Posts Tagged ‘Governor’

Halt to Puerto Rico’s Northeastern Nature Preserve

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: November 1, 2009

SAN JUAN, P.R. (AP) — Puerto Rico’s governor on Friday canceled the designation of part of the island’s northeastern coastline as a nature reserve, opening the door to large-scale development along a white-sand beach where proposals for hotel resorts have sparked bitter protests.

The order signed by the governor, Luis G. Fortuño, directs environmental authorities to evaluate 3,240 acres of public and private land and identify the most ecologically sensitive areas. Those sections would be preserved, while others could be opened to developers.

Currently, only small, eco-friendly projects are allowed in the reserve.

“There should not be any doubt that a nature reserve will be established here,” the planning board president, Hector Morales, said at a news conference.

Conservation groups have fought to keep hotel projects out of the Northeast Ecological Corridor, which includes a beach fringed with tropical forest used by endangered leatherback sea turtles as a nesting area. Proposals for resorts rallied opposition from celebrities including the actor Benicio Del Toro and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an environmental lawyer.

Mr. Fortuño’s predecessor, Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, ordered the preservation of the corridor in 2007, and his administration had begun seeking financing to buy private parcels from their owners.

But Mr. Fortuño faced pressure from officials, including the mayor of Luquillo, José González Ortiz, to open the region to development that would create jobs.

THE SIXTH ANNUAL HANDBALL COURT SUMMER FILMS SERIES IN WHITE PARK

Sunday, November 1st, 2009
July 12, 2008
8:00 pm

THE SIXTH ANNUAL
HANDBALL COURT SUMMER FILMS SERIES
in WHITE PARK
(106th Street between Lexington and Third Avenues)
SATURDAY NIGHTS – AT SUNSET (approx 8PM)

For information: 212.828.0401 or info@medianoche.us

“Political Animals”, this year’s curatorial theme….

MediaNoche presents the free Handball Court Summer Film Series at White Park beginning Saturday, July 12. “Political Animals” is this year’s theme. Curator Judith Escalona brings together a set of fictional films, dramas and comedies, examining the U.S. electoral process. The Candidate (1972), which looks at how a young politician slowly gives up his ideals to be elected, is as relevant today as when it premiered 36 years ago! In the more recent Head of State (2003), a young politician who knows the ropes finds his voice and a way to embrace his ideals. The last film in this set is actually a documentary entitled An Unreasonable Man, a moving portrait of America’s greatest public advocate Ralph Nader that includes a critical view of the entrenched two-party political system.

“Hazardous to your health” groups films dealing with health and the environment. Not to be missed are: Sick Around the World, comparing health coverage in five capitalist democracies, and The Medicated Child, how troubled children are over-prescribed medicines that have unknown long term effects. Lastly, An Inconvenient Truth, screened last year but presented here again, to stress the urgency of global warming.

MediaNoche is a project of PRdream.com. Some program notes were provided by rottentomatoes.com and pbs.org.

“Political Animals”

July 12
THE CANDIDATE (Drama, 1972)
Director: Michael Ritchie
Runtime: 1 hr 54 mins
An idealistic young lawyer and son of a famous governor is pushed into running for the U.S. Senate against the popular incumbent with the assurance that he will lose and not have to give up his integrity or ideals. As the campaign deepens, he finds himself giving in, allowing himself to be manipulated as the polls slowly change and swing in his favor. Soon his backers decide they want him to win after all. By the time Election Day arrives, the young lawyer has become the person he used to speak so vehemently against.

July 19
VOTE FOR ME! (Comedy, 1998)
Director: Nelson Denis, former New York State Assemblyman
Runtime: 1 hr 15 mins
Mad as hell and can’t take it anymore? Become a candidate of the people, fighting for better schools, litter-free streets, more jobs, and less crime! A tenement superntendent Leo Rodriguez decides to make a clean sweep of things in Spanish Harlem by throwing his hat in the ring to help his community. A satirical look at New York City politics – funny and unfortunately based on real events. The names have been changed to protect the guilty!

July 26
HEAD OF STATE (Comedy, 2003)
Director: Chris Rock
Runtime: 1 hr 35 mins
Just weeks before the nation is about to elect a new president, one of the top candidates is killed in a plane crash. Plotting a future run in 2008, U.S. Senator Bill Arnot convinces his staff to pick a replacement who has no chance of winning. But he gets more than he bargained for when he selects Mays Gilliam. At first thankful to be in the spotlight, Mays plays the puppet, but eventually he uses his power to actually say something meaningful. Everyone is shocked to discover that Mays is giving the people exactly what they want.

August 2
BOB ROBERTS (Drama, 1992)
Director: Time Robbins
Runtime: 1 hr 43 mins
Right-wing folksinger Bob Roberts is the anti-Bob Dylan, wowing his supporters with tunes such as “Times Are Changin’ Back” and “Wall Street Rap”. With his clean-cut good looks and squeaky-clean image, Roberts appears as American as apple pie. Yet, he harbors some nasty secrets such as illegal drug trafficking and bank scandals. Roberts’s political trickery fails him when an innocent man is accused of attempting to assassinate the candidate.

August 9
THE DISTINGUISHED GENTLEMAN (Comedy, 1992)
Director: Jonathan Lynn
Runtime: 1 hr 52 mins
A small-time con artist goes big time when he hustles his way to the U.S. Congress. Once elected he reaps the usual benefits, and enjoys the perks of power. However, he decides to clean up the Capitol and ends up doing to Congress what Congress has been doing to its constituency all along.

