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McClintock Calls For Investigation Of U.S. Companies That Recruit Puerto Ricans… Gov’t Secretive On 956 Proposal, Defends $2M Publicity Campaign…Expo Puerto Rico 2003 To Be Held In D.R….Almost 5,000 Soldiers Activated…Cuban Executions, U.S. Death Penalty Condemned…FWS Begins Rubble Removal From Reserve

McClintock Calls For Investigation Into U.S. Companies That Recruit Puerto Ricans


May 8, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - A senator on Thursday asked the territory's Senate to investigate U.S. companies that recruit Puerto Ricans to work in the northeastern United States.

Sen. Kenneth McClintock's request comes after Puerto Rico's government banned a New Jersey-based employment agency from using its facilities to recruit workers for jobs in U.S. meat processing plants, citing poor wages and substandard housing.

Maxi Staff and parent company Ronell Industries Inc. will no longer be allowed to use offices and services within the Puerto Rico Labor and Human Resources Department for its recruitment, officials said.

"It's the Puerto Rican Senate's responsibility to investigate the working condition of Puerto Rican migrant workers and recruiting practices used by different companies," McClintock said.

The Senate's Labor, Human Resources and Veteran Affairs Commission will lead the investigation and members might go to the U.S. mainland to examine conditions at the work sites, he said.

The commission will present a report to the Senate before the session ends at the end of the month, said the pro-statehood senator, who is a member of the commission.

Critics of Maxi Staff/Ronell say they use deceptive practices to lure Puerto Ricans - who are U.S. citizens - to the mainland and then profit excessively from them.

Government Remains Secretive On Section 956 Proposal

By Ricardo Zuñiga of Associated Press

May 8, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

Economic Development & Commerce Secretary Milton Segarra maintained Thursday the official secretiveness on the details of the new redefined proposal of the amendment to the U.S. Internal Revenue Code Section 956 that Gov. Sila Calderon presented to several congressmen.

Segarra insisted that the new proposal is less burdensome for the federal government but refused to explain how this cost reduction would be achieved without affecting the benefits for the Puerto Rican economy.

"We are talking about very defined strategies that we will not be publicly divulging at this moment," the official said in a press conference. "But all the measures, precautions, and sensible analysis have certainly been taken for this proposal to be just as beneficial but less costly."

Without specifying how much the new proposal would cost the federal government, Segarra indicated that the original would have cost the federal treasury some $32 billion.

The governor, along with Segarra and other officials, met this week with several congressmen in Washington D.C. to present the new version of the amendment to Section 956 to them and to discuss other matters.

Segarra said the congressmen’s reception was positive.

Government Defends Publicity Expenses Of Past 6 Months

By Istra Pacheco of Associated Press

May 8, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

Office of Management & Budget (OMB) Director Melba Acosta defended the expenditure of more than $2 million on publicity by the government in the past six months, saying that the money could be invested thanks to some savings achieved by the agencies in that area.

According to the official, the government cut publicity expenditure last year by between $5 million and $6 million after it was determined that the expenses were not necessary. The $2 million that the government invested in five publicity campaigns came from that amount.

"Spending in unnecessary areas was decreased. . .and a saving was achieved of $5 million or $6 million. This is not a new expense [the $2 million] or one that exceeds what was budgeted," she said before testifying in public hearings of the House Treasury Committee.

Acosta also justified the expense by assuring that these are necessary campaigns for the people to know what new services are within their reach, such as the extended hours at some agencies.

"In making the evaluation, we discovered that almost 98% of people were happy with the program [of extended hours], but in reality, few people knew about it," she said.

La Fortaleza Central Communications Office Executive Director Anibelle Sloan Altieri said in published reports that the campaigns, all with the slogan "Puerto Rico Toward the Future on a Good Path," promote the Public Order Codes, the Special Communities Program, the extended hours, the works of the Housing Department, and the Patient Advocate’s Office.

Acosta denied that this was an image campaign to benefit Gov. Sila Calderon, who will seek reelection in the next elections.

"There are services that have to be made known, and that is what we are doing," she indicated.

During her presentation in the public hearing, Acosta acknowledged that the total publicity expense for this year was approximately $58.1 million, although she clarified that she does not have first-hand information because she depended on the data that the agencies provided.

However, she assured that this amount is less than the past administration invested in media campaigns.

She also said the OMB’s projection for the next fiscal year, which begins July 31, is that publicity expenses will be $54.6 million.

