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Pesquera: Guilty Must Face Consequences

Former La Fortaleza Officials Indicted

Noriega: Blue Ribbon Will Survive Challenge

SEC Begins Auditing The PDP

Treasury Warns Of $191M Deficit

Court OKs Commission

McClintock Refers Alleged PIP Irregularities To Ethics

FEC Reveals Excess Acevedo Vila Donations

Colonels Inspect Vieques Zones

Pro-Navy Movement Active

Pesquera: Those Who Fail Must Face Legal Consequences

March 25, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN (AP) – New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos I. Pesquera said Monday those who have failed the people of Puerto Rico, and who have failed the government will "have to face the corresponding legal consequences."

Pesquera reacted to the arrests of two former Gov. Pedro Rossello’s assistants for conspiring to interfere with the interstate commerce by participating in an extortion scheme.

"While the justice continues its course, we as Puerto Ricans must continue rescuing our people from the government’s stagnation," said the NPP leader.

Without adjudicating any responsibility in the cases, Pesquera reiterated his stance on having those who fail the people face the consequences.

U.S. Magistrate Aida Delgado imposed a $75,000 bail to Maria de los Angeles Rivera Rangel, former Rossello assistant and $150,000 to former Deputy Chief-of-Staff Angel Luis Ocasio Ramos.

If found guilty, both former officials face 10 to 20 years in jail and up to $250,000 in fines.

Federal Authorities Indict Former La Fortaleza Officials

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

March 25, 2002
Copyright © 2002
WOW News. All rights reserved.  

Former Gov. Pedro Rossello personal assistant Maria De Los Angeles "Angie" Rivera Rangel and former Deputy Chief-of-Staff contractor Angel Luis Ocasio Ramos were arrested and charged Monday with participating in a scheme to obstruct and affect commerce through extortion, part of which took place at La Fortaleza.

Acting U.S. District Attorney Guillermo Gil said Rivera Rangel used her office at La Fortaleza to arrange meetings with high-level officials of the Rossello administration.

"This indictment worries me a lot because it indicates that La Fortaleza was up for sale by some people who were interested in reaching the government in an improper manner," Gil said.

However, Gil was clear in noting that there is no evidence indicating that former Gov. Rossello was aware of Rivera Rangel’s scheme.

According to the indictment, Rivera Rangel demanded and obtained monthly payments totaling $125,000 from Ocasio Ramos and three other contractors to set meetings with government agencies.

Rivera Rangel allegedly demanded $1,500 from each contractor for the arranged meetings, summing up to a monthly payment of $6,000. She would also allegedly ask for repairs or remodeling jobs to her Fontainebleau apartment in Rio Piedras such as the installation of an air conditioning unit.

The scheme allegedly took place from mid 1997 to March 2001, meaning that Rivera Rangel continued to receive payments until after leaving office.

The investigation includes the cooperation of some of the three contractors who federal authorities declined to identify and recorded conversations of Rivera Rangel, confirming her participation in the scheme.

All contractors, according Gil, obtained multimillion-dollar contracts with the government. Still Rivera Rangel demanded payments only to arrange meetings, not to assure the contracts.

"The purpose of paying Rivera Rangel was not to obtain the contracts, it was to gain access to the government agency heads and speed up the payments of already existing contracts; to pay bills that were pending," Gil said.

Ocasio Ramos, who last week pleaded guilty to two charges of corruption and bribery of $35,000 to obtain a contract for the government retirement system, was deputy chief-of-Staff for six months during Rossello’s first term. But at the time the alleged scheme took place, he was a contractor who owned Global Management Corporation.

If convicted, the pair of former government officials could face a prison sentence of 10 to 20 years and up to $250,000 in fines.

Noriega: U.S. Supreme Court Will Favor The Blue Ribbon

March 24, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN (AP) - David Noriega, chairman of the Independent Citizens Committee for the Evaluation of Government Transactions, also known as "the Blue Ribbon Committee," said Sunday the U.S. Supreme Court will also overrule the petition aimed at hindering the work performed by the group of private citizens against government corruption.