August 16
AN UNREASONABLE MAN (Documentary, 2007)
Directors: Steve Skrovan and Henriette Mantel
Runtime: 2 hrs 3 mins
A close look at how one of the 20th century’s most admired and indefatigable social activists, Ralph Nader, became a pariah among the same progressive circles he helped champion. The film takes the form of an impassioned public debate when it tackles the contentious 2000 and 2004 presidential runs that elicited accusations of splitting the Democratic vote and enabling the election of George W. Bush, making enemies of Nader’s most ardent supporters. Once again, Nader exposes the undemocratic structure imposed by an entrenched two-party system.
Hazardous to your health

August 23
SICK AROUND THE WORLD (Documentary, 2008)
Producer/Director: Jon Palfreman, Correspondent: T.R. Reid
Runtime: 60 minutes
Can the U.S. learn anything from the rest of the world about how to run a healthcare system? Five Capitalist democracies are profiled: England, Japan, Germany, Switzerland, Taiwan. See how they do it!
Viewer comment from healthnet blog: “I watched Frontline’s Sick Around the World documentary last night and really recommend it to all as a sober examination of the healthcare issues that are such a high priority in America today. What I found most insightful about T.R. Reid’s reporting was the clear and practical way he looked at the pros and cons of the national health systems in the U.K., Japan, Germany and Switzerland. Even more impressive was learning how Taiwan went about reinventing their healthcare system by drawing on the best elements of programs around the world.”

THE MEDICATED CHILD (Documentary, 2008)
Producer: Marcela Gaviria
Runtime: 60 minutes
The availability of medication for children who are suffering from psychiatric problems is widespread, but how much research has really been done on the long-reaching effects of these drugs? This program in PBS’s FRONTLINE series speaks to a number of experts in the field, revealing some alarming facts and figures about the lack of research into the effects of commonplace drugs such as Ritalin. In particular, the show focuses on the growing numbers of kids who are believed to be suffering from bipolar disorder, questioning whether these diagnoses are correct and looking at the potential long term damage the medications they are taking could cause.

August 30
AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH (Documentary, 2006)
Director: Davis Guggenheim
Runtime: 1 hr 40 mins
According to most of the world’s scientists, we have just ten years to avert a major catastrophe that could send our entire planet into a tailspin of epic destruction involving extreme weather, floods, droughts, epidemics and killer heat waves beyond anything we have ever experienced. Since losing the 2000 presidential election, former Vice President Al Gore has been an outspoken figure against this potential environmental disaster. For Gore we can no longer afford to view global warming as a political issue – it is simply one of the biggest moral challenges facing every person in our times.

PRdream mourns the passing of Joe Cuba, 1931 – 2009

Sunday, November 1st, 2009
February 19, 2009
1:41 am

Viewing on Wednesday & Thursday, February 18 & 19, 2PM – 10PM

R&G Ortiz Funeral Home
204 E. 116th Street, between 3rd & 2nd Avenues
212.722.3512

From: Aurora Communications, Inc.

Joe Cuba: Father of New York Boogaloo has passed away

The “Father of Boogaloo” Joe Cuba passed away on Sunday, February 15, 2009 at 4 p.m. at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York. He was the most popular exponent of the boogaloo, a fused Latino and R&B rhythm that exploded onto the American top 40s charts during the turbulent 1960s & ‘70s. Hits such as “*Bang Bang,” “Push Push,” “El Pito,” “Ariñañara,” and “Sock It To Me Baby,” rocked the hit parades establishing Joe Cuba and his Sextet as the definitive sound of Latin New York during the ‘60s & ‘70s. The Joe Cuba Sextet’s unusual instrumentation featured vibraphones replacing the traditional brass sound. His music was at the forefront of the Nuyroican movement of New York where the children of Puerto Rican emigrants, America’s last citizens, took music, culture, arts and politics into their own hands.

Joe Cuba’s Sextet became popular in the New York Latino community precisely because it fused a bilingual mix of Afro-Caribbean genres blended with the popular urban rhythm & blues of its time creating a musical marriage between the Fania and Motown sound. His was the first musical introduction to Latin rhythms for many American aficionados. The lyrics to Cuba’s repertoire mixed Spanish and English, becoming an important part of the emerging Nuyorican identity.

Joe Cuba’s music validated the developing Nuyorican population whose language and music Cuba captured with his sound, underlines Giora Breil, CEO of Emusica, the company that now owns the Fania label and who has remastered many of the classics to a new generation of music lovers. “He led the urban tribe,” pointed Breil, “into a united front of cultural warriors that were defining the social and political times they lived in.”

Longtime manager and promoter Hector Maisonave recalls Cuba as ”an innovator who crossed over into mainstream music at an early time. He was the soul of El Barrio. After Joe Cuba, El Barrio is just a street that crosses an avenue.”

In 1962, Cuba recorded “*To Be With You” *with the vocals of Cheo Feliciano and Jimmy Sabater whose careers he spotlighted after the bands introductory appearance at the Stardust Ballroom prior to its summer stint in the Catskills.

