Esta página no está disponible en español.

Vazquez Denies NPP Claim Of Public Debt Increase…Xmas Bonus May Trigger Deficit…Administration Called Disorganized …Political Pressures In CEE Investigation Denied…Rivera Schatz Has A Lot To LearnIndependence Activists Back Compensation…Mexico Trip To Cost $17K

GDB Chief Denies Public Debt Increase

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

November 27, 2002
Copyright © 2002 WOW News. All rights reserved. 

Government Development Bank (GDB) President Hector Mendez Vazquez denied that the local public debt has increased 13.5% in the past year, contrary to what New Progressive Party (NPP) representatives said this week.

On Wednesday, NPP Reps. Anibal Vega Borges, Antonio Silva Delgado, and Jose Aponte Hernandez said the public debt was $30.4 billion on April 30, 2002, which is $3.6 billion or 13.5% more than in June 30, 2001.

However, Mendez Vazquez said legislators didn’t deduct from that amount $460 million in general obligation bonds and $365 million in tax revenue anticipation notes that the government receives every year and uses to pay the public debt.

"They didn’t take those numbers into consideration, because they use the figures as they please. We cannot conveniently use numbers for politics," he said.

Mendez Vazquez said the central government’s public debt was $6 billion on June 30, 2002 and $29.3 billion including municipal governments.

He also said the debt increase slid from 12.10% on June 30, 2001 to 9.72% on June 30, 2002. In other words, according to Mendez Vazquez, the debt’s growth rate dropped by 2.38%.

"In the past three months, the debt has increased by only 1.62%, which foretells a lower increase of 7% [by the end of fiscal year 2003]," Mendez Vazquez said.

On another note, the GDB chief blamed the past administration for the drop from A to A- in the government bond rating.

Mendez Vazquez said former Gov. Pedro Rossello used the GDB to subside mega-projects such as the superaqueduct and the Coliseum of Puerto Rico, thus limiting the bank’s liquidity.

He explained that the government had to disclose all its debts in order to refinance its public debt to 25 years issue and have more cash flow, and that’s when Standard & Poor’s lowered its bond rating.

On top of that, he said the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 had something to do with the lowering of the bond rating. Mendez Vazquez said economists expected government and business revenues to drop, and their payment capacity to diminish.

"In my opinion, the GDB has always had the capacity to pay its debts, and the bank now has more solvency and liquidity than before. But, they are the analysts, and they believed they had to lower [the bond rating]," Mendez Vazquez said.

Furthermore, he said the bank is prepared to deal with any emergency that may ensue from a possible war in Iraq.

For example, the GDB could back up banks in Puerto Rico that may have trouble clearing paychecks, as happened last year with the Sept. 11 attacks. The GDB released $400 million in one day to help two banks on the island clear paychecks.

NPP Representatives Denounce Public Debt Increase

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

November 26, 2002
Copyright © 2002 WOW News. All rights reserved. 

New Progressive Party (NPP) Reps. Anibal Vega Borges, Antonio Silva Delgado, and Jose Aponte Hernandez accused Gov. Sila Calderon of increasing the government’s public debt at an unprecedented rate.

"That is the reality, and dozens of millions of dollars in public image won’t hide these facts," Silva Delgado said.

He estimated that in the past two years, the Calderon administration has increased the public debt by approximately $5.5 billion or 20.6%.

Meanwhile, Aponte Hernandez said the $5.5 billion is about half the $11.5 billion former Gov. Pedro Rossello spent during his eight years in office.

According to Vega Borges, the public debt was $30.4 billion on April 30, 2002, which is $3.6 billion or 13.5% more than in June 30, 2001. On top of that, the addition of some $1.4 billion in credit lines plus the $500 million donation the Government Development Bank will make to establish the $1 billion Special Communities Permanent Trusteeship, could increase that debt to $32.3 billion by June 30, 2003, Silva Delgado said.

"Certainly, with each day that passes, we face a new incident of mismanagement by the Calderon administration," Vega Borges said.

He also presented a list of projects for which the Calderon administration has requested permission to authorize a credit line. They include $90 million for the Ponce en Marcha project, $100 million to help the Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Authority pay for employees’ accumulated vacation time, and $500 million for the Special Communities Permanent Trusteeship.