The U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston determined Friday that the Blue Ribbon Committee may continue its investigative work because it doesn't violate the constitutional aspects related to the due process of law, as stated by U.S. District Court Judge Jose Fuste.

The former Management and Budget Office Director Jorge Aponte announced that he would appeal the ruling at the U.S. Supreme Court because part of the case files were not evaluated.

"It doesn't worry me in the least that [the decision] be appealed," said Noriega in a radio interview.

"I dare say with total ease that if the petition is filed it won't go anywhere. If what he wants is to throw money away, let him file it," Noriega added.

SEC Begins Auditing The PDP

March 24, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN (AP) - The State Elections Commission (SEC) began the audit requested by Gov. Sila Calderon regarding the campaign expenses of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) during the past general elections, SEC officials announced.

Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Electoral Commissioner Carlos Lopez Feliciano noted that the audit is among the priorities of the agency, which is why respective instructions have already been issued to transfer $200,000 the governor assigned to the SEC Audits Division to begin the auditing process.

However, he said the electoral commissioners of the three political parties will await for the financial audit that the SEC must perform by law to all parties following each general elections, to compare the findings in both audits.

The SEC has 25 auditors and countless independent certified public accountants to work in the PDP audit and are expected to do the job expeditiously, Lopez Feliciano said.

Calderon requested the SEC to perform an audit of the PDP finances following allegations that the party had violated the Electoral Law during its elections campaign.

The PDP has been singled out for allegedly concocting a fraud scheme with Calderon's strategists that consisted in using legislative and mayoral candidates in campaign ads that favored the image of the current governor. However, Calderon has denied the imputations.

Treasury Chief Warns Of Multimillion-Dollar Insufficiency

March 24, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

PONCE (AP) - The Gov. Sila Calderon administration faces an insufficiency of $191 million to balance the budget for next fiscal year to begin in July, Treasury Secretary Juan Flores Galarza said on Sunday.

The agency chief added that the government of Calderon found an operational deficit of $700 million when it took office in January 2001.

Flores Galarza attributed the current financial insufficiency to, among other things, the economic slowdown following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 against the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York, worsening the recession.

"As of last December, we had an insufficiency of revenues of approximately $200 million, but in January and February the revenues have gone over out budget and that insufficiency has gone down to $191 million," Flores Galarza said in a radio interview.

The Treasury chief hopes that the deficit will improve in the next four months due to tax collection.

Court OKs Blue Ribbon Commission

March 23, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

BOSTON (AP) -- A special commission formed by Puerto Rico's governor to secretly investigate government actions does not violate due process provisions of the U.S. Constitution, an appeals court panel ruled.

The ruling by a three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturns a federal district court decision that barred the commission from conducting investigations without instituting regular trial procedures.

``This decision lets the commission continue its fight against corruption,'' said Puerto Rico Gov. Sila Calderon, who formed the panel by executive order in 2001.

Plaintiff Daniel Pagan, Puerto Rico's former Secretary of the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, said he will ask for a review of the decision by the full appeals court.

Pagan was implicated in two of the three investigations completed by the commission; his co-plaintiff, former budget director Jorge Aponte, was implicated in one.

Calderon said she formed the Independent Citizens' Commission to Evaluate Government Transactions to increase trust in government institutions plagued by scandals during the past New Progressive Party administration.

Both Pagan and Aponte were members of that administration.

The commission operates under strict confidentiality. Witnesses are not allowed to take notes or record their testimony. Witnesses who are not considered suspects are not allowed to have attorneys present. Only the governor has the right to publicize the findings or evidence collected by the commission.

The appeals court panel said that because the commission simply makes recommendations and does not have the power to charge anyone with a crime, there was no way it could violate due process rights.

