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Abbott Breaks Ground On $350M Biotech Plant In Barceloneta, No Navy Guarantee For Vieques Cleanup, Island 2nd In U.S. Violent Deaths Rate, NPP Forms Task Force To Promote Statehood, Pereira Praises Police & Community Pilot Program, Democrats Grow More Upset With Governor

Abbott To Build $350 Million Biotechnology Plant In Its Barceloneta Complex

By Marialba Martinez

October 29, 2002
Copyright © 2002 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All rights reserved. 

Abbott Laboratories Puerto Rico announced on Tuesday it would build a $350 million biotechnology manufacturing plant at its Barceloneta complex, the largest production facility investment the company has made in its history.

Part of the Abbott Bioresearch Center in Worcester, Mass., the 104-acre plant will produce the company’s first antibody based pharmaceutical drug, Humira, or D2E2, as it is known at this stage prior to its final U.S. Food & Drug Administration approval process.

"When we complete this Abbott Biotechnology manufacturing plant, it will be the largest investment the company has made in one facility," said Abbott divisional vice president and general manager Harry Rodriguez. "Construction of the plant already began and we expect it to create 800 jobs during the construction phase and 200 jobs new jobs when the plant is finished."

In 1994, the company built a $200 million chemical plant in Barceloneta, at the time the largest investment ever made in a production facility. The complex also holds the company’s only fermentation plant for erythromycin and a diagnostics plant that manufactures more than 350 different types of medical devices.

Abbott expects the Puerto Rico biotechnology plant to be built by 2005 and validated by the FDA in 2006, when production would begin. Meanwhile, the Abbott Bioresearch Center will be responsible for manufacturing of biologic products, starting with investigational and market demands for current products in development.

In the meantime, the company will invest approximately $2.6 million in a professional development program that will recruit and train at least 20 university graduates in the industrial biotechnology and biochemistry fields. Since the program began in 1981, it has graduated more than 150 science and engineering students.

Present during the groundbreaking ceremony were Gov. Sila Calderon, Economic Development & Commerce Secretary Ramon Cantero Frau, Barceloneta Mayor Sol Luis Fontanez, and senators and representatives from the region. Representing Abbott’s corporate offices was Lance Wyatt, senior vice president of Abbott Specialty Products Division.

Abbott’s expansion is possible because of the confidence that the executive manufacturing management has in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico’s industrial climate," said Gov. Calderon. "Even though the industry has suffered due to the elimination of Internal Revenue Section 936, the competitive advantages of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and my administration’s determination to create jobs for Puerto Rican families have allowed us to achieve a considerable growth in the pharmaceutical products and high technology sectors."

Gov. Calderon recognized former Puerto Rico Industrial Development Co. (Pridco) Executive Director William Riefkohl’s role in the creation of Law 45 of June 22 of 2002, a law that encourages the creation of new technology companies in Puerto Rico by providing tax incentives. According to Calderon, so far the law has achieved a future compromise of $1 billion and the creation of 1,450 new high technology jobs.

No Guarantees For Cleaning Of Vieques Land

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

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Puerto Rico government does not have any guarantees that the U.S. Navy will clean the lands they occupy in Vieques for the last 62 years, once the military corps cease to conduct their military maneuvers by May 2003, Acting Gov. Ferdinand Mercado said Monday.

"We would be speculating at a moment when we do not have the certainty of what the future may present. But it would be intolerable that something like that would happen," Mercado said in published reports.

Federal laws will allow the Defense Department to maintain control of the land in Vieques even after the cessation of their military maneuvers, by declaring the military zone as inactive instead of closed.

However, Mercado said initiating a controversy regarding the cleaning of the area at this moment would be like crossing the bridge before getting to it.

On the other hand, Atlantic Fleet spokesman Lt. Scott McIlnay confirmed that the Navy resumed joint exercises in the waters to the southeast of the U.S. coast, which will include the use of technology, according to published reports.

The Navy official, however, said the practices do not have the purpose of experimenting with virtual simulations like the one mentioned by Atlantic Fleet Commander Adm. Robert Natter, for a new phase of trainings aimed at ceasing their military exercises in Vieques.

For now, Mc Ilnay said that kind of technology is not available to be part of the certification for combat.

Puerto Rico In Second Place In U.S. Violent Deaths Rate

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

SAN JUAN (AP) — FBI statistics reveal that Puerto Rico occupies second place in the violent deaths rate increase in all the United States, a record only surpassed by Washington D.C.

The report establishes that 19.4 murders are registered per 100,000 citizens, according to published reports.

The agency statistics indicate that in 2001, 744 murders were reported on the island, which reflects 177 more murders for a 31.21% increase when compared with 1999 numbers, when 567 violent deaths were reported.

However, other violent crimes, such as rape and armed robbery, reflect a decrease, when compared with last year’s numbers, when 187 rapes were reported versus 228 cases registered in the previous year, which is 18% less.

NPP With New Task Force To Promote Statehood

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Ignacio Pesquera announced on Monday the designation of a working group composed of several party leaders aimed at orienting citizens about the benefits of becoming a state.

Pesquera said the committee appointment comes at a time when the relations between Puerto Rico and the U.S. are deteriorating, because of actions taken by Gov. Sila Maria Calderon.

Pesquera said the pro statehood committee is integrated by former governors Luis A. Ferre and Caros Romero Barcelo, as well as Sens. Kenneth McClintock and Miriam Ramirez, and former Senate President Charlie Rodriguez, Luis Fortuño and Roberto Arango.

The NPP leader explained the group will have the task to develop an ideological counteroffensive to address the voters concerns through town meetings, visits and trough the media.

Pereira Praises Police And Community Pilot Program

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

PONCE (AP) – A pilot program in which the police and the community work together has successfully closed down 35 drug selling points and returned peace to approximately 1,500 residents of the Aristides Chavier public housing complex in Ponce, said Police Superintendent Miguel Pereira on Monday.

"That public housing project has had absolute success in the effort by the police and the community because 35 drug selling points that operated there have now disappeared," Pereira said at public event at the Chavier public housing project.

"At least seven extremely big drug selling points have disappeared," he added.

Pereira traveled to Ponce to present awards to the police agents and officials working in the pilot project, which includes establishing a police station in the public housing project.

Police Superintendent Pereira said that on this year only 21 Type I crimes and no murders have been reported.

The project began several years ago during former Police Superintendent Pedro Toledo’s tenure.

Pereira did not rule out that the plan might be repeated in other housing projects.

He emphasized that the police are part of the community and said that when he enters a public housing project he becomes part of the community.

Democrats Grow More Upset With Calderon

October 27, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - The tension between Gov. Sila Calderon and Democrat leaders grew during this weekend when she participated in the reelection campaign of Republican New York Gov. George Pataki.

According to published reports, Pataki's Democratic contender, Carl McCall is so upset with her, he has been offering to give away a picture of Calderon and him that he has in his office.

"It is regrettable that Sila now comes to meddle in New York politics," said Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY).

The Puerto Rican representative noted Calderon never participated in the campaign of fellowman Fernando Ferrer when he was close to becoming the Democratic candidate for New York mayor in 2001.

"She didn't come here to support a Puerto Rican," Velazquez said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY) said Calderon's formal endorsement to Pataki has opened the door for Puerto Rican leaders in New York to do the same with electoral candidates of the island.

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