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D.A.: Evidence Exists On NPP Leaders Accused Of Rioting… Pereira: Housing Occupation Ensures Residents’ SafetyPuerto Rico Among Top Waterways Polluters…Domestic Violence Law To Be Studied Gov’t Retirement Fund In Critical ConditionIsland Confident Over Transhipment Port

D.A.: Evidence Exists On NPP Leaders Accused Of Rioting

October 24, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The San Juan District Attorney’s Office denied that a "total absence of proof" exists in the case filed against four New Progressive Party (NPP) leaders, charged with rioting, and asked the court to declare the rejection motions of the charges filed against them without place.

The District Attorney’s Office said in its motions to the court that the proof is contained in the videos gathered from the communications media and in multiple testimonies.

District Attorney Gabriel Redondo said although NPP President Carlos Pesquera and three other accused arrived at the Women’s Advocate Office exercising their right to free expression, they later "tumultuously exercised or threatened to exercise force and violence," disturbing public peace.

According to the District Attorney’s Office, neither Pesquera, Electoral Commissioner Thomas Rivera Schatz, Rep. Edwin Mundo, nor Leo Diaz were employees of the governor, therefore they did not have the duty to carry out her orders in placing the U.S. flag in the Women’s Advocate Office lobby.

Pereira: Public Housing Occupation Ensures Residents’ Safety

By Proviana Colon Diaz

October 23, 2002
Copyright © 2002 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Police Superintendent Miguel Pereira denied Wednesday that the takeover of three public housing projects in Rio Piedras is an action aimed at criminalizing the island’s low-income housing residents, but said it ensures their safety.

"Not in any way are we criminalizing anyone," Pereira said.

The chief of police added that his department is not copying the style of the island’s previous administration because the National Guard is not taking an active role in the incursions.

Pereira defended his raid as being a coordinated effort that is economically "sustainable."

"The effort that was made in the past was not sustainable; it can’t be paid for. Such is the case that there is still a $30 million debt from those raids. This effort can be paid for," Pereira said.

On Monday, police agents took over the housing projects of Monte Hatillo, Monte Park, and Los Flamboyanes in Rio Piedras.

Pereira had declined in the past to take part in any raid but was seen taking an active role during Monday’s incursion. He said his change of mind is part of the process of renovating the force.

"We are asking the police to change, and that process takes time. During that process, I realized that I had to put myself in the position of those agents who risk their lives every day," Pereira said.

The chief of police made his statements Wednesday during a lunch forum with the Overseas Press Club, where more than once he vehemently defended his performance as chief of police, repeatedly denying the allegations made by several members of the media regarding the poor flow of information within the force.

His defense over a good flow of communications, however, was contradicted immediately when members of the media assigned to cover the police asked for information regarding the official number of people who had been arrested during Monday’s raid.

Pereira said the information was ready, but he did not have it in his hands at the time.

"The information exists, and we can provide it to you later," Pereira said.

Still, 48 hours after the raid occurred, official numbers of those arrested have yet to be disclosed.

Study Examines Polluted Waterways, Puerto Rico Among Top Violators

October 18, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Four of five wastewater treatment plants and chemical and industrial facilities in the United States pollute waterways beyond what their federal permits allow, according to government data compiled by an environmental group.

More than 90 percent of the plants and facilities in Ohio, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Iowa, Puerto Rico, Maine, West Virginia, Delaware, New York and Connecticut exceeded permit limits between 1999 and 2001, said Thursday's report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

The average excess was 10 times what the permit called for, according to the report in which U.S. PIRG analyzed Environmental Protection Agency records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

``Polluters are breaking the law, not only frequently but flagrantly,'' said the report's author, Alison Cassady, research director for U.S. PIRG.

EPA spokesman Joe Martyak said the report exaggerates the risks, for example, by calculating facilities' performances monthly rather than every six months as the EPA does. He said some violations are due to circumstances like storm water runoff or equipment upgrades that are unintentional.

``Yes, there's still room for work to be done but it is not a dire situation as the PIRG report would have you believe,'' Martyak said.

A spokesman for operators of publicly owned sewage treatment plants disputed some of the report's conclusions.

``This notion that you can simply enforce everything away is simply untrue,'' said Adam Krantz of the Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies. ``We are the guardians of the Clean Water Act. We are not polluters.''