McClintock Refers Alleged PIP Irregularities To Ethics

March 22, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN (AP) – New Progressive Party (NPP) Sen. Kenneth McClintock referred Thursday to the Senate Ethics Committee a published report where Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) Sen. Fernando Martin made expressions that could constitute violations to the law.

McClintock sent a letter to Senate Ethics Committee Chairman Eudaldo Baez Galib, where he includes a copy of the article published March 17, 2002, in a local newspaper, in which is stated that almost 80% of Martin’s and PIP Rep. Victor Garcia San Inocencio’s campaign money came from profits of the selling of "Con Ruben en la playa" book.

It is indicated in the article that the books were bought from the author, Pablo Marcial Ortiz, at $3 and were sold for $20.

"We would have to ask if each citizen that bought the books distributed by the PIP candidates were conscious that they were contributing $17 to those candidates’ campaign committees," the NPP Senate minority leader said in his letter.

For his part, Martin said he was confident that the committee will not consider McClintock’s argument, which he described as "absolutely frivolous."

FEC Reveals Excess Donations In Acevedo Vila’s Reports

March 22, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN (AP) – The Federal Elections Commission (FEC) presented two preliminary reports that warn Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila that he received donations exceeding the limits established by law and that he had to make official his candidacy for 2004, if he wanted to continue to raise funds.

However, Acevedo Vila said due to the anthrax problem in Congress, he never received the ultimatum reports, and he knew about it late via an Internet communication, according to press release.

The official accepted that he received $200,000 in his first 14 months of incumbency but assured that the money was destined to pay for a $700,000 debt from the last political campaign with advertising agency Lopito, Ileana & Howie, corresponding to his primary candidacy and electoral campaign.

The resident commissioner affirmed that he is not worried about the federal agency report and that he already filed his candidacy.

In a related matter, U.S. Magistrate Aida Delgado chose May 29 through 31 to listen to proof of the complaint against Anibal Acevedo Vila filed by former Resident Commissioner Carlos Romero Barcelo.

Romero Barcelo accused Acevedo Vila of violating the U.S. Attorneys Ethics Code for a complaint filed by Acevedo Vila before the FEC in 2000, based on expressions made by former chauffeur Andres Sanchez Delgado, which presumably involved Romero Barcelo in an illegal donations scheme.

Colonels Inspect Vieques Zones

March 22, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN (AP) – Col. Cesar Garcia Ortiz, chief of the Field Operations Assistant Superintendence, visited Vieques and assured that he will stay there while the new U.S. Navy practices last.

Garcia Ortiz will also rely on Fajardo Area Cmdr. Col. Gilberto Diaz Pagan to battle the demonstrators on the civilian side of the island municipality.

Both police officials inspected Thursday the surrounding areas to Camp Garcia, as well as the Sports Complex and the fire station, where the contingency of 200 troops who are usually assigned to Vieques during the military maneuvers board, according to published reports.

On the other hand, Police Superintendent Miguel Pereira did not attend Thursday night a meeting scheduled with Vieques leaders, due to alleged health problems, to discuss among other things, the presence of the Rapid Action United Forces (FURA by its Spanish acronym).

The Navy announced that it will start a new round of bombings April 1, while the groups that oppose the practices have said they will enter military terrain to stop them.

Spokesman: Pro-Navy In Vieques Movement Active

March 22, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN (AP) – The Viequenses Pro Navy group reappeared Friday to announce that it will continue to seek the permanence of the U.S. Navy in Vieques.

The group’s leader, Luis Sanchez, indicated that with that purpose, they will conduct a meeting Saturday to coordinate activities in support of the military body in response to the maneuvers scheduled for April 1.

"The pro-Navy in Vieques and Puerto Rico movement continues live and growing. For that reason, the movement will continue, as it has been, holding meetings and related activities," Sanchez said in a press release.

The Navy already notified the Puerto Rico government that it will conduct military practices in the Vieques target range starting April 1.

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