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Lawmakers Seek Commercial Relations With D.R., Review Of Las Americas Port…Gov. Declares Emergency In 7 Towns Affected By Flooding…Homeland Security Grants $2.5M To P.R….Caguas, SJ, Guaynabo Show Most Business Growth…DACO Freezes Prices Of Necessities…Camacho Loses Split Decision…Island’s Poorest Hit Hardest By Floods

Lawmakers Seek Commercial Relations With The Dominican Republic

April 21, 2003
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ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — A delegation of lawmakers will travel next month to the Dominican Republic as part of an effort to seek commercial agreements that will allow Puerto Rican products to be sold tax-free in the nearby island.

Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora said the group would be received by President Hipolito Mejia as well as by business leaders of the Dominican Republic.

"What we want is to establish a situation like the one existing with their products as they come into the island that they don’t pay anything. If that is achieved it will be very beneficial for our industry, commerce and the local economy," Fas Alzamora said.

The legislators will seek to establish a relationship with the Dominican Parliament to exchange legislation, and sign collaboration agreements. ?

House To Investigate Delay In Mega-Port

April 21, 2003
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ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — In light of the delay in the scheduled date for the inauguration of the Port of the Americas in Ponce the legislature will begin an investigation into the project’s development, House Treasury Committee Chairman Francisco Zayas Seijo said.

The investigation will also look into the competition faced by the local project in relation to similar ports being developed at present in the Caribbean, particularly in the Dominican Republic.

"We want to know where we are and what can we do to speed up the permits without falling victim to the past administration’s "fast track" policy.

The Port of the Americas, which will work be a transshipment port, will be located in Ponce. The first phase of the project should begin construction by 2005.

A second phase will include construction of a new port in Guayanilla.

Governor Declares State Of Emergency In Seven Puerto Rican Towns Affected By Flooding


April 20, 2003
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ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

CAGUAS, Puerto Rico (AP) - The governor on Saturday declared a state of emergency in seven towns in Puerto Rico, where three days of heavy rains and flooding left three dead and hundreds of homes damaged.

The worst hit were poor neighborhoods and towns near the El Yunque rain forest. Those areas would receive aid from a $3 million emergency fund, Gov. Sila Calderon said.

"(The shantytowns) are usually closest to the rivers. It's a development problem for Puerto Rico and the poor," Calderon said. The towns included Naguabo, Las Piedras, Juncos, Fajardo, Rio Grande, Humacao and Luquillo.

More than 16 inches of rain had fallen since Thursday in some areas, causing rivers to overflow damaging about 500 homes islandwide.

About 20 people were still staying in three shelters set up in schools, while hundreds of others stayed with family or friends.

Authorities on Saturday confirmed the third death from the floods, 24-year-old Elizier Valdes Flores. His body was found in the Gurabo River eight miles from Juncos, where he disappeared Thursday during a rafting trip.

In eastern Humacao, 75-year-old Felipe Santana was rescued from a landslide Thursday night, but died of his injuries less than an hour later, officials said. Another man, 67-year-old Miguel Gotay Sanchez, drowned Thursday when he fell off his roof into the flooding Fajardo River.

By Saturday, power had been restored to all but about 350 subscribers, after the floods left 30,000 without electricity Thursday night, electric company spokeswoman Ada Torres Toro said.

About 25,000 homes were still without water service due to the flooding, Calderon said.

The island's government on Friday ordered a freeze on the prices of basic goods, including food, construction materials and fuel, to prevent shops from taking advantage of flood victims by driving up prices.

Homeland Security Grants $2.5 Million To Puerto Rico

April 20, 2003
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ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge announced that $2.5 million in federal funds will be given to the Puerto Rico government so that the island is better prepared to respond to emergencies.

The money comes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which belongs to the Homeland Security Department recently created by President George W. Bush.

"These funds will give Puerto Rico [the opportunity to] attend to the state and local needs of the most urgent disaster cases," said Michael Brown, deputy secretary of the FEMA program that provided the money.

Caguas, San Juan, Guaynabo With Most Business Growth

April 20, 2003
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ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The municipalities of Caguas, San Juan, and Guaynabo had the greatest growth in the number of open businesses between 1999 and 2000, according to a report on commercial activity recently published by the Census Bureau.

These municipalities also added more than 1,000 new jobs during that period, although in percentage terms, the municipalities of Ciales, Ceiba, and Arroyo registered more overwhelming increases in the creation of jobs with 21%, 18%, and 17%, respectively, according to the report "2000 Business Patterns."

However, none of Puerto Rico’s 78 municipalities was able to create 100 new businesses during that period, according to the report in published reports.

In the United States, according to the Census, the first five counties in business growth - Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego in California; Dade in Florida; and Maricopa in Arizona — created more than 1,000 net businesses each.

The report reveals that the island had a total of 44,015 businesses in 2000, 551 more than the past year with a 1% growth.

The service sector had the most business growth with 610, while unclassified businesses — those that the Census Bureau does not have enough information of their operations — decreased by 628.

DACO Freezes Prices Of First Necessity Articles

April 19, 2003
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ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Consumer Affairs (DACO by its Spanish acronym) Secretary Javier Echevarria announced Friday an order to freeze the prices of first necessity articles that will be in force throughout the island "all the time that is necessary."

