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Fewer Dominicans…Ramallo Sues Ferre Rangel…Academic Achievement Summit Proposed…Ombudsman To Investigate Ondeo…$1B Credit Line For Community Trusteeship Suggested…College Board Test Results Dropping…Welfare Reform Doesn’t Work Well…Miss Vieques New Miss Universe Puerto Rico 2003…Island World Leader In Cesareans

Fewer Dominicans Heading For Puerto Rico

By Claudio Matos.

(c) Copyright 2002. EFE News Service. All rights reserved.

San Juan, Sep 18 (EFE).-Fewer Dominicans are risking the perilous Mona Passage in their attempt to reach Puerto Rico, where many stay but which others use as a stepping stone to the United States.

Rolando Acosta, the Dominican consul in San Juan, confirmed in an interview with EFE that fewer of his compatriots are trying to leave their country than during previous periods.

He noted, however, that the Dominican government remains concerned about the persistent activity of migrant smugglers, who earn fat profits from the dangerous trade in people.

A spokesman for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) in Puerto Rico attributed the flow of Dominican illegal immigrants to difficult social and economic conditions in their country.

Ivan Ortiz said that 659 Dominican illegal immigrants had been expelled from Puerto Rico between October 2001 and March 2002, compared with 2,158 between October 2000 and March 2001.

According to the INS official, rumors of a impending amnesty for the undocumented triggered a wave of illegal immigration into Puerto Rico two years ago, forcing the federal government to launch an information campaign to clarify the situation.

Ortiz, who estimated that between 100,000 and 110,000 Dominicans are living legally in Puerto Rico, said he had no information on the number of undocumented Dominicans residing in the territory.

"Juan," a Dominican who entered Puerto Rico illegally more than 10 years ago, told EFE that he left his country because of the difficult economic situation.

Juan paid about 3,000 Dominican pesos (more than $900) for a space on a rickety wooden boat known as a "yola," which he shared with about 30 compatriots on the voyage to Puerto Rico.

Sailing through the treacherous Mona Passage took more than a day, he recalled.

Sources requesting anonymity told EFE that smugglers held some illegal Dominican immigrants hostage on their arrival in western Puerto Rico until their families paid specified sums of money.

EFE heard from other Dominican illegal immigrants living in Greater San Juan that unemployment and electricity shortages were two of the factors which led them to leave their country in the fragile yolas, which often capsize while trying to reach the Puerto Rican coast.

Many of the illegal immigrants who make it to Puerto Rico find jobs in construction, agricultural and sales, while some of the less fortunate ones decide to return to the Dominican Republic after failing to obtain legal status .

Ramallo Sues Ferre Rangel For Monopolistic Practices

By WOW New staff

September 17th, 2002.  

Ramallo Bros Inc., a local printing company that has been operating in Puerto Rico for the last 30 years, filed a lawsuit Monday against the El Nuevo Dia and Primera Hora newspapers, as well as Advanced Graphic Printing Inc. (AGP), alleging to have suffered from the fraudulent and monopolistic practices of the Ferre Rangel companies.

In the lawsuit filed in the federal court in Hato Rey, Ramallo seeks $111 million in damages, as well as a permanent interdiction against the Ferre Rangel companies.

The lawsuit alleges that the Ferre Rangel companies’ illegal practices include the 50% discounts offered by AGP, 50% discounts on the cost of ad insertions in El Nuevo Dia and Primera Hora, and free full-page ads in the newspapers.

The defendants allege that El Nuevo Dia and Primera Hora engaged in monopolistic practices after the creation of AGP to eliminate rival commercial printing companies such as Ramallo.

The lawsuit also alleges that because of the illegal practices, several printing companies have lost a considerable amount of business volume, including Ramallo, whose losses total $37 million.

Summit To Discuss Poor Academic Achievement Proposed

September 17th, 2002.  

SAN JUAN (AP) – The Teacher’s Federation said on Monday that the consistent decrease in the results of the College Board tests among island students from private and public schools reaffirms the need to hold an education summit.

Union leader Jesus Delgado Burgos, which represents the teachers of the Education Department, also expressed concern over the fact that the College Board results reflects the decrease in academic achievement in areas such as Spanish.

Delgado said the Federation held its first National Education Forum in San Juan last year as the first step towards the celebration of a national symposium with island teachers to discuss the need for a sweeping education reform in Puerto Rico.

The union leader said it is also imperative the appoint teachers to posts still vacant in areas such as Spanish, science, and mathematics, among others.

In a press release, Delgado said he was hopeful that the private sector as well as the government would show their availability to participate in an education summit early next year.

Ombudsman To Investigate Ondeo’s Billing

September 17th, 2002.  

SAN JUAN (AP) – Although Ombudsman Carlos Lopez Nieves acknowledged that estimated billing is a problem that has been happening for several years that should end, the official said he would investigate the alleged unjustified increase in potable water billing.

Lopez Nieves said that over 40% of the billing is estimated.

He also said in published reports that he would ask the private company managing the Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Authority, Ondeo, to give clients a reasonable time to pay the bills.

Over 9,000 Ondeo clients have complained about the unjustified increase in billing in the past months, a problem that will also be investigated by the Legislature

NPP Legislators Suggest $1 Billion Credit Line For Special Trusteeship

SEPTEMBER 16, 2002

SAN JUAN (AP) - New Progressive Party (NPP) Reps. Antonio Silva and Jennifer Gonzalez urged Gov. Sila Calderon on Monday to rethink the Special Community Permanent Trusteeship in order to protect the financial well being of the Government Development Bank (GDB).

