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Ferre Blames Garcia Designation On Island’s Colonial Status

Calderon’s Anticrime Plan Doesn’t Include New Ideas

Governor: Excise Tax Increase Was The Least Of All Evils

$26M Vieques Dispersal Requested

Torruella, Baez Galib Implore Bush To Appoint Puerto Rican As U.S. Atty

Ferre Blames Designation Of Non-Islander For U.S. Attorney On Puerto Rico’s Colonial Status


May 9, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Puerto Rico 's colonial status is to blame for designation of a Texan, Humberto Garcia, a U.S. assistant district attorney of Mexican-American descent, instead of a local lawyer to replace the outgoing U.S. district attorney, a former governor and head of the local Republican Party said Thursday.

"Our colonial condition doesn't let us effectively persuade the vote of the (U.S.) president. Our position rests ... particularly on our chance to influence votes in other parts of the nation so they support the president," said former Gov. Luis A Ferre.

As residents of this U.S. territory, Puerto Ricans can't vote for president and have one nonvoting representative in Congress.

Ferre, who founded the island's statehood party, said the local Republican Party had suggested two island lawyers Jose Gaztambide-Anenes and Gary Montilla for the post, but President Bush didn't take them into consideration.

Calderon’s Anticrime Plan Fails To Include New Ideas

By Proviana Colon Diaz

May 9, 2002
Copyright © 2002
WOW News. All rights reserved.  

Sixteen months after being sworn in as the island’s first female chief administrator, Gov. Sila Calderon complied Thursday with her campaign promise for an anticrime plan.

Over the years, polls have consistently identified crime as the public’s top concern.

Calderon said the new plan proposes to guard the security of island residents, reduce crime and violations of the law, and ensure peace and order.

The much-anticipated plan failed to include new ideas, to the extent that journalists repeatedly asked both Calderon and Police Superintendent Miguel Pereira what was innovative about it, as the priorities indicated are already duties of the law enforcing department.

Visibly upset by the line of questions, Calderon made use of political arguments in an attempt to highlight a difference between the daily reality and that which will occur once the plan goes into effect.

But aside from pinpointing a difference in "intention" and a willingness to change the way criminal statistics are kept, Calderon could not demonstrate any differences.

"The difference is that what we are presenting today [Thursday] is a measurable open effort, based not on the tough hand, but on the firm and reasonable hand," Calderon said.

Calderon criticized Gov. Pedro Rossello’s zero-crime-tolerance policy for creating a "stigmatization" of poverty.

"The people of Puerto Rico are used to hearing slogans such as a tough hand against crime. They are used to having machine guns and military tanks go into public housing projects where poor people live, and not necessarily all poor people are criminals," Calderon said.

Dubbed "Operation Force Against Crime," the anticrime plan was presented by Calderon’s second appointed Police superintendent.

On Wednesday, both Calderon and Pereira made public the first key element of the plan, the restructuring and decentralization of the police force.

Other key elements were identified Thursday, as a frontal attack on weapon and drug dealing and placing an emphasis on increasing the number of crimes solved.

To relieve the working load of the criminal investigations corps, ordinary police precinct agents will now be in charge of investigating robberies in which the value of property stolen is under $1,000.

Violent crimes on the island are up 19.4% compared with last year, statistics show.

Pereira will implement a new form of statistics that includes 40 types of crime, so that police numbers reveal exactly what is going on.

Both Pereira and Calderon argued that crime statistics have been tampered with for years, and vowed not to engage in such practices again.

The plan also proposes wide participation from island citizens and includes the creation of a Citizen Advisory Board, which will be comprised of five nondepartment employees, a member of the force, and an attorney.

Citizens can file their complaints, especially those dealing with police brutality, before the special board.

Governor: Excise Tax Increase Was The Least Of All Evils

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin

May 9, 2002
Copyright © 2002
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.  

Gov. Sila Calderon said the increase of excise taxes on alcohol, tobacco, and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) approved by the Senate on Tuesday was the least of all evils that she was forced to choose from to counteract the fiscal mess left by the past administration.

Calderon said no one had a clue of how bad the government finances were until she took office and that she tried her best to resolve the problem while inflicting the least amount of damage to tax payers.

"The alternative that I chose was one of least possible consequences to the people of Puerto Rico. It was a difficult decision but I had to responsibly balance the budget," said Calderon, adding that job cuts and the elimination of government services would have been much worse than the approved excise tax increase.

The governor reiterated that the budget was balanced and didn’t foresee any future problems with it.

"I can assure the people of Puerto Rico that the budget is balanced," Calderon said.

The governor refused to acknowledge a point presented by New Progressive Party Senate Minority Leader Kenneth McClintock on Tuesday, regarding the possible illegality of imposing the tax increase on SUVs of 2002 that have already been taxed.

McClintock said the government should not apply the new tax increase on SUV models of 2002 to balance the budget of 2003, as it could risk losing that money if local car dealers later decide to challenge the increase in court, as happened when the Treasury Department imposed a 6.6% excise tax on private mail delivery companies in Puerto Rico. UPS filed suit and won last week.

But the governor dismissed McClintock’s concern.

"[McClintock] was part of the biggest fiscal and administrative disaster in the history of Puerto Rico," said Calderon, implying that the NPP senator’s opinion was of no importance.

Letter Requests Dispersal Of $26 Million For Vieques

May 9, 2002
Copyright © 2002
WOW News. All rights reserved.  

The Democratic leader of the U.S. House Armed Forces Committee and Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila requested the U.S. Navy assign some $26 million for economic projects in Vieques, which Congress had approved but hasn’t been disbursed.

"We have ideas about how to better identify and implement worthy projects in Vieques," Rep. Ike Skelton and Acevedo Vila said in a letter sent Tuesday to Adm. Kevin Green, leader of the Southern Command in the Roosevelt Roads Naval Base.

As part of the bill approved in 2000, which proposed a referendum in Vieques to decide the future of military exercises on that island municipality, the Navy promised to give $40 million for economic development and health initiatives on Vieques.

The proposed referendum was cancelled by President George W. Bush at the same time he ordered the delivery of almost $14 million for Vieques projects.

Senate President Says Islanders Want Puerto Rican As U.S. Attorney


May 8, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Puerto Rico's Senate president and a leading judge are questioning the nomination of a Texan as district attorney for this U.S. Commonwealth, with the senator complaining Wednesday that it indicates a lack of trust in islanders.

In a letter to President George W. Bush, Senate President Eudaldo Baez Galib offered to help find a qualified candidate from Puerto Rico.

"You can be sure that in Texas, or in any other place in the United States, they wouldn't dare to impose on the local population a U.S. attorney parachuted in from Puerto Rico," Judge Juan R. Torruella, of the First Circuit Appeals Court in Boston, said in a column published Tuesday in the island's leading El Nuevo Dia newspaper.

The U.S. Department of Justice on May 3 designated Humberto Garcia, a U.S. assistant district attorney of Mexican-American descent in Sherman, Texas, to replace acting U.S. District Attorney Guillermo Gil.

Garcia is expected to take up the position in the next few weeks, after which Bush has 120 days to nominate him or name another person. Confirmation would be subject to approval by the U.S. Senate.

In his letter, Baez Galib questioned importing someone unfamiliar with local affairs at a time when several government officials are being investigated for corruption.

"It is not that we are regionalists; it is that any lawyer knows that the best district attorney is one who knows the idiosyncrasies of a place," the letter said.

"The message is a lack of trust" in the Puerto Rican people, it said.

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