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Fas: Spanish Should Prevail

Governor Signs 2002-2003 Budget

Acevedo Vila Denounced Over Army South Inaction

Ondeo Sets Prasa’s Priorities

Jobs In Short Supply

Perez Addresses Legislature

Pesquera Charged With Rioting

$200M Budget Deficit

Poll Reveals Distrust Of Political Parties

Fas: Spanish Should Prevail In Puerto Rico

July 2, 2002
Copyright ©2002 EFE. All rights reserved.

English should be dropped as a co-official language of Puerto Rico and Spanish promoted as the island's "prevailing" tongue, the head of the Puerto Rican senate said Monday.

Senate President Antonio Juan Fas Alzamora, a guest speaker at one of the summer courses offered by Madrid's Universidad Complutense in the mountain town of El Escorial near the Spanish capital, told EFE that only 11 percent of Puerto Ricans speak English.

Fas Alzamora said Puerto Ricans have "a native culture in which Spanish is predominant," although he acknowledged that, given the island's commonwealth relationship with the United States, "children should learn English in school."

Fas Alzamora also emphasized Puerto Rico's resistance to U.S. influence "for 104 years," as reflected by its own culture in Spanish, "which must be preserved."

Governor Signs 2002-2003 Budget

July 1, 2002
Copyright ©2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - Signaling the start of the new fiscal year, on Monday Gov. Sila M. Calderon signed Joint Resolution 1471 which allocates operating expenditure disbursements for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

"The approved budget will allow us to continue implementing Puerto Rico’s economic and social development agenda, while also allowing us to strengthen the island’s fiscal situation and correct the structural deficit left behind by the previous administration," said Calderon regarding Fiscal Year 2002-2003 which begins today July 1 and ends June 30, 2003. .

Joint Resolution 1471 amounts to $5 billion, compared to $4.6 billion for the previous year and, with various special disbursements of $2.8 billion, increases the budget total of the General Fund to $7.8 billion. The General Fund’s budget is a critical component of the Commonwealth budget because it includes central government agencies and public corporations.

The consolidated budget for fiscal year 2002-2003 rose to $21.8 billion, (an increase of 6.3% compared with the previous budget for fiscal year 2001-2002), and from that figure $15.8 billion has been set aside for operational expenditures, $3.2 billion for capital improvements and $2.6 billion to defray the public debt of government agencies.

This budget contains resources that will also enable the government to fulfill important measures that favor the Puerto Rican family. Among these are, $80 million consigned for the Water for All program to provide potable water services for over 100,000 families lacking this resource, $50 million for the Housing Department’s Key to Your Home program, $100 million for Urban Centers development; $140 million for the Health Card Stabilization Fund; $15 million for Public Order Codes, and $94 million for Special Communities infrastructure construction projects.

Other allocations include family, health, education and children-related services totaling $11.1 billion representing 51% of the budget, $4.3 billion for safety and protection of citizens, and $1 billion for the Port of the Americas in the municipalities of Ponce and Guayanilla and the Convention Center in the Miramar area of San Juan which are expected to yield 20,000 jobs in their first ten years of operation.

Earlier today Gov. Calderon also fulfilled her commitment to public employees announcing a salary increase of $100 per month.

McClintock Denounces Acevedo Vila’s Inaction Regarding Army South

July 1, 2002
Copyright ©2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — New Progressive Party (NPP) Sen. Kenneth McClintock denounced on Monday the Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner’s inaction regarding the possible transfer of Army South.

McClintock said Army South announced their transfer to the Sam Houston Base in Texas to Congress members, who would have approved it if, Congressman Mac Collins had not filed an amendment to halt it.

"Last Thursday, Congress considered and approved legislation regarding the Army South transfer from Puerto Rico, a fact that Acevedo Vila tried to hide on Thursday and Friday. He only spoke regarding the amendment, when Washington correspondents brought up the news," the legislator said.

"We have to evaluate if Anibal Acevedo Vila knew about what happened in Congress on Thursday and hid it, or if he is so disconnected from Congress that when a bill that affects Puerto Rico is filed, he finds out through the press," Mc Clintock said.

The NPP legislator said the Army South transfer would lead to job loss.

Ondeo Announces Its Priorities In Prasa’s Operation

July 1, 2002
Copyright ©2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - Ondeo Services assumed on Monday control of the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority’ (Prasa) and announced that its priority would be to finish 309 projects in several communities that are lacking water services.

The new Prasa president, Juan Agosto Alicea, who was accompanied by Ondeo officials, said during a press conference that the constant problem of pipe leakages in those communities should be fixed within the next six months.

Ondeo initiated its operations after the government compensated the Water Co. with $5.7 million, for terminating its contract to manage Prasa early.

Agosto Alicea justified the multimillion-dollar payment by saying that Ondeo needs the additional time to familiarize itself with the emergency plans for hurricane season.

Meanwhile, Ondeo President Guy Canavy said that layoffs are not in the company’s plans and that it has already signed collaboration agreements with the Independent Prasa Workers Union and the Prasa Management Employees Association.

Jobs In Short Supply In Puerto Rico

June 30, 2002
Copyright ©2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — More than half of those who have left the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program in the past five years to find a job as mandated by the federal government, are no longer working.

According to published reports, this is one of the most important findings revealed in a study that the Family Socioeconomic Development Administration will announce soon.

The report confirms one of the greatest fears regarding the TANF reform: how many of those who have left the program have been able to keep their jobs and how many of the 6,000 who will leave the program this month have a chance to find a job and be successful at it.

Not even those who work with this government issue believe it will be possible to find a job for so many people in Puerto Rico due to the current economic situation of the island, and that the only way to go seems to be for each of them to have their own business.

