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FTC Approves Wal-Mart Deal… Governor Signs $1B Communities Trust Law…Rossello: Praises Garcia’s Appointment…Lafitte: Rodriguez’ Untimely Requests May Jeopardize Prosecutions…Journalists Seek To Quash Flag Subpoenas…Calderon Takes Credit For Unemployment Rate Drop

Wal-Mart Deal In Puerto Rico Approved


November 22, 2002
Copyright © 2002 BLOOMBERG NEWS. All rights reserved.

WASHINGTON, Nov. 21 (Bloomberg News) — The planned purchase of Supermercados Amigo, Puerto Rico's largest supermarket chain, by a unit of Wal-Mart Stores, received regulatory approval today on the condition that it sell four Amigo stores.

Under terms of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, Wal-Mart Puerto Rico will sell the stores to a rival, Supermercados Maximo, to protect competition among supermarkets on the island.

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, announced in February that it planned to acquire the 36-store Supermercados Amigo for an undisclosed price. A group of stores sued last month in Superior Court in San Juan to block the purchase, saying it would give Wal-Mart almost 40 percent of the local market share.

"The commission determined that Wal-Mart's supercenters and club stores do, in fact, compete directly with Amigo supermarkets in several geographic areas," said Joe Simons, director of the F.T.C.'s bureau of competition, in a statement.

Governor Signs Special Communities Trust Law

November 21, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

COAMO (AP) — Gov. Sila Calderon signed Thursday the Special Communities Permanent Trust Law that makes official an allocation of $1 billion to improve the life conditions of thousands of poor families.

Half of the $1 billion will be obtained through a transfer from the Government Development Bank, while the other $500 million will be obtained through a loan.

"With the establishment of the permanent trust, we will impact the 686 special communities. Over $560 million will be invested in almost 200 communities for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of 20,000 homes," the governor said.

She added that the government will invest $130 million in works and new facilities in these 200 communities, as well as another $310 million for the remaining 486 communities.

"The investment for works of the $1 billion will be in completely repaired homes, new homes, secure housing, connection of water, electricity, drains, and ditches to avoid the threat of flash flooding, the construction of parks, roads, and plazas, and will allow the planting of trees and the transformation of the 686 special communities into pleasant neighborhoods for their residents," Calderon said.

Calderon also said the construction of projects in the special communities will create up to 32,000 jobs throughout the island.

The signing of the new law was held at Zambrana in Coamo, where Mayor Juan Carlos Garcia Padilla compared the special communities initiative to the social projects promoted by former Gov. Luis Muñoz Marin.

Rossello: Garcia’s Appointment To Bring Stability

November 21, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Former Gov. Pedro Rossello said it was very positive that the White House has asked the U.S. Senate to approve U.S. District Attorney Humberto Garcia’s appointment because it will give the office stability.

"The fact is that President George W. Bush is proceeding to give permanency to the U.S. District Attorney’s Office leadership," the former governor said.

Rossello said in a radio interview that the new chief of the U.S. District Attorney’s Office will also carry out investigations regarding actions that took place during the interim leadership of Guillermo Gil.

The former governor complained in a letter to the U.S. Justice Department about alleged anti ethical conduct of the former interim chief against the New Progressive Party (NPP) and its leaders for their investigations regarding corruption cases under the past government.

He said he has not received a reply to his letter.

According to Rossello, the cases against officials of the past administration were investigated for selectively accusing NPP members.

Laffitte Orders Handover Of Education Case Documents

November 21, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — U.S. District Court Judge Hector Laffitte lambasted Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez and her urgency to obtain the transcription of the grand jury that investigated the extortions in the Education Department, despite the fact that the accusations were made public 10 months ago.

Laffitte also issued an order in which he holds the local Justice Department responsible if the crimes committed in the Education Department cannot be prosecuted by the local authorities because the accusations were not issued timely.

In the document, Laffitte ordered the U.S. District Attorney’s Office to order the federal prosecution to hand over the documents presented before the grand jury, but left his decision pending regarding the possible handover of the transcripts of witnesses who appeared before the grand jury to be interrogated by the prosecutors Guillermo Gil and Rebbeca Kellogg.

Laffitte granted the Justice Department, the accused, and the prosecution until Dec. 5 to present their arguments regarding the matter before the court.

Court Requested To Annul Citation Of Journalists

November 21, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Puerto Rico Journalists Association (Asppro by its Spanish acronym) filed a legal petition at the San Juan Superior Court to annul the citation that the Special Independent Prosecutor’s (SIP) Office issued to several journalist who witnessed the incidents at the Women’s Advocate Office on June 20.

SIP Ruben Guzman, who is in charge of investigating the case, issued new citations ordering them to show up at his office or else face the consequences. Guzman issued the citations after none of the journalists showed up Wednesday.

The journalists are Notiseis reporter Annette Alvarez and photojournalist Jorge Negron, as well as Marcos Perez Ramirez, of the weekly Claridad.

ASPPRO states that there are dozens of witnesses in the case that could provide Guzman with what he intends to ask from the three journalists, therefore the presence of these reporters is illegal and inadmissible. The association also said the citation conflicts with Article II Section 4 of the Commonwealth Constitution as it is obstructing the free flow of information.

The attorney indicated that the citation affects the capacity of the press to obtain confidential information and constitutes censorship.

Calderon Takes Credit For Drop In Unemployment Rate

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

November 20, 2002
Copyright © 2002 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

Gov. Sila Calderon on Wednesday boasted about the 1.1% decrease in the unemployment rate on the island in the last two months.

According to the governor, the unemployment rate dropped from 13.1% to 12.6% in September and from 12.6% to 12.0% in October. She said the number of unemployed people dropped from 171,000 in September to 162,000 in October.

The governor also said as of October, there are 1.18 million people working, which is 48,000 more than October 2001.

"This is good news for Puerto Rico. We are facing encouraging signs of recovery in the island’s economy," she said.

Calderon said her administration had much to do with the seeming increase of employment in Puerto Rico.

"I want to thank the three magnificent secretaries of Economic Development, Labor, and Transportation & Public Works for the titanic effort they are carrying out, which is clearly bearing its fruit in Puerto Rico," Calderon said.

The governor made her statements during a press conference in Santurce to mark the construction of a new bridge over the Martin Peña Canal. The work has been estimated at $19.9 million and is expected to generate 398 jobs.

"This bridge was built in 1931, and its dilapidated condition prevents the maximization of its use for the development of the area," the governor said.

Calderon said the new bridge will consist of four lanes, a bicycle trail, and wider sidewalks. It will also be built higher than the current bridge to enable the passage of larger vessels and machinery that will be necessary to dredge the channel.

The construction of the bridge is part of the project to rehabilitate and dredge the San Juan Bay Estuary.

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