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Rossello Blasts SEC Investigation, Says It Distracts Attention From PDP Illegalities…Police, Firefighters Also Claim Unfulfilled Promises…NPP Takes Credit For Christmas Bonus… Calderon To Make Good On Promise… Students Demonstrate At UPR…Gov’t Spends Over $210M On Advertising

Rossello: SEC Investigation Tries To Distract Attention From PDP Illegalities

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – Former Gov. Pedro Rossello said Thursday that the announced investigation into possible illegal fund transfers for New Progressive Party (NPP) advertising during the 1996 political campaign only claims to distract attention from the accusations regarding electoral irregularities attributed to the Popular Democratic Party (PDP).

"This is a clear attempt to dilute the corruption issue in the PDP," Rossello said in a radio interview.

Rossello said with the State Elections Commission (SEC)’s announced investigation, Gov. Sila Calderon’s administration is trying to open a case that was investigated and concluded in the past and is obviously trying to redirect attention to the NPP.

The former governor insisted that during the past electoral campaign, the PDP established an illegal scheme of campaign funds and not only an illegal scheme, but also the cover-up of that illegal scheme.

The SEC will hold a hearing regarding possible illegal fund transfers for NPP advertising in the 1996 campaign, even though an order regarding that action was issued six years ago.

The investigation is based in a complaint filed on March 6, 1996 by then PDP Electoral Commissioner and now La Fortaleza Chief of Staff Cesar Miranda to initiate an investigation regarding the expenses of advertising from candidates who sponsored ads that were really part of the central NPP campaign and its candidate.

SEC To Hold Hearing On Possible NPP Irregularities

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – The State Elections Commission (SEC) will hold a hearing regarding the possible transfer of illegal funds to pay for campaign ads of New Progressive Party (NPP) candidates during the 1996 campaign, although a judicial order had been issued against it six years ago.

Since the three electoral commissioners couldn’t reach an agreement, SEC President Aurelio Gracia Morales filed a resolution stating that none of the arguments that were analyzed were grounds to rule out the filed complaint.

Gracia granted 20 days to each electoral commissioner to choose an examining representative in the evaluating committee. This representative will set the hearing and will notify all parties involved in the issue.

The complaint was filed March 6, 1996 by then Popular Democratic Party Electoral Commissioner and now Chief of Staff Cesar Miranda to investigate the expenses of campaign ads of sponsoring candidates that were actually part of the central campaign of the NPP and its gubernatorial candidate Pedro Rossello.

Police Officers Also Demand Salary Increase

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

PONCE (AP) – The Puerto Rican Police Federation urged Gov. Sila Calderon to make good on her word to grant a salary increase to police agents.

"It’s not only the $125 bonus increase this year, but also the salary increases that are pending. There are 12 other promises that we are waiting for," said Lt. Nelson Echevarria, president of the federation.

As of now, a police officer may earn a basic salary from $1,200 to $1,400 a month.

"Our claim and what the governor promised us is a basic salary of $2,000 a month," said Echevarria.

He also warned Calderon that just like other governors, she is being scrutinized by the public based on her campaign promises.

Firefighters Claim Unfulfilled Promises

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – The Firefighters Union said it is unexplainable that the government never allocated funds to guarantee the salary increases they were promised.

Puerto Rico Firefighters Union President Jose Tirado said several political leaders, among them House Treasury Committee Chairman Francisco Zayas Seijo had promised them a $150 salary increase in 2003 and in 2004. However, the Legislature only approved a $100 increase per year.

According to published reports, Tirado said the promise to recruit 600 additional firefighters has yet to be fulfilled and they still haven’t received the new uniforms, which are necessary to adequately fight large fires.

NPP Takes Credit For Xmas Bonus

November 20, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – New Progressive Party (NPP) senators on Wednesday took the credit for Gov. Sila Calderon’s announcement of increasing public employees’ Christmas bonus this year by $125.

Senate NPP Minority Leader Kenneth McClintock, accompanied by Sens. Lucy Arce and Norma Burgos, said the governor gave in to pressure by the opposition to honor her campaign promise.

Calderon said the money will come from the reduction in governmental publicity expenses achieved so far in the agencies and estimated at $32 million.

