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Commercial Pact With Costa Rica Signed…Drought May Cause 24-Hour Rationing After Easter… Mundo Alleges Conflict Of Interest In Gov’t Contracts…Rossello Campaigning For Governor, Not Primary… Acevedo: Honors 2 PR Servicemen Killed, Seeks Vieques Cleanup Data…Gov. May Use Nat’l Guard In Schools

Commercial Agreement With Costa Rica Signed

April 3, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - In hopes of improving economic and cultural links between Costa Rica and Puerto Rico, Gov. Sila Calderon and Costa Rican President Abel Pacheco signed a multi-sector agreement Thursday.

Pacheco—who arrived Wednesday—said during a press conference at La Fortaleza that this effort will include establishing a Costa Rican Commerce Office in Puerto Rico, reestablishing a direct flight between San Juan and San Jose, Costa Rica, and working together to mutually learn to improve the areas of ecotourism, education, disaster management, and drug control.

"We believe we have something to offer […] More than commerce, we are talking about many good things," said Pacheco when referring to Costa Rica’s success in ecotourism and conservation of natural resources.

Meanwhile, the governor said she hopes to open a similar office in Costa Rica by the end of this year noting that one of the areas to be developed would be the mutual private investment in Costa Rica and Puerto Rico.

"Puerto Rico and Costa Rica have much to give to one another. I am sure that the combined efforts we make from now on will help them to grow together," Calderon said.

The Costa Rican president stressed that the agreement doesn’t imply economic aid from either side but rather a commitment to maintain mutual cultural and friendship ties.

Costa Rican Director of the Coalition of Development Initiative Dr. Tomas Dueña acknowledged that Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory subject to the federal laws of the mainland United States. However, now that the North America Free Trade Agreement is being extended to Central America under the name of the U.S. Central America Free Trade Agreement, he said the Costa Rican government is interested in promoting its ties with Puerto Rico. The agreement will be ready next year.

"As of today, the delegations of five Central American countries and the United States are in El Salvador holding the third round of negotiations to establish a free-trade zone in that region. Our relationship with the United States will allow Puerto Rico to be a part of that agreement," the governor noted.

According to Milton Segarra, secretary of Economic Development & Commerce, there are already groups of Puerto Rican businesses interested in investing in Costa Rica’s areas of paper, cardboard, plastic, automobile accessories, and construction, among others.

Dueña added that Puerto Rican private investments in Costa Rica are somewhere between $40 million and $50 million, compared to $25 million to $30 million of Costa Rican private investments in Puerto Rico. Segarra also mentioned that Lanco Paints has a manufacturing plant in Costa Rica.

Meanwhile, Puerto Rico Commerce Development Co. Director Antonio Sosa Pascual said that every year the island imports $156 million in medical, electric, and agricultural products from Costa Rica.

Puerto Rico exports only $30 million to the Costa Rica.

The president and his delegation are expected to stay in Puerto Rico until April 6. Pacheco’s delegation included Costa Rican first lady Leila Rodriguez Stahl, Foreign Relations Minister Marco Vinicio Vargas, Coalition of Development Initiative Director Dr. Tomas Dueña, Presidential Protocol Chief Jorge Arce Lara, First Lady’s Office Chief Flora Gonzalez, and Chancellery Protocol Chief Marta Nuñez.

24-Hour Water Rationing Plan To Begin After Easter

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

April 3, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Following Easter Week, approximately 120,000 clients of the Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Authority (Prasa) in the metropolitan area will experience 24-hour interruptions in their water service every other day if it doesn’t rain in the Carraizo Lake area. This reservoir feeds the Sergio Cuevas filtering plant and is located in the eastern part of the island.

Officials of Prasa’s private operator Ondeo admitted that thanks to the Superaqueduct—which was highly criticized by the governing Popular Democratic Party during the administration of Gov. Pedro Rossello—the clients who receive water from La Plata reservoir will continue to have normal service at least until June.

Ondeo General Director Charles Dupont said increasing the capacity of the Superaqueduct and reducing the production of La Plata back in January, combined with recent rain, have helped the operating company to delay the rationing plan for these clients. The metropolitan areas that receive water from La Plata include Bayamon, Old San Juan, and Condado.