Expo Puerto Rico 2003 To Be Held In Dominican Republic

May 8, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Looking at increasing trade with their main commercial partner in Latin America, the Puerto Rico Export Development Corp. (Promoexport) will hold Expo Puerto Rico 2003, their seventh commercial fair in the Dominican capital, from May 12 to 16.

Economic Development & Commerce Secretary Milton Segarra said commercial trade between the two islands totals some $1.4 billion annually, of which Puerto Rico imports some $710 million in Dominican products and exports to the neighboring country almost $634 million in products and services.

Some 27 small and medium businesses that employ more than 2,000 people in Puerto Rico will participate in the fair.

Segarra said in past years, this fair has generated approximately $4 million in sales of Puerto Rican products and services.

"Activities such as these help protect and maintain jobs in Puerto Rico," the official commented at a press conference.

Almost 5,000 Puerto Rican Soldiers Activated

May 8, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The U.S. Army said there is a total of 4,914 Puerto Rican soldiers in active service in the National Guard and Reserve.

According to published reports, it was not specified how many of the soldiers are directly involved in the operations in the Mideast.

The Army stated that there are 219,497 U.S. soldiers in active in the National Guard and Reserve in the United States.

Meanwhile, the Fort Buchanan Mobilization Command maintains 11 units in Camp Santiago with over 1,600 soldiers.

The soldiers mobilized from Puerto Rico represent almost 3% of the total of soldiers activated in the United States, officials said.

Cuban Executions And U.S. Death Penalty Condemned

By Lilliam Irizarry of Associated Press

May 7, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

While condemning the recent execution of three Cuban citizens, the Bar Association and the organization Citizens Against the Death Penalty affirmed Wednesday that the United States "does not have the moral stature" to criticize these executions.

The president of the Human Rights Commission of the Bar Association, Hiram Lozada, and the president of the organization against the death penalty, Juan Pablo de Leon, said the Puerto Rico government should seek for the federal death penalty law not to be applied here.

"It is also censurable and should penetrate deeply into our consciousness the 804 executions held in U.S. land since 1976, when the death penalty was reinstated in the United States," de Leon said. "We believe that the U.S. government does not have the moral right to condemn the recent executions carried out by the Cuban government."

The three Cubans were executed after hijacking a boat full of passengers to leave Cuba.

Meanwhile, Lozada said the commission he presides over condemns the executions in Cuba as well as the persecution of the "independentistas" in Puerto Rico, the overcrowding in the prisons of the Dominican Republic, and the U.S. war against Iraq.

On the other hand, both activists for human rights asked Gov. Sila Calderon and the Legislative Assembly to begin a lobbying process in the U.S. Congress for Puerto Rico to be excluded from the application of the federal death penalty law.

There are two Puerto Ricans in the federal jail, Hector Acosta Martinez and Joel Rivera Alejandro, who are subject to the death penalty if found guilty in their upcoming trial.

Acosta Martinez, of Rio Piedras, and Rivera Alejandro, of Trujillo Alto, are accused of murdering a Rio Piedras businessman, officials said.

Removal Of Rubble From In Vieques Wildlife Reserve Begins

By Ricardo Zuñiga of Associated Press

May 7, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began on Tuesday to remove the burned vehicles and other rubble left from the violent acts that occurred in Vieques on May 1.

Vieques U.S. Fish and Wildlife reserve administrator Oscar Diaz said the work will be completed by the weekend.

"We hope to have a cleaner and prettier entrance by the weekend so that people will come to the reserve," Diaz said.

Diaz noted that heavy equipment had to be transported to Vieques to assist in removal of the truck, van, suv and vessel that were destroyed on May 1.

There is also concrete from the wrecked guardhouse that needs be removed, Diaz said.

According to the biologist, activity in the municipality has been drastically reduced since the activities to celebrate the closing of the U.S. Navy target range in Vieques ended Sunday.

In the early hours of May 1, what was supposed have been a peaceful demonstration turned violent as demonstrators , tore down, burned, or destroyed everything in their path.

Neither Gov Sila Calderon nor Police Superintendent Victor Rivera were able to control the chaos.

Calderon ordered an investigation and Rivera is compiling information to aid federal authorities in prosecuting those who participated in the destruction.

Local Authorities have identify at least a dozen people including Teachers Federation President Jesus Delgado and anti-navy activist Nilda Medina.

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