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Rossello Speaks To People Of Puerto Rico, Says He Won’t Campaign Against Pesquera More Public Employees Want $150 Increase… Public Policy Program For 9th Graders To Be Launched… AA Provides Room For Rossello’s Press Conference…Mega Raid Nets 1,317 Arrests…Feds Question Urban Train Rush

Rossello Speaks To People Through Recorded Message

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

March 13, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Former Gov. Pedro Rossello spoke to the people of Puerto Rico on Thursday evening, two days prior to his arrival on the island, during a recorded message in which he confessed to be a changed man, accepted that people close to him failed him, and admitted that he should have known.

He addressed his opponents when he accepted that they would continue to attempt to link him to acts of corruption.

The pediatrician and at present professor added that he knows he will be insulted and booed upon his arrival.

But while admitting that those very close to him failed him, the fight against corruption can be used to stain the hard labor made by others.

Some of Rossello’s closest cabinet members and even his personal assistant have been convicted of fraud and extortion.

Many believe he must have been aware of their actions and every time he has been asked the subject, he has denied any knowledge.

On Thursday, however, during the five-minute long message, which had soft music playing in the background, Rossello directly answered that question to the people.

"Some of you think that I should have known, today I think you were right. I have learned from this," Rossello said.

Wearing a blue shirt and appearing in what seemed to be a living room, the governor admitted that the years have gone by and that he has aged, but that with age, comes experience.

"I come back today with more experience. I am not the young man who you elected in 1992. I learned a lot in the eight years as governor and also in the last two years of study and reflection. My vision of the people has changed; I consider myself more careful," Rossello said.

The two-term governor added that he comes back with renewed energy.

Rossello is expected to arrive in Puerto Rico on Saturday. He will campaign for 10 days before going back to Virginia to finish the semester.

Rossello Won’t Campaign Against Pesquera

March 13, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Just a few days from his arrival on the island, former Gov. Pedro Rossello said he feels at ease. He also anticipated a tense and dynamic campaign for the 2004 elections.

Rossello added that he would concentrate his efforts on the general election, not on the primary campaign in which he will compete against New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera for the gubernatorial candidacy.

"I am not campaigning for a primary. I won’t campaign against Pesquera. I see him as a co-worker in my administration and in my party," Rossello said in published reports, while denying that a primary would divide the NPP.

More Public Employee Groups Want $150 Increase

March 13, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Public employees organizations that have not negotiated collective agreements under Law 45 of unionization asked Gov. Sila Calderon that they be taken into consideration for the $150 monthly salary increase that is being discussed between the government and several unions.

Luis Pedraza Leduc, director of the Solidarity Program of the Electrical and Irrigation Industry Workers Union (UTIER by its Spanish acronym), said Thursday that several groups sent a letter to the governor in which they requested an urgent meeting to present their request.

He said the unions that are negotiating with the government for their $150 salary increase, which had already been agreed to in their collective agreements, only represent half of the public employees.

"There are more than 100,000 public employees who do not have an agreement, and the government only wants to give them a $100 [increase] in January," Pedraza Leduc said during a press conference at the UTIER headquarters in Miramar.

The governor announced in February during her State of the Commonwealth that because of the island’s economic situation, she will only grant a $100 increase to public employees starting in 2004, which caused protests among the unions that had already negotiated higher increases.

Some unions threatened this week to call a strike if their agreements are not complied with.

Public Policy Program For Ninth Graders To Be Launched

March 13, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - The Center for Civic Education of California program, which has proved successful in countries like Russia, Argentina, Mexico, and the United States and is aimed at giving more participation to young people in the process of creating public policy, is set to begin on the island as soon as March 24, Education Secretary Cesar Rey said Thursday.

Students and teachers identify a problem that affects their community and propose legislation to solve it.

The program called "We the People. . .Project Citizen" has been adapted to reflect the reality of the Commonwealth and has been dubbed "Citizen Project of Community Work." Rey said a manual for both students and teachers has been drafted.

Project National Director Michael Fisher will instruct 11 teachers at the 10 junior high schools selected for the pilot program beginning Friday.

The students selected, 1,650 9th graders, attend schools that are all located within special communities across the island.

Fisher, who has taught the program in countries in Eastern Europe, South and North America, said the experience has given him great satisfaction because he has seen how students who get involved in it develop a "lifetime interest in the community."

"They not only develop intellectual skills but also participating skills that teach them how to work with people in order to solve a problem," Fisher said.

Rey and Fisher made their statements Thursday during a press conference at Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora’s office. It was Fas Alzamora who discovered the program as it is sponsored in the United States by the Civic Education Center and the State Legislatures National Conference.

Fas Alzamora said all the ideas proposed by the participants, once the final proposal is drafted, would be taken into consideration for the possible drafting of bills.

