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Wal-Mart Gets TRO…Crime Rate Up, Clearing Up Down…Flag Case Going To Trial…Olympic Basketball Qualifying Set For SJ…Nursing Exodus Crisis Decried… Commercial Agreement With Chile Signed…Harris Paints Expands To Orlando…Wal-Mart Sues Justice Over Purchase…Comptroller Investigates SJ Operations

Federal Judge Grants Wal-Mart Temporary Restraining Order

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – U.S. District Judge Juan Perez Gimenez granted to Wal-Mart on Tuesday, a temporary restraining order against Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez preventing her from initiating any legal action against the mega-store.

Wal-Mart’s lawsuit against Rodriguez was filed last Dec. 6 on the federal court.

In his 12-page decision, Perez Gimenez explains that one of the reasons to grant the temporary restraining order is that it is necessary to prevent irreparable damages.

"Our objective in granting this temporary restraining order is to prevent [Rodriguez] from imposing arbitrary, protectionist and unconstitutional conditions to [Wal-Mart] business transactions", reads the order.

Justice spokesman Agustin Muñoz said Rodriguez will not issue any comments regarding the Wal-Mart case, while she prepares for a hearing to be held on Thursday at the federal court.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) approved the Wal-Mart/Amigo merger with the condition that once the transaction was completed, Wal-Mart had to sell four supermarkets. With this measure the FTC expects to prevent a monopoly of Wal-Mart operations on the island.

However, the local Justice Department challenged the transaction using the argument presented by several business organizations that oppose the merger because of an understanding it would give the mega chain monopolistic powers over the local economy, despite the selling of four of their stores.

After Rodriguez determination, the Senate announced it would resume their investigation and public hearings regarding the consequences of the transaction in the local economy, specifically in sectors such as the food industry and distribution chains.

On the other hand, Wal-Mart officials have stated that the monopoly that would allegedly be created is not the real reason for the Justice department opposition.

"What we really regret is that they are using a very different standard from the one used in past transactions," said Federico Gonzalez-Denton, director of Wal-Mart Corporate Affairs in Puerto Rico.

"The arguments being presented are discriminatory and that is what we will file in the federal court," he added.

Although an official amount has not been disclosed, the estimate offered by sources close to the transaction is approximately $225 million.

On Monday, Wal-Mart halted their efforts to complete the transaction with Amigo, when San Juan Superior Court Judge Milagros Rivera Guadarrama granted the local Justice Department a request for a preliminary interdict.

Several commercial sectors as well as political officials supported the Justice department efforts to halt the merger, but said the Justice secretary waited too long to take action regarding the transaction.

Crime Rate Increases As Clearing Up Crime Rate Decreases

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – Statistics from the Criminal Investigations Auxiliary Superintendence revealed that the clearing up crime rate of Type I rate, decreased 14% in November.

While, crime rate increased 27.5%, according to published reports.

The results, are not in accordance with Police Superintendent Miguel Pereira’s goal of 40 to 45% of crimes being cleared up.

According to statistics, the clearing up crime rate decreased from 15% to 14%.

The cleared up cases remained in 36% and the rape cases filed dropped 2%.

Judge Rejects NPP’s Petition To Dismiss Charges

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

December 10, 2002
Copyright © 2002 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

The four New Progressive Party (NPP) leaders accused of rioting are going to trial after Superior Court Judge Heriberto Sepulveda ruled they had failed to demonstrate that there was insufficient evidence to charge them with rioting.

Having said that, Sepulveda proceeded to dismiss the legal petition to drop the charges against NPP President Carlos Pesquera, NPP Electoral Commissioner Thomas Rivera Schatz, former NPP Rep. Leo Diaz, and NPP Rep. Edwin Mundo.

"They haven’t been able to demonstrate the absence of proof against them, therefore I dismiss the petition presented and order the continuation of the procedures against the defendants," Sepulveda said.

The four of them expressed dissatisfaction with the judge’s ruling and, except for Diaz, all the others said they would appeal the decision in a higher court.

Harry Padilla, Diaz’s defense attorney, said he had recommended his client exhaust every legal resource, which is why he will submit a petition of reconsideration within 10 days at Sepulveda’s courtroom.

"We are convinced there is no reason why this case should still be tried in court. Each time I come here, I confirm that the state is conducting a nonsense case. I am convinced that in the end, justice will served," Pesquera said.

Should all resources fail, Pesquera, Rivera Schatz, Diaz, and Mundo will have to stand trial Feb. 3 for the charges of rioting. The charges are regarding the incident at the lobby of the Women’s Advocate Office on June 20, when Pesquera, accompanied by the other three, forced their way inside the government building to place a U.S. flag that Women’s Advocate Maria Dolores Fernos had ordered to remove days earlier.

Meanwhile, Rivera Schatz accused the state of fabricating a case against the four NPP leaders to undermine the party.

Sepulveda is wrong when he says that I used foul language. I urge the press to listen to the unedited videotape. I did not use foul language. If the judge wants to believe a liar, that’s his business," said Rivera Schatz when referring to one of the witnesses who testified to having heard him use foul language during the incident on June 20.

Mundo, on the other hand, said Sepulveda’s decision was to be expected.

"This judge is totally biased, and he has proved it with his decision and his arrogance," Mundo said.

