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PDP Postpones Gubernatorial Candidate Selection, Gov. Denies Favoring Prats, Praises Acevedo Vila…$540m In Bonds Cleared… …Extraordinary Session Begins….Vieques Accused Post Bail….Rullan Seeks More Organ Donors…Hotel Occupancy ‘Excellent’…U.S. House OK’s RR Closing

PDP Postpones Meeting To Select Gubernatorial Candidate

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

July 10, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

The leadership of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) postponed Wednesday night a Thursday meeting for the party’s governing board and the party council to select a new candidate for governor after the withdrawal of Jose Alfredo Hernandez Mayoral from the race.

The meeting was originally scheduled for Thursday at 4:30 p.m. at the PDP headquarters in Puerta de Tierra. It has been postponed until after the Legislature’s extraordinary session concludes. The specific date was not revealed, but sources said it could be as soon as Saturday.

On Wednesday, party employees were working on meeting arrangements and placing calls to nearly 400 council members; it appeared that the meeting would have had almost perfect attendance.

In the meantime, PDP leaders met with the party’s president, Gov. Sila Calderon, at La Fortaleza. The group decided to postpone the meeting to allow for more participation from all sectors of the party, particularly to give nine mayors who were off the island time to return.

In addition, the meeting was scheduled at the same time as the extraordinary legislative session convoked by Calderon to evaluate and approve some 20 bills, including the judicial reform.

On Monday, Hernandez Mayoral withdrew from the race due to a medical condition his son suffers.

Since then, Calderon and other PDP leaders are in search of a new candidate, who should be selected by consensus to avoid a primary.

Prof. Jose Alberto Morales, Bar Association President Arturo Davila, former Sen. Eduardo Bathia, and Caguas Mayor William Miranda Marin have been mentioned as possible candidates.

But the PDP leadership, as well as some lawmakers and mayors, have focused on Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila and Sen. Roberto Prats.

WOW News sources have revealed an apparent division among the top PDP leaders; some endorse Acevedo Vila, and others–including Calderon–favor Prats, who was Hernandez Mayoral’s ballot mate as candidate for the resident commissioner post.

Acevedo Vila said earlier this week that he is totally committed to the PDP and Puerto Rico; Prats will have a press conference about the PDP crisis on Thursday afternoon.

Bathia said in a televised interview that "there is time for the party to pick a candidate," and that it must allow total participation in the selection process. He also said PDP members should choose a candidate, not party leaders, and endorse a primary to pick the new candidate for governor.

"Let the PDP partisans talk," said Bathia.

Finally, Miranda Marin, who was on a cultural mission in Cuba, convoked a press conference for Thursday morning; it was later cancelled. According to WOW News sources, the mayor intends to announce his candidacy for governor and has said that the party must enter into a dialogue to choose the replacement for Hernandez Mayoral.

Sila Denies Favoring Prats Over Acevedo Vila

July 10, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Gov. Sila Calderon denied Thursday that she favors Sen. Roberto Prats over Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila as the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial candidate and defended her decision to postpone a PDP governing board meeting to discuss the gubernatorial candidacy, arguing that those involved need more time to make their selection.

"I am not endorsing at this moment any candidate - neither Prats nor any other candidate. This is an open consultation process," Calderon said.

Calderon, whose decision to inform Acevedo Vila she would not seek re-election only two days prior to informing the public was seen as a sign of distance between the two, is said to be favoring Prats over him. However, she denied this and said there is no distance between her and Acevedo Vila.

The PDP has been without a gubernatorial candidate since Monday, when Jose Alfredo Hernandez Mayoral announced his decision not to run for the post.

Accusing Hernandez Mayoral of failing to maintain communication with La Fortaleza and of informing her of his decision only minutes prior to making it public, Calderon called a Thursday meeting of the party’s governing board and party council to select a new candidate for governor.

However, she canceled the meeting Wednesday evening. The governor said the decision to delay the process was motivated by the desire to include as many people as possible in the decision making process.

She denied that her decision to postpone the meeting was the result of her failure to convince leaders to favor a particular candidate.

"We are not forcing anything; this is part of a natural process within the party and we have decided to extend the process and by consensus select a candidate," Calderon said.

