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Garcia Has Much To Learn

Tax Collections Historical

Mercado Praises Carter’s Cuba Trip

Schering - Plough: FDA Conducting Criminal Probe

Pataki Taps Irizarry

Fewer Families To Lose Federal Aid

Senate Initiates Offshore Bank Probe

Garcia Has Much To Learn

By Proviana Colon Diaz

May 16, 2002
Copyright © 2002 WOW News. All rights reserved.

Acknowledging that he is "reading every night" to learn about Puerto Rico and its culture, the island’s soon-to-be new U.S. District Attorney Humberto Garcia said the only instructions he has received from Washington are "to do a good job."

Still, he said his office will continue to fight crime as it has done until now.

"Absolutely, every case that bares investigation and prosecution will continue; public corruption, drugs, every case that has merit will continue," Garcia said.

Garcia will officially begin his duty at the U.S. District Attorney’s Office on June 3 when he replaces Acting U.S. District Attorney Guillermo Gil Bonar.

Garcia made his statements at the U.S. District Court of Puerto Rico’s pressroom, where Gil Bonar introduced his replacement to the reporters assigned to cover the court on a daily basis.

Garcia’s designation has been criticized by U.S. Appellate Court in Boston Judge Juan Torruella and Popular Democratic Party Sen. Eudaldo Baez Galib, among others, because they believe there are Puerto Ricans who can do the job, and yet a resident from Texas is being brought in to head the office.

"I’m sure they’re very nice gentlemen and are entitled to their opinion. I think I am the person for the job," Garcia said.

Garcia replaces Gil Bonar, who has been holding the acting position since 1993.

Under the Gil Bonar administration, the U.S. District Attorney’s Office has convicted dozens of the island’s prominent figures for fraud and corruption cases, including the San Juan AIDS Institute embezzlement case.

His office has also filed charges against prominent members of former Gov. Pedro Rossello’s administration.

Gil Bonar’s departure from the post has not been taken lightly by those who think his cases and any other pending investigations may not be completed.

Although not as the boss, Gil Bonar will remain working in the office, and officials said he will continue to head the anti-corruption division.

Garcia did not confirm such suppositions, adding that the matter was yet to be discussed.

Treasury: April’s Tax Collections Historical

May 16, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Treasury Secretary Juan Flores Galarza announced Thursday that for the first time in history April revenue for the General Fund was more than $1 billion.

Flores Galarza said tax collections totaled $1.06 billion, which is in accordance with estimates for that month.

He added that the amount was $74 million more than the amount for the same month last year, representing a 7.5% increase.

"The most significant section was the tax on individual revenue, with a collection of $406 million, a record figure in the island’s history," the press release said.

Among other divisions that contributed to these numbers were taxes on rum shipments, which reflected a 33.3% increase compared with the same month last year.

"In great measure, the tax increase is a result of the approval of the extension of the federal tax refund of $13.25 per gallon which Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila encouraged," he said.

According to Flores Galarza, accumulated tax collections up to April reduced fiscal 2002’s estimated debt of $200 million to $177.5 million.

Secretary Of State Pleased With Carter’s Visit To Cuba

May 15, 2002
Copyright © 2002 WOW News. All rights reserved.

Local Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado praised the visit of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter to Cuba, describing it as a positive and historic event.

"It is very significant that Carter’s visit coincides with the 100th anniversary of Cuban independence. I hope Carter’s presence will boost several reforms for the Cuban political system and enable closer ties with the United States," said Mercado, adding that he wishes the changes would relax U.S. policies regarding Cuba since he believes Cubans, as well as American citizens on the U.S. mainland and in Puerto Rico will benefit most from it.

Mercado also noted that the local government is committed with the Cuban people to help them become a democratic and pluralist country.

He added that this is an appropriate time to establish a dialogue to reach a consensus in the quest for the liberty and prosperity they deserve.

Carter has been visiting Cuba since the beginning of the week. The former president criticized the limitations of the current regime in Cuba and urged the United States to take the first step in ending the decades-long economic embargo against the island nation.

Schering - Plough: FDA Conducting Criminal Probe

May 15, 2002
Copyright © 2002
REUTERS. All rights reserved.  

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. drugmaker Schering-Plough Corp. said on Wednesday it was informed that the U.S. government has launched a criminal probe on one or more of the company's products, sending the stock to a new five-year low.

Schering-Plough, whose plant problems in Puerto Rico and New Jersey have weighed heavily on revenue and earnings, said in a regulatory filing that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's office of criminal investigation in Puerto Rico is in the early stages of its probe.

``This investigation is at a very preliminary stage, and that is all we can say at this point,'' said company spokesman William O'Donnell.

Schering-Plough's shares were off 12.6 percent on the news, a new five-year low.

Schering-Plough disclosed in February 2001 that the FDA had pinpointed quality control problems at its plants in Puerto Rico and New Jersey. The firm is still struggling to correct the quality control issues, which included canister problems with its inhaled steroid products for asthma and allergies.

It has said it may have to pay up to $500 million to secure an FDA consent decree, or settlement, approving plant upgrades.

O'Donnell would not comment on whether the new probe is related to the previously cited plant problems in Puerto Rico.

Schering-Plough makes a range of inhaled and injectable products at its two Puerto Rico plants, including hepatitis C treatment, ribavirin.

