguration of the new housing building for female soldiers. The building has been named after Aleina Ramirez Gonzalez, the specialist who died in Iraq on April 15.

Marquez said there are 698 female soldiers in the Puerto Rico National Guard. He also said the National Guard has 7,500 Puerto Rican members of which 400 have been mobilized to Iraq.

Lockwood Justifies Bond Issue

June 10, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Government Development Bank (GDB) President William Lockwood justified the proposal for a new bond issue to help make up for the long-standing deficit at the Government Retirement Systems.

The $2 billion bond issue has been proposed in an administration bill that Lockwood justified before the House Treasury Committee on Friday.

The bill proposes to increase the government employers contribution from 9% to 10% and the employees contribution from 8% to 10%.

"As of June 30, 2003, the system’s active balance was $1.9 billion and had incurred $11 billion in future obligations. The cash flow revealed an estimated deficit of $50 million per year, because financial obligations surpassed the system’s income," Lockwood said in a prepared statement.

He also said the situation forces the system to liquidate actives in order to tackle the immediate need of cash flow to meet its current obligations.

Guaynabo Mayor To Also Impose City Tax

June 10, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Guaynabo Mayor Hector O’Neill has announced that he too has proposed the imposition of a city tax similar to that which Caguas Mayor William Miranda Marin has been meaning to implement.

O’Neill said the bill, which he filed three months ago, is likely to be considered in the next legislative session of the Guaynabo municipal assembly.

"They will evaluate the bill, but we have to do this," O’Neil said.

He also said municipal governments can no longer wait for the Legislature or the government to create a revenue system that can help improve their economy.

De Castro Appeals NPP’s Decision

June 10, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Senate Rules & Calendar Committee Chairman Jorge de Castro Font on Friday appealed the New Progressive Party’s (NPP) decision to oust him from the party.

De Castro Font sent a letter to NPP President and Sen. Pedro Rossello stating his objections.

He said he believes the general assembly to ratify the party’s decision violates party rules.

De Castro added that it is the directorate’s job to see his appeal.

On Tuesday, NPP Secretary General Thomas Rivera Schatz said De Castro Font was no longer welcomed at the party and had been relieved of all his leadership positions within that political organization.

De Castro Font was found in violation of the party’s Article 8, among others, for disobeying orders and defying the party’s authority in a disrespectful manner.

Fortuño Supports Bicameral Legislature

June 10, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Resident Commissioner Luis Fortuño announced Friday that he would vote in favor of the permanence of the current bicameral legislature of Puerto Rico.

The referendum on whether the bicameral system should be changed to a unicameral legislature has been slated for July 10.

Fortuño noted that, if given the option, he would vote for "non of the above."

In his opinion, the House of Laws should undergo a reform to reduce the number of legislators and minimize expenditures.

"I’m not satisfied with the way the Legislature has been working. I believe we should cut expenditures and have one session instead of two sessions per year. This can be done without eliminating a chamber," the New Progressive Party leader said.

Fortuño added that these changes would translate into less spending and a greater knowledge of what the people’s need are.

PIP Pleased With Elimination Of Constitutional Assembly

June 10, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Three groups of independentistas on Friday said they were pleased with the fact that the Cuban delegation, which attended the United Nations Decolonization Committee hearings, had excluded the constitutional assembly from a resolution that proposes the Decolonization of Puerto Rico.

Leaders of the Puerto Rico Independence Party (PIP), the Puerto Rico Nationalist Party, and the Socialist Front said the exclusion of that mechanism to solve the political status of the island, was the result of their lobbying efforts.

Rosa Meneses Albizu, of the Nationalist Party, said her organization had been against this mechanism since its proposal several years ago.

She said the mechanism doesn’t present a real alternative for Decolonization.

PIP Executive President Fernando Martin said the mechanism proposed by the Popular Democratic Party doesn’t seek a legitimate end. Martin said he believes it is only an attempt to deceive the international opinion on the matter and ratify the island’s colonial status.

Major Step For Tego Calderón


June 10, 2005
Copyright © 2005 MIAMI HERALD. All rights reserved. 

Latin hip-hop, already hot, just got hotter: Puerto Rican star Tego Calderón has signed a deal with Atlantic Records, the company announced Thursday. The worldwide multiyear deal is with Calderón's label, Jiggiri Records, and is the first major-label deal for a reggaetón star.

Calderón was born and raised in Puerto Rico but lived with his family in Miami for a few years and went to Miami Beach High School. It was here that he began listening to rap. His 2002 debut El Abayarde introduced the fusion of salsa, dancehall and hip-hop known as reggaetón. His music is frequently socially motivated.

''I think a lot of the problems in society come from this false happiness that people believe comes with money,'' he told The Herald in 2003. ``So with my music I try to teach the youth that these kinds of values aren't necessary. I want to teach them that they have value for who they are.''

Calderón's first Jiggiri/Atlantic album, The Underdog, is scheduled to come out in October.

S&P: PREPA Outlook Negative

June 10, 2005
Copyright © 2005 PRWOW. All rights reserved. 

PRWOW News wire services

NEW YORK - Standard & Poor's Ratings Services on Thursday said it affirmed its 'A-' rating on Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority's (PREPA) bonds and revised its outlook to negative from stable.

The outlook revision is due to the potential negative effects from the two-notch downgrade and negative outlook on the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (BBB/Negative) and its fiscal agent, the Government Development bank for Puerto Rico (GDB; BBB+/Negative/A-2).

Although PREPA is an independent entity from both the commonwealth and the GDB, financial pressure on these two entities could negatively affect PREPA's credit rating over time.

The negative outlook reflects the indirect linkage between PREPA, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the GDB.

"If the ratings on the commonwealth or the GBD were to decline below the current levels, PREPA's rating would likely be lowered," said Standard & Poor's credit analyst Jeffrey Wolinsky.

In addition, if the actions of the Commonwealth result in economic distress for Puerto Rico that causes a decline in electric demand growth, the rating could be lowered.

Furthermore, if receivables from government entities materially increase and/or liquidity from the GBD becomes materially constrained, the rating could be lowered.

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