In addition, Calderon declined to say if she would give another opportunity to Jose Alfredo Hernandez Mayoral if upon his return to the island on Sunday he should inform her he is reconsidering his decision.

"That would have to be evaluated by the entire party," Calderon said, adding that Hernandez Mayoral has said his decision is final.

Meanwhile, in an obvious reference to former Gov. Pedro Rossello, Calderon said, it is the duty of the PDP to unite and beat the former governor in the next general elections.

"The elections of 2004 are very important. There is a threat over Puerto Rico, and the Popular Democratic Party has to gather all the Puerto Rican forces that can resist that threat to prevail," Calderon said.

Governor Praises Acevedo Vila’s Performance

July 10, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

JAYUYA (AP) — Gov. Sila Calderon on Thursday praised Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila’s efforts in the U.S. Congress to ensure that the U.S. Navy returns the lands of the Roosevelt Roads Naval Station in Ceiba to the Commonwealth.

Calderon said Thursday that Acevedo Vila was responsible for the amendment to the bill that returns the land to the government of Puerto Rico.

Another amendment states that the land will be used for economic development projects.

"I want to give credit to Acevedo Vila for the amendments aimed at economic development and the eventual return of the land," Calderon said.

The U.S. House of Representatives approved an amendment aimed at withdrawing the Navy from Ceiba as part of a Pentagon plan to close military bases and reduce costs.

The bill has yet to be approved by the U.S. Senate.

Calderon added that her administration has begun to evaluate private proposals for the development of the Ceiba facilities.

Puerto Rico Governor Clears $540 Million In Bonds

July 10, 2003
Copyright © 2003
REUTERS LTD. All rights reserved. 

MIAMI, July 10 (Reuters) - Puerto Rico's Governor Sila Calderon authorized the sale of $540 million in general obligation bonds for infrastructure improvements and land purchases, her office said on Thursday.

Puerto Rico will use the proceeds from the bond sale to fund 11 projects, including $98 million for construction projects, $97 million for housing improvements, $40 million for recreation and culture projects, and $49.6 million for transportation and communications, among other projects.

Another $27 million will be placed in a special maintenance fund.

The governor's office was not immediately able to say when the bonds may be sold.

Extraordinary Session Begins Today

July 10, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Amid controversy among members of the House and Senate, the extraordinary legislative session, in which some 20 bills may be approved, is scheduled to begin today.

The most controversial item on the agenda will be the judicial reform bill, which is the main reason the extraordinary session was called.

The bill, however, is expected to be approved before Sunday after negotiations proved favorable and the three legislators who originally voted against it will now vote in favor of it.

Reps. Luis Raul Torres and brothers Severo and Jorge Colberg Toro have confirmed that they will vote in favor of the bill after they were promised that the issue of syndication for the judicial employees will be evaluated in a separate bill during the next regular session.

Another bill that could be evaluated in the extraordinary session sets a maximum of $150 million for the Emergency Fund.

Members of the legislative minority were complaining that less than 24 hours before the beginning of the session, La Fortaleza had yet to send the official calendar to the Legislature.

Torres and Senate Majority Leader Jose Luis Dalmau confirmed that a calendar had not yet been received.

Several Accused Of Vandalism In Vieques Pay Bail

By Leonardo Aldridge of Associated Press

July 10, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

Eight of the 12 people who are accused of vandalism during the celebration of the U.S. Navy’s exit from Vieques paid Thursday their respective bails in the U.S. District Court.

Another three requested an extension to pay the amount imposed, and one is in the process of completing the procedure to render a property as bail, according to Linda Backiel, the attorney for four of the anti-Navy activists implicated in the case.

The bails total $200,000, officials said.

Backiel explained that the accused face different criminal charges, including conspiracy, damaging federal property, attempt to cause damages, as well as causing a fire and attempting to cause a fire.

The attorney said those accused for causing a fire could face up to five years in prison, if convicted.

A meeting between the parties involved is scheduled for Tuesday in U.S. District Court Judge Jose Fuste’s courtroom to clarify the details of the judicial process.

All the cases related to this incident were reassigned to Fuste after being originally assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Salvador Casellas, explained Josefina Pantojas, spokeswoman of Coordinadora Todo Puerto Rico con Vieques.

