AAV Orders Prepa To Lower Energy Costs, Signs Bill Regulating Fuel Prices… Toledo Bans Weapon Disposal In Sea… Admirers Remember A Hero… 'Macheteros' Struggle Ongoing… Iraq, Afghan Wars Claim 36th GI… PIP Files Unicameral Plan… All-Time MLB Latin Team… AAV: Walgreens’ Out… Sales Tax Only Option… Orlando PRFAA Office Open… HS Military Recruitment End Sought

Governor Orders Prepa To Lower Energy Costs

August 25, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila said on Thursday that he has given instructions to Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) Executive Director Edwin Rivera to come up with a plan that will help lower energy production costs for the island.

The governor said Rivera has promised to have a study ready by next month. The study will include several options to replace oil as the main source of energy. Rivera should also come up with a plan to make permanent improvements to the local power system and control expenses.

"I recognize that the energy costs in Puerto Rico are too high… (Rivera) must submit a plan as soon as possible in order to change that upward trend and lower energy costs," Acevedo Vila said during a press conference.

This week, the Center for the New Economy (CNE) issued a report stating that from 2002 to 2004, Prepa overcharged clients more than $500 million in monthly fuel adjustment fees and energy purchases.

The report also revealed system deficiencies and high operational expenses that get passed on to consumers.

The governor admitted that in order to become a competitive area for foreign industries, the island must first lower its energy production costs. He also acknowledged that Puerto Rico has some of the highest energy costs in the U.S. including other island jurisdictions.

AAV Signs Bill To Regulate Fuel Prices

August 25, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila on Thursday signed a law to turn Puerto Rico into a unique zone for fuel prices, La Fortaleza officials confirmed.

The bill will have the effect of forcing wholesalers like Esso, Gulf, Texaco, and Shell to apply the same prices to all retailers.

Right now, they apply different prices to different retailers.

Wholesalers have argued that the current practice helps promote competition and lower prices for consumers, but retailers disagree. They say it only forces them to pass on those costs to their clients.

La Fortaleza officials said Acevedo Vila signed the bill after Consumer Affairs Secretary Alejandro Garcia Padilla had recommended it.

Garcia Padilla said he was pleased to learn that the governor had signed the bill filed by New Progressive Party (NPP) Rep. Jose Chico.

"This represents a victory for the Puerto Rican consumer. With this bill, the governor has opened the door to fair competition that will allow consumers to see fairness in gasoline prices. It will force wholesalers and retailers to compete, and will drive consumers to seek the best available option," Garcia Padilla said.

Toledo Bans Weapon Disposal Into The Sea

August 25, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Police Superintendent Pedro Toledo on Thursday ordered to halt the practice of disposing fire weapons into the ocean.

Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Rep. Jorge Colberg Toro said that for the past 25 years, police officers have dumped 300,000 fire weapons into the sea.

Colberg Toro said Toledo gave the order to stop the disposal of confiscated weapons after the PDP representative filed a joint resolution to prohibit that practice.

Colberg Toro said that when he chaired the House Public Integrity Committee during the past administration, he conducted an investigation and found that the police had been disposing of 12,000 weapons every year by dumping them 12 miles out into the sea.

He added that for the past 25 years, 300,000 weapons and 200,000 munitions were dumped into the ocean.

Colberg Toro said this practice goes against several dispositions of the U.S. Clean Water Act and violates Environmental Quality Board norms. He also said it poses a threat to the environment and marine resources in the northern area of Puerto Rico.

He said the last time this was done was on Nov. 16, 2004.

Admirers Remember A Hero Taken Too Soon

Residents banded together Saturday to celebrate the memory of Puerto Rican baseball player Roberto Clemente.


August 25, 2005
Copyright © 2005
MIAMI HERALD. All rights reserved. 

Shouts of ''Clemente, boriqua'' filled the streets of Wynwood on Saturday morning.

