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P.R. Water Regulation Inapplicable To Navy

Legislators Back Pork Barrel For Political Ads’ Trade

BBVA: Island Isn’t Implicated In Corruption Scheme

Archbishop Takes Stand On Abuse

Prasa’s Privatization Opposed

Little Hope For NPP Language Proposal

Boston: Navy Exempted From Local Water Intake Regulation

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

SAN JUAN (AP) — Boston U.S. District Court of Appeals confirmed that the U.S. Navy’s Roosevelt Roads Naval Base in Ceiba may continue to extract water from the Rio Blanco without having to comply with the requirements of the local Department of Natural and Environmental Resources.

The Court of Appeals determined that the department secretary cannot carry out an administrative process against the Navy under the Puerto Rico Water Act because the Navy has immunity.

The decision reinstates the Navy’s argument that in this case federal legislation, known as the McCarran Amendment is not applicable. The McCarran Amendment establishes that the U.S. government renounces its right not to be sued in connection with water intake in the states.

Civic organizations have estimated that 130,000 residents of 15 communities in Vieques, Culebra, Naguabo, Las Piedras, Humacao, and Yabucoa who obtain water from the Rio Blanco have problems with water service.

The groups also allege that the Navy extracts more water than what they really need.

In reaction to the decision, Naguabo Mayor Roberto Baez, Popular Democratic Party Rep. Georgie Fuentes, as well as Vieques fisherman Ismael Guadalupe, agreed that the court’s decision was an unfair one.

Although all three defend different political ideologies, they also agreed that the decision reflects the power the Navy can have over different U.S. government agencies.

Fuentes said the immunity claimed by the Navy "should not be applied when there are so many communities affected by this situation."

Baez urged the Puerto Rico government and the Navy to resolve the matter through dialogue, "like good neighbors do," since legal processes can be "a waste of time."

The mayor also requested that a reservoir be created outside of the Blanco River so that water can be stored in case of drought.

Ismael Guadalupe, spokesman for the Pro Rescue and Development of Vieques Committee, said in a radio interview that the government should require the Navy to comply with the local laws, since they were promulgated to protect the common good.

Legislators Accept Calderon’s Idea If She Cancels Ad Share

By Proviana Colon Diaz

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

Two New Progressive Party legislators said Thursday that they will accept Gov. Sila Calderon’s proposal to use $40 million from the pork barrel fund to balance the budget they insist is unbalanced if she also files a bill to cancel the $60 million designated for government advertising.

"We accept the elimination of the pork barrel fund, but she has to file two bills. One for such purpose, and one to eliminate the use of public funds for government advertising," House Minority Leader Anibal Vega Borges said.

Insisting that the budget is unbalanced, Vega Borges and Rep. Antonio Silva also asked the governor for Treasury Secretary Juan Flores Galarza’s resignation, arguing that it is his filed "elevated estimates" that have caused the deficit.

The duo argued that Flores Galarza has failed in estimating the amount of money that will be collected through income tax, and therefore the budget will end up unbalanced. For that reason, the current budget, according to them, has a $700 million deficit.

The deficit comes from the Health Card, with a $185 million deficit; the University of Puerto Rico, with $9.5 million; and the Police Department, with a $89 million deficit; among other agencies, Silva said.

The legislators’ statements came as a reaction to Calderon’s Wednesday proposal, as she affirmed that the budget submitted by her administration to the Legislature is balanced.

Calderon’s proposal to use pork barrel funds was not taken lightly by Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora, who said such funds could not be used to balance the budget because pork barrel money does not constitute a form of recurrent funds, which are needed to stabilize the budget.

BBVA: Puerto Rico Isn’t Implicated In Corruption Scheme

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

SAN JUAN (AP) — On Wednesday, Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria of Puerto Rico (BBVA) President Antonio Uguina said he can prove the legality of every transaction and every transfer to and from the BBVA international banking entity on the island.

Spanish prosecutors are investigating whether the BBVA international corporation was created as a mechanism for money laundering and if the branch in Puerto Rico participated in it.

Uguina said after reading the report on the investigation, based on the documents and testimony of the bank’s former attorney Nelson Rodriguez, he is sure the implications of the bank in Puerto Rico are "100% false accusations."

"In the European press, Puerto Rico has been compared to a fiscal paradise like the Channel Islands, when the truth is Puerto Rico’s banking system is one of the most transparent and regulated systems there is," Uguina said in published reports.

Archbishop Urges Any Complaints Against Clergy Be Directed To The Police


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

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - The archbishop of this U.S. territory says anyone alleging sexual abuse by members of the clergy should go to the police, but he refused to comment on several such cases.

