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Pesquera: Legislative Probe May Turn Political…Fas Alzamora: RICO Can Still Be Applied To NPP…Toledo Refutes Calderon’s Accusations…Pereira: Backed By Vizcarrondo, Won’t Be Questioned By Senate…Alleged Fund’s Diversion To Be Investigated

Pesquera: Legislative Probe May Turn Into A Political Issue

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

October 10, 2002
Copyright © 2002 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera warned that the Legislature’s intention to probe corruption cases that have been seen or will be seen in court could turn it into a political issue.

On Thursday, the chairmen of the Public Integrity committees at the House and Senate, Severo Colberg Toro and Cirilo Tirado, respectively, sent a letter to U.S. District Attorney Humberto Garcia requesting access to all documents of the federal prosecution related to government corruption schemes.

The two legislators claim that such evidence would be beneficial to the investigation that the House has already initiated on the corruption scheme concocted by former Education Secretary Victor Fajardo. Tirado, on the other hand, filed a resolution Thursday to order the Senate Public Integrity Committee to investigate bidding processes within government departments, agencies, municipalities, and public corporations.

"There is no problem with continuing the investigations in the pertinent forums, as long as it is done on facts. I’ve always said this in the past. However, there is the danger that by going into this issue, the Legislature may make it take a political spin. That could harm the case," Pesquera said.

The NPP president mentioned the Cerro Maravilla case as an example of how legislative intervention in a federal or local case can turn into a political issue.

Back then, the case in which several police officers were convicted for shooting and killing two pro-independence supporters, during the administration of former Gov. Carlos Romero Barcelo, was brought up for investigation at the Legislature. The probing dragged on for years. Some believe the political turn of the investigation drove constituents to vote in favor of Romero Barcelo for resident commissioner in 1992, even after years of attacks against his image.

However, Tirado and Colberg Toro assured that their intention is not to go after anyone, but rather to create new laws to prevent similar corruption acts.

Nevertheless, Pesquera cast doubt on the so-called good intentions of the legislators by questioning why they haven’t begun an investigation on the alleged scheme to help the now Gov. Sila Calderon win the 2000 election through the illegal transfer of funds.

"Here we see the Legislature selectively going into certain issues," Pesquera said.

The NPP leader insisted that the legislative bodies wait until the local or federal investigations are concluded before acting, and then only based on the findings.

Fas Alzamora: RICO Act Can Still Be Applied To NPP

October 9, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora said Wednesday that his effort to have the RICO Act apply to the New Progressive Party (NPP) hasn’t been affected by federal prosecutors’ decision to revoke the cooperation agreement they had with former Education Secretary Victor Fajardo because he perjured himself in the case against former assistant Maria Teresa Perez Huertas, contractor Norman Olson, and attorney Roberto Bonano.

"The fact that Fajardo perjured himself under no circumstances affects this civil action, because it is an indisputable fact that the NPP received those funds," the Senate president said.

Fas Alzamora has been trying to get Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez to evaluate the possibility of filing charges against the NPP under the RICO Act. Thus far, however, he has received a lukewarm response from the Justice chief.

According to the Senate president, the federal law does apply to the NPP, since it was revealed that close to $1 million of the $4.3 million that Fajardo extorted from Education Department contractors was used to pay for the campaigns of NPP candidates in 2000.

However, the prosecutors didn’t get to prove before the mistrial that the NPP had ordered Fajardo to extort the money or that the party’s leadership knew about Fajardo’s extortion scheme.

For his part, Solicitor General Pedro Geronimo Goyco chose not to issue an opinion on whether it is possible to process the NPP under the RICO Act.

"I’m not saying it is viable. I’m saying we are evaluating the whole situation, and when the time is right, we will file the pertinent charges," said Geronimo Goyco.

The RICO Act, which stands for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, was created in 1970 to fight organized crime and enabled those who have been financially injured by criminal activity to file charges against corrupt individuals or organizations.

Toledo Refutes Calderon, Pereira’s Accusations

October 7, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - Pedro Toledo, former police superintendent under the past New Progressive Party (NPP) administration, accused Gov. Sila Calderon and Police Superintendent Miguel Pereira of politicizing the crime issue in order to conceal their failure to protect Puerto Rico residents.