Born in 1931 in the heart of Spanish Harlem, his Puerto Rican parents arrived in New York City in the 20s. Christened “Gilberto Miguel Calderón,” Cuba was a “doo wopper” who played for J. Panama in 1950 when he was a young 19 year old before going on to play for La Alfarona X, where the young “congüerro” percussionist replaced Sabu Martinez tapped to play with Xavier Cugat.

By 1965, the Sextet got their first crossover hit with the Latino and soul fusion of “El Pito” (I Never Go Back To Georgia), a tune Cuba recorded against the advice of the producer later to be “broken” by a DJ over WBLS FM in N.Y.. The Dizzy Gillespie “/Never Go Back To Georgia” chant was taken from the intro to the seminal Afro-Cuban tune, “Manteca.” Vocalist Jimmy Sabater later revealed that “none of us had ever been to Georgia.” In fact, Cuba later comically described a conversation he had with the Governor of Georgia who called him demanding why he would record a song whose chorus negatively derided the still segregated Southern town. The quick thinking Joe Cuba replied, “Georgia is the name of my girl.”

“Joe Cuba exemplified the power that comes from collaboration.” highlighted East Harlem’s councilwoman Melissa Mark Viverito. “Through his music, Joe brought together Latinos and African Americans and his art form reflected the influences of both cultures, Furthermore, his music united Harlem and East Harlem by reflecting the growth both communities experienced during the 1960s and ’70s. Joe Cuba made Spanish Harlem proud as he bravely brought his particular New York Latino identity to stages all over the world.”

In 1967, Joe Cuba’s band ––with no horns– scored a “hit” in the United States National Hit Parade List with the song “Bang Bang” – a tune that ushered in the Latin Boogaloo era. He also had a #1 hit, that year on the Billboard charts with the song “Sock It To Me Baby.” The band’s instrumentation included congas, timbales, an occasional bongo, bass, piano and vibraphone. “A bastard sound,” is what Cuba called it pointing to the fans, the people, as the true creators of this music. “You don’t go into a rehearsal and say ‘Hey, let’s invent a new sound or dance.’ They happen. The boogaloo came out of left field.“ Joe Cuba recounts in Mary Kent’s book:” Salsa Talks: A Musical History Uncovered. “It’s the public that creates new dances and different things. The audience invents, the audience relates to what you are doing and then puts their thing into what you are playing/,” pointing to
other artists such as Ricardo Ray or Hector Rivera as pioneers of the urban fused rhythm.

“I met Joe up in the Catskills in 1955,” /recalls nine time Grammy Award winner *Eddie Palmieri*. “When I later started La Perfecta,” Palmieri muses, “we alternated on stages with Joe. He was full of life and had a great sense of humor, always laughing at his own jokes,” chuckles the pianist. Palmieri pointed to Cuba’s many musical contributions underlining the power and popularity of his small band and bilingual lyrics while providing a springboard for the harmonies and careers of Cheo Feliciano, Willie Torres and Jimmy Sabater. “He was Spanish Harlem personified,” describes Palmieri recalling the “take no prisoners” attitude Cuba had when it came to dealing with those who reluctantly paid the musicians. Recalling their early recording days with the infamous Morris Levy, Palmieri cites the antics of Joe Cuba, Ismael Rivera and himself as the reason for Levy selling them as a Tico package to Fania label owner, Jerry Masucci.

Funny, irreverent and with a great humor for practical jokes, Joe Cuba, or Sonny as he was called by his closest friends, was raised in East Harlem. Stickball being the main sport for young boys of the neighborhood, Cuba’s father organized a stickball club called the Devils. After Cuba broke a leg, he took up playing the conga and continued to practice between school and his free time. Eventually, he graduated from high school and joined a band.

“He was not afraid to experiment/,” said *David Fernandez*, arranger & musical director of Zon del Barrio who played with the legendary Cuba when he arrived in New York in 2002.

By 1954, at the suggestion of his agent to change the band’s name from the Jose Calderon Sextet to the Joe Cuba Sextet, the newly named Joe Cuba Sextet made their debut at the Stardust Ballroom. Charlie Palmieri was musical director of the sextet before his untimely 1988 death from a heart attack.

Since then, the Joe Cuba Sextet and band has been a staple of concerts and festivals that unite both Latinos, African-Americans and just plain music lovers in venues all over the world.

In 2003, the following CDs were released:

* “Joe Cuba Sextet Vol I: Mardi Gras Music for Dancing”
* “Merengue Loco” and
* “Out of This World Cha Cha”.

In 2004, Joe Cuba was named Grand Marshall of the Puerto Rican Day Parade celebrated in Yonkers, New York. Musician *Willie Villegas* who traveled with Joe for the past 15 years said, “It didn’t matter where we played around the world Joe would always turn to me and say, To My
Barrio…. With Love!”

Joe Cuba is survived by his wife Maria Calderon, sons Mitchell and Cesar, daughter Lisa, and grandchildren Nicole and Alexis.

Condolences can be sent directly to Joe Cuba’s widow: Maria Calderon at mariacuba1@verizon.net.

