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De Castro Font Criticizes Pesquera Again…Official Trip Regulations Sought…Governor Receives NY’s Puerto Rican Legislators…$200M Allocated For Anti-Drug Fight…Polar Bears Leave Tropics…Prasa Deficit Almost $300M…NPP Criticizes Approval To Join Latin American Parliament…Rossello Might Take Status Issue To Court

De Castro Font Lambastes Pesquera Again

November 10, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - New Progressive Party (NPP) Rep. Jorge de Castro Font has ignored the objections of his fellow pro-statehood supporters to criticize once more NPP President Carlos Pesquera for not presenting a work plan to the public.

"The NPP must start criticizing constructively and say what it plans to do if it wins in 2004 said De Castro Font, who is a former Popular Democratic Party member.

"They criticize Gov. Calderon, but what do they propose? They must start presenting the public with solutions, not criticism," he said in a radio interview.

De Castro Font's comments regarding Pesquera has earned him strong criticism from several NPP leaders who have been skeptical of his arrival to the party and have lambasted his political ambitions.

Parga Urges Senate President To Regulate Official Trips

November 10, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - New Progressive Party (NPP) Sen. Orlando Parga on Sunday urged Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora to adopt new regulations regarding official trips to guarantee that they will be beneficial to the island.

Parga told the Senate leader in a letter that he will refrain from going on official trips until there is a new procedure for their approval.

The NPP senator said he travels to Washington D.C. every year in December to participate in the National Council of State Legislators, but will not do so this year as a result of the indignation caused by recent official trips of legislators.

Fas Alzamora was recently in Paris with fellow legislators Velda Gonzalez and Jose Ortiz Daliot for a week. Five days later, he left for Guatemala accompanied by his receptionist and aide to participate in the swear-in ceremony of the new president of the Latin American Parliament.

According to informal surveys performed in the media, legislative trips, which are paid with public funds, are rejected by the majority of the people.

Governor Receives Puerto Rican Legislators From New York

November 10, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Gov. Sila Calderon received Saturday at La Fortaleza a group of Puerto Rican state legislators from New York and had breakfast with them.

The legislators are participating in the annual conference "We are the Future" of the joint Hispanic working group of the New York Legislative Assembly that is being conducted in a hotel here this week.

During the breakfast, which was organized by assembly member Peter Rivera, the New York legislators and the governor discussed several matters, including the registration campaign for Puerto Rican voters that was sponsored by the governor is several U.S. cities, the results of Tuesday’s elections, and the Vieques case.

The group was comprised of Sens. Olga Mendez and Efrain Gonzalez, assembly members Adam Clayton Powell and Carmen Arroyo, as well as Rivera, and assembly members-elect Luis Diaz and Phil Ramos, as well as Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration New York Office Director Felix Lopez, according to a press release of the press office of the Executive Mansion.

Government Assigns $200 Million For Anti-Drug Fight

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – The Drug Control Office could have almost $200 million annually of funds from different state and federal agencies destined to the anti-drug fight, according to Office of Management and Budget Director Melba Acosta.

The official said during public hearings on the government’s strategic plan against drugs that the Justice Department uses $10.5 million of its budget to attend to drug cases, while the Police provides, only for drug prevention programs in schools, some $9 million.

According to Senate Government and Public Security Committee Chairman Roberto Prats, the Office of Drug Control director has the responsibility to coordinate for the money to be invested in an interagency effort to provide follow up for the plan, according to published reports.

Prats, whose committee is evaluating the plan, said the proposal "is a good plan," but he warned that it requires the agencies to work together.

Polar Bears Leave Tropics

November 9, 2002
Copyright © 2002 WASHINGTON POST CO. All rights reserved. 

More than a year ago, we wrote about People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' effort to liberate polar bears from the Suarez Bros. Circus, based in Puerto Rico. This week, the last six bears at the circus were seized by officials and sent to zoos in colder climes. According to PETA, the animals lived in cramped, hot and humid conditions. "They're such zombies that strange people can come in and approach them and they show no interest," said PETA spokeswoman Debbie Leahy.

One bear, named Alaska, was seized last March after the circus presented the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with fraudulent documentation of her origins. Alaska now lives at the Baltimore Zoo and is thriving in the company of a male polar bear named Magnet.

Celebrities including Sarah McLachlan, Martin Sheen, Pamela Anderson, Ewan McGregor and star Telemundo reporter Maria Celeste Arraras had lent their names to the bears' cause. "This is just the tip of the iceberg," said Arraras, who presented to the Puerto Rican Congress legislation to ban circuses with animals from entering the island. "To me it is appalling that the situation had to get this point. . . . These animals were in a torture chamber for a year and a half in Puerto Rico."

Deficit In Prasa Reaches Almost $300 Million

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

GUAYANILLA (AP) – Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (Prasa) Executive Director Juan Agosto Alicea revealed Friday that the Prasa deficit might reach $300 million by June 30.

"Prasa’s deficit was $91 million annually when the Water Co. assumed the responsibility of its operation in 1995. Currently, there is an accumulated deficit of approximately $250 million to $300 million," Agosto Alicea said in Guayanilla before meeting with a group of mayors.

He said in November, an audit report will determine the exact amount.

In spite of this million-dollar deficit, he ruled out an increase in the rates.

"Because of inefficiency in Prasa during the past years, we are not going punish the consumer because it is not their fault," the official insisted.

Alicea said the new administration, Ondeo, has a plan to eliminate the deficit in five years.

"This will be done based on a savings plan, improving efficiency and increasing income through mechanisms such as people who are connected to the system but don’t pay," Agosto Alicea said.

Agosto Alicea and Ondeo executives met Friday with a group of mayors from the western side of the island to listen to their complaints.

During the meeting, Agosto Alicea presented to the mayors the general aspects of the Ondeo contracts as well as their future plans.

NPP Criticizes Approval To Join Latin American Parliament

November 8, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The Senate New Progressive Party (NPP) delegation complained Friday that the Senate’s authorization for a membership in the Latin American Parliament would entail new trips paid for with public funds.

Senate Minority Leader Kenneth McClintock criticized the presentation of legislation for the assembly’s consideration being conducted late at night.

"This implies trips for several legislators several times during the year to Brazil, not taking into consideration the people’s demands and violating what common sense dictates, moderation in trip expenses, limiting the efforts to those that have a tangible benefit for the people of Puerto Rico," the legislator said in a press conference.

Popular Democratic Party Sen. Jose Ortiz Daliot disagreed with McClintock’s statements, affirming that membership in the Latin American Parliament offers benefits for the Legislature as well as the people.

"This is not about trips. Officials have the obligation to meet to exchange ideas and see what works in other states or countries that have solved problems that still exists in our jurisdictions," Ortiz Daliot said in a radio interview.

Rossello Might Take Status Issue To Court

November 8, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Former Gov. Pedro Rossello said he might go to the federal courts seeking a solution for the island’s political status.

The former governor, a fierce advocate of the permanent union with the United States, said the legal petition might be an alternative to his failed attempts during eight years to achieve the beginning of a discussion regarding the island’s status issue in Congress.

"We could present a case based on the fact that our rights as U.S. citizens are being neglected," Rossello said in published reports.

According to the former governor, the lawsuit might demand that as U.S. citizens, Puerto Ricans could vote for the president.

Puerto Rico was given by Spain to the United States as part of the agreements of the Latin American war of 1898. In 1954, the relations between the countries was transformed into a Commonwealth, which statehood supporters describe as a colonial regime.

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