However, he said if the lack of precipitation continues in the metropolitan area, the company would have to evaluate this decision by June. It would also have to start a second phase of the water-rationing plan in the lower southern areas of San Juan, Trujillo Alto, and the rural area of Carolina. This phase, however, will begin two weeks from the beginning of the first phase, and it will affect approximately 46,000 clients.

The areas that will be affected in this first phase of the water rationing plan are the urban areas of Carolina, Piñones in Loiza, and the San Juan sectors of Barrio Venezuela, Barrio Buen Consejo, Litheda, Sagrado Corazon, San Gerardo, Paradise Hills, El Paraiso, El Cinco, Villa Nevarez, Caribe, Jardines de San Francisco, Las Amapolas, Belisa, Antonsanti, Monterrey, Reparto Universitario, Centro Medico, Monte Park, Barrio Obrero, Villa Palmeras, Las Palmas, Las Casas, Valencia, Los Maestros, Venus Gardens, Las Margaritas, El Mirador, San Jose, University of Puerto Rico, Reparto Contemporaneo, Cambridge Park, University Gardens, Barriada Israel, and Manuel A. Perez.

In addition, the San Juan areas of Villa Prades, Villa Panamericana, Orquidea, Ramos Antonini, Las Virtudes, La Vista, Colinas Verdes, Iturregui, San Martin, Country Club, Hyland Park, Jardines de Monte Hatillo, Valles de Berwind, Parcelas Falu, Jardines Selles, Gonzalez, Delicias, Hills Brothers, Berwind, Campo Rico, Club Manor, Monte Carlo, Parque Escorial, Monte Real, Villa Capri, and Villa Sevilla.

The San Juan areas to be affected in the second phase of the rationing plan are Rio Piedras Heights, El Remanso, Villas de Paravia, Los Paseos, Fair View, Lomas de Trujillo, el Conquistador, La Lomita, Alturas de Interamericana, Rincon Español, el Señorial, Hills Mansion, Villa Andalucia, Mansiones de Rio Piedras, Parcelas Carraizo, Villa de Carraizo, Haciendas de Carraizo, Rd. 844, Rd. 845, Rd. 176, Rd. 850, Rd. 199 and neighboring areas, Colinas de Fair View, Sunville, Los Choferes, Alturas de Cupey, Cupey Gardens, Los Claveles, Villa Ucar, Morcelo, Lomas del Viento, Colinas de Cupey, and Horizon.

The areas to be affected in Trujillo Alto are Encantada, Wonderville, La Gloria, Talanco I, Talanco II, Panel, Santa Rita, Kennedy Hills, Barrio Culebra, Quebrada Negrito, Coco Panel, Ramon T. Colon, Maria Luisa, Berwind State, Saint Just, Las Cuevas, Lago Alto, Capra, Colinas de Montecarlo, Ext. Lago Alto, Parque de Terralinda, Plaza Trujillo, Rd. 181, Rd. 852, Rd. 851 and neighboring areas.

Mundo: Alleged Conflict Of Interest In Government Contracts

April 3, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – New Progressive Party Rep. Edwin Mundo denounced Thursday the fact that the members of Gov. Sila Calderon’s transition committee now have over $24 million in contracts with the government, which he understands to be a "clear conflict of interest."

Mundo said granting contracts to people who had access to privileged information for being members of the transition committees "is far from being clean politics."

"It has been made evident the serious conflict of interest that exists with Calderon’s friends who were members of her transition committee, without being governed by laws nor procedures that guarantee the best use of public funds," he said in a press conference at the Capitol.

La Fortaleza did not issue a comment regarding Mundo’s remarks.

Among the people who allegedly incurred in a conflict of interest, he mentioned Enrique Vila del Corral, who has $5 million in annual contracts for audit services and advising on computers.

He also named Rafael Escalera, of law firm Reichard & Escalera; publicist Eduardo Rivero; and auditor Jorge Perez Diaz, all with approximately $3 million in contracts in different areas.

Rossello Campaigning For Governor, Not Primary

By WOW News staff

April 2, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Eleven days after leaving the island, former Gov. Pedro Rossello affirmed that he is campaigning for the governor’s post and not the primaries in November.

