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Gov’t Spends $1.68M On Federal Lobbying… House OK’s $100 Pay Raise…Ricky’s Back… McClintock Undecided On Res. Comm. Bid…Malaret Sought As PDP Candidate… For Jenny From The Bronx, A Fan In Office… Unemployment Climbs To 12.3%…Pesquera Says He Will Beat Rossello…Feds Concerned With Urban Train Start Date…Police To Stay In Vieques

Government Spends $1.68 Million On Lobbyists

May 22, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – The Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration has spent $1.68 million on lobbyists so far this year, according to Administrator Mari Carmen Aponte.

This figure also includes an internal audit of the period that covers 1998 to 2001, according to published reports.

However, the official could not specify how much of this money was spent on lobbying in favor of the amendment promoted by Gov. Sila Calderon to obtain a federal tax exemption under U.S. Internal Revenue Code Section 956.

Aponte said there is good environment in Congress to approve this initiative. "There is a tripartite movement in Congress for its approval," she said.

House Approves $100 Increase For Employees In January

May 22, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – The Popular Democratic Party (PDP) majority in the House of Representatives approved Thursday Gov. Sila Calderon’s administrative bill granting a $100 monthly salary increase for public employees beginning in January.

The majority also rejected an amendment proposed by Puerto Rican Independent Party Rep. Victor Garcia San Inocencio that the raise be of $150 and starting July 31.

Afterward, Garcia San Inocencio criticized the PDP delegation of doing whatever the governor wishes in supporting the initiative, which Calderon announced during her budget speech although a higher salary raise had been previously negotiated with the employees of the Education and Family departments.

Garcia San Inocencio said the government could make $90 million available if it wanted to cut expenses in several areas, including propaganda.

House Speaker Carlos Vizcarrondo immediately responded angrily that the House "has not abandoned" its effort to identify the funds that will allow compliance with what has already been agreed.

Promoting New Album, Ricky Martin Returns To Native Puerto Rico

May 21, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Pop star Ricky Martin returned to his native Puerto Rico to promote his new album, signing autographs and meeting hundreds of young fans.

Martin posed for the cameras before more than 500 admirers Tuesday night at a San Juan hotel.

"Finally I'm in Puerto Rico, with my people, presenting my music, in my language," Martin told the crowd. "For me the most important thing is to be here to see your faces and for you to see me."

His new album "Almas del Silencio" (Souls of Silence), hit stores Tuesday.

It's the first Spanish-language album for Martin in five years and is also more introspective than much of his recent work.

During the event, one fan shouted: "Ricky, I love you!"

"This is what I needed - this contact with the public," said the 31-year-old singer, who got his start 20 years ago as a child star in the Puerto Rican teen group Menudo.

McClintock Undecided On Resident Commissioner Bid

By Ricardo Zuñiga of Associated Press

May 21, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

In a move that would alleviate the primary contest in the New Progressive Party (NPP), Sen. Kenneth McClintock said Wednesday that there is a possibility he won’t run for resident commissioner but would instead seek a third term in the Senate.

McClintock is considered one of the contenders for the NPP candidacy for resident commissioner, along with Sen. Miriam Ramirez de Ferrer and former Senate President Charlie Rodriguez.

"I don’t deny that I have received rapprochements from people who support Ramirez de Ferrer for resident commissioner as well as other candidates who have suggested another term in the Senate," the NPP legislator said in a press conference with Ramirez de Ferrer by his side.

He said he will announce his decision on or before June 1, the date for which the filing of candidacies officially opens.

McClintock, who in the past has said he doesn’t believe politicians should occupy an elective post for more than two terms, said he changed his opinion on the matter.

He gave as an example former Gov. Pedro Rossello, who had said he would only be governor for two terms, and is now a primary candidate for a third term.

The senator is one of the party leaders who supports the former governor’s candidacy.

Ramirez de Ferrer, meanwhile, said she prefers not to face her colleague in primaries, although she asserted that she is prepared for any contest.

"If Kenneth doesn’t run, then much better," she said. "If it’s not for resident commissioner, I support him for any position."

Calderon Admits She Wants Ex-Miss Universe As PDP Candidate

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

May 21, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

Although she declined to go into details, Gov. Sila Calderon acknowledged that she had approached entrepreneur and former Miss Universe Marisol Malaret to discuss the possibility of being the Popular Democratic Party’s (PDP) San Juan mayoral candidate in the 2004 general elections.

"She is a great woman, a professional, and a respectable person who has performed successfully in her business and is very loved by the people of Puerto Rico," the governor said.

The governor said she intends to meet with Malaret again to further discuss the issue.

"[Malaret] would be an excellent candidate, and we would be so lucky to have her," Calderon added.

So far, PDP Sen. Roberto Vigoreaux has stated his intention to run for San Juan mayor. PDP Rep. Jose Ortiz Daliot has said he would be willing to run for the post if there is consensus. Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila and PDP Sen. Roberto Prats have also been mentioned as possible candidates.

However, the governor declined to say whom she preferred and added that she would make an announcement when the time is right.

Financial Institutions Commissioner Exonerates BPPR

May 21, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – Financial Institutions Commissioner Alfredo Padilla described as "gross negligence" the inability to detect money laundering by a client that led Banco Popular de Puerto Rico (BPPR) to pay a $21.6 million fine as part of an agreement with federal authorities.

However, the official denied that employees of the bank institution were in some way involved in the money laundering, according to published reports.

Despite his statements, Padilla acknowledged that his office did not have any participation in the federal investigation conducted against BPPR.

"The reach of the criminal investigation was not known to the Financial Institutions Office because it did not form part of the investigative team," Padilla said.