The calls emphasized two points of pride in the neighborhood: the late baseball player Roberto Clemente and Puerto Rico -- boriqua is slang for Puerto Rico or someone who comes from Puerto Rico -- as residents walked, biked and drove in a parade that kicked off the 11th annual Roberto Clemente Day.

The event celebrating the late Puerto Rican-born Hall of Fame baseball player and humanitarian also included a day of fun, games and activism at Roberto Clemente Park, where some used the occasion to spread the word about local issues -- and fight the encroachment of big developers into the neighborhood, a longtime enclave for the Puerto Rican community.

The day started at 11:30 a.m. with a parade, as more than 100 residents gathered at the Eugenio Maria De Hostos Neighborhood Center, at 2902 NW Second Ave.

They paraded up Northwest Second Avenue to Roberto Clemente Park on 34th Street, where the festivities included presentations by city and county officials, entertainment and a softball game.

The parade's grand marshall was Puerto Rican activist Emilio Lopez, onetime executive director of the Borinquen Health Care Center, who was honored by event organizer ASPIRA of Florida for 35 years of service to the community.

At the park, a steady stream of officials and guests including Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and Florida Marlins president David Samson remembered Clemente, an outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates who died on New Year's Eve 1972 in a plane crash. The plane was taking medical, food and clothing supplies to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua. Clemente was 38.

''He worked for the sick and the downtrodden,'' said Diaz, who presented Fernando Colon, director of the Miami Wynwood and the Beaches division of ASPIRA of Florida, with a proclamation marking Roberto Clemente Day.

Children had a chance to cool off in the water park, while hot dogs, cotton candy and drinking water was given out during the scorching day. The sky did shed a quick tear as rainfall came and went; by late afternoon, a softball game between the Bad Boys Boriqua, composed primarily of Puerto Rican players, and the Blue Field, made up mostly of Nicaraguan players, took place.

Nearby, Victor Soler displayed his $30,000 collection of Clemente memorabilia, including his 1954 rookie baseball card to a miniature car signed by the player.

''I met [Clemente] once when I was 9,'' Soler said. ``He walked over to me and told me that I would be doing something good and ever since I've been volunteering in my community.''

'Macheteros': Armed Struggle Still Active

August 24, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved. 

PONCE (EFE) — Ejército Popular Boricua leader Filiberto Ojeda Ríos said the armed struggle for the independence of Puerto Rico continues in effect and active, despite attempts by the U.S. government to silence this "revolutionary movement".

Ojeda Ríos also rejected in a radio interview that this type of movement is terrorism because the call it makes is one in favor of what corresponds to Puerto Ricans by nature.

"While Puerto Rico is a colony, the armed struggle is in effect. While the island is not free and lives in the oppression it is living in and Puerto Ricans are suffering all the political, ideological, and cultural repression of the colonialists, the armed struggle is vital and important," assured the founder of the group also known as "Los Macheteros".

According to Ojeda Ríos, this type of struggle is not based on "madmen and adventurers" without the sense of being able to determine when and where to carry out their acts.

He also said this type of "resistance" is complementary to the other initiatives in favor of independence in the electoral and civic environments.

"I don’t believe in the electoral struggle to achieve independence. However, through this type of struggle, very important things are achieved," he said.

He said the initiatives of a civic nature are very important because of the educational labor conducted and the closeness they have with the social problems that afflict Puerto Rico.

Though Ojeda Ríos said this type of initiative has had a very slow development, he said a great part of the development of the "independent conscious" depends on this type of action because it clarifies the myths generalized among "the colonized people".

Another Puerto Rican Soldier Dies In Iraq

August 24, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — A Puerto Rican soldier was killed in Baquba, Iraq on Tuesday during a suicide attack that also claimed the lives of six more people, U.S. Army Public Officer in Puerto Rico Jose Pagan confirmed on Wednesday.

The victim was identified as First Lt. Carlos J. Diaz, of Yauco.

Pagan said Diaz had been assigned to the second batallion of the 69th armored division of Fort Benning, Georgia.

