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Pesquera: Cantero’s Resignation Sign Of Crisis…Lafitte Criticizes Rivera Class Immunity Deal…Anti Drug Plan Won’t Be Vetoed…NPP: Extraordinary Session Unproductive…Hernandez Mayoral: No Evidence Vs. Rossello…Comptroller: Convicted Mayors Should Be Suspended…Xmas Bonus Headed For Court?…Coliseum Naming Put Off

Pesquera: Cantero’s Resignation Sign Of Government Crisis

December 11, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera said Wednesday that Ramon Cantero Frau’s resignation as secretary of the Department of Economic Development and Commerce is an example of the government crisis under the leadership of Gov. Sila Calderon.

"The large number of resignations and the changes in Calderon’s government is evidence of her lack of capability and the lack of commitment of government officials to work for the benefit of our people," Pesquera said in a press release.

Pesquera said at the beginning of Calderon’s tenure, she returned to "recycling" officials from the administration of former Gov. Rafael Hernandez Colon and now continues to recycle officials "because she does not have the capacity to get new people with new ideas to contribute to the island’s economic development."

"The general opinion is that her mediocrity impedes her from attracting new talent, and she is forced to play musical chairs with the same people who helped her bring Puerto Rico to the economic disaster we now have," the NPP leader said.

He said unemployment is at its worst, since there is not a functional economic development model, construction industry is "practically halted," and Puerto Rico is not marketed adequately as a tourist destination.

Cantero Frau announced Wednesday his resignation as the secretary of the Department of Economic Development and Commerce. Tourism Co. Executive Director Milton Segarra was appointed to the agency.

Segarra will be replaced by Tourism Deputy Director Jose Suarez.

Cantero Frau Resigns; Tourism Chief Takes Over

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

December 11, 2002
Copyright © 2002 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Gov. Sila Calderon announced yet more changes to her cabinet Wednesday when she replaced Economic & Development Secretary Ramon Cantero Frau with Tourism Co. Executive Director Milton Segarra.

The governor also announced that Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority Executive Director Juan Agosto Alicea will replace Cantero Frau as chairman of the board of the Government Development Bank.

Calderon said Cantero Frau’s resignation doesn’t come as a surprise to her because he made it clear from the beginning that he would only stay in the public sector for two years.

"Although it was already known to us, this decision has been very difficult for him. In the name of our people, I thank him for his magnificent performance, and I also thank him for his generosity and open-handedness," Calderon added.

Cantero Frau said he has some private businesses that he’d like to get back to.

"My stay in the government was for a limited time. But I feel very comfortable with the team the governor has in the economic field. I have several private businesses that were placed in a trusteeship when I entered the government, and I want to see how they are doing," Cantero Frau said.

While returning to the private sector, Cantero Frau will preside over the $1 billion Special Communities Permanent Trusteeship starting Dec. 23. He will be heading a group of seven members: four from the government, one community leader, and two from the private sector, which is the sector Cantero Frau will be representing within the trusteeship.

Meanwhile, Segarra said he was very happy with the announcement and confident that he has what it takes to fill the secretary’s seat at the Department of Economic Development.

"I have a bachelor’s degree majoring in finance and marketing from the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez, and throughout my career, I’ve been involved in different areas within the tourism industry, not only with hotels. I’ve also had the opportunity to work with the economic team of this administration," said Segarra, when defending his credentials to head the Economic Development Department.

Tourism Co. Deputy Executive Director Jose Suarez will be replacing Segarra. Suarez is being promoted after only six months at the public corporation.

Suarez is the former manager of the Wyndham El San Juan Hotel & Casino and former general manager of the Wyndham Garden Hotels in Chicago and Mt. Olive, New Jersey.

Just as she has said in the past, Calderon said she didn’t foresee any more changes in her cabinet in the future. The governor has replaced cabinet members several times during her two years in office.