Food for human consumption, construction materials, all types of fuel and medicines, and other items are considered first necessity articles by DACO, according to Echevarria.

"We have activated all our six regional offices, and 75 of our officials will be visiting stores throughout the island to assure that these dispositions are being complied with," Echevarria said.

He said the order’s purpose is to refrain businesses from taking advantage of the adverse weather situation and play with the prices.

Echevarria assured that each infraction had a penalty of up to $10,000.

The official indicated that the order will be evaluated Saturday, but he speculated that "it probably will be extended for a week for the whole island."

Camacho Loses Split Decision After Head Butt

By AL MYATT, Staff Writer

April 19, 2003
Copyright © 2003
THE NEWS OBSERVER. All rights reserved. 

Hector 'Macho' Camacho, right, connects with a left hand against Chris Walsh but lost a split decision after a head butt.

Staff Photo by John L. White

RALEIGH -- Hector "Macho" Camacho still wears a lock of hair in the middle of his forehead and a crowd estimated at 3,800 at the RBC Center wanted to see what else remained from the ring presence that produced multiple world titles in his prime.

What was there wasn't enough to beat "Irish" Chris Walsh.

Fight doctor Everett Echols stopped the middleweight matchup after six rounds, and Walsh won a split decision despite bleeding from both eyes because of head butts. The main event was scheduled for 10 rounds.

Tom Hammond scored it 58-56 for Walsh, and Brandon Clancy scored it 59-55 for the Scranton, Pa., fighter. Valerie Dorsett had Camacho ahead 58-56.

"I wanted to win in 10 rounds," said Walsh (19-6). "Every time I hit him or hurt him, the man held me. After the fourth round, he started using his head. We kind of knew that. He has a history of being a dirty fighter."

Camacho's trunks were emblazoned with "Macho Time," and at 10:58 p.m., the crowd witnessed the Camacho mix -- equal parts of skill, theatrics and bad intentions. Camacho, 40, had two opponents Friday night -- Walsh, 28, and Father Time, who always seems to triumph in the long run.

Camacho (76-5) looked to be in decent shape, but Walsh, wearing enough green to play for the Boston Celtics, was effective with combinations while the former champion seldom followed his jab, often moving in to hold and frustrate Walsh.

A head butt in the fifth round, ruled inadvertent by referee Bill Clancy, bloodied Walsh's right eyelid, and Walsh heatedly stepped up the pace in response. Another head butt in the sixth opened a gash on the left eye, and Echols signaled the end. Camacho's marketability also may have taken a hit.

"I don't fight for anybody but myself," he said earlier in the week. "This is how I get off."

OK, but a pending divorce from his second wife in Florida is probably sapping Camacho financially and putting a little more urgency in picking up a paycheck. He said he is negotiating for a three-fight deal with promoters in Colombia for a series in that country, Venezuela and Japan that will pay him $250,000 per fight.

"That could be my retirement money," Camacho had said. "I pick my opponent."

Camacho in effect picked his opponent at the RBC Center. He was suspicious that he was being set up against Carlton Holland, a Durham fighter who has won two regional titles, but gave his approval on Walsh.

At this point in his career, Camacho may not have fared any better against Holland (16-7), who persevered against the pit bull voracity of Robert Muhammad (7-22) to win a unanimous decision.

Island’s Poor Sectors Suffer Impact Of Strong Rain

April 19, 2003
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ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

FAJARDO (AP) — Although the rain fell equally all over, the poor communities were the ones who suffered the most flooding during the past few days.

"The poor sectors live in areas that don’t have the structures that the middle and high classes have," Family Secretary Yolanda Zayas said.

At least 481 houses throughout the island, most of them located in poor sectors, were affected, and some 50 people remained in shelters designated by the government Friday night. Many other were accommodated in the houses of family and friends.

Sonia Moto and her husband lost much of their clothes and their bed, as well as the belonging of their three daughters and five grandchildren.

"Everything was affected. I have never seen it like this," said Moto, 49, while she rested after trying to remove the water and mud that gathered in her house in Mansion del Sapo in Fajardo.

The dirt road that passes in front of Moto’s house was turned into mud, and neighbors met in their balconies to express similar complaints to those of Moto.

"Progress arrived to the privileged classes but forgot about the poor classes," said Zayas, who visited the southern region Friday to determine the services her agency could offer to those affected by the floods.

In Juncos, another family with five children had to leave their small house of wood and zinc of only one bedroom to seek shelter in a municipal building.

Juana Alers Colon, 31 and unemployed, now resides indefinitely in the Municipal Emergency Management Agency in Juncos.

"I feel depressed. I have five kids, and right now we don’t have a place to live. . .we are practically on the street," Alers Colon said.

The Family secretary said the administration’s Special Communities Program is trying to ease damages that environmental phenomenon cause on the island’s poor sectors.

"We are working on that right now," Zayas mentioned. "It is precisely to avoid that this happens again."

However, in the meantime, Dara Baralt, 31-year-old mother with four children and whose residence in Mansion del Sapo was flooded, only explained that "we don’t know what we’re going to do right now."

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