Puerto Rico Strikes

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

By Yolanda Rivera
From the October 30, 2009 issue | Posted in International | Email this article

A STRIKING ISLAND: More than 200,000 Puerto Ricans joined a general strike Oct. 15.

puertorico.jpg

PHOTO: SEIU INTERNATIONAL, FLICKR.COM

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO—In 1934, the year of the largest sugarcane workers’ strike in Puerto Rican history, Antonio S. Pedreira, a wealthy writer and educator, described Puerto Ricans as lazy and irresponsible: “To be lazy, in our country, is self-repression, lack of mental activity and freewill […] We are squatting before our future.”
Seventy-five years later, the attitudes of Puerto Rico’s ruling elite appear unchanged. Faced with widespread opposition to plans by Gov. Luis Fortuño to fire tens of thousands of public-sector workers and privatize government services, members of the governor’s staff have called workingclass Puerto Ricans “ticks” “garrapata” and terrorists and told them to accept privatization and layoffs because “such is life.”

Fortuño, leader of the Partido Nuevo Progresista (the equivalent of the Republican Party), was inaugurated Jan. 2, 2009. In his first 10 months in office he has fired more than 23,000 public-sector workers despite promising during his campaign that he would not make layoffs. His announcement on Sept. 25 that he was firing nearly 17,000 workers spurred labor, student, religious and community groups to organize a general strike on Oct. 15.

Fortuño’s administration reacted by stoking tensions. Top law-enforcement officials including the justice secretary and police superintendent threatened to charge strikers with terrorism if they disrupted traffic at the island’s ports. Independent observers such as the American Civil Liberties Union described the government threats as “dangerous” and “sowing fear.”

The week before the general strike, 10 campuses of the University of Puerto Rico closed their doors to prevent student protesters from using the facilities to mobilize. During democratic assemblies that gathered record numbers, students had already closed the main university campus in solidarity with fired government workers, including teachers, janitors and other service employees.

Despite the official intimidation, the demonstration and walkout went ahead Oct. 15, drawing an estimated 200,000 people and shutting down most businesses, schools and government activities on the island.

During the protest, numerous workers said the massive layoffs were part an effort to “sell the island,” — to destroying public services in order to justify privatization and provide subsidies to companies owned by associates of the governor.

One marcher carried a sign calling the governor “Fortocho,” a mix of Pinocchio and Fortuño. Another had a picture of the governor as a chicken with the question, “What came first, the chicken or the egg?” referring to an unemployed worker who threw an egg at the governor during a press conference a few weeks earlier. Others chanted: “So, where’s Fortuño? Fortuño is not here. He’s selling what is left of this country.”

Many people showed their dissatisfaction by scrawling anti-privatization messages on buildings. Others wore masks of the governor’s face while they brandished fistfuls of money. After the march, students blocked the country’s largest highway and kept it closed until the police and some conservative leaders pressured them to abandon their efforts.

With a population of 3.5 million, Puerto Rico has been a U.S. colony since 1898. About 48 percent of the population lives under the poverty level and government layoffs, which represent about 12 percent of the public sector workforce, are projected to push the unemployment rate to 17 percent.

The firings were made possible by Law 7, which passed in March. It allows Fortuño to unilaterally dismiss public-sector workers, overriding labor laws that previously prohibited such actions. Union contracts are no protection either, as Law 7 effectively voids any job protections they may contain. What’s more, Law 7 clears the way for firing more public-sector workers by allowing for “Public-Private Alliances” — a euphemism for handing over government functions to private corporations.

While the governor and pundits claim the mass layoffs are necessary because the government is “too big” and is facing a $3.2 billion budget deficit, Puerto Rico is slated to receive more than $5.7 billion in funds from the U.S. stimulus package passed earlier this year. Fortuño also claims that private companies provide better services and that public-sector workers earn too much. Previous governors used the same justification for prior rounds of privatization that ended in disaster.

Pedro Roselló, governor from 1992 to 2000, privatized health services and sold hospitals. While insurance companies fattened their profits by delaying payments and services, enabling them to earn interest on public funds, the population has seen co-pays increase and intolerable delays in basic and urgent care, as in the case of cancer patients. Moreover, government officials under Roselló reportedly stole money from an organization that provided services for AIDS patients. In 1998, Roselló also sold Telefónica de Puerto Rico, a public telephone company, an action that triggered an enormous two-day general strike.

The following governor, Sila Calderón, the first female governor in the island (2000 to 2004), outsourced billing services in the Public Water Authority to ONDEO, a French company, which failed to meet the terms of its contracts but was paid $540 million. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, the governor from 2004 to 2008, privatized testing services in the Department of Education and signed numerous contracts for millions of dollars with charter school organizations while denying salary increases to public school teachers. The independent teachers union, Federación de Maestros, staged a successful strike and won salary increases.

Puerto Rican workers have also seen massive layoffs in the private sector as the economy has been in recession for more than four years now. The governor claims privatizing public services will create 200,000 new jobs by 2013. The government’s development plans include promoting medical tourism; privatizing much of the public energy authority; displacing poor communities to build expensive apartments and shopping malls; and a luxury resort, casino and marina on a former U.S. naval base. Few believe Fortuño’s promises, however, given the mass layoffs he claimed would never happen.

Laid-off workers have few options. Even if they manage to land a job, an abysmal rate of private-sector unionism, less than 3 percent, means few protections. Private companies will not recognize decades of service in the public sector, offer health insurance or match government salaries.

Meanwhile, despite promises of state support, fired workers wait in unemployment lines so long that people arrive the day before their appointment at the Labor Department to claim benefits; their only alternative is accepting a government offer of $2,000 to leave the island.

