Justice To Investigate Senator
Governor: $58M For Culebra
$500K To Study Vieques-Naguabo Route
NPP Promises To Give Calderon 'Eye For An Eye
Poverty Declines 10%
Popular To Invest $197M In Construction Projects
NPP Questions Anti-Crime Plan
Navy Gives $450K For Ports Authority
Justice To Investigate Alleged Irregularities By Senator
June 6, 2002
VIEQUES (AP) Although she does not believe he is capable of stealing public funds, Gov. Sila Calderon will ask Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez to evaluate and make a determination on the alleged irregularities regarding Sen. Modesto Agosto Alicea in his handling of pork barrel funds.
The chief executive also confirmed that Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora has announced that he will submit the case before the Senate Ethics Committee to take the necessary corrective measures.
"To me, Agosto Alicea appears to be an honest person. I do not believe he is capable of putting a dollar in his pocket," Calderon said regarding irregularities discovered in an audit report from the Commonwealth Comptrollers Office on proffering large sums of legislative donations to family members of his employees.
Pork barrel funds are special monies that come from the general budget and are disbursed for public projects in the districts. Barrel money is designated for capital improvements and originates from government-issued bonds marketed by the Government Development Bank.
The governor also asked for time so that Popular Democratic Party Rep. Alida Arizmendi can explain why she did not include the $500 donation received from a law firm for her election campaign in her financial reports.
"When a person works a great deal with these reports. . ., sometimes unintentionally, an oversight can occur," stated the chief executive, who appeared not to blame the representative, adding that what is important is to correct the error.
According to published reports, the alleged donation was made to Arizmendi in June 2000, a date on which her financial statements reflected that there had not been any revenue nor expenditures related to her campaign.
Electoral Law prohibits candidates to receive donations "directly or indirectly" from a "corporation, business, enterprise, union, or labor group."
It also stipulates that "all corporations, businesses, enterprises, unions, or labor groups that violate the stipulations of this clause will be sanctioned with a $5,000 fine."
Governor Places First Stone In Two Projects In Culebra
June 6, 2002
CULEBRA (AP) Gov. Sila Calderon traveled to Culebra on Thursday to place the first stone in the construction of a urban elementary school and a water treatment plant.
La Fortaleza stated that the school would be located in the Playa Sardinas II sector, while the treatment plant will be constructed in the San Isidro sector.
As part of the program, employees from more than 50 agencies traveled to the island to orientate and make the government services more accessible to citizens.
"These two projects have an estimate cost of $58.3 million, from which $21.5 million will be destined for the elementary school construction project," La Fortaleza said.
The cost of the water plant was estimated at $20.7 million.
$500,000 Assigned To Study Route From Vieques To Naguabo
June 6, 2002
VIEQUES (AP) Accompanied by municipal and state government officials, Gov. Sila Calderon announced Thursday the allocation of $500,000 for a study that will examine the viability of establishing a shorter maritime route between Vieques and Naguabo.
In a stark contrast with an event celebrated that morning in Culebra, where the governor announced the investment of $58.3 million in public works, no more than 50 people joined the governor during her announcement at Mosquito Bay, located on land transferred by the U.S. Navy to the Vieques municipality.
If the study determines that the route is possible, Vieques residents would be able to reach the island via the Naguabo municipality, which will shorten the trip to a half-hour. The current trip between Vieques and Fajardo takes approximately an hour-and-a-half.
Vieques residents have expressed their concern about the governors attitude regarding the Navys presence on the island.
Calderon insisted during her electoral campaign that the Navy should be ousted immediately, but now she states that the military should go "as soon as possible."
NPP Promises To Give Calderon 'Eye For An Eye' Treatment
By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin
June 5, 2002
Taking an apparent 180-degree spin on his stance against the creation of special committees to investigate government transactions, New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera said he would be willing to create a similar entity if he is elected governor in 2004.
"We are definitely going to give these people the same [treatment] they have given us. We will investigate, because this cannot happen again in Puerto Rico," the NPP leader said. "We will use all the government resources necessary to this end. We wont allow things like this to happen again."
Pesquera made his statement following a press conference Wednesday to denounce the fact that the Calderon administration had lied to the public when it said the new 10-year contract with Ondeo to manage the operations of the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (Prasa) would eliminate the agencys multimillion-dollar deficit in five years.
"That contract should definitely go to a Red Ribbon [committee] for investigation," the NPP president said, in a clear allusion to the red and white colors that identify the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) and to the Independent Citizens Committee for the Investigation of Government Transactions, also known as the Blue Ribbon Committee, created by Gov. Sila Calderon to investigate the past NPP administrations government transactions.
Pesquera denied that the determination not to let bygones be bygones is a punitive action against the Calderon administration.
"This is not vengeance. This is justice, so that these things dont go unnoticed," Pesquera said.
The NPP president added that this administration has had to face the most lawsuits in the history of Puerto Rican politics following countless former government employees claims that they have been victims of political discrimination and persecution.
Pesquera also noted that an administration with irregularities such as the alleged use of pork barrel funds of Popular Democratic Party Sen. Modesto Agosto Alicea to benefit his employees at the Legislature, is not in a position to persecute those who he believes are honest and hardworking employees, just because they sympathized with the political ideology of the past administration.
"What that proves is that corruption has no color, that we should continue to investigate and to have those accountable pay for what theyve done," Pesquera concluded.