"I don’t intend to start a controversy with the governor’s administration, but I cannot keep quiet either at the unjustified attacks that have been perpetrated against us," he said.

Toledo’s reaction came after Pereira and Calderon alleged that the crime rate increase in Puerto Rico is due to the manipulation of crime statistics under the past administration. The former superintendent denied those allegations.

"I strongly reject that there could have been some kind of manipulation from my part," Toledo said.

The former police chief also criticized the Calderon administration’s strategy to fight crime saying that dividing the Police Department into 12 superintendence doesn’t do much to reduce criminal activity. Toledo believes a unified plan is the best way to go.

He defended former Gov. Pedro Rossello’s crime plan that included permanent police interventions in public housing projects to eliminate drug trafficking and drug related felonies from being perpetrated.

"I must underscore that during these interventions, we never lost the lives of a public official or a citizen. This proves that these police operations were based on well-structured intelligence plan. Sadly, this is not the reality in the police nowadays," Toledo stated regarding to a recent police operation in which a police officer was killed.

Toledo insisted that the interventions made during his tenure were successful, even if drug traffickers may have moved to other parts of the island. He said the crime plan must be integrated attacking crime wherever it goes.

He also criticized Pereira for wanting to justify the limited police raids at drug points that has been made during this administration. Pereira has said the interventions have been limited because he doesn’t see the need to bother citizens only to release them later, just as it was done during the past administration. However, Toledo said the arrests made during the police operations conducted under his tenure were legitimate.

"They were legitimate. But if someone bails them out, of course they had to be released. Or did they expect that everyone arrested would be kept in jail?" he said.

Toledo also lambasted Pereira for wanting to eliminate the Police Academy–which was elevated to Criminal Justice University College during the past administration–in an effort to reduce the number of police officers so there can be more funds to pay for equipment. Toledo said the need for more equipment doesn’t justify cutting back on police officers and said he doesn’t understand how Pereira pretends to lower the crime rate by reducing the police force.

On another note, Toledo refused to talk about the possibility of running for any position in the 2004 elections. He also said that given the criticism that he has had to endure during the past two years, it was unlikely that he would accept going back to the Police Superintendence if Gov. Calderon offered it to him.

House Speaker Supports Police Superintendent

October 7, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

GUAYAMA (AP) - After admitting that there is a serious crime problem in Puerto Rico, House Speaker Carlos Vizcarrondo firmly supported the performance of Police Superintendent Miguel Pereira.

"The New Progressive Party minority has focused on using the police superintendent as a political target by publicly attacking him to destroy his image," Vizcarrondo said while he participated in a legislative hearing in Guayama.

"We won't put up with that," he added. "We will support him."

Pereira has been under political fire for several months. Even Popular Democratic Party legislator Roberto Cruz said Gov. Sila Calderon should replace Pereira because the public's perception has been that the superintendent has failed to lower crime rate in Puerto Rico.

Fas Alzamora Rejects Request To Summon Pereira

October 4, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora rejected a request from the New Progressive Party (NPP) delegation to summon Police Superintendent Miguel Pereira.

Fas Alzamora said in a letter sent to Minority Leader Kenneth McClintock that most of the arguments used by legislators to make their petition are wrong.

However, he did tell the NPP delegation that Senate Government Committee Chairman Roberto Prats would "investigate all the allegations regarding tampering with statistics during the past administration, so people can have the correct and real information."

Fas Alzamora added in his letter that the crime problem "has no political colors, and it is not correct to use it as a political issue."

The Senate Government Committee should hand in a report about crime statistics during the last 10 years and present it to the legislative body before the end of the current session.

Senate To Summon Individuals Convicted Of Corruption

October 4, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Senate Government Integrity Committee will begin summoning former government officials and individuals convicted and accused of corruption acts to investigate their alleged conspiracy to divert funds to the New Progressive Party.

Committee Chairman Cirilo Tirado Delgado said it was agreed in a meeting to summon the people convicted or accused in the million-dollar fraud of the Education and Housing departments. Convicts or accused in other agencies will be summoned later, he said.

The Senate investigation, which will include questioning witnesses in private, will last approximately three months because the legislative body does not want to affect the first part of the trial for the fraud in the Education Department, according to published reports.

For his part, attorney Marcos Rigau confirmed that businessman Jose Ventura, convicted for bribery, requested his legal counseling for the process.

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