Blue Ribbon Finds Pridco Misused Public Funds Pesquera Backs Port Of The Americas UPR Demonstrates Anti-Malaria, Malignancy Agents Olympic Qualifying Tourney Opens Aug. 20th Rossello Out Raises Pesquera 17:1 P.R. 4th In Genetic Food Experiments New Yorkers Win "World Salsa Open" Crown Island Hosts State Sup. Ct. Justices
Blue Ribbon Committee Finds Misuse Of Public Funds In Pridco
By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News
July 30, 2003
The governments past and present administrations did not comply with the goal of creating new jobs through the Puerto Rico Industrial Incentive Fund (PRIIF) and misused over $175 million from various companies on the island that did not fulfill the requirements established by law.
These were the main findings of the Blue Ribbon Committee on the fund created in 1997 and ascribed to the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Co. (Pridco) with the purpose of contravening the adverse effect of the phase-out of U.S. Internal Revenue Code Section 936 and the loss of jobs on the island.
The report was endorsed Tuesday by Gov. Sila Calderon, who formed the independent overseeing citizens committee, and might be referred to the Justice Department for further action.
Blue Ribbon Committee Chairman David Noriega stated in a press conference Wednesday that public officials during the administrations of former Gov. Pedro Rossello and Calderon will have to account for the misuse of nearly $175 million and for not promoting job creation on the island.
Noriega explained that PRIIF resources came from contributions made by various 936 companies established on the island, which in exchange for not paying the tollgate tax, agreed to contribute to the fund.
"In addition to the $960 million that the government did not receive from the tollgate tax, which represents a loss for the government, the people of Puerto Rico lost another $175 million, used improperly, and the opportunity to have new jobs," said Noriega.
The attorney, who was accompanied by committee members Ileana Colon Carlo and Angel Hermida, explained that the committee did a draw out of the 345 companies that benefited from PRIIF and selected 13 companieswhich represents 3.7% of the totalto analyze the actions of Pridco officials with PRIIF. Of the total audited transactions, the committee found irregularities in 10.
Among the main players who allegedly did not act according to PRIIF procedures and rulings, the committee identified from the Rossello administration, former PRIDCO Administrator and Economic Development & Commerce Secretary Xavier Romeu Matta and Chief Operations Officer Carmen Pacheco Tapia. From the Calderon administration, former Economic Development & Commerce Secretary Ramon Cantero Frau and former PRIDCO Administrator William Riefkhol were also identified.
According to the committees report, some grant recipients had economic problems, did not present financial statements, had debts with the Treasury Department and the Municipal Revenue Center (CRIM by its Spanish acronym), and some went bankrupt after receiving the economic incentive.
That was the case of manufacturing company Glamourette (Olympic Group) on which PRIIF conferred $ 21.6 million in December 2000. A year later, it laid off 1,937 employees. The president of Glamourette was Alejandro Asmar, a former member of the board of directors of government agency Promoexport.
Another case highlighted by Noriega was former Transportation Secretary Reinaldo Paniaguas Ironhorse Development Corp., which received a $450,000 grant to conduct a feasibility study on the construction of the Urban Train for the whole island. The company did not create any jobs after receiving the incentive.
The group also pointed out that company Don Manuel Poultry Farm received an incentive of $408,453, and its owner Felix Perez Acevedo acknowledged that he gave $15,000 to Pacheco Tapia for the political campaign of then New Progressive Party (NPP) gubernatorial candidate Carlos Pesquera.
Allegedly, Pacheco Tapiaalong with former Pridco Promotions and Marketing Director Rafael Irizarryforwarded the contribution to Sen. Enrique Melendez at El Zipperle restaurant.
However, Noriega acknowledged that the committee did not have any evidence to support the possibility that Pesquera might have benefited from the alleged conduct.
After revealing the investigations results, Noriega lambasted Romeu Matta for allegedly issuing 24 grant checks during the last two days of December 2000 after the NPP lost the general elections in November.
He added that during both days, Romeu Matta signed and issued the checks and also made payments exceeding $5 million to advertising agency Ketchum for unspecified services using the PRIIF fundsdestined by law for the promotion of jobsinstead of Pridcos resources.
Romeu Matta served as Pridcos administrator and secretary of Economic Development & Commerce, and as a result, he had two votes in the three-member committee in charge of evaluating the companies requests.
The committee report revealed that Pridcos legal advisor told Romeu Matta twice not to participate in the PRIIF committee because it could represent a conflict of interest.
"On December 2000, PRIIF turned into a Christmas bonus conferred to private companies, which mostly did not fulfill the requirement of creating new jobs," said Noriega.
He also added that "there were constant and systematic violations to PRIIF rulings through the transfer of PRIIF funds to Pridco paying administrative expenses, political donations in exchange for economic incentives, and to finance trivial expenses of the past administration," said Noriega.
Among all the transactions, the committee revealed only one made by the present administration about the conferment of more than $5 million to a Californian company, Vectron, which proposed a technology research and development center in Mayaguez.
The transaction was approved by Cantero Frau and Riefkhol, both former cabinet members of Calderons.
The proposal included using local engineers for the development of quality-control equipment. Allegedly, Vectron owned a very important patent to develop an "automated optical inspection."
Nonetheless, and according to the committee, the company received the incentive but did not establish operations on the island nor did it create any jobs. It did begin a patenting process by the time of the grant, but it will begin operations in China.
According to Hermida, law enforcement authorities will have to evaluate the facts and the evidence to take further action, but the findings that Noriega described as negligent actions, do not imply direct illegal enrichment of any government official.
Puerto Rican laws regarding government functions establish clear guidelines to avoid conflict of interest, unethical actions, and the proper use of public funds.
Pesquera Backs Port Of The Americas
July 30, 2