Pagan added that he didn’t know when Diaz’s remains would arrive to Puerto Rico. However, he said the soldier’s family has decided to hold the burial at Yauco’s municipal cemetery.

Diaz is the latest of 36 soldiers of Puerto Rican descent who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the U.S. keeps military troops.

PIP Files Proposal For Unicameral System

August 24, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — The Puerto Rico Independence Party (PIP) on Wednesday filed a proposal on how to form a unicameral legislative assembly.

PIP Sen. Maria de Lourdes Santiago said the resolution proposes three fundamental changes. The first one consists of the elimination of both legislative chambers. The second change would be to limit the number of legislators to 41.

The third recommendation is to incorporate the principle of proportional representation, which in this case, would allow the PIP to have more than one legislator. Right now, the PIP only has one senator and one legislator.

This means that if the Popular Democratic Party were to win 40% of the legislative votes in a general election, the party would never be allowed to have less that 40% of the legislative seats, former PIP Sen. Fernando Martin said.

Right now, the New Progressive Party (NPP) holds 63% of the legislative seats by obtaining only 48% of the legislative votes.

Santiago said the PDP and the NPP don’t want to change the Legislature because a unicameral system would reduce the number of legislative seats. "Everyone is looking out for his or her own seat," Santiago continued.

The PIP senator said she hopes the proposal will move legislators to resume the discussion of this issue.

Baseball To Pick All - Time Latin Team

August 23, 2005
Copyright © 2005
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

NEW YORK (AP) -- Six years after Latin American players were shut out from baseball's All-Century Team, the sport launched a promotion Tuesday to select a ''Latino Legends Team.''

Acknowledging the increased influence of its Spanish-speaking players and audience, baseball will conduct fan balloting from Aug. 29 through Oct. 10 and announce the winners before Game 4 of the World Series.

In the 1999 voting for the All-Century team, the closest a Latin player got to one of the 30 spots was Roberto Clemente, who finished 10th behind Pete Rose in balloting for the nine outfield members.

''There are those who felt the Latin player-base community had been overlooked by fans in that election,'' said Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer.

A record 29.2 percent of players on opening day major league rosters were born outside the 50 states, with 91 players from the Dominican Republic, 46 from Venezuela, 34 from Puerto Rico and 18 from Mexico.

Latin America's influence on baseball will be spotlighted next month by ''Viva Baseball,'' a documentary to air Sept. 23 on Spike TV.

''This is an acknowledgment of an entire area of the world and a heritage and multiple countries. This is not a racial thing,'' DuPuy said when asked why baseball had not run a similar promotion for black players. ''The Latin American influence in baseball has been pervasive.''

After signing Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran, the New York Mets appear to have increased their marketing to Hispanics, with some dubbing the team ''Los Mets.''

Major League Baseball and mlb.com selected the 60 players on the ballot, which is sponsored by Chevrolet, and the Hall of Fame provided research. Eight position players, three starters and one reliever will be on the 12-man team.

AAV Insists Walgreens Is Out

August 23, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved. 

TRUJILLO ALTO (EFE) — Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila on Tuesday pointed out that Walgreens pharmacy chain is officially out of the health reform system because it failed to sign the contract during the timeframe established by the Health Insurance Administration (ASES by its Spanish acronym).

In order to continue as health reform providers, all agencies were required to sign their contracts by Aug. 15. ASES Executive Director Nancy Vega Ramos, however, continued to hold talks with Walgreens executive after that date.

Local drugstores claimed that this action had placed them at a disadvantage, because they had to accept the conditions established by ASES, and accused the agency of going against Acevedo Vila’s public policy of preferring local businesses over companies that are based outside of the island.

"Under the health reform, Walgreens only dispatches 10% of prescription drugs. We won’t do business with those who didn’t want to accept fair and equal conditions," Acevedo Vila said.

Under the new contract, drugstores will receive the same amount of money they receive from private insurers for each prescription drug dispatched to health reform patients.