AA Provides Room For Rossello’s Press Conference

March 12, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - American Airlines (AA) will provide a room for former Gov. Pedro Rossello to hold a press conference when he arrives Saturday at the international airport in Isla Verde, officials said.

Enrique Cruz, managerial director of American Airlines for the Caribbean, said Wednesday that the initiative does not mean that the airline favors the political intentions of the former governor.

"We are doing it to avoid giving the negative image of the island to tourists that Rossello’s arrival would cause. On Saturday, 75% of the passengers will be foreign tourists," Cruz said in a telephone interview.

The initiative ends the controversy that arose after Ports Authority Executive Director Jose Baquero denied Rossello last week the use of a room in the Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport. Gov. Sila Calderon backed the decision.

"Before the impasse that was going on and the repercussions it was going to have on traffic on Saturday, which is one of the days of highest passenger traffic, we decided to take the initiative of offering the room adjoining the American Airlines Club," Cruz said.

He added that the decision was taken after a meeting with Rep. Jose Aponte, in charge of the organization of the arrival of the former governor; Baquero; Police Superintendent Victor Rivera Gonzalez; and Transportation Security Administration Director Marlene Hunter.

"The service will be given free in exchange for moving the people through the airport and allowing us to continue our work. It is more important to us to minimize the inconveniences of our clients and employees than any economic transaction that could be made to provide the space," he said.

Cruz said Aponte promised to ask Rossello followers not to go to the airport but to go directly to the designated area in the Hiram Bithorn Stadium, where a welcoming activity will take place.

Police Arrest 1,317 In Mega Raid

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

March 12, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

In an operative similar to those held by the previous administration, some 1,317 people were arrested Wednesday across the island in what Police Superintendent Victor Rivera called a "mega raid."

Half of those arrested were on drug-related charges, while the rest faced charges ranging from murder to robbery.

As of 4 p.m., however, only 300 people had gone to prison. The rest posted bail, which amounted to $10.9 million, and were released pending probable cause hearings.

The main purpose behind the so-called mega raid was to impact and dismantle drug trafficking points across the island as requested by Gov. Sila Calderon in her State of the Commonwealth address, Rivera said.

But by having most of those detained back on the streets, the possibility of a real effective impact is somewhat diminished, said the chief of police.

"That does not help me in the fight against drugs because they go back to the drug selling points," Rivera said.

He added that it is often the chief drug dealer who posts bail for his smaller dealers.

Still, he affirmed that the police will continue to impact drug selling points at a rate of 100 per month. With Wednesday’s raid, in which 52 drug points were impacted, police has intervened in 270 of the 1,280 that police intelligence have identified around the island.

One of the drug trafficking points impacted was located at the Rio Piedras Medical Center plaza, where tranquilizers such as Xanax were sold.

Meanwhile, in terms of drugs seized, the amount was not substantial by police standards.

"The quantity is not significant," Rivera said.

Police seized 2 pounds of marijuana, 1,518 decks of heroin, 1,416 bags of cocaine, and 1,360 crack capsules.

U.S. Customs cooperated with authorities at sea and detained a ship with two Columbians and 150 decks of cocaine valued at $2.25 million.

In the raid in which some 800 agents participated, the Police Department was touched at its core when Agent Maria del Pilar Rodriguez was arrested and charged with seven counts of theft and two of falsification.

An 11-year veteran of the force assigned to Cayey, Rodriguez allegedly was able to obtain over $1 million by way of a scheme in which she told people she could get cars on bids, request the money, and once obtained, the vehicle would never appear.

Although arrests were made across the island, the areas with the highest number of people detained were Arecibo, Bayamon, and San Juan.

Wednesday’s type of raid has been criticized in the past by Calderon and several of Rivera’s predecessors for being a show of force with few real consequences, among other things.

Rivera, however, was very satisfied with the results of the mega raid.

"It is always worth it because you have 300 people in prison and 1,000 who will face a judicial process," Rivera said.

Federal Officials Question Urban Train Construction Rush

March 12, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — A preliminary audit report from the Inspector General’s Office of the U.S. Transportation Department questions an $81.7 million injection for contractors to speed up the Urban Train project. Federal officials warned that the government might be paying a 100% more for the same job.

The document that was reviewed in published reports also notes that the allocation of funds has not been documented.

The final report on the train’s construction may be ready this summer. It will be referred to the U.S. Congress with opinions on whether the project’s budget is legitimate, if it has a realistic schedule, if the most significant construction problems have been corrected, and if the plans to begin operations are adequate.

The local government has said the train will be ready by Sept. 29. However, inspectors have expressed skepticism, saying it won’t be ready until 2004.

Inspectors also recommended that the Highway & Transportation Authority’s files be updated to explain these expenses.

Jack Allison, executive director of the aforementioned agency, said with the $81.7 million injection the government saved, $100 million that would have been wasted in project delays.

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