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Budget Deficit Confirmed, NPP Calls Administration Incompetent…Homeland Security Reorganization Set…Political Discrimination Costs Salinas $1.8M…Pesquera: Calderon’s A Separatist… Fas Toots His Horn…Gov’t Urged To Disclose Navy Talks

Pesquera Asks OMB Director And Treasury Secretary To Resign

January 30, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera and the NPP delegation at the House and Senate demanded Thursday the resignation of Treasury Secretary Juan Flores Galarza and Office of Management & Budget (OMB) Director Melba Acosta because of the deficit in the government budget.

Pesquera affirmed that the operational and budget deficit will surpass $410 million at the end of this fiscal year.

According to Pesquera, the government’s economic situation is a reflection of the current administration’s "lack of administrative competence."

He also warned that the NPP delegation could go to court to force the Treasury secretary to hand over the collections reports of the last few months.

He said the Treasury Department has not responded to a series of requests by NPP Rep. Antonio Silva through monthly letters.

On Thursday, Galarza described the current fiscal year’s budget deficit as "minimal" and "manageable," although he couldn’t specify how much larger than the estimate the deficit is.

Flores Galarza agreed with Acosta, who on Wednesday said the deficit is no more than $50 million.

He also compared the situation with that in 46 states, where there has apparently been a decrease in collections because of the slowdown in the economy.

Acosta Confirms Budget Deficit

January 30, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - Office of Management & Budget Executive Director Melba Acosta confirmed Wednesday that the current fiscal budget carries a deficit because Gov. Sila Calderon’s administration hasn’t been able to collect the estimated revenue for the first half of the present fiscal year.

However, Acosta asserted in published reports that the deficit doesn’t reach the $50 million mark, contrary to what Popular Democratic Party House Treasury Committee Chairman Francisco Zayas Seijo had said. She couldn’t give an exact number.

"As of December, there was a decrease of less than $50 million in the revenue. I won’t go into details about the deficit because that’s the Treasury Department’s job," Acosta said.

Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Juan Flores Galarza said in a radio interview that a report would be ready next week with the precise amount.

Reorganization Of Federal Agencies Starts In March

January 30, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — With the creation of the new Homeland Security Department, federal agencies in Puerto Rico will start reorganizing starting March 1, according to the law that created the department.

U.S. Customs Service spokeswoman Isabel Vazquez said this agency’s primary function will no longer be to collect excise taxes and other revenue, but to prevent terrorist attacks on the United States.

However, Customs will maintain its fiscal function and its battle against drug trafficking, she said.

On the other hand, the Secret Service, which has 11 agents on the island, will respond directly to the new department chief, former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge.

The Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Bureau and the Drug Enforcement Agency will move to the Justice Department.

U.S. District Court Orders Salinas To Pay Compensation

January 30, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SALINAS (AP) — A U.S. District Court jury ordered the Salinas municipal government to pay $1.8 million to compensate 40 employees who were allegedly discriminated against for their affiliation to the New Progressive Party (NPP).

The employees alleged that Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Salinas Mayor Abraham Lopez Martinez violated their rights by resuming a federal program without using their services.

The workers said Lopez Martinez hired employees identified with the PDP to work in the federal temporary job program.

The NPP employees were laid off Dec. 31, 2000, by former NPP Mayor Basilio Baerga because the federal funds had run out.

Pesquera Calls Calderon A Separatist

January 29, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera criticized Gov. Sila Calderon for having double standards when it comes to spending public funds and claiming loyalty to the United States.

Pesquera said it is ironic that the governor, who called on cabinet members and legislative leaders to reduce agency budgets by eliminating Christmas parties and unnecessary spending, is the same person who held a gathering Tuesday night at La Fortaleza with Popular Democratic Party (PDP) fund-raisers.

"The PDP president dedicates herself to holding parties to gain political favors from those close to her at events that are clearly political. We urge authorities to investigate the squandering of public funds and the extravagant spending pattern which has characterized Calderon since she was mayor [of San Juan]," Pesquera said.