Silva & MIDA: Sales Tax The Only Option


August 23, 2005
Copyright © 2005
PRWOW. All rights reserved. 

House Treasury Committee Chairman Antonio Silva and Benjamin Negron, president of the Food Marketing, Industry & Distribution Chamber (MIDA by its Spanish acronym), said on Tuesday that the implementation of a sales tax will be inevitable if the government wants to get Puerto Rico out of its current economic rut.

New Progressive Party (NPP) Rep. Silva said he is currently working on several tax reform measures that include the implementation of an 8% to 10% sales tax, which he hopes will have the support of the legislative and executive government branches.

Silva noted that during the general elections of 2004, the debate over the sales tax became distorted to a point where many people became distrustful of the measure that was part of the NPP government platform. Following the election, however, Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila had to see it as a possible option to alleviate the economic situation of the island.

"He’s going to have to do it, because it is one of the few solutions that we have to save the government credit," Silva said in a radio interview on Tuesday. "I hope this won’t become an issue again and that we’ll able to see it through," the legislator said.

Silva underlined the need to combine the proposed sales tax with a substantial decrease in income taxes as well as an elimination of the current 6.6% excise tax on all products and the exclusion of medicine and unprocessed foods from the implementation of this new sales tax.

Silva also expressed himself against the measure that Popular Democratic Party Rep. Javier Garcia Caban proposed on Monday to retain tax refunds from willing tax payers in order to invest them in tax-exempt government bonds.

"Tax refunds are something that everyone looks forward to. I believe the measure is out of focus. I’ve never seen anyone who has been willing to give money to the government so that it can invest it. What tax payers really want is to have more opportunities and to be able to stop the government from constantly picking into their pockets," Silva said.

MIDA President Benjamin Negron added that the sales tax system would eliminate the current problem that consumers have with the price of products that have to go through a chain of wholesalers and retailers before they are able to buy them. With the sales tax system, the tax would be levied on consumer products at end of that chain.

"It is the only solution we have. It is easy to handle and can be rapidly implemented," Negron said in a radio interview.

Puerto Rican Office Stays Open

August 23, 2005
Copyright © 2005
ORLANDO SENTINEL. All rights reserved. 

ORLANDO -- The Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, the island government office that represents Puerto Ricans in Orlando, will remain open at least for another year.

The office, which was threatened by Puerto Rico's government budget cuts resulting from the island's fiscal and political crisis, will have a sufficient budget to continue in Orlando, an area identified by a study as the main destination of Puerto Ricans moving to the mainland.

Offices in Houston, Los Angeles and Cleveland closed last month.

Community leaders here advocated in support of keeping the office, an arm of the Puerto Rican government.

"For the time being, the Orlando PRFAA office will remain open," Ana Carrion, the agency's spokeswoman in Washington, D.C., said Monday

The details, however, of any possible cuts to services or the local office's budget remained unclear as the administration's national director prepared a formal statement on his plans for offices in other mainland cities. Local office director Sylvia Caceres did not comment Monday, awaiting formal notice from Washington.

Ludmilla Lelis, Jeff Libby, Sandra Pedicini, Victor Manuel Ramos, Christopher Sherman and Dave Weber of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report.

Groups Seek To Stop Military Recruiters


August 22, 2005
Copyright © 2005
. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN -- A coalition of nongovernmental groups launched a new campaign Sunday aimed at stopping high schools in Puerto Rico from giving student information to U.S. military recruiters.

The Citizen Coalition Against Militarism will visit high schools around the U.S. Caribbean territory this week to urge students and parents not to allow schools to release students' names, addresses, phone numbers and other data to military recruiters, the group said in a statement.

''Parents of students . . . have the moral responsibility to defend the life and privacy of their children,'' said the coalition, a mix of anti-war groups, human-rights organizations and teachers' unions.

The coalition plans to distribute forms that students and parents can send to schools asking them to withhold personal data from military recruiters, as allowed under the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, the group said.

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