Admiral: Gulf Training Better Than Vieques
Ricky Martin Sings For The Queen
Garcia Sworn In
Over 600 Police Officers Disarmed
Officials: Prasa Crisis Not Due To Lack Of Funds
Fewer Collections Expected From New Excise Tax Increase Signed Into Law By Governor
Romero May Seek Cintrons Seat
Gulf Training Better Than Vieques
June 4, 2002
PANAMA CITY, Fla. (AP) -- In a departure from frequent claims about the unmatched advantages of Vieques Island, a Navy commander said Monday that moving live-fire exercises from Puerto Rico will in some ways improve Navy training.
``In some respects Vieques is a terrific range; in other respects it's not as good as what we have here,'' said Adm. Robert J. Natter, commander in chief of the Atlantic Fleet.
Some Navy leaders have maintained that Vieques -- used to prepare for every U.S. military conflict since World War II -- is the only place where the Atlantic Fleet can hold simultaneous air, land and sea operations with live munitions.
But Natter said that while Vieques works well for unguided bombs dropped on fixed targets, the island is too small for practicing with long-range, precision guided weapons, particularly against moving targets.
An array of ranges in Florida, the Carolinas and Georgia are better for ``smart'' bombs and other high-tech weapons, said Natter, whose headquarters are at Norfolk, Va.
The Navy during the past couple of years has shifted some live bombing from Vieques to land ranges at Eglin Air Force Base, near Fort Walton Beach.
Ricky Martin Sings At The Golden Jubilee
June 3, 2002
LONDON (AP) -- Buckingham Palace rocked Monday night with screaming guitars, cheering fans and pop stars led by Paul McCartney and Ricky Martin in a concert celebrating Queen Elizabeth II's 50 years on the throne.
An estimated one million people thronged the parks and roads around the palace, including the thousands who waved the Union Jack flag in the plaza directly below.
The crowd cheered wildly, starting with the opening act of ``The Party at the Palace'' -- guitarist Brian May of the group Queen, who stood on the palace roof with his long hair flying and sang ``God Save the Queen.
Ricky Martin went straight into ``The Cup of Life'' with a brief assist from Mis-Teeq, and then sang ``Livin' La Vida Loca.''
When the music ended, Queen Elizabeth II led the royal family on stage to thank the performers.
New Interim U.S. District Attorney Sworn In
June 3, 2002
SAN JUAN (AP) - Humberto Garcia sworn in Monday as the new U.S. District Attorney in Puerto Rico District Court, asked his critics for time to show that his nomination was a good choice.
The official also swore in Guillermo Gil Bonar as the highest ranking prosecutor charged with government corruption cases.
After the ceremony, presided by Chief Justice Hector Laffitte, Garcia said to reporters that these types of cases "hold special importance for justice."
Likewise, he defended the work of district attorney Gil Bonar, who for 10 years occupied the interim leadership, and said that he did "very good work, work that is necessary."
Concerning the criticism of some local leaders who felt that a Puerto Rican should occupy the position, Garcia, who is Mexican-American, said he was confident that once they become aware of his management, their doubts would disappear.
"I hope that they will take time to get to know me... I know that once they do, they will realize that I am not a bad choice", said the Mexican-American fiscal.
On the other hand, he said that it was still too early to reveal what his first priority as district attorney would be nor could he say if there would be administrative changes in this division.
He said he has already settled himself in Puerto Rico and he likes it here.
"I like it, it is the Enchanted Island," he emphasized.
Notwithstanding, on his first day in court, Garcia said he felt "a little dazed, confused, and in the face of a challenge."
Regarding the responsibilities he will be facing in his new position, he affirmed that the Puerto Rico Court "is different and more challenging for me," but in essence represents the same as other stateside courts: "justice."
He acknowledged that cases heard there "are a little different, much bigger in some cases and have greater importance for the community".
The White House has yet to send Garcias nomination to the U.S. Senate for confirmation.
Notwithstanding, the U.S. Justice Department Secretary, John Ashcroft, sent a letter to Judge Laffitte informing him of the nomination.
He indicated that Garcias interim period can be extended for 120 days.
More Than 600 Police Officers Disarmed For Violating Law 54
June 2, 2002
PONCE (AP) - Police Superintendent Miguel Pereira revealed that over 600 police officers have been disarmed for incurring in violations to Law 54, also known as the Domestic Violence Law.