While a large number of Puerto Rican workers and students are resolved to fight the government’s policies, the movement is divided. The ruling elite are banking on this. Following the general strike, Fortuño’s Chief of Staff, Rodríguez-Ema, said, “I know we will prevail since the movement is divided.”

The most conservative unions and political organizations are allies of the former ruling party (Partido Popular Democrático, the equivalent of the Democrats). The conservative unions, some of which seem most concerned with not losing union dues, are affiliated with large U.S. unions, such as the SEIU. These unions are mostly organized under Law 45, instituted in 1998, which allowed for unionizing public-sector workers while taking away their right to strike. Many of these workers had previously been in more militant labor “associations.”

Conservative and moderate groups are interested in getting concessions from the government even if this means reducing working hours for all public-service workers or eliminating the government’s contribution to the workers’ health insurance. During the 1998 strike against the sale of the public telephone company, leaders in some of these unions and organizations demobilized a mass-based movement that put up to 500,000 people in the streets. They negotiated a truce with the government, and the telephone company was finally sold.

While the Oct. 15 mobilization marked a big step forward, halting and reversing privatization will require a still higher level of struggle. Independent unions, such as the university non-teaching employees union, called for a workers’ party during the march. The Federación de Maestros, the teachers’ union that held a strike under the former administration; the union of electric company workers; and political organizations such as la Organización Socialista Internacional and the Movimiento Socialista de Trabajadores called for organizing from below. These unions and political groups, together with other community organizations and university professors (Asociación Puertorriqueña de Profesores Universitarios), have supported calling a general strike in the future.

Yolanda Rivera is a member of the Organización Socialista Internacional. Lee Sustar contributed to this report.

Puerto Rico status should be clearly decided

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

MCT News Service
October 29, 2009
Puerto Ricans need to be allowed to vote on changing their political status. The status quo is untenable.

With little fanfare, a bill is circulating in the U.S. House of Representatives that proposes an election that may ultimately decide the fate of Puerto Rico. The bill is needed now more than ever, for the island is gripped in a fiscal and political crisis that can no longer be ignored.

Puerto Rico has been an incorporated territory of the United States since 1898, and its residents were granted U.S. citizenship in 1917. Although the United Nations and much of the world have recognized it as a colony, Puerto Rico’s status as a “free associated state” has resulted in a stagnant economy and mounting political unrest.

It’s been a rough month for Puerto Rico.

First, in an attempt to rectify a financial crisis, the island’s governor, Luis Fortuno, announced the layoff of 17,000 government employees, which was met with massive, angry protest. A few days later, an unemployed worker threw an egg at Fortuno during a news conference, and one of the island’s biggest rap stars insulted the governor on an MTV awards show.

Then, the island’s largest labor unions led a general strike that paralyzed the capital city of San Juan.

Two weeks ago, drug violence took the lives of eight people in a shopping mall. Puerto Rico is suffering under a wave of drug crimes, as efforts to crack down on the illicit trade along the southern border of the United States have had the effect of rerouting it through the Caribbean.

This week, the island is recovering from a massive gas explosion that has cost $6.4 million to put out and may result in long-lasting environmental damage.

The chaos in Puerto Rico is largely a function of its peculiar status.

Since becoming a territory of the United States, Puerto Ricans have wrestled with three political options: “commonwealth” (status quo), statehood, and independence. But this struggle seems to have no endgame, and the people of this island nation are the losers.

By remaining a commonwealth, Puerto Rico has failed to acquire sufficient political power and has become subservient to U.S. economic interests.

Puerto Rico needs to move to a place where its economy can develop autonomously and not just as a subsidiary of U.S. and multinational corporations. It needs to set clear priorities on how to do this, and to finally decide among three options: statehood, a more autonomous version of commonwealth, or independence.

Since by law, Congress ultimately has the last word on the fate of the island, it should pass a plebiscite bill sooner than later. The time for serious discussion about viable alternatives is now. Puerto Rico’s current political system no longer allows for true self-determination, which is the right of every American citizen.

ABOUT THE WRITER

Ed Morales is a writer for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and international issues; it is affiliated with The Progressive magazine. Readers may write to the author at: Progressive Media Project, 409 East Main Street, Madison, Wis. 53703; e-mail: pmproj@progressive.org; Web site: www.progressive.org. For information on PMP’s funding, please visit http://www.progressive.org/pmpabout.html#anchorsupport.

This article was prepared for The Progressive Media Project and is available to MCT subscribers. McClatchy-Tribune did not subsidize the writing of this column; the opinions are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of McClatchy-Tribune or its editors.

(c) 2009, Ed Morales

Puerto Rico cancels Calle 13 concert after insult

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

Calle_13.jpeg
Rene Perez, right, and Eduardo Cabra of Calle 13, arrive at the “Los Premios MTV 2009″ on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2009, at the Gibson Amphitheatre in Universal City, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

(AP) – 3 hours ago
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rican officials said Saturday they have canceled a concert featuring Grammy-winning band Calle 13 after the group’s lead singer insulted the governor and other Latin American politicians during an MTV awards show.

San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini said he was calling off the Halloween concert only because no contract had been signed for use of the city’s Roberto Clemente Coliseum — not because of the comments by singer Rene Perez, known as “Residente.”