He indicated that his agency had knowledge of the administrative progress of the case, although while the federal investigation took place, no local investigation was started to apply Law 131 of Funds Transfer, even though his office had knowledge of the facts in 1996.

For Jenny From The Bronx, A Fan In Office


May 21, 2003
Copyright © 2003 THE NEW YORK TIMES. All rights reserved.

Ben Affleck may have a few assets that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg cannot claim, but the man who runs the city of New York has an eye on Ben's gal, and a checking account that could keep her thirst for Versace and diamonds sated.

During an interview on the morning radio show on WKTU-FM yesterday, Mr. Bloomberg was told by the hosts that the singer Ricky Martin was scheduled to appear on their program the next day, and they invited the mayor to come back on to meet him. As one host pointed out, "It's a great photo opportunity for the Puerto Rican vote."

True, the 108th mayor conceded, but then he added: "I tell you what — who I really want to have, J.Lo," referring to the actress Jennifer Lopez, who is famous for dating Sean Combs (pre-Mr. Affleck), marrying, wearing designer clothes to award shows and, occasionally, making films and music.

Edward Skyler, the mayor's press secretary, said that the mayor's preference for Ms. Lopez centered on the fact that she is from the Bronx.

Alas, Mr. Bloomberg, whose profound interest in the opposite sex is well documented, is at the moment taken.

He is divorced with two children, but his companion is Diana Taylor, who was recently appointed by Gov. George E. Pataki to the post of state banking superintendent.

Ms. Lopez, who was filming a movie in Canada, could not be reached for comment.

Puerto Rico Unemployment Rate Climbs To 12.3%

May 20, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – The local unemployment rate climbed from 12.1% to 12.3% in April, according to information from the Department of Labor & Human Resources.

The agency’s statistics revealed that the number of unemployed individuals from April 2002 to April 2003 increased by 11,000, from 163,000 to 174,000.

However, Labor & Human Resources Secretary Victor Rivera Hernandez said that the employment rate in Puerto Rico continues to progress.

"Our outlook is a positive one and it shows that the focus of this administration has been the right one," Rivera Hernandez said.

The official numbers reveal that as of April 2003 the Puerto Rican workforce is 47.5.%, which constitutes a 0.5 percentage increase when compared to the previous month, and of nearly 1% when compared to April 2002.

Pesquera Confident He Will Win Primaries Against Rossello

May 20, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – With the idea that his candidacy represents the future and that former Gov. Pedro Rossello the past, New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera is confident he will win the historic gubernatorial primaries scheduled for November.

"It makes no sense to return to the past," said Pesquera.

Pesquera declined to comment local polls that identify him as the defeated candidate in front of Rossello and insisted he will be the NPP gubernatorial candidate for 2004.

"This is a candidacy to govern the future, not the past," said Pesquera.

He then added that he is the only NPP candidate that can attract votes outside the collectivity.

"To win we don’t only have to have the votes of the NPP but also the votes of those who are undecided and those Popular Democratic Party followers who want a change," Pesquera said.

Federal Authorities Express Concern With Urban Train Starting Date

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

May 19, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

A group of Federal Transit Administration (FTA) officers expressed concern at the scheduled beginning of operations for the Urban Train in September .

Secretary of Transportation & Public Works (DTOP by its Spanish acronym) Fernando Fagundo told WOW News that a group of federal officers working for the FTA in Atlanta visited Puerto Rico about two weeks ago to inspect the train facilities, and showed concern with some aspects of its construction.

"If we speed up the project’s construction the way it was done in the past (referring to the Pedro Rossello administration), the train may not be safe, and that’s also my concern," said Fagundo during the inauguration of an information booth at Plaza Las Americas in Hato Rey.

The booth is part of a $500,000 advertising campaign to educate citizens about the Integrated Transportation Alternative (ATI by its Spanish acronym) that establishes the Urban Train as the main collective transportation provider.

In addition, Fagundo recognized that FTA has a lot experience in train construction and management, and added, that their comments were taken seriously. He said his department will follow up on those issues, but didn’t give further details when questioned by WOW News.

According to Fagundo, a series of meetings and evaluations are scheduled in the coming months to continue the project’s evaluation.

Fagundo explained that construction and management company Siemens established September of this year as the starting date for the Urban Train operations, but the date may change if safety and quality standards aren’t fulfilled.

Last week, New Progressive Party (NPP) chairman and former DTOP secretary Carlos Pesquera accused the Calderon administration of putting people’s safety at risk if the government rushes construction to meet the deadline to begin operations.

The federal government invested $300 million in the urban train’s construction, and another $500 million in federal funds were transferred from the Highway and Transportation Authority to the urban train project.

WOW efforts to reach FTA officers on Monday were unsuccessful.

State Police To Stay In Vieques

May 19, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – Police Superintendent Victor Rivera justified the state police presence on the island municipality of Vieques and added that he would decide this week how many police officers would stay there indefinitely to guard the land formerly occupied by the U.S. Navy.

The government official said in published reports that the decision would be made in a meeting with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Director Oscar Diaz and the agency’s Caribbean Director Susan Selander to be held this week.

Rivera said there are 50 agents activated in Vieques guarding the former Camp Garcia.

"We expect to reduce the police presence this week," the superintendent said.

The intervention of state police on federal land has been criticized by many Vieques residents, who believe it to be unnecessary and bothersome.

"Before May 1, police personnel had been practically eliminated. I don’t see the purpose of this. They are creating indignation," said Vieques leader Ismael Guadalupe.

Since May 1, when a group of people set fire to a military vehicle and a U.S. Fish & Wildlife boat, no other violent incidents have been reported in Vieques.

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