Aponte Hernandez added that during Rossello’s administration, the government paid 40% of its debt on a short-term basis. Now, he said, the Calderon administration only pays 23% of its debt on a short-term basis. He said Standard & Poor’s announced the government’s decision to refinance its debt at a lower rate has affected the government bond rating, which slid from A to A- on May 30.

"With this refinancing, we will be paying debts for much longer," he said.

The three NPP legislators urged La Fortaleza to halt this manner of managing the public funds to avoid further damage to the government’s financial health.

They said what the Calderon administration is limiting the government’s economic flexibility to start new programs and projects that benefit the people.

Xmas Bonus Increase To Trigger Deficit

November 25, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — House Treasury Chairman Francisco Zayas Seijo predicted that the government should reduce its expenses to deal with the announced increase in the Christmas bonus, if it does not want to face a deficit in the last three months of the year, which would result in a cut in services.

The representative said Education, Health, Corrections, and Police departments would be the agencies with the biggest problems, since those agencies have almost 85% of the budget committed to wages, according to published reports.

The increase in the Christmas bonus for 180,000 public employees will cost the government approximately $22 million.

However, Melba Acosta executive director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said that although Zayas Seijo’s statements are true measures had been taken to prevent the adverse effects of the cuts.

She affirmed that the OMB identified other funds that could be used for the bonus.

PDP Legislator: Calderon's Administration Disorganized

November 25, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Rep. Charlie Hernandez accused Gov. Sila Calderon's administration of being disorganized and having a serious communication problem.

Hernandez was referring to the disorganized manner in which the issue of the Christmas bonus increase for government employees was handled.

"When you have the Public Affairs secretary stating that the increase wouldn't be granted under any circumstances, only to be contradicted by his boss the next day [...] there seems to be a lack of communication there," he said.

This week, La Fortaleza Public Affairs Secretary Jorge Colberg Toro, House Treasury Committee Chairman Francisco Zayas Seijo, as well as other legislators insisted that the government wouldn't be able to increase the Christmas bonus for government employees.

Nevertheless, Hernandez congratulated Calderon for keeping her word and for being consistent with her promise. However, he regretted that those who were in charge of implementing her public policy were not aware of the promises made by this government.

"Because they weren't aware they were unable to work on this issue faster. I think it is unfair that the New Progressive Party legislative minority now wants to claim the victory that belongs to the party in power and to government employees," Hernandez said.

Rodriguez Denies Political Pressures In CEE Investigation

November 25, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez denied that political pressures may be delaying the agency's investigation of the 14 legislators who were referred by the State Elections Commission (SEC) for further study of possible violations of the Electoral Law.

"The political-partisan criterion has not intervened in any determination of the Justice Department," the public official stated.

According to published reports, Rodriguez said the cases were referred way after the SEC announced its intention to refer the legislators to the Justice Department.

She said the press conference announcing the results of the SEC's investigation was held July 30, while the documents were handed to the department on Sept. 6.

Rodriguez said the 14 reports are being investigated by the Office of Solicitor General Pedro Geronimo Goyco.

The SEC agreed to grant 10 days to the legislators to react and submit their petitions for reconsideration, which were evaluated by the commission.

House Vice President Ferdinand Perez; Senate Government Committee Chairman Roberto Prats, and New Progressive Party Senate minority leader Kenneth McClintock are among the 14 legislators being investigated.

Parga & Dalmau: Rivera Schatz Has A Lot To Learn

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

November 25, 2002
Copyright © 2002 WOW News. All rights reserved. 

New Progressive Party (NPP) Electoral Commissioner Thomas Rivera Schatz stepped out of line and has plenty to learn about legislative work and politics, said NPP Sen. Orlando Parga and Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Sen. Jose Luis Dalmau on Friday.

The statements of the two senators were made while NPP Senate Minority Leader Kenneth McClintock announced that his party delegation requested a meeting with NPP Secretary General William Rosales to discuss the issue.

However, McClintock declined to say what would be the course of action regarding the NPP electoral commissioner because it is an issue that should be dealt with internally.

"This is an internal issue of the party, and internal issues should be dealt with within the party," McClintock said.