Among those who she has replaced are:

  • former Health Services Administration Executive Director Angel Blanco Botey
  • former Planning Board Chairman Hermenegildo Ortiz
  • former Agriculture Secretary Fernando Toledo
  • former Police Superintendent Pierre Vivoni
  • former Medical Emergencies Director Amaury Hernandez
  • former Regulation and Permits Administration Director Laudelino Rivera
  • former Government Development Bank President Juan Agosto Alicea
  • former Patients’ Advocate Carlos Diaz
  • former Puerto Rico Industrial Development Co. Executive Director William Riefkohl
  • former Financial Institutes Commissioner Antonio Faria
  • former Drug Control Office Director Osvaldo Rivera Cianchini.

Laffitte Criticizes Immunity Granted To Rivera Class

December 11, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – U.S. District Court Chief Judge Hector Laffitte severely criticized Wednesday the local Justice Department for granting total immunity to businessman Jesus Emilio Rivera Class, who was accused in the federal court of a $4.3 million fraud scheme in the Education Department.

"Rivera Class received total immunity; I don’t know how. . .that is going to remain unpunished in the local court," Laffitte said minutes before imposing the sentences to former Education Secretary Victor Fajardo and Deputy Secretary Jose Omar Cruz Mercado.

Rivera Class was freed from facing the judicial process when the charges against him and nine other agency contractors were dismissed after Fajardo committed perjury in the trial of co-defendants Maria Teresa "Maritere" Perez Huertas, businessman Norman Olson, and attorney Roberto Bonano.

Despite the Justice Department’s immunity to Rivera Class, the prosecution established Aug. 5 that he was not considered as a witness in the case against former public officials "because of his lies."

The contractor affiliated to the Popular Democratic Party was accused in the federal jurisdiction on charges of money laundering and extortion regarding $1.5 million he allegedly handed to Fajardo and Cruz Mercado.

In exchange, Rivera Class received a $44.7 million contract for improvement works in public schools, professional workshops for teachers, school directors and parents.

Special Independent Prosecutor (SIP) Cesar Lopez accused Fajardo in the local court of the payment of $750,000 from Rivera Class.

Regarding the immunity granted to Rivera Class, Lopez said that is an issue for the Justice Department to deal with, not the SIP.

Rivera Class, 51, is the owner of Quality Educational Services, the company that in 1996 and 2000 obtained contracts totaling $44,731,960 with the Education Department under Fajardo’s tenure.

In the local court, Fajardo faces 45 corruption charges submitted by Lopez.

Lopez said he has more than 16 witnesses to prove his case, among whom Rivera Class is not included.

Calderon Reafirms She Will Not Veto Anti Drug Plan

By WOW News staff

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

La Fortaleza’s Public Affairs Secretary Jorge Colberg Toro stated that Gov. Sila Calderon will sign a joint resolution adopting the anti-drug strategic plan, as she said she would a few days prior.

Colberg Toro made clear that the the process had not been halted despite a protest led by religious and community leaders that took place on Monday expressing opposition to several proposals included in the plan.

Despite her public statements regarding her availability to meet with opposing groups and listen to their concerns, Calderon did not meet with them on Monday. In her place, La Fortaleza’s Chief of Staff Cesar Miranda, Public Affairs Secretary Jorge Colberg Toro, and Legislative Advisor Awilda Nin met with several leaders from the opposing groups, in what is expected to be the first of several meetings before reaching agreements regarding changes to be made to the plan.

"The governor is satisfied with the results of yesterday’s [Monday] meeting and is willing to listen to the recommendations of all the religious or civic groups, and include them in the anti drug plan when an agreement is reached. The governor is going to sign the resolution within the 30-days granted by law," Colberg Toro said.

The Public Affairs secretary said the resolution had already reached La Fortaleza and reiterated that it is not legislation but rather a joint resolution that expresses the Legislative Assembly’s plan filed by the executive office.

The government official said its approval does not imply that changes cannot be made in the future. Because the plan is not a law, changes could be ordered administratively.

The religious and civic groups oppose the extension of the methadone program for heroine addicts to private doctor offices, as well as the government certification requirement for professionals who deal with drug addicts.

NPP Legislators: Unproductive Extraordinary Session

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – Spokespeople from the minorities at the Senate described the current extraordinary session as unproductive because of the nature of the bills being evaluated.

The original purpose of convening the extraordinary session was for Gov. Sila Calderon to consider the bill for the increase in the Christmas bonus to later issue an executive order because of discrepancies with legislators.