She also ruled out calling an extraordinary session of the Legislative Assembly to approve the increase since this is not a distribution of funds from savings by the agencies.

Governor: Christmas Bonus Increase A Sure Thing

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

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

After several days of political debate on whether there were sufficient funds to pay for a Christmas bonus increase, local government employees can now breathe easily, since Gov. Sila Calderon announced Wednesday that she will make good on her word to give them a $750 bonus this holiday season.

"That was a promise I made to the government employees of Puerto Rico, and I will keep that promise," the governor said.

Calderon said the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) didn’t include the increase in the 2003 fiscal year budget based on the projected income, considering the worldwide economic slowdown. Nevertheless, she said the money will be made available through the cutbacks in government expenses that she had ordered several months ago.

"I have asked to the OMB director to use the money saved by the cutbacks in car expenses, drivers, beepers, cellular phones, and advertising in the executive branch to cover the increase that I promised, which is $125 a year," said Calderon, who had insisted that she will make good on her word to increase the Christmas bonus to $1000 by 2004.

The New Progressive Party, as well as representatives of government employees, have criticized the administration during the past few days for not approving a bill to allocate the approximately $20 million needed to cover the increase.

"There won’t be an additional allocation this year because it would be irresponsible to make one," she added.

The governor said cuts of some $32 million have already been made in the executive branch.

On another note, Calderon denied published reports that cited data from the Commonwealth Comptroller’s Office, which revealed that her administration had spent $162 million in public funds to pay for advertising and special events.

However, she refused to make any more comments on the matter and referred additional questions to Public Affairs Secretary Jorge Colberg Toro.

Meanwhile, Colberg Toro said the government has cut down its advertising expenses by 30% in the past 20 months. He added that the central administration spends only $30 million a year on such expenses. Colberg Toro said the commemorative events of the Fourth of July and of the 50th anniversary of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico were included in that budget.

He also noted that the Comptroller’s Office has incorrect information as to the expenses of the central government.

Colberg Toro also defended the need to spend public funds for advertising, as the government has the responsibility to inform people of key projects such as the health reform card, the Patients’ Advocate Office.

"There are even federal programs that require the local government to place ads or else face losing federal funds," he said.

Students Conduct Demonstrations At UPR

November 20, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Before the almost absolute indifference of most of the members of the university community, pro-independence and pro-statehood students conducted Wednesday individual demonstrations on the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) Rio Piedras Campus without any threat of violence.

Both demonstrations were attended by a poor turn out of students.

Felix Plaud, of the Puerto Rican Statehood Youth (JEP by its Spanish acronym), described his activity as a success and criticized the demonstration by the Pro Independence University Federation (FUPI by its Spanish acronym), for its poor student participation.

"The poor attendance at the pro-independence activity reflects the fact that many students understood that picketing against the mob was conducting a picket against the same organizations that held the activity," said Plaud, indicating that the activity of FUPI and other organizations had a total attendance of hardly 20 people.

"They held a march against the mob, and no one went because they themselves are the mob," Plaud said.

Antonio Guarionex Torres, of FUPI, said they carried out the activity so as not to allow other groups, such as the one headed by Plaud, to continue provocation in the university and occupying space to prevent other organizations demonstrating.

"This march seeks to present a solid message of which the people are causing the problems in the university," Torres said.

Charo Melendez, of the press office of the chancellor, said the calm environment evidenced on campus Wednesday during the two activities "demonstrates that it is a process of maturity, and it is honorable to congratulate our students."

Government Spends Over $210 Million On Advertising

November 20, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – In less than two years of tenure, Gov. Sila Calderon’s administration has spent $210.7 million on advertising and artistic expenses, including state agencies, corporations, and municipalities.

The contracts registered in the Commonwealth Comptroller’s Office include advertising and public relations services, events, publications, sound and technical equipment, disk jockeys, and styling services, according to published reports.

From Jan. 2, 2001, to Sept. 30, government agencies spent $162 million in public funds for advertising expenses.

Among the 45 Popular Democratic Party municipalities, $20.5 million was spent, while in the 33 New Progressive Party municipalities, $27 million was spent.

Meanwhile, government officials have stated that there are no funds available to give a Christmas bonus increase to public employees this year despite an increase in excise taxes for sport utility vehicles, cigarettes, and alcoholic beverages.

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