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Sen. Maribel Rodriguez Resigns

Solved Crime Cases Decline

Rum Tax Reimbursement To Be Extended For 2 Years

Olga Tañon Honored

Pereira: Eliminate Former Governors’ Escorts

$1B Western Region Investment Plan Announced

Vietnam Vets Denounce Congress

Sen. Maribel Rodriguez Resigns Her Post

By Proviana Colon Diaz

March 7, 2002
Copyright © 2002 PRWOW News Service. All rights reserved.

During the wake of a possible impeachment process as a result of three complaints filed against her before the Senate Ethics Committee, Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Sen. Maribel Rodriguez resigned her post Thursday.

Until the moment of presenting her resignation and while revealing her decision to the press, Rodriguez affirmed her innocence and declined that the decision was taken in order to avoid a public impeachment.

"I am innocent, and I have not taken any public funds. My conscience is clear," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez immediately accused the media of persecution, and in light of the published reports and after discussing the matter with her family, she took the decision.

"There has been a substantial leak of information, and I wanted to say enough is enough," Rodriguez said.

Despite her arguments, the decision comes one day prior to the filing of the committee’s recommendation, which sources said would have been an expulsion from the Senate.

And with Rodriguez’s resignation, the Senate Ethics Committee’s investigation against her becomes academic and will not be presented to the floor because the Legislature no longer has jurisdiction on the matter.

Following the announcement of Rodriguez’s decision, Chairman Eudaldo Baez Galib confirmed that the evidence gathered by the committee is now sealed, and the only way through which it could be referred to another forum is by way of a court order.

"The only way this committee or any other senatorial committee could hand evidence is by way of a court order," Baez Galib said.

The resignation is effective immediately, and Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora accepted it.

Rodriguez already faces an investigation by the Special Independent Prosecutor (SIP) for matters related to her New York trip for the Puerto Rican Parade.

The Ethics Committee was investigating three complaints against Rodriguez.

Fas Alzamora filed the first of the complaints for possible mishandling of public funds during her trip to New York.

Government Ethics Office Director Hiram Morales also filed a complaint against Rodriguez for irregularities in her financial statements.

Predicting the possibility of a resignation, Morales said last week that he could still take the evidence to the Justice Department for it to evaluate it and possibly refer a SIP on the matter.

He set the case of former legislator Edison Misla Aldarondo as an example, for the House Ethics Committee could not see the probe because the former speaker quit his post, but the evidence was taken to the Justice Department, which is evaluating the possibility of referring a SIP.

The third complaint that was to be faced by Rodriguez was filed by Senate New Progressive Party Minority Leader Kenneth McClintock and was related to checks for a fundraiser in Rodriguez’s behalf that were deposited in her personal account.

Gov. Sila Calderon, for her part, said she was most satisfied with the decision taken by the Popular Democratic Party senator.

Calderon reiterated that the former Arecibo district legislator "made the right decision" and added that she feels "satisfied that this is all over."

"The important matter here is that in this administration, there is no space for that kind of behavior," she said.

CIC Admits To Decline In Solved Crime Cases

March 7, 2002
Copyright © 2002 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — The quantity of crimes solved by the police has been in decline, according to Col. Jose Calderon Lopez, auxiliary superintendent of the Criminal Investigation Center (CIC).

The colonel said the rate of solved cases of Type I felonies in Puerto Rico for the month of February was equal to the month of January, with 23%, far less than the 37% reported in December.

According to published reports, Calderon Lopez expressed that the acceptable rate of solved Type I cases should be 40%.

The police areas with the highest rate of solved murder cases are Vega Baja, Humacao, and Mayagüez, with 100% each, and where only two, three, and one murders have been committed, respectively.

In San Juan, only nine of 33 registered murder cases have been solved in the first two months of 2002. In Bayamon, seven of 26; in Carolina, four of 17; and in Caguas, three of nine, have been solved.

Rum Tax Reimbursement To Be Extended For Two Years

March 7, 2002
Copyright © 2002 PRWOW NEWS SERVICE. All rights reserved.

The U.S. House of Representatives approved to extend for an additional two years the tax reimbursement the United States pays to Puerto Rico for Puerto Rican rum and to extend unemployment benefits for an additional 13 weeks, Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila said Thursday.

"In the report that I presented to the Legislative Assembly, I foresaw that the reimbursement of the tax that is paid to the United States for the purchase of Puerto Rican rum would be approved, and today [Thursday] I was shown that both Democrats and Republicans support the Puerto Rico government," the official said.

Acevedo Vila explained in a press release that the two initiatives form part of the economic stimulus packet approved Thursday by the U.S. House of Representatives with bipartisan support and signify multimillion-dollar contributions to the Puerto Rico economy.

He emphasized that the case of the rum tax reimbursement implicates a $80 million injection in the next two years.

In the case of the unemployment benefits extension, Acevedo Vila said some 30,000 people are estimated to benefit from the program’s extension.

The resident commissioner expressed his trust that both measures will be approved without problems in the U.S. Senate.

Olga Tañon Received With Honors

March 6, 2002
Copyright © 2002 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Puerto Rican singer Olga Tañon was received Wednesday by Gov. Sila Calderon at La Fortaleza, after winning last week her second consecutive Grammy award in the "merengue" category.