The NPP leader added that Calderon has disrespected the people by her actions.

"While the people of Puerto Rico suffer from serious problems such as crime, poverty, unemployment, and poor healthcare services, the governor spends her time traveling and celebrating at La Fortaleza," he said.

Pesquera said if Calderon is so high on doing the right thing and on lambasting the NPP administration of former Gov. Pedro Rossello for squandering public funds, then she should start by setting an example, not by imitating that which she criticizes.

Pesquera also fired at Calderon for using the local government’s television station to air a documentary last weekend on the damage the U.S. military has allegedly done to Puerto Rico.

"On one hand she speaks of our relationship with the United States, and on the other hand, the local government station uses public funds to peddle the administration’s separatist ideology and promote hatred of our armed forces," he said.

He said it was inappropriate to air a documentary of that sort in times when the United States is gearing up for a possible war with Iraq.

Fas Alzamora Counts His Achievements

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

January 29, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

In a privately funded televised message, Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora defended his tenure’s achievements, arguing he has spent less money than his predecessor and noting that far from being an obstacle to the executive branch’s endeavors, his legislative duties place him as a zealous collaborator with Gov. Sila Calderon’s administration.

"There could be a difference in criteria or interpretation, but no one should doubt my commitment as legislator and Senate president," Fas Alzamora said.

He noted his Senate shouldn’t be compared with those of previous legislative leaders accused of being "rubber stamps" for the governor.

"We now consciously study the bills to express our concerns and our intention to improve them. Those who were weak in the past now accuse us of being an obstacle, with a lack of power and leadership, with the intention of confusing people and, thus, dividing the executive and legislative branches," Fas Alzamora said.

Fas Alzamora noted that out of the 214 administration bills filed during the first two years of his presidency, 93 were approved. Many of them, according to Fas Alzamora, were priorities of Calderon, such as the Special Communities Trust and the Key to Your Home program.

The televised message was broadcast on Channel 7. To dismiss criticism similar to that received last year for using public funds for his broadcast, Fas Alzamora opted to pay it from private donations. The total cost was not disclosed.

Fas Alzamora, who has been criticized, even by Gov. Calderon for his trips abroad, noted that he had traveled and has spent less money that his predecessor Charlie Rodriguez.

So far, since taking the president’s post, Fas Alzamora has made 18 trips at a cost of $26,520, while Rodriguez made 22 trips for $30,985. In addition to Rodriguez, then- majority leader Kenneth McClintock made 24 trips at a cost of $54,054.

Fas Alzamora defended his trips as part of his agenda to place Puerto Rico on an international level since it is "necessary" in light of globalization.

Calderon Urged To Disclose Negotiations With Navy

January 29, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — On Wednesday, the Bar Association Vieques Special Committee demanded that Gov. Sila Calderon clarify what kind of negotiations the administration is working on with federal authorities regarding the closing of the Vieques target range.

A group of Viequenses asked Calderon to open the dialog with Vieques residents to prevent repeating past errors.

Fermin Arraiza, Vieques Special Committee spokesman, asked Calderon to clarify the nature of the negotiations, since he thinks there has not been an affirmative action from the Puerto Rico government regarding the issue.

"We have not seen an affirmative action. We understand that at least you should have a little bit of care with this information. We need to know what the government position is, in order to be able to recommend the legal actions the Vieques groups can take," Arraiza said.

The attorney said that based in what is established by the Spence Law, which rules the closing of the military facilities in Vieques, the target range and Camp Garcia will be turned into a conservation area full of toxic materials.

"It is vital for the Puerto Rico government and the people of Vieques to have a guarantee that the area will not be used again as a target range, because the Conservation Zones and Wildlife Refuge Law allows the land to be used for the purposes for which it was used before, even for military purposes," he said.

Nilda Medina, Vieques community leader said she believed a dialog with the governor was still possible.

Medina also said the transition committee appointed by the governor is academic because it does not have any jurisdiction over the land on the eastern side of Vieques, which will be transferred entirely by the U.S. Navy to the U.S. Department of the Interior.

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