Pataki Taps Irizarry For Att’y Gen. Run


May 14, 2002
Copyright © 2002 New York Post Holdings Inc. All rights reserved.

ALBANY - Gov. Pataki has selected a Puerto Rico -born judge from Manhattan as the Republican candidate for attorney general, sources told The Post last night.

The sources said Court of Claims Judge Dora L. Irizarry, 47 - like Pataki, a graduate of Yale University and Columbia Law School - was expected to aid Pataki's aggressive effort to court Puerto Rican and other Hispanic voters.

She was picked by the governor and his campaign aides over the past few days to fill the one remaining spot on the Republican ticket for this fall's election, the sources said.

The little-known Irizarry, who faces an uphill battle against Democratic Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, was described by a source as "brilliant and impressive."

Irizarry has been a frequent speaker on women's issues and the law and is a member of the Puerto Rican Bar Association and the Association of Judges of Hispanic Heritage.

She also is a founder of the Puerto Rican Bar Association Committee on the Bench and Bar and has been active in the Parent-Teachers Association for the Children's Workshop School.

"A Latina yuppie," was how she was described by a GOP operative.

Irizarry, who lives on Avenue C in the Lower East Side, is a onetime prosecutor in the Manhattan and Bronx district attorneys' offices and was appointed by then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani to the New York City Criminal Court in late 1995.

Pataki nominated Irizarry to the state Court of Claims in 1997, and she was later designated as an acting Supreme Court judge, hearing criminal cases in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Pataki reappointed Irizarry to the Court of Claims last year, describing her as a "highly qualified" jurist.

Pataki has been aggressively courting Hispanic voters - who largely vote Democratic - for over a year, learning to speak Spanish, helping lead the effort to stop military training on the Puerto Rican Island of Vieques , and becoming allies with many prominent Puerto Rican Democrats, including hospital workers union leader Dennis Rivera.

Fewer Families To Lose Federal Aid

May 14, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – Family Secretary Yolanda Zayas announced that at least 5,000 families who were to be withdrawn from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, will continue receiving federal government benefits.

Zayas, who reported last week that 7,000 families will be out of the program by this summer, indicated that in the most recent TANF report, the amount was reduced considerably to 2,000 families.

"The law exempts, for a five-year period, those families who have children under the age of six, women who are victims of domestic violence, pregnant women, women with physically challenged children, or those who have within their nuclear family elderly persons with disabilities or any other limitation," explained Zayas.

The law orders the withdrawal from the program of persons who are head of household and receive TANF benefits for a term of five years without seeking employment.

The official added that nearly 700 families, where the beneficiary is a minor and not the head of household, will continue receiving economic aid.

In order to help those 2,000 families who this summer will be without TANF benefits, the Department of the Family expects to receive by May 20 various proposals to create small businesses and promote the self-management of those families.

"Some of the small businesses we are analyzing for immediate implementation are those that have to do with the establishment of horticulture nurseries where these families live and the establishment of care centers where we are going to train women who are in the program," said Zayas.

Senate Committee Initiates Offshore Bank Accounts Probe

By Proviana Colon Diaz

May 14, 2002
Copyright © 2002 WOW News. All rights reserved.

Rafael Amar, general manager of the Venezuela-based Banesco International Bank of Puerto Rico, acknowledged Tuesday that clients of local offshore banking accounts do not have to pay taxes in his native land.

Questioned by Puerto Rican Independence Party Sen. Fernando Martin, Amar added that by law, they are not obliged to inform Venezuelan authorities of their clients’ offshore banking accounts.

"Might those who have their deposits here have the hope that the Venezuelan government will never find out about their earnings?" Martin asked.

To which Amar replied: "They could run that luck, so long as they remember that they may be subject to an investigation."

The testimony of Banesco representatives probably will be the only one received by the Senate Bank and Consumer Affairs Committee, since all other banks with local offshore banking accounts declined to testify, saying they will be represented by Puerto Rico Bankers Association President Arturo Carrion.

The hearings come as a result of Spanish Judge Baltazar Garzon’s visit last month to Puerto Rico when he interviewed seven witnesses as part of his investigation into an international money-laundering scheme at the Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria Bank (BBVA) of Spain.

The possible use of BBVA island branches as money-laundering banks raised questions about other international banks on the island making use of offshore accounts for such purposes.

To investigate the matter, Committee Chairman Roberto Vigoreaux began the hearings, which are scheduled to continue Wednesday with Carrion’s testimony.

Meanwhile, political analyst Juan Manuel Garcia Passalacqua, who in his morning radio talk show repeatedly makes remarks about the financing of political campaigns through local offshore banking accounts, got his opportunity to state for the Senate record his allegations, since Vigoreaux allowed him to testify.

Garcia Passalacqua denounced that in 1998, two months prior to the non-binding status referendum, some $1.5 million in bills of less than $100 were deposited in the accounts supporting the fifth, or none of the above, column, which was promoted by the Popular Democratic Party.

The option won the referendum, but Garcia Passalacqua argued that until that deposit was made, the "free association" column, which he favored, was winning among the people.

Garcia Passalacqua argued that those funds came from money-laundering accounts deposited in offshore banking accounts.

The State Elections Commission, according to Garcia Passalacqua, has declined to investigate the matter.

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