But his announcement indicated the city did not want the concert, saying, “We are not interested in reaching the contract now or in the future.” The city allowed a similar concert by the same promoter last year.

“Mister Perez, of Calle 13, will not be bothered by the decision … because I don’t think he is interested in benefiting economically from an event that was going to be held in a facility administered by government personnel for whom he has no respect,” Santini said.
During Thursday’s MTV show, Perez used an offensive phrase referring to the mother of Gov. Luis Fortuno as he denounced the state’s layoff of 17,000 workers.

Perez also wore a black T-shirt with a message that appeared to criticize Colombian President Alvaro Uribe for a deal to allow U.S. bases in his country — and which could be read to suggest he has paramilitary links.

The Colombian government issued a statement saying it was “indignant” about the “slanderous” message. Fortuno made his first public comment about the incident while attending a political event Saturday.

“This individual disrespected all Puerto Rican women, all Puerto Rican mothers and the people of Puerto Rico in general,” Fortuno told reporters. “That is what I can tell you.”
Representatives of Calle 13 and production company Arco Publicidad did not immediately respond to requests for comment. City officials declined to elaborate on details of the concert contract.

Calle 13 won a Grammy for best Latin urban album last year and it has won several Latin Grammy awards.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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Puerto Rico cancels Calle 13 concert after insult
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Puerto Rico strikers shut down center of San Juan

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

* Stoppage called to protest large public sector layoffs
* Strike closes government offices, businesses, schools
* Governor appeals for calm, defends layoffs (Updates with protest
details, governor’s comments)
by Matthew Goldstein
Reuters (Oct 15, 2009)

SAN JUAN, Oct 15 (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of Puerto Rican public workers protesting layoffs shut down the center of the capital San Juan on Thursday in a one-day strike that closed many government offices, businesses and schools.

Labor unions in the U.S. Caribbean island territory called the 24-hour stoppage to protest the firing of thousands of workers by the government, which is trying to shrink a $3.2 billion budget deficit.

While Governor Luis Fortuno insisted the layoffs were essential to cut government spending and bolster the island’s credit rating, around 50,000 protesters packed Roosevelt Avenue, the main thoroughfare of the central Hato Rey financial district in San Juan, witnesses said.

Most government offices and schools, and many businesses remained closed on Thursday during the strike protest, which was also backed by religious and student organizations.

“The street will be our battleground. There will only be peace when those that govern respect the will of the people,” said Methodist Minister Juan Vera, who addressed the protesters along with labor leaders and other personalities.

Puerto Rico’s unemployment rate was 15.8 percent in August, higher than any U.S. state.

The island, which has a population of nearly 4 million and is a manufacturing hub for petrochemical, pharmaceutical and technology companies, as well as a major tourism destination, has been in recession for more than three years.

Fortuno, who last month announced the firing of 17,000 public workers, appealed for calm but defended the government’s strategy. Heavily indebted Puerto Rico is a leading issuer of tax-free bonds in the United States.

“I will not allow our credit ratings to suffer any further because of the effects it would have on the population,” Fortuno told Reuters in an interview. “It is just unthinkable …. We would be impaired from providing basic services.”

The government is hoping to avoid a downgrade of Puerto Rico’s bond rating to junk, or non-investment, grade.

Bond rating agencies Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s rate Puerto Rico a notch above junk level and Fortuno says any downgrade would lead to even more job cuts.

San Juan’s international airport, as well as the port area, operated normally on Thursday. Buses stopped running but many taxi cabs and the light rail system ran as normal.

Plaza Las Americas, the Caribbean’s largest mall located in the Hato Rey district, shut its doors.

Fortuno says the public sector layoffs are necessary to cut government spending by $2 billion annually. He told Reuters the government had already achieved savings of $1.2 billion and was on track to reach the $2 billion target.

Puerto Rico’s economy shrank a record 5.5 percent in the 2009 fiscal year that ended June 30. The Puerto Rico Planning Board said the decline showed the economy had touched bottom and predicted 0.7 percent growth in fiscal 2010.

(Additional reporting by Michael Connor in Miami; Writing by Pascal Fletcher; editing by Jim Loney)

Puerto Rico: Ready for the National Strike

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009 @ 21:01 UTC
by Firuzeh Shokooh Valle

Puerto Rico is getting ready for the national strike on Thursday, October 15. Since governor Luis Fortuño layed-off about 17,000 government employees the first week of October, there has been tremendous mobilization from different sectors of the civil society: workers and members of trade unions, women, environmentalists, students, and professors, among others. There have been multiple demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience to protest the economic policies that the government has assured are necessary due to the financial crisis. In total this year, the recently elected government has laid off around 25,000 public employees.

In the last months hostility has grown between the government and different civil society groups: eviction orders in socially and economically disadvantaged communities, police brutality, and the dismantlement of community initiatives such as the Fideicomiso del Caño Martín Peña. There have also been a string of comments from government officials considered offensive and insensitive, such as the now sadly famous “such is life”, and more recently, when the Governor’s designated Chief off Staff Marcos Rodríguez Ema compared demonstrators to terrorists. This is the context of the national strike on Thursday. In response to this comment, Tito Otero has posted a video of a boy playing the violin in front of the Congress. We can hear the boy say: “I am not a terrorist. I believe in justice for my country.”