In doing so, Rossello once again ignored New Progressive Party President Carlos Pesquera, who has not quit his aspirations for the governor’s post.

Rossello, however, said everyone has the right to file papers for any post.

The former governor added that he does not fear any primary.

He made his statements Wednesday afternoon during a live radio interview.

Asked whether he believed a change in the date of the primaries, as an electoral reform bill proposes, would affect his chances at winning the election, Rossello said any "step" could be changed, but his goal was still the general elections of November 2004.

"Any party member has the option to file for any candidacy. . .My campaign is aimed at November 2004. The steps in the middle can be changed, but I am preparing for that date," Rossello said.

Meanwhile, Rossello declined to identify who will be his running mate as resident commissioner, adding that he would respect who the people favor for the post.

Rossello noted that there are several candidates who have publicly expressed their aspirations for the post, including Sens. Kenneth McClintock, Myriam Ramirez de Ferrer, and former Senate President Charlie Rodriguez.

Economy has not shown signs of decline because of war

April 3, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Economic Development & Commerce Secretary Milton Segarra reiterated Wednesday that in the two weeks since the military conflict between the United States and Iraq started, the island’s economy has not been affected.

The official warned, however, that if the military conflict extends for more than six months, the Puerto Rican economy, as well as that of the United States, could be adversely affected.

According to the Tourism Co.’s report on daily hotel occupancy, tourist activity in Puerto Rico was quite high during the weekend of March 28-30, with an average occupancy of 81.1%.

"While other tourist destinations are already feeling the impact of the war, our industry continues to show stability and strength. The outlook for April is extremely positive, according to hotel industry leaders," Tourism Co. Executive Director Jose Suarez said in a press release.

According to the information gathered by the Department of Economic Development & Commerce, commerce also has not seen signs of decline in their usual activity for this month nor has the manufacturing sector been affected.

"In general, the economic activity of Puerto Rico has not shown serious signs of decline as a result of the war. We are in direct contact with the leaders of the retailers associations in Puerto Rico to collect, from a primary source, informantion on how the commercial sector is behaving," Commerce Development Administrator Antonio Sosa Pascual said.

Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority Executive Director Hector Rosario said the petroleum supplies have also not been affected by the war.

"In fact, the petroleum we use in Puerto Rico does not come from the area of the conflict, and we have a new contract with the company Petrobras de Brasil that includes preferential delivery," he added.

Two Puerto Rican Servicemen Killed In U.S. Military Action Honored


April 2, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Puerto Rico's delegate to the U.S. Congress honored two Puerto Rican soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, saying Wednesday that they and thousands of others lost in past wars must be remembered for their sacrifices.

Last week, Army Special Forces Sgt. Orlando Morales was killed in southern Afghanistan when four gunmen on motorcycles ambushed a U.S. military reconnaissance patrol. Marine Cpl. Robert Marcus Rodriguez also died in Iraq when his tank plunged off a bridge, landing upside down in the Euphrates River.

"The United States and Puerto Rico have lost true patriots," nonvoting delegate Anibal Acevedo Vila said before Congress, according to a copy his remarks.

"We must forever recognize the tens of thousands like Sgt. Morales and Cpl. Rodriguez who have died or been wounded in combat," he said.

The military has deployed about 5,400 Puerto Ricans in its campaigns abroad, making this the largest deployment from the U.S. Caribbean territory of 4 million since the Korean war, Acevedo said.

Rodriguez, 21, was one of four Marines reported missing last week. On Monday, military officials informed their families the four had died in the tank accident.

While he grew up in the New York borough of Queens, Rodriguez valued his Puerto Rican heritage and wore a tattoo of a Puerto Rican flag, his family said Tuesday. In fact, the last time his family saw him was when he came home in June for the Puerto Rican Day Parade.

"He loved the Marines. That's all he lived and breathed - the Marines," his sister, Hyda Hernandez-Lopez, said Tuesday in New York. "We were all so very proud of him. He was our hero."

Morales, 33, born in the central Puerto Rican town of Orocovis, was one of two killed in the ambush in Helmand, which Afghan officials blamed on the Taliban, their al-Qaida allies and forces loyal to a renegade rebel commander.