[Like Pope John Paul II, Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez Nieves asked Wednesday afternoon for forgiveness from the victims and their families involved in the child abuse scandal connected to the Catholic Church.

He acknowledged that the "tragedy’’ would affect the faith of Catholic followers in their priests but hoped that such confidence would be re-established.

"I have faith that we will be able to recover such trust through more rigorous efforts to ensure the protection of the minors who are entrusted to our care and through the transparency in dealing with these issues," Gonzalez Nieves said.]

Gonzalez Nieves, known for his fiery speeches against U.S. Navy war maneuvers on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, was soft-spoken and timid when asked about seven reported cases of sexual abuse by priests in three Puerto Rican dioceses.

"It's better that complainants go straight to civil authorities because it creates an impression of impartiality in the church."

He also told reporters he believed in a "no tolerance" policy.

He said the policy of the church in Puerto Rico is to turn over every report of sexual misconduct in the church to civil authorities as soon as the church had proven its veracity.

Gonzalez Nieves refused to comment on an investigation of sexual abuse by a priest in his diocese, which he announced last week. He said the case was under a church investigation for an undetermined time and wouldn't identify the priest, the man who made the complaint or the date when it was reported.

The Primera Hora daily newspaper reported that six other cases of sexual misconduct by priests were reported over the last few years in two other dioceses, Caguas and Arecibo, and three priests were transferred but the details of their transfer were not released.

Gonzalez Nieves said he is in favor of establishing a new church policy that would limit internal investigations of misconduct to 72 hours, after which the case would have to be turned over to civil authorities if the church found probable cause.

Union Denies Alleged Benefits Of Privatizing Prasa

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

SAN JUAN (AP) — Puerto Rican Workers Union President Victor Villalba took credibility away from the analysis conducted by the Price Waterhouse consulting firm that recommended the privatization of the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (Prasa).

According to Villalba, Prasa’s operating contract should remain in the government’s hands so that client services do not continue to be affected as they are now, while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency continues finding faults in treatment plants.

The leader criticized Wednesday the privatization plans, which he said form part of the economic current called neoliberalism that is leaving many countries such as Argentina in crisis.

The analysis, revealed Tuesday in published reports, concluded that it is best that the government grant a 10-year contract to a private company and then take back Prasa’s administration, since it would have new technology and the employees would be better trained.

Villalba said these same reasons were offered in 1998 when the government studied selling Telefonica to a foreign company.

He said after the sale, the public saw that it "was a mistake," since the service has worsened.

The evaluating committee is expected to announce by the end of this month which of the three soliciting companies has been selected to administer Prasa’s operations.

Study: Prasa’s Privatization Process Should Continue

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

SAN JUAN (AP) — An analysis performed by consultant firm Price Waterhouse revealed that it would be a bad decision at the moment to put the operations of the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (Prasa) back into the hands of the government.

The study showed that if the government regained control of Prasa, it would have to keep expensive public subsidies, hire additional private contractors, invest millions of dollars in technology and cut back on personnel.

According to published reports, however, the study doesn’t rule out the option once the 10-year private contract with Prasa is over, since by then, the public corporation should be able to keep the new technology to run the operations.

It also said that employees would be better trained to use that technology and the corporation’s deficit should have been eliminated.

During the weekend, the evaluating committee is expected to announce which of the three private companies should win the bid to run the Prasa operations for the next 10 years.

Not Much Hope Of Success For NPP Language Proposal

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – History tells us that it would be unlikely that the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) would consider the proposal to elevate English and Spanish —the island’s official languages— to a constitutional rank, according to academic Carmelo Delgado Cintron, who has studied the language issue for years.

Cintron joined critics who rejected New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera’s proposal.

"I do not think it is practical to stipulate in our Constitution that both languages are our official languages, since that does not correspond with our social reality," Cintron said.

He also pointed out that the PDP and former Gov. Luis Muñoz Marin understood that it was not convenient to elevate to a constitutional rank the flag, the anthem, and the official language, Spanish at that time, because several bills regarding the Spanish language were approved and later vetoed by then Acting Gov. Manuel Perez in 1944 and 1945.

Cintron also explained that in the same year the Legislative Assembly overruled the governor’s veto in 1945, and the bills were presented before President Harry S. Truman, only to be vetoed again.

Cintron indicated that the most recent effort to elevate the Spanish language to constitutional rank was in 1991, when then Gov. Rafael Hernandez Colon proposed a referendum in which his proposal was totally rejected.

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