Tañon met with Calderon at the Santa Catalina Palace, the official residence of the governor. After the encounter, the Puerto Rican singer received the key of the city from San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini.

"In the measure that Olga Tañon can leave Puerto Rico to place the name of our little island on high, well, it is an honor," the merengue singer told journalists after receiving the San Juan city key.

Tañon won the award for her production "Yo por ti." The singer won last year’s Grammy for her "Olga Viva, Viva Olga" production, which was taped live.

"It has been an honor to receive this award, which is the most important in this industry, the Grammys," Tañon added.

Pereira Recommends Eliminating Former Governors’ Escorts

March 6, 2002
Copyright © 2002 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Police Superintendent Miguel Pereira recommended Wednesday that the police escort service granted to former governors should only be extended for five years after their term, except if there is a real threat.

"What is necessary is to establish a term, whatever period it would be, because it cannot continue as it is has been, as a perennial police duty," the agency chief explained before the Public Integrity Committee, which studies a bill that will regulate the police escort services.

Among his recommendations, Pereira said once the bill is approved, it will have to grant a two-year transition period to take the service away from former Govs. Luis A. Ferre, Rafael Hernandez Colon, and Carlos Romero Barcelo.

In his proposal to reduce the expenses of public funds in police escorts to government officials and former officials, estimated at $10 million a year, the superintendent pointed out that the agency heads who require escorts because of their duties should pay it from agency funds.

In the case of former Gov. Pedro Rossello, he will continue to have escorts until 2005, but only when he visits the island and stays at his home.

In the case of former superintendents, they will receive escort services for a year after their term, and a transition year will be granted to former superintendents.

Pereira added that former governors, as well as former superintendents, should have the right to have an escort for their spouses and children who are minors during the established period.

The police chief reaffirmed that it is not correct to establish an exact number of agents to be assigned according to the post.

"The focus should be in giving security. A former governor needs a number that assures him, as part of his involvement in the Puerto Rican political process, that he will not suffer harm. If that number is 100, then it would be 100; if it is three, then three it is," Pereira said.

After the audience, Committee Chairman Severo Colberg Toro said other agency chiefs will be asked to come to the hearings to explain their contracts with the Police Department.

The officials mentioned were Commonwealth Comptroller Manuel Diaz Saldaña, who has three agents; State Insurance Fund Administrator Nicolas Lopez Peña, who has nine; and Labor and Human Resources Secretary Victor Rivera, who has one, among others.

They all pay the escort services with public funds.

Calderon Announces Investment Plan For Western Region

March 6, 2002
Copyright © 2002 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

MAYAGUEZ (AP) — At the end of fiscal year 2002, the government will have invested $102 million in infrastructure projects within the western region, Gov. Sila Calderon affirmed Tuesday.

Calderon estimated that at the end of her four-year term, the investment should have increase to $999 million and created 13,944 jobs.

The effort is part of the "West Economic Clusters," which will cover 12 municipalities of the western region, a zone that has been affected by factory closings and the loss of thousand of jobs in other sectors.

Leaders from the opposition New Progressive Party (NPP) affirm that the program is the same as the one former Gov. Pedro Rossello initiated under the name of "West Techno Economic Corridor."

Accompanied by Mayagüez Mayor Jose Guillermo Rodriguez, several Popular Democratic Party legislators, NPP mayors, and legislators from the zone, Calderon made an extensive recount of the investment for the region.

Among the projects Calderon pointed out was the Rafael Hernandez Airport in Aguadilla, where the Ports Authority started 17 projects at a cost of $13.3 million. These projects will create 195 direct jobs and 800 indirect jobs, she said.

For the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (Prasa), Calderon announced that the administration has allocated $190 million for the development of a water plant in Aguada, the Añasco aqueduct extension, and a sewer plant in Cabo Rojo, among other projects.

Likewise, $250 million will be invested in road projects, and in the housing sector, $181 million in 40 projects will be invested.

Puerto Rican Veterans Denounce Discrimination By Congress

March 5th, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN (AP) – The Vietnam American Veterans Puerto Rico Chapter denounced Tuesday that U.S. Congress discriminates against Puerto Rican veterans since it has refused to assigned $150 million, which is needed to optimize the Veterans Hospital operations.

According to the local chapter organization president, Jorge Pedroza, the Veterans Hospital administration requested the allocation for operational expenses during the next fiscal year after performing a needs study. However, Congress denied the petition.

"With $50 million, you pay water and electricity and maintain the hospital open, but to be able to give good service to all veterans who need it now more than ever, much more than $50 million is needed," Pedroza said in a press conference.

Veterans Hospital Director Rafael Ramirez recognized most of the requests made by the veterans as valid but said the situations mentioned are already resolved or in the process of being resolved.

"Bed demand continues to increase, but we are complying with the needs on a daily basis, since this is a situation that varies from day to day," said Ramirez, in responding to the veterans’ complaints.

About the General Inspector’s visit to the facilities, Ramirez said it is a routine visit, since it is something that is done periodically in all the facilities of the Veterans system.

The organization said it was giving the hospital’s medical director 30 days to resolve the situation, but Pedroza refused to say what measures will be taken in case their demands are not answered.

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