The work will be renewed on Monday when the legislative body will consider an administration bill regarding the urban center revitalization. Once this is approved the session will be concluded.

The New Progressive Party (NPP) Minority Leader, Kenneth McClintock said he understood the only important bill that was approved was the one to solve the malpractice insurance premiums, but affirmed that the legislation only addresses one of the controversies within the problem.

Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) Sen. Fernando Martin said that among the most important bills evaluated was the credit line granted to the Puerto Rican Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (Prasa) to pay vacations and legal commitments. The legislation aimed to solve the malpractice controversy, which he said could have waited for the next session.

Hernandez Mayoral: There Is No Evidence Against Rossello

December 8, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

PONCE (AP) - Until now, there has been no evidence involving former Gov. Pedro Rossello in corrupt acts of former public officials of his administration, said former Popular Democratic Party (PDP) candidate for resident commissioner Jose Alfredo Hernandez Mayoral.

The son of former PDP Gov. Rafael Hernandez Colon, he said a widely corrupt culture was formed within the New Progressive Party (NPP) government, but rejected that Rossello could have been one of the leaders of some of the corruption schemes for which some of his close aides have been convicted.

"To be totally sincere, I frankly haven't heard any evidence that links him. Apparently, corruption is individual. They haven't found a head, but many heads. There is nothing centralized here," he said.

Hernandez Mayoral added that, if anything, the corruption scandals within Rossello's administration show the former governor's negligence, that he didn't pay attention.

The PDP leader favored that Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez refrain from investigating the NPP regarding corruption acts.

"If the facts point the finger to something organized, that step could be taken, but since it is not a centralized or concerted act of the NPP, she doesn't have to investigate them," Hernandez Mayoral said.

Comptroller: Governors Should Suspend Convicted Mayors

December 8, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

PONCE (AP) - Commonwealth Comptroller Manuel Diaz Saldaña called for the approval of a bill to allow governors to suspend from work any mayor convicted of a felony.

Diaz Saldaña referred to convicted Vega Alta Mayor Juan Manuel Cruzado Laureano, who was sentenced to five years and three months in prison for extortion and has yet to be dismissed from his post by the Municipal Complaints Commission.

"The governor has the power to issue executive pardons, which is to erase the penal record of any person who has committed a felony. How is it possible that the governor cannot have the faculty to remove someone who has been formally accused in court?," said Diaz Saldaña.

He remembered that there was a law in the 1960s, which granted power to the governor to dismiss mayors who were not rightfully complying with their duties.

Later on, after the creation of the commission, this authority was passed on to that organization.

"I believe governors should have that power again," said Diaz Saldaña.

Mayors Could Take Christmas Bonus Controversy To Court

December 6, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Mayors Federation President Hector O'Neill described as illegal Gov. Sila Calderon’s executive order authorizing the increase in the Christmas bonus only for public employees of the central administration.

The Guaynabo mayor did not rule out taking legal action if Calderon insists on granting the increase without considering the bills approved by the Legislature that granted an additional allocation to cover those municipalities that could not honor the bonus increase.

"The executive order is null, illegal. This has to be done through legislation, not by executive order. If the governor does not accept that kind of bill approved by the Legislature, she is wrongly advised," O’Neill said in published reports.

Several legislators also questioned the executive order, including House and Senate Leaders Roberto "Junior" Maldonado and Jose Luis Dalmau, respectively, and House Treasury Committee Chairman Francisco Zayas Seijo.

"What I would like is to have a legal opinion from somebody, preferably the Justice secretary, stating that it is legal," Zayas Seijo said.

Coliseum Bill To Be Evaluated During Next Session

December 6, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The House Popular Democratic Party (PDP) caucus agreed to postpone the discussion of the name to be given to the coliseum under construction in Hato Rey, announced PDP Majority Leader Roberto "Junior" Maldonado, who also said the legislators preferred to give some more time to the Senate.

"We are not going to continue with this controversy," Maldonado said in published reports, referring to the impasse between La Fortaleza and the Senate regarding the amendment approved this week designating the coliseum as Puerto Rico National Coliseum Felisa Rincon.

Gov. Sila Calderon’s original proposal was that the facilities be designated as the Puerto Rico Coliseum.

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