"The reality is that we are urging the people to become self-employed because there aren’t enough jobs in the market," said Gretchen Coll, head of the agency. "But we also have plans to help them. They won’t be without help," she added.

Perez Addresses Legislature In Puerto Rico

June 29, 2002
Copyright ©2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Returning to the Caribbean island where he was born, the mayor of Hartford, Conn. addressed Puerto Rico's legislature, saying he hopes to help lead a new tide of Hispanic leaders emerging in the United States.

Mayor Eddie Perez, the first Hispanic to hold the position in Hartford, said Latino communities in the United States have had to demand their civil rights be respected, and said he decided to get into politics to "change the system from inside."

"Today I am the Puerto Rican mayor in Hartford. Tomorrow, who knows?" he said, addressing the U.S. territory's House of Representatives on Friday. "This is the start of a new movement that I hope will lead other Puerto Ricans to hold positions of pride for our Puerto Rico."

Puerto Rico Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora said Perez's electoral victory was an important step for the city since a large portion of its population is Puerto Rican.

Pesquera Charged With Rioting

June 29, 2002
Copyright ©2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - San Juan Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Linares ruled Friday evening that there was cause to arrest New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera and three other party leaders on charges of riot for the violent incident that occurred last week at the Women’s Advocate Office.

Bail was set at $100 for each defendant - Pesquera, NPP Electoral Commissioner Thomas Rivera, and former legislators Edwin Mundo and Leo Diaz - which was posted by party founder Luis A. Ferre.

If convicted, the political aspirations of Pesquera and Mundo could be ruined as the law prohibits anyone convicted of a crime to run for an electoral post.

Following her ruling, Linares, who was appointed to the post by former Gov. Pedro Rossello, said what had occurred was "very sad for all Puerto Ricans" and added that "respect is a synonym of peace."

After listening to the daylong probe, including final arguments by the prosecution and the lead council of each of the defendants, Linares quickly issued her ruling close to 10 p.m.

Linares ruled that the prosecution had failed to present evidence to sustain 7 of the 11 charges against the defendants and scheduled a probable cause hearing for Aug. 27.

Prosecutor Jose Capo said he would appeal Linares’ ruling.

A report from a Forensic Institute technician that revealed that the Women’s Advocate Office front door was broken from the inside out and the testimonies of attorney Olga Lopez, as well as the written sworn statement of Alina Luciano, were enough for Linares to rule that no evidence sustained charges filed against Pesquera for damage to public property and aggression.

The testimony of office employee Rafael Garcia, as well as that of Denis Arroyo, was enough to relieve Mundo from the charge of restriction of liberty because Linares argued that it was clear that the employees maintained control of the Women’s Advocate Office front door. A charge of aggression against Mundo also failed to sustain as alleged victim police agent Jose Marrero testified that the former legislator had not kicked him intentionally.

One count of riot against NPP follower Peter Muller was not sustained as the only witness referring to him was unable to identify him in court.

All charges were filed against the group Thursday, one week to the day in which the NPP leaders arrived at the Women’s Advocate Office to place the U.S. flag alongside the Puerto Rican flag inside the lobby.

Women’s Advocate Maria Dolores Fernos had agreed to let Pesquera and the media inside the office to place the flag, but according to witness testimonies, the party president always said "three people, three people" would go in.

Following a press conference inside the facilities, witnesses said Mundo wrapped chains around the door handles outside the advocate office and yelled to reporters "you won’t get out unless we go in."

What occurred soon after, according to Garcia’s testimony, was that the doors were broken open, and the melee of people, lead by Pesquera, rushed in and placed the flag, injuring several people along.

After listening to the probe, Linares agreed that the elements of a riot did occur at the office on June 20 during the incident.

Outside the courtroom, Pesquera and the rest of the defendants were confident that the charges would be dropped during the probable cause hearing.

"It was proven that there was a fabrication of charges that could not be defended in court," Pesquera said.

Diaz, Mundo, and Rivera all argued that Gov. Sila Calderon was behind the filing of the charges.

Outside the courthouse, the group was awaited by hundreds of demonstrators carrying American flags and lighting candles.

The leaders were cheered and applauded.

Although Linares had noted that what had occurred last week was very sad, one of the defendants against whom the charges were dropped showed no repentance.

"I will go to every government agency that my leader Pesquera wants to go and place the American flag," Muller told the crowd that applauded him.

Government Acknowledges $200 Million Deficit

June 28, 2002
Copyright ©2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Treasury Department announced that despite the new tax collection efforts, the current budget, ending June 30, has a $200 million deficit.

However, Treasury Secretary Juan Flores Galarza said the deficit would be overcome by the end of the month with the earnings identified during last year’s budget approval process, according to published reports.

The Treasury Department’s collections for the month of May amounted to $608.1 million, an increase of $103.7 million over the same period the previous year, but the amount is not enough to balance the budget.

The official said the funds to balance the government budget will come from $70 million to be transferred from the Joint Subscription Association, $70 million from a contingency fund created after the sale of the Puerto Rico Telephone Co., and $60 million from the sale of the Treasury’s tax debt to the Government Development Bank.

Poll Reveals High Distrust Of Political Parties

June 28, 2002
Copyright ©2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — A poll conducted by the Hispania Research firm revealed that 74.5% of Puerto Ricans distrust political parties and 59% also distrust the members the Legislature.

That attitude is beginning to spread to other sectors, such as banking, unions, and the police.

On the other hand, the respondents still have great confidence in social institutions such as the National Guard, the church, and the press, as well as in the private sector in general, according to the study.

The poll, published by a local newspaper, is part of a study that is being conducted in a dozen Latin American countries, Spain, and Portugal to measure the people’s satisfaction level with their social institutions.

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