Olympic Basketball Qualifying Set For San Juan

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

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (AP) - The U.S. men's basketball team will play in San Juan, Puerto Rico, next August in the Americas Olympic qualifying tournament.

The U.S. team, which finished a disappointing sixth at the world championships in September, must finish among the top three to qualify for the 2004 Athens Games.

Ten teams from North America, South America and Central America will participate in the tournament, which will be held at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum from Aug. 20-31.

The United States and Canada have already qualified as the North America representatives.

It's the third time the U.S. men have had to qualify for the Olympics. They played the tournament in 1999 and 1992.

Philadelphia 76ers coach Larry Brown will serve as coach of the team. USA Basketball announced last month that the 2003 men's team will include eight to nine top NBA players, who also will represent the United States at the Olympics, if the team qualifies.

The U.S. team has won the gold medal in 12 of the Olympics it has played, including the last three, when NBA players participated.

At the 1999 qualifying tournament, the U.S. team went 10-0, earning one of the Americas zone's two berths.

Rullan Acknowledges Nurses Exodus Crisis

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – Health Secretary Johnny Rullan acknowledged on Monday that Puerto Rican hospitals cannot compete with hospitals on the mainland which offer better salaries to nurses.

Rullan admitted a crisis in the exodus of nurses to the U.S. mainland, denounced by the Professional Nurses Association President Mildred Flores.

"The problem is that we don’t have the money to pay them," Rullan said in a radio interview.

"There is a cap on Medicaid services, there is a cap on Medicare, and we cannot compete with the U.S. mainland," he said.

Rullan affirmed that the exodus means that there is also a crisis on the mainland, and they have to come to Puerto Rico to recruit professionals.

The health chief said that the Puerto Rico government pays for the studies of a lot of nurses, trains them and then the nurses are recruited by a U.S. hospital offering them more money.

Rullan also called Flores to help prevent the exodus.

"I publicly urge that this doesn’t turn into a bridge to take them away", the health secretary said.

Government Announces Signing Of Collaboration Agreement With Chile

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – The Puerto Rico government has signed a collaboration agreement for technical and commercial cooperation with Chile aimed at increasing commercial relations through PROMOEXPORT and Pro Chile, it was announced.

The agreement was signed on Monday at the Red Room of the Exterior Relations Ministry, after a meeting with Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado, the Chilean Interim Exterior Relations Minister Cristian Barros, and the Chilean General Consul in Puerto Rico Francisco Ossa Concha.

The signing of the agreement and the meeting with Barros took place on the first day of the Commercial Mission led by State Secretary and Commercial Administration Administrator Antonio Sosa Pascual along with several Puerto Rican businessmen interested in promoting their businesses in Chile, the State Department announced.

"The interim exterior relations minister was very interested in increasing commercial exchange among the two countries, to identify areas for exports and imports which will benefit both economies," Mercado explained.

Puerto Rico-Based Harris Paints Expands To Orlando

By Jack Snyder | Sentinel Staff Writer

December 9, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ORLANDO SENTINEL. All rights reserved.

Harris Paints, a manufacturer and wholesaler of paint products, caulking and adhesives headquartered in Puerto Rico, has opened its first mainland U.S. facility at Airport International Park of Orlando.

The 80,000-square-foot manufacturing plant will serve as a base for expansion throughout the Southeast, according to the company.

Wal-Mart Accuses Justice Department Of Discrimination

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

SAN JUAN (AP) - Wal-Mart has filed suit against the Puerto Rican justice department to prevent it from blocking the retail chain's acquisition of a local supermarket chain, a Wal-Mart spokesman said Monday.

The suit, filed Friday in a federal court in San Juan, accuses the Justice Department of discrimination in pursuing an antitrust action to block Wal-Mart's purchase of Amigo supermarkets, Wal-Mart spokesman Federico Gonzalez Denton told a local radio station.

"What we feel is that a very different measurement is being used from what has been used in the past with other transactions," Gonzalez Denton said on the radio.

The acquisition was reportedly worth $225 million.

The Wal-Mart lawsuit names as defendant Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez, who last week confirmed the government's intention to sue Wal-Mart to apply local antitrust laws.

Rodriguez said the transaction ran contrary to the best interests of consumers, business owners and distributors in the U.S. Caribbean island.

The Federal Trade Commission issued a consent decree last week validating the February acquisition and allowing Wal-Mart to close the purchase, which it did Thursday, Gonzalez said.

"All legitimate antitrust concerns related to the purchase of Supermercados Amigo were addressed by the consent decree," Gonzalez said.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., based in Bentonville, Arkansas, operates 19 stores on the island, including eight Sam's Clubs. With the Amigo acquisition, Wal-Mart would employ about 10,000 people in the U.S. territory, the company has said.

The 34 Amigo supermarkets would continue operating under the Amigo brand name. Amigo was established in 1966.

Comptroller Investigates San Juan Municipal Operations

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – Most recent investigations of Commonwealth Comptroller Manuel Diaz Saldaña have to do with the actions of former San Juan Mayor and now Gov. Sila Calderon, as well as current San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini, said Diaz Saldaña.

In addition, the comptroller said in published reports that he is about to finish other investigations in the municipalities of Corozal and Yabucoa, as well as in the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority, and the Ombudsman Office.

However, he refused to say if the audits revealed serious irregularities.

Las week, Diaz Saldaña said some of his investigations could explain the recent attacks that have been made against him to undermine his credibility.

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