"For psychological reasons, the Puerto Rico Police has disarmed more than 600 police officers involved in domestic violence disputes," Pereira said.
The police superintendent didn't specify which region of the island had the highest rate of those cases.
On the other hand, he said as of Saturday, some 305 murders have been reported in Puerto Rico, 80% of them linked to drug trafficking.
On related issues, Pereira noted the need to establish a new focus in the distribution of the Police $648 million budget, to allow for the purchasing of more equipment.
He said nine out of ten dollars are used to pay for salaries and fringed benefits.
Pereira said there are 18,500 police officers on the island, which translates to one agent per some 200 residents.
He denied that more police officers means having a better performance of the force.
"The correct thing to say is that the more trained, capable, and equipped they are, the better the performance, and that requires a lower number of police officers," Pereira said.
He also said he would restructure the education system of the Police Academy, as he thought it strange that no one flunks the academy.
Officials: Prasa Crisis Not Due To Lack Of Funds
June 1, 2002
SAN JUAN (AP) The economic losses of the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (Prasa) and pipe leaks increased during the past four years, despite a government investment of almost $1 billion in capital funds, Infrastructure Financing Authority Director Ramon Amador said Friday during a public hearing of the House Treasury Committee, which is studying Prasas budget for next fiscal year.
"In the past 16 years, the people of Puerto Rico have invested $4 billion in Prasa, above its operational expenses," Amador said.
Prasa Government Board President Jose Izquierdo said the problems of drinking water are not for lack of money, but the misuse of funds.
"The solution presented in terms of aqueducts in the past decades has been to invest excessively in capital improvements, but it was not invested in making efficient aqueducts, providing adequate maintenance to facilities, and personnel training," Izquierdo said.
Izquierdo, who is also Transportation and Public Works secretary, defended Prasas operation budget of $422.18 million, as well as the contract of $3.3 billion granted to the Ondeo company to administrate the agency for the next 10 years.
Fewer Collections Expected From Excise Tax Increase
MAY 31, 2002
SAN JUAN (AP) The Treasury Department could end up collecting less than expected, due to the fact that the increase in excise taxes for sport utility vehicles (SUVs) will provoke changes in the auto industry market, according to several experts consulted by a local newspaper.
Auto Industry Market Joint Committee spokesman Ramon Vega affirmed that it is most probable that sales will concentrate on the less expensive vehicles, which will reduce the estimated collection estimates from $50 million to $70 million.
According to his estimates, consumers will look for less expensive vehicles, instead of purchasing SUVs.
Vega estimated that approximately 122,000 SUVs are sold annually, while only 7,000 units of the less expensive vehicles are sold in a year.
If the estimates are proved to be true, the government budget could end up with a $20 million deficit.
Governor Signs Laws Imposing New Excise Taxes
May 31, 2002
The bills that increase excise taxes on alcoholic beverages and sports utility vehicles (SUVs) were made law Thursday by Gov. Sila Calderon, just as the governor had said earlier.
The administrations bills approved by the House of Representatives in a partisan vote Tuesday, along with the excise tax increase to cigarettes already made law, seek $596 million to the recurring income of the Puerto Rico government.
The funds the government receives with these excise taxes will be used in a special fund created to stabilize the health reform, La Fortaleza said in a press release.
"This Stabilization Fund will provide the recurring resources to achieve this stability in the expenses [of the reform] and conduct changes to improve the services that are provided to citizens," Calderon said.
According to the law that increases excise taxes on alcoholic beverages, retailers have 15 days to adjust the increase to beer and distilled spirits.
The bill that increases the excise taxes on SUVs was made law despite opposition of the islands car distributors.
Romero Does Not Rule Out Running For Cintrons House Seat
May 31, 2002
SAN JUAN (AP) Former Gov. Carlos Romero Barcelo did not rule out running for the post occupied by New Progressive Party (NPP) Rep. Angel Cintron if he resigns.
The former governor said Thursday that his defeat to Anibal Acevedo Vila in the 2000 elections was not in any way the end of his political career. According to published reports, if he decides to run or is asked to do so by the party, Romero Barcelo would be the first candidate to occupy the five most important posts in Puerto Rican political history.
Romero Barcelo was San Juan mayor from 1969 to 1977, governor from 1977 to 1985, resident commissioner from 1993 to 2001, and senator from 1986 to January 1989.
It would also be the first time that father and daughter would occupy a post in the Legislature simultaneously, since his daughter Melinda Romero is currently an NPP representative.