Morales had spent much of his childhood in Reading, Pennsylvania, and after high school moved back to Manati on the north coast of Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rican Gov. Sila Calderon expressed condolences to Morales' widow in a phone call Tuesday, her office said.

The couple was living with their 17-month-old daughter, Angelina Marie, in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he was stationed.

"He'll always be a hero to his daughter, and she'll always be very proud of her father," the Morales family said in a statement released by the U.S. Army Special Operations Command in Fort Bragg.

Puerto Ricans were made U.S. citizens in 1917, and 3.4 million of them now live in the mainland United States.

There are more than 53,000 Puerto Ricans in the U.S. armed forces, including 22,680 on active duty and 30,940 reservists on the island, according to the Pentagon.

Though they serve in the U.S. military, islanders cannot vote for president and have no vote in Congress.

Acevedo Vila Requests Information On Vieques Cleanup

April 2, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila said Wednesday that he asked the U.S. Navy for precise information on the agency that will be in charge of cleaning up the military land on Vieques after the official cessation of military practices.

Acevedo Vila requested the information from interim Navy Secretary HT Johnson, through Congress Hispanic Caucus President Ciro Rodriguez, in a public hearing of the House Armed Forces Committee.

According to the resident commissioner, Johnson acknowledged in that hearing that the Navy will always be the agency responsible for any type of contamination in the area and that the U.S. Department of the Interior, in receiving the land, will be responsible for cleanup efforts.

Acevedo Vila added that the military official said "the Department of Defense could never renounce the contamination that could have been caused."

At the end of the hearing, the resident commissioner said he was pleased with Johnson’s statements.

"I am pleased that the Navy recognizes that it is responsible for any type of contamination in Vieques and that in coordination with the federal agency that will receive the land for conservation, the cleanup work has started," he said in a press release.

National Guard To Ensure Safety In Public Schools If Needed

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin

April 2, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

AGUADA – Gov. Sila Calderon said the National Guard could be mobilized into public schools to ensure the students’ safety following the Education Department’s decision to cancel the contract with Island Security.

"I want to reassure Puerto Rican parents that the security will continue to be the same," the governor said.

Calderon has given instructions to Police Superintendent Victor Rivera to increase patrolling around the schools.

She has also declared the Education Department in a state of emergency in order to speed up the process of replacing Island Security.

If the negotiations are not completed by April 15, the governor didn’t rule out the possibility of activating the National Guard to ensure safety in public schools.

"If necessary, an additional activation of the National Guard will be made. We believe it may not be necessary, but I want to assure Puerto Rican parents that I have given orders to the Education secretary and that security will continue [to be provided] at the schools," Calderon said.

When Calderon came into office, she criticized the previous administration’s use of the state police in public schools, arguing that it criminalized children. With the Education Department’s decision to cancel the contract with the private security company, Calderon might be forced to do what she had criticized.

Earlier in the week, Rey had indicated that more than 1,000 police officers would provide security to the more than 1,500 public schools on the island. He had also said another 280 security officials of the Education Department and security officials assigned by the Public Buildings Authority would help in this effort.

Calderon made these statements after local reporters asked her what resources the government had to deal with public school security, since the state police has been put on alert as a preventive measure shortly after the war started in Iraq.

The decision to cancel the contract with Island Security was made after an investigation at the House Education Committee revealed that the security company had been linked with fraudulent activity at the Education Department, when former Education Secretary Victor Fajardo was in office during the past administration.

The governor admitted Tuesday that she had told House Education Committee Chairman Javier Garcia Caban at the beginning of March that, in light of this information, the contract with Island Security would be canceled. However, the contract was not canceled until the end of the month. Calderon regretted that it hadn’t been canceled earlier and attributed the lateness to a lack of communication.

Calderon also used the opportunity to express her support for the Education chief and said she respected Rey’s decision to also cancel the contract with the Reichard & Escalera law firm for damaging the client-attorney relationship with the government agency.

Rey, who resented the discussion of conversations between Education and the law firm in the media, said the allegations made by Reichard & Escalera regarding its alleged recommendation to cancel the contract with Island Security in August 2002 were incorrect.

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