Census: Poverty Decreases 10% On The Island
June 5, 2002
SAN JUAN (AP) The Census Bureau revealed the poverty level in Puerto Rico fell 10% compared with data compiled 10 years ago.
According to the islands economic data profile, revealed in published reports, approximately 48.2% of the population was considered poor, when in 1989, the percentage was 58.9%. That equals 1,818,687 people under the poverty level, 238,690 less than a decade ago.
Demographer Judith Rodriguez said in terms of percentage the decrease is extraordinary, but she emphasized that the government should not lessen efforts to continue to lower this amount, since according to the numbers one out of two persons is poor.
A family of four is a poor family, according to the census, if their annual income is $17,874 or less. In 1989, the poverty level for a family of four was $12,674.
The census revealed that the number of families headed by women and living in poverty increased from 142,737 to 159,205.
Popular To Invest $197 Million In Construction Projects
By Ken Oliver-Mendez
June 5, 2002
Popular Inc. announced that it will invest more than $197 million in the construction, renovation, and expansion of its corporate facilities over the next two years.
Popular Inc. President and CEO Richard Carrion said the bulk of the spending will be concentrated in four projects getting underway in the metro San Juan area, including the $35 million renovation and expansion of the landmark Popular Center in the heart of Hato Rey.
"We are going to restore the façade of the building, add 150 additional parking spaces, build new retail and exhibition hall wings, a theatre and a conference center," Carrion told CARIBBEAN BUSINESS.
Popular Center will also be connected by an elevated walkway to another new Popular building to be located on the corner of Ponce de Leon Avenue and Popular Street. The new building will consist of a seven-story parking lot and a five-story office building, occupying a total of more than 480,000 square feet. Carrion said the structure currently located at the site will be imploded Sunday morning.
Carrion announced that Populars massive Operations Center in Cupey will also be the site of a new 166,000 square foot building, in which the Popular Call Center will be located. Construction of a new six-level parking lot with a capacity for more than 1,100 cars is already underway at the location.
Construction is also now getting underway on a new $29 million building in the Altamira section of San Juan, at the corner of Jesus T. Piñero Avenue and the Rafael Martinez Nadal expressway. The new building will include more than 155,000 square feet of office space, along with 173,000 square feet of parking for 560 cars.
Carrion said the construction schedule calls for most of the projects to be completed prior to the end of 2004.
NPP Questions Effectiveness Of Calderons Anti-Crime Plan
By Raquel Velazquez
June 5, 2002
"Crime has no color, and it has no [political] party," blasted New Progressive Party (NPP) Rep. Anibal Vega Borges, flanked by colleagues Reps. Iris Miriam Ruiz Class and Pedro Lopez Santos, at a press conference on Tuesday to condemn Gov. Sila Calderons anti-crime plan, the legislators categorized it as "a failure and a desperate and reactionary publicity stunt."
Vega Borges and his colleagues cited the extraordinary increase in Type I crimes in municipalities across the island and urged Police Superintendent Miguel Pereira to get "advice from [former Police Superintendent Pedro] Toledo and not Sila" on how to handle the crime wave.
"I believe that Toledo is in the best position to orient all police superintendents, better than the governor," said Vega Borges, adding that Toledo was successful in reducing crime during his eight-year tenure.
The NPP representative said more police need to be recruited and given more resources. Vega Borges also called for greater police presence in high crime areas.
Ruiz Class, for her part, condemned the Calderon administration for stalling the anti-crime plan.
"How does an administration that has been in power for a year-and-a-half tell the people that it is going to prepare an anti-crime plan...and yet it cant point out one specific thing it is going to do to reduce crime in Puerto Rico."
Ruiz Class confirmed that Calderon called a meeting with her secretaries and her superintendent in desperation after a recent poll found that citizens gave her administration grades of C and D.
Vega Borges offered statistics to show that Type I crimes, which include murder, robbery, and rape, have consistently been on the rise.
As of May 31, 2002, there has been a 21.9% increase in Type I crimes, for a total of 38,130 committed this year. Thats 6,840 more than were committed this time last year.
Three municipalities stood out among those with high crime rates: Ponce, with 37.3%; Mayaguez, with 38%; and Fajardo, with 43.4%.
Vega Borges also predicted that the governors strategy to recruit some 23,000 police officers before the end of her term will fail, since no funds have been allocated for the recruitment.
NPP Rep. Pedro Lopez Santos, for his part, said the anti-crime plan includes no readily apparent crime prevention programs.
"There has been no planning of any kind to assist the police in this arduous task," Lopez Santos affirmed.
Navy Gives $450,000 For Ports Authority On Vieques
June 4, 2002
SAN JUAN (AP) - The U.S. Navy delivered a $450,000 check Tuesday to Puerto Rican government to help train firefighters and buy rescue equipment for the airport on Vieques, a Navy spokesman said.
The funds are part of a larger $3.5 million project to increase firefighting and emergency response capabilities at the outlying island's Antonio Rivera Rodriguez Airport, Navy spokesman Lt. Corey Barker said.
The funds offered Tuesday also went toward purchasing a fire truck and a rescue truck, and completing construction on a three-bay fire station. A rescue boat is to be bought later this year, Barker said.
In total, the Navy has pledged $40 million for economic development in Vieques, where the military has conducted bombing exercises for six decades. The last exercises were held in April.
After decades of complaints that the bombings had stunted the island's sole industries of fishing and tourism, Congress authorized the development funds.
So far, $16 million has been released in grants, payments to fishermen and other programs.