According to Pantojas, the decision to have Fuste preside over these trials, which will be by jury, is detrimental to the accused.

"Fuste has made statements that might affect the result," she said.

Jesus Delgado, outgoing president of the Teachers Federation and accused of the acts that occurred at dawn on May 1 in Vieques, was one of the three people to ask for an extension to pay bail.

Also accused in the incident are anti-Navy activists Nilda Medina, Jose Perez, Erick Hernandez, Osvaldo Skerret, Jose Montañez, William Miro, Jorge Cruz, and Andy Santiago, among others.

During the celebration of the Navy’s exit, demonstrators burst onto the property that was then under federal control and burned and destroyed facilities and machinery.

Local and federal authorities identified from videotape several of the demonstrators who allegedly participated of the acts.

Rullan Seeks To Increase Organ Donations On Island

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

July 9, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Health Secretary Johnny Rullan announced the beginning of a multidisciplinary effort to educate health providers and citizens about the need for an organ donors in Puerto Rico and said that only five hospitals on the island have worked to their full capacity to collect organs that can save lives.

The aforementioned hospitals are the Menonita Hospital of Aibonito, the Metropolitan Hospital, the University of Puerto Rico Hospital of Carolina, the San Juan Capital Hospital, and Medical Services Administration of Puerto Rico.

"Organ donation is an act of solidarity. We want the people to pay attention, to learn about this and to help us save lives," Rullan said during a press conference on Wednesday.

The Health chief announced that based on a study conducted by the Health Department and Life Link, an organ donation organization, 44% of organ donation opportunities are lost in Puerto Rico, mostly because of failure to detect brain death in potential donors on time or because the deceased had never expressed his or her intention to be an organ donor. That is 89 of 200 every year.

Rullan said that by law, relatives have the last word in the process of collecting organs from a potential donor, which is why he urged citizens to enlist as donors and to make their intentions known to their relatives.

Right now, he said citizens can identify themselves as organ donors by instructing the Department of Transportation and Public Works to include it on their driver's license, Rullan said.

The Health chief explained that organs may be collected after the donor has been declared brain dead and that the organ transplant must be done within 12 to 18 hours after the certified death. The medical staff must very that the organ donor's weight, height, and blood type matches that of the recipient.

Rullan said that as of today, diabetic patients in Puerto Rico must wait approximately five years for a kidney transplant, while people in need of a heart transplant must wait around six months before finding a suitable donor.

Only heart and kidney transplants are performed in Puerto Rico. Liver and pancreas transplants are performed on the U.S. mainland, Rullan added.

Hotel Occupancy ‘Excellent’ During Holiday Weekend

July 9, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) —Statistics compiled by the Tourism Co. revealed that during July 4th weekend, hotel occupancy rate rose to 96%, Executive Director Jose Suarez said.

The government official described as "excellent" the revenue for the tourism sector. According to the agency’s estimates, the rate represented an increase of 4.4% over the hotel occupancy rate reported for the same period last year.

"During July 4 and July 5, hotel occupancy stayed almost equal in two main geographical areas. . .which tells us that the public is trying to learn more about the island’s variety, and which also points to the fact that we have been effective in decentralizing tourism without affecting the traditional metro area," said Suarez.

U.S. House Approves Closing Of Roosevelt Roads

July 9, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The U.S. House of Representatives voted unanimously Tuesday night to close U.S. Roosevelt Roads Naval Station.

The closing is scheduled for no later than six months after the bill has been signed into law by the president.

The closure was included in the Department of Defense budget bill, which was approved with 399 votes for, 19 votes against, and 17 abstentions.

The U.S. Senate has another version of the bill that does not include the closing of the base, which means the U.S. House of Representatives bill is not the final word on the matter.

The House bill indicates that to counter the effects of the closing of the base, the largest outside the continental United States, initiatives will be offered to turn the area into an economic center for the eastern region of the island.

"I want to re-affirm to the congressman from Puerto Rico that I am committed to work on the economic development of the region that could be affected by the closing of Roosevelt Roads, as stated by the bill. That economic development should consider alternatives to transfer the land of the base to the government of Puerto Rico and the municipality of Ceiba," Defense Assignments Deputy Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Lewis said.

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