Bloggers and twitterers are getting ready for the strike which aims to paralyze the country for one day. In Cargas and descargas [ES] Edwin Vázquez has covened bloggers and citizens to use Twitter and Facebook to circulate information the day of the national strike. Already, the people at @caribnews are asking followers for hashtag suggestions, and the conversation has started under #twittericans.

Puerto Rico: Public News Channel Dismantled

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Friday, August 21st, 2009 @ 17:13 UTC
by Firuzeh Shokooh Valle

This post is also available in:
Português: Porto Rico: Canal Público de Notícias é Desmantelado
简体中文: 波多黎各:公共新闻频道遭裁撤
繁體中文: 波多黎各:公共新聞頻道遭裁撤
Español: Puerto Rico: Desmantelan canal público de noticias
বাংলা: পুয়ের্টো রিকো: সরকারী সংবাদ চ্যানেল বন্ধ করে দেয়া হয়েছে
Français: Porto Rico: Démantèlement d’une chaîne publique d’informations
The newsroom of Puerto Rico’s only public channel, TUTV, was practically dismantled recently, allegedly due to budget cuts. The president of the Corporation of Puerto Rico of Public Broadcasting, Israel “Ray” Cruz – who was appointed by the government elected last November – fired about 50 employees, many of them journalists. The newscast, founded 15 years ago, will still be on the air for the next two months, at which point the lay-offs will be final. A group of reporters, camerapeople, producers and editors were not fired, but the future of the program is still uncertain. The government of Puerto Rico has already initiated a financial plan that includes laying-off approximately 30,000 government employees.

The very same day the public channel employees were notified they had been laid off, anchor woman Gloria Soltero gave a biting message to her audience during the newscast. The blogosphere in Puerto Rico has been loaded with comments on Soltero’s words, but first, here are some excerpts of Soltero’s message:

A aquellos que dieron lo mejor de sí para nuestro taller informativo, para que eso acabara, los felicitamos, lo lograron. Entre ellos está nuestro presidente Israel ‘Ray’ Cruz, que siguió al pie de la letra lo dictado por nuestro gobernador Luis Fortuño, quien le deja saber al pueblo de esta forma que no le importa lo que acontezca con la cultura de nuestro país, y mucho menos con lo que pase en nuestro país con sus empleados públicos.

Acuérdense, pueblo de Puerto Rico y a usted, señor gobernador, que como diría nuestro querido y respetado Aníbal González Irizarry, “un pueblo sin prensa es un pueblo esclavo”. Sr. Fortuño: si su deseo es un pueblo esclavo, usted lo ha logrado.

To those who gave the best of themselves for our newscast, in order for it to end, we congratulate you. You accomplished it. Some of those people are our President Israel ‘ Ray’ Cruz, who followed step-by-step the orders given by our Governor Luis Fortuño, who has let the people know that he does not care what happens to our country’s culture, and much less what may happen to the government employees of our country.
Remember, people of Puerto Rico, and you, Mr. Governor, as our dear and respected Aníbal González Irizarry [a famous Puerto Rican journalist] would say, ‘a country without press is a country that is enslaved.’ Mr. Fortuño: if your wish is to have an enslaved country, you have achieved it.

The journalism professor Luis F. Coss says in his blog Calahondo [ES]:

La solidaridad no puede ni debe ser un fenómeno pasajero. La solidaridad debe ser un estilo de vida frente a la codicia y frente a las políticas y prácticas que atentan contra la dignidad del ser humano. Celebro la respuesta de Gloria y de Ojeda ante las acciones destempladas de los patronos. Ahora nos toca a todos transformar los episodios heroicos en trabajo cotidiano, en conciencia madura para explicar lo que nos pasa hoy y el mañana al que aspiramos.

Solidarity cannot and should not be a passing phenomenon. Solidarity should be a way of living, in order to face greed, and the policies and practices that endanger our dignity as human beings. I celebrate Gloria’s and Ojeda’s [a Puerto Rican radio journalist] responses to the harsh actions of employers. Now, we must together transform the heroic episodes in daily work, in a mature conscience to be able to explain what is happening to us today and the future we hope for.
In her blog Hoy me desperté de arena [ES], I. Caballer writes:

El lamento, la rabia y la indignación por el despido de empleados públicos son experimentados en estos momentos en carne propia por otro grupo de trabajadores puertorriqueños en el Canal del Gobierno de Puerto Rico. En esta ocasión, la única diferencia es que pudieron hacer uso de un medio masivo de comunicación para expresar su sentir y pedirle al pueblo que tome acción y no olvide.

The pain, the fury and the indignation caused by the lay-off of government employees is experienced once again by another group of Puerto Rican workers at the the channel of the government of Puerto Rico. This time, the only difference is that they could use a massive communication outlet to express their feelings and ask the country to take action and not forget what has happened to them.
Blogger Luis Daniel Beltrán comments [ES]:

Una reacción que denota la indignación por el cierre de un medio informativo que – aunque en alguna ocasión estuvo maniatado por los caprichos del partido político de turno en el poder – servía al país, sobre todo en los tiempos de incertidumbre que se viven desde comienzos del año en curso.

[Soltero's] response denotes the indignation caused by the closing of an information space that, even though it has occasionally been at the service of the whims of the political party in power, it has served the country, especially during these times of uncertainty since the beginning of this year.
This post was also translated by the author.
The thumbnail image used in this post, “television”, is by Walt Jabsco, used under a Creative Commons license. Visit Walt Jabsco’s flickr photostream.
Posted by Firuzeh Shokooh Valle Print version
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3 comments
Ralph J Sierra Jr
Totally irresponsible!! Kudos to Soltero!!