Silva and Lopez said the trusteeship should be created through a credit line of $1 billion, instead of the $500 million credit line and the other $500 million special allocation proposed by the governor.

"This way, the GDB wouldn't have to bleed and they would avoid the further decline of the GDB's bond rating from Standard and Poors," Silva said.

Silva and Gonzalez said they worry that the $500 million allocation from the GDB would eventually harm the rating of its bond emissions. They noted that Standard and Poors had already lowered the GDB's rating from A+ to A.

The governor as well as Economic Develpment and Commerce Secretary Ramon Cantero Frau have said that the special $500 million allocation from the GDB won't harm the bank's financial stability. However, the NPP legislators said that according to Standard and Poors, such allocation can harm the institution's financial stability, as it changes the role of the GDB.

Silva said the GDB exists to enable the financing of infrastructure projects in Puerto Rico, but that these funds must be paid back to the GDB so that the institution can continue functioning.

Both legislators added that the Calderon administration has yet to define a plan to keep the trusteeship alive. They also criticized the governor for proposing such an ambitious enterprise without having prepared a study of the needs of each of the 686 special communities of the island and how much it will cost to meet those needs.

Lopez said neither of the three bills filed by the governor contains guidelines on how the expropriation of lands, the relocation of entire communities, and the infrastructure improvements of such communities will be conducted.

"There is no study. We asked exactly which communities would benefit first and the Housing Department said that there wasn’t a plan," Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez, on the other hand, said that with a $1 billion credit line, the government could ensure the permanence of the trusteeship by only using the funds' interest. She said this would probably give the government about $35 million a year to work with the special communities.

Silva and Gonzalez said this option is better than spending the $1 billion, as there aren't enough sources from which the government could draw substantial amounts of money to replace the funds of the trusteeship.

Melba Acosta, executive director of the Office of Management and Budget, has mentioned the repayment of loans granted to low-income families as well as money from the banking industry through the Communities Reinvestment Act (CRA) as some of the ways to replace the trusteeship's funds. However, Gonzalez said these aren't real options. She said what low-income families can contribute to the trusteeship is very little. As for the CRA, Gonzalez said there aren't specific figures of how much could be obtained, thus it would be unwise to rely upon it.

College Board Test Results In Puerto Rico Dropping

SEPTEMBER 15, 2002

SAN JUAN (AP) - During the past 16 years, high school seniors of public and private schools in Puerto Rico have obtained lower College Board test results, thus revealing a poor academic performance.

Since 1985, the English, Spanish, Mathematics, verbal reasoning, and mathematical reasoning scores have declined.

According to published reports, statistics show that public and private school students have done worse in Spanish.

In 1985, public school students scored an average of 460, 26 more than last year's test scores.

Private school students' average score dropped 54 points since 1985, from 553 to 499 in 2001.

Family Advisor: Welfare Reform Doesn’t Work Well On Island

September 14th, 2002.  

SAN JUAN (AP) – The Family Department revealed that the Social Welfare Reform propelled by the federal government has not functioned adequately in Puerto Rico due to the disparity of assigned funds.

According to Family Department legal advisor Rocio Ramos, when the reform was implemented, the poverty level in the United States was 13.7%, while it was 58.6% in Puerto Rico.

However, the advisor asserted that Congress did not assign resources based on that difference but did require the same responsibilities of granting jobs to benefits of the reform.

"In the United States in 2001, the Social Welfare program received an average of $533 a year per poor person. In Puerto Rico, an average of $34 is received. . .The disparity forces distributing fewer funds among more people," Ramos warned during public hearings of the House Social Welfare Committee, which is studying the operation of the reform and the TANF Program here.

Miss Vieques New Miss Universe Puerto Rico 2003

SEPTEMBER 13, 2002

SAN JUAN (AP) – The delegate from Vieques, Carla Tricoli, was crowned Thursday as the new Miss Puerto Rico Universe 2003.

Tricoli was crowned by Miss Universe 2002 Oxana Federova in a ceremony held Thursday night at the Luis A. Ferre Performing Arts in Santurce.

The first runner up was Miss San Juan Cinthia Olavarria, and the second runner up was Miss Barranquitas Marcela Cortes.

The six finalists were completed by the delegate from Ponce, Mariana Figueroa; Dorado delegate Windy Pagan, and Deidre Rodriguez from Santa Isabel.

Puerto Rico World Leader In Cesarean Sections

SEPTEMBER 13, 2002

SAN JUAN (AP) - Puerto Rico has the world’s highest cesarean section rate, a high-risk surgical procedure that increases the patient’s risk of infections and hemorrhages, among other complications.

Dr. Pierre Buekens, associate dean of global health from the North Carolina University Department of Mother and Children, explained that last year’s national vital statistics revealed that 41.7% of pregnant women had a cesarean section.

This means that four out of every 10 pregnant women on the island are subjected to a surgical procedure that replaces natural delivery (birth), according to published reports.

"Few countries have a [cesarean section] rate higher than 40%. The United States has an average rate of 23%, and in several European countries there are rates lower than 15%," Buekens said during a teleconference held Thursday at the Medical Science Campus.

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