Releases of the worst toxic chemicals, those known or suspected to cause cancer and other serious health effects, averaged eight times more than is permitted under the Clean Water Act, the report said.

For those chemicals, the states or territories with the highest percentage of facilities in violation -- each with more than a third out of compliance -- are Puerto Rico, Ohio, Rhode Island, the Virgin Islands, the District of Columbia, New York, Arizona, Massachusetts, West Virginia and Indiana.

The report, released a day ahead of the 30th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, found:

--81 percent, or 5,116 of 6,332 major facilities, exceeded their permits at least once between 1999 and 2001.

--262 major facilities exceeded their permits for at least 10 reporting periods during that time.

Government Retirement Fund In Critical Condition

October 18, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The fiscal situation of the Government Retirement Fund is critical, making it essential that it receive an economic injection or that measures be adopted to increase its income, its administrator, Marisol Marchand, warned Friday.

According to the government official, the retirement system’s deficit had reached approximately $7.5 billion by June 30, 2001.

In a public hearing of the Special Committee of the Legislature to Study the Retirement Systems, Marchand said the actuarial studies conducted on the system "demonstrate that the cost of the actual structure of the benefits pervades its economic possibilities."

The system counts on only 24 cents for each dollar of obligation for pension benefits, she said.

The official warned that the financing of this actuarial deficit falls, as a last resort, on the state government, which considers the qualifying agencies in establishing the state’s credit classification.

"It is necessary to establish strategies to diminish the actuarial deficit, and with that, improve the system’s financial situation," Marchand said in public hearings.

Impact Of Domestic Violence Law To Be Studied

October 18, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The U.S. Congress approved a $1 million allocation this week to conduct the first study on the impact that Law 54 has had on domestic violence.

Women’s Advocate Maria Dolores Fernos announced that since 1989, when the law was approved, no study has been conducted to determine if the law has been effective, or if new legislation is needed to fight domestic violence, whose victims are mostly women.

"We expect to begin the study next month. It will be the most comprehensive and complete study on the subject performed on the island," the official said in a press conference.

Fernos also announced that a dozen government officials, including police agents, prosecutors, and judges, will receive training regarding the services that should be provided to victims of domestic violence.

The group will then train other government officials in a summit to be held on the island aimed at establishing integrated working plans.

Puerto Rico Confident Over Transhipment Port


October 11, 2002
Copyright © 2002 FINANCIAL TIMES. All rights reserved. 

The Puerto Rican govern-ment will begin preliminary work next month on a $1bn transhipment port that it says will make the Caribbean island a leading hub for maritime trade between Europe and the Americas, and between North and South America.

However, the proposed Port of the Americas will have to overcome worries about the impact on the environment and about its ability to compete against other ports that are being built or expanded in the Caribbean Basin.

The transhipment facility, to be located in the southern towns of Ponce and Guayanilla, will be backed by a 1,000-acre industrial park that will host manufacturing and support services.

Sila Calderon, Puerto Rico's governor, said the first phase of the project would begin in November with improvements to existing facilities in Ponce. Substantial work on the Port of the Americas will start in 2004, with completion due by 2007.

The project and the construction schedule is threatened by concerns over the planned reclamation of about 110 acres from a bay in Guayanilla. The land will be used to store containers.

Approval will be considered if the government undertakes other projects such as the protection and preservation of mangroves, said a spokesman for the US Environmental Protection Agency. Puerto Rico, with a population of 3.9m people, is a US possession and is subject to EPA regulations.

Mrs Calderon is adamant that the megaport will not be delayed by the environmental concerns. "If some kind of mitigation needs to be done, we will comply with all the regulations," she said. "This project will go ahead."

The Puerto Rico Industrial Development Corporation is soon to study requests for proposals from companies that want to construct and manage the port. Contracts are due to be signed by the end of next year.

Industry sources say that P&O Ports of the US, NYK of Japan, the Port of Singapore and Harrington Wan Poe of Hong Kong are among companies that have indicated an interest.

The successful investor is expected to commit $650m to the project, with the government providing $350m in infrastructure development and public works. The investor will be granted a 25-year contract, and the government will retain all property and lands.

Puerto Rican officials reject suggestions that the planned megaport will lead to overcapacity in the Caribbean Basin. Existing slow growth in the maritime industry would improve with the expected recovery of the global economy, said one official.

A big transhipment port is being constructed at Caucedo on the coast of neighbouring Dominican Republic.

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