# 2009-08-21 At 17:57 Pm
Reply To This
Andrea
Thank you for the blog. This news story was ignored by the US media. Thanks again.

# 2009-08-21 At 20:40 Pm
Reply To This
Pingback: La Vida Es Como Una Caja De Chocolates… « El Mundo De Luis Daniel Beltrán
[...] sobre los despidos en el departamento de noticias de la televisora pública WIPR-DT de San Juan en su reseña de lo que la blogosfera puertorriqueña ha estado comentando al respecto. Digo, eso me hace sentir halagado, en tanto hice mi aportación para ayudar al resto del [...]

# 2009-08-24 At 2:56 Am

All Ranks Salute Olga Méndez, Political Trailblazer

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

By DAVID GONZALEZ
New York Times (August 3, 2009)

Befitting a scrappy, independent political pioneer – in 1978 she was the first Puerto Rican woman elected to a state legislature in the United States – her funeral attracted the governor, the mayor, several members of Congress and countless local officials. She was lauded for many things: her tenacity; her willingness to cross party lines; her embrace of labor, housing and educational rights for the poor. She was eulogized as a loyal friend, a fierce competitor and a proud Puerto Rican.

Outside the Church of the Holy Agony, on Third Avenue at 101st Street, beyond the honor guard of construction workers that flanked her hearse, groups gathered by the housing projects to remember La Senadora, and the friends and relatives who got a hand up because of her.

“I don’t think we’ll ever see another one like her,” said Monin Paez, who said she always voted for Senator Méndez. “When she spoke, you had to listen. The politicians today don’t talk to us. They only come by when they want your vote.”

Senator Méndez died from cancer last week at age 84. Married into a politically savvy East Harlem family – and possessed of no small measure of education and determination herself – she found her resolve tested in the State Senate, friends said. But she threw herself into her work, giving as good as she got.

“Many of you have gone toe to toe with her in political battles,” her niece, Annette Vasquez, told the mourners. “But later you would walk away with her arm in arm in friendship and respect.”

Just don’t play games with her.

“When you played Risk with Olga, it was never a game,” she said. “It really was about world domination!”

Among the politicians attending were Representatives José E. Serrano, Nydia M. Velázquez and Charles B. Rangel; the former Bronx borough president Fernando Ferrer; the city comptroller, William C. Thompson Jr.; and State Senator Pedro Espada Jr. Efraín González Jr., Mr. Espada’s predecessor, who recently pleaded guilty to using $200,000 in state funds for vacation homes and other personal expenses, was also there.

Some may have felt themselves in the crosshairs as Gerson Borrero, a fire-breathing columnist and political commentator, delivered his eulogy praising Senator Méndez.

“She worked hard behind the scenes while others pranced around like peacocks,” he said. “They still prance around like peacocks.”

Outside, there was a plainspoken pride among the construction workers who sweated for the duration of the Mass.

“Olga always did the right thing for El Barrio,” said one worker, Marty Torres. “She was about change. She was no punk.”

The plain setting for her funeral was fitting: not the marbled St. Patrick’s Cathedral – though she was well-connected enough to have had her service there – just the simple linoleum tile and plywood walls of Holy Agony, where she had been a loyal parishioner since the 1950s. Opened in 1953, it was built for the Puerto Ricans settling in El Barrio – old timers said it was the first local church where they celebrated in the main sanctuary, not hidden in some basement.

In the days before the funeral, friends recalled Senator Méndez, too, as visible and approachable. She asked about your children and treated you like family. She relished telling stories with a mischievous smile and a raspy voice. And she was fiercely Puerto Rican – not Latina, not Hispanic.

“She is the last of her kind,” said Gloria Quinones, a lawyer and activist often on the far left of the senator. “She represented reassurance that the community had a fighting voice and someone who loved them.”

Ms. Quinones remembers when she finished law school and Ms. Méndez asked her if she wanted to become a judge.

“To get me out of the way,” she said.

“But she always asked me how my boys were,” she added. “She was like that with everybody. At the same time she was always calling and asking me if I was going to run against her.”

Others noted that while she had sharp political instincts, they were further honed when she married into the Méndez family, whose patriarch, Antonio Méndez, was the first Puerto Rican district leader in Manhattan. Her mother-in-law, Isabel, was equally political.

“She pushed Olga,” said Carmen Villegas, a family friend. “She knew how to move the chairs like chess pieces. She worked in the senator’s office until she died. And she never called her Olga. She always called her La Senadora.”

The two women were just as devoted to Holy Agony, staying active and donating statues to the church over the years.

An urn with her ashes was set before the altar, flanked by the United States and Puerto Rican flags. Two state troopers stood smartly on either side. The Rev. Victor Elia did the final blessing, and people applauded as the urn was carried to the waiting hearse for burial in the Bronx.

Outside, under a glorious sun, a group of elderly women broke into song as the hearse prepared to leave. Wrapped in the Puerto Rican flag, they intoned Rafael Hernandez’s “Lamento Borincano,” the unofficial anthem of Puerto Rico. It is a song about hardship, hope and heartbreak.

It can never be sung without tears.