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PDP Caucus Ignores Calderon’s Christmas Bonus Warning, Her Executive Order Injures Municipalities, Says Pesquera… Justice Seeks To Stop Wal-Mart Amigo Deal…IRS, Treasury To Cooperate…Rey To Comply With Federal Reform…Fas Added National To Coliseum’s Name

Pesquera: Christmas Bonus Executive Order Attempts Against Mayors

December 5, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — New Progressive Party (NPP) Carlos Pesquera complained on Thursday that Gov. Sila Calderon injures municipalities by rejecting the Legislature’s proposal to allocate additional funds to cover the municipal employees’ Christmas bonus.

The bill approved this week by the House and Senate granted $2.8 million to those cities which because of fiscal problems could not give the Christmas bonus to their employees.

However, the governor did not agree with the allocation and through an executive order approved the increase, but from funds coming from each municipality and agency.

"The governor’s decision to exclude the municipalities from the Christmas bonus allocation is an attack against mayors," Pesquera said in a press release.

According to the NPP leader, this new discrepancy between the Legislative and the Executive branches demonstrates the alleged incompetence of the Popular Democratic Party in governing.

PDP Caucus Ignores Calderon’s Orders Regarding Christmas Bonus

December 5, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Popular Democratic Party (PDP) caucus ay the House of Representatives ignored Gov. Sila Calderon’s warning regarding the increase in the Christmas bonus for municipal employees and agreed to send the bill to La Fortaleza with the amendment.

House Speaker Carlos Vizcarrondo said that with the determination PDP representatives are being consistent with their previous actions regarding the approval of the amendment.

Gov. Sila M. Calderon warned the legislators through her Chief of Staff Cesar Miranda on Wednesday, that if the Legislature insisted in amending the bill sent by La Fortaleza to include the municipal employees, she would order the Christmas bonus increase through and executive order.

The Legislature included approximately 52,000 municipal employees in the bill to increase the Christmas bonus by $125.

Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora and House Speaker Carlos Vizcarrondo announced it Wednesday after a meeting of the legislative caucus with Gov. Sila Calderon and La Fortaleza officials to discuss the bills being evaluated in the extraordinary session.

"We at the House of Representatives introduced an amendment to extend the increase to the 52,000 municipal employees," Vizcarrondo said.

He said an additional allocation would be needed to comply with that change, not a simple budget adjustment.

La Fortaleza’s Chief of Staff Cesar Miranda said Wednesday that the governor ordered the payment of the increase in the Christmas bonus for municipal employees through an executive order.

Miranda explained that Calderon also said all government officials should comply with the austerity measures ordered.

However, House Treasury Committee Chairman Francisco Zayas Seijo said according to the Office of Management and Budget, the increase for the government agencies would cost $17 million, while there is an available budget of $22 million.

Justice Dept. To File Injunction To Stop Wal-Mart-Amigo Deal

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

December 5, 2002
Copyright © 2002 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez announced the filing of an injunction at the San Juan Superior Court to halt the transaction through which mega chain store Wal-Mart plans to buy local Amigo supermarkets.

"We are convinced that the purchasing of Amigo Supermarkets by Wal-Mart violates [Puerto Rico’s anti-monopoly laws] and goes against the best interests of Puerto Rican consumers, business owners, and distributors," Rodriguez said.

The Justice chief added that she made the decision after holding long talks with Wal-Mart representatives to no avail. Some of these negotiations lasted until Wednesday night.

According to Rodriguez, Walmart officials failed to provide guarantees that the proposed transaction would maintain the current employment level on the island and the purchasing of local agricultural products.

Rodriguez also said the megastore didn’t guarantee that the transaction would protect the local market.

The Justice secretary noted that she didn’t know whether the transaction had been closed. If that were the case, she said the injunction would seek to keep the two chain stores working separately until the court rules on the issue. Otherwise, the government of Puerto Rico would be asking the court to halt the transaction.

Rodriguez stressed that every deal of this kind must always comply with both federal and state anti-monopolistic laws in order to go through.

She said the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had ruled the transaction to be in violation of the federal laws, but Wal-Mart officials found a way out by selling four of the supermarkets. However, Rodriguez said they failed to present the local Justice Department with proof that the sale was legitimate, thus reinforcing the agency’s decision not to consent to the Walmart-Amigo deal.

"The public policy of Gov. Sila Calderon’s administration is aimed at guaranteeing the jobs of local workers and supporting the development of Puerto Rican industry and commerce," Rodriguez said.

Nevertheless, she added that this should in no way be interpreted as an opposition of the local government toward foreign capital investments on the island.

"This public policy is intended to create the necessary balance between investment and the strengthening of Puerto Rican industry and capital to ensure a sustained economic development," Rodriguez concluded.

Cooperation Agreement Signed Between Treasury And IRS

December 5, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Treasury Secretary Juan Flores Galarza and officials from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on Thursday signed a cooperation agreement aimed at fighting money laundering and other financial crimes, the IRS announced on Thursday.

In a press release, IRS Field Operations Director Kenneth Riche and special agent in charge of the criminal investigation, Jose Marrero explained that the agreement establishes the creation of a multi-agency group composed of both local and federal officials.

"The investigations that have been performed have shown that tax evasion related to drug trafficking, public corruption, fraud in insurance companies and health services, among other crimes, have taken place in Puerto Rico," the IRS said.

The federal agency explained the agreement will benefit the Treasury department because of the goods and properties that could be seized after the investigations.

Rey Promises To Comply With Federal Reform

December 5, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Education Secretary Cesar Rey promised to comply with the new federal education reform, which authorizes military recruiters from the Pentagon to request basic information about approximately 165,000 intermediate public schools students.

According to the law signed in 2002 by George W. Bush, the military can have access to the name, address and phone number of intermediate school students.

If the department fails to comply with that part of the law, it might risk losing federal funds.

To refuse the information to the military recruiters, the education system has to ask the student’s parents to fill out a form requesting the exclusion of their children from the process.

If the parents deny the information, the Puerto Rico government will have to provide it.

Fas Responsible For Adding National To Coliseum’s Name

December 4, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – The idea of adding the word "national" to the proposed name for the Puerto Rico Coliseum came after Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora suggested it, he revealed Wednesday.

Fas Alzamora said he proposed adding the word because he considers that Puerto Rico is a nation, and he thinks this would help the island’s image abroad.

The controversy regarding the name to be given to the facilities being constructed in Hato Rey became a crisis when the Senate changed the administration’s proposal for the coliseum’s name from Puerto Rico Coliseum to Puerto Rico National Coliseum Felisa Rincon de Gautier.

"I inserted the word national, and I do not deny it, because I think this is a nation," said the Senate leader before entering a legislative conference meeting at La Fortaleza with Gov. Sila Calderon on Wednesday.

He said, however, that he would support what the Senate caucus decides, whether it supports the proposal of adding Felisa Rincon de Gautier or accepts the governor’s proposal.

Fas Alzamora said, however, that he would prefer the discussion to be delayed until January.

"We asked in the last caucus for this issue to be discussed in January," Fas Alzamora said.

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