Rivera Schatz upset members of the NPP delegation when he lambasted them for voting in favor of a resolution to study the procedures that the State Elections Commission (SEC) uses to audit political candidates. He said the study is an effort of the PDP to undermine the authority of the SEC, which has referred PDP and NPP legislators to the Justice Department for possible violations of the Electoral Law.

But his well-known confrontational attitude was not welcome this time by the NPP senators.

"A disciplinary action must be taken. The electoral commissioner is supposed to represent and defend us at the SEC, not attack the party’s elected public officials," Parga said.

"I believe he must understand what his role and his position are, and he must learn to respect the party’s elected officials. I wouldn’t want to call it a scolding. I think it is a learning process that he needs [to go through]. He is a person who is starting and has a brilliant future ahead of him, and these are blows that come with that learning process," Parga added.

Meanwhile, Dalmau said Rivera Schatz is only damaging his party with his statements.

"Rivera Schatz’s actions and statements have been harming his party for long time, but that is an internal problem of the [NPP] in which I won’t intervene," said Dalmau.

Parga stated that the people have the right to know that their constitutional rights are ensured and that they won’t be discriminated against when being audited by the SEC.

The NPP senator, who is one of the four NPP legislators referred to the Justice Department for possible violations in their electoral campaigns, said he was discriminated against, because when he was called for the audit, he went there willing to cooperate with everything the SEC needed to clarify, which is why he believes it was unfair to refer him to the Justice Department.

Parga said the NPP legislators will wait for the decision of the Justice secretary before taking any legal action.

The SEC intends to audit all political candidates, even those who lost in primary and in the 2000 general election. He said many of these people are still paying for their campaign expenses, and it would be unfair to subject them to audit that could be discriminatory.

Regarding allegations of possible harm to the SEC’s authority, Parga said it is better to study the SEC’s auditing procedures so that they can be corrected now, than wait until more elections are held and have more people questioning the SEC’s decisions in the future.

Meanwhile, Dalmau said the SEC’s authority hasn’t been questioned any more than the judicial branch, whenever its procedures are challenged.

"I believe Rivera Schatz’s comments result from his ignorance of legislative procedures," the PDP senator concluded.

Independence Activists Support Bill Granting Compensation

November 22, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — A group of pro-independence activists on Friday supported a bill proposing $25 million in compensation to people about whom Commonwealth authorities, through police agents, kept political dossiers on their political affiliation.

Providencia Trabal, 76 and spokeswoman of a dozen activists, said the legislation is in answer to the demands of those who didn’t agree with the executive order signed by former Gov. Pedro Rossello granting a $3,000 compensation.

The practice of maintaining political dossiers was declared illegal by the Puerto Rico Supreme Court, after which Rossello ordered the compensation.

But, according to Trabal, the executive order was only intended to silence those who were discriminated against.

"We have requested compensation for a long time for the damage suffered by the use of the political dossiers against ‘independentistas.’ Rossello ordered the allocation of money to silence people, but we didn’t accept the money," Trabal said.

She also affirmed that if the bill is approved, the group would not continue with the legal action pending in the Superior Court.

Trabal said since 1959, she had been persecuted for 22 years during which false accusations were filed against her, charges that were never proved by authorities.

Police authorities prepared and maintained approximately 100,000 political dossiers of people who supported independence for Puerto Rico.

Legislators’ Trip To Mexico To Cost $17,000

November 22, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — A trip to Mexico that Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora will be making, along with Popular Democratic Party (PDP) legislators Bruno Ramos, Sixto Hernandez, Rafael Rodriguez, and Velda Gonzalez will cost $17,728.

The group will be participating in the Las Americas Parliamentary Conference (COPA by its Spanish acronym), but they are not the only ones to be traveling on public funds.

According to published reports, legislative advisors also participating in the meeting are Ivan Orlandi, Fas Alzamora’s advisor in international affairs, legislative advisor Francelis Ortiz, and Gonzalez’s office director, Cecilia "Cuca" Saldaña.

PDP Sens. Modesto Agosto Alicea and Jose Ortiz Daliot and Rep. Hector Ferrer are currently in Saint John for the annual meeting of the Council of State Governments, which will be held in Puerto Rico next year.

Self-Determination Legislation | Puerto Rico Herald Home
Newsstand | Puerto Rico | U.S. Government | Archives
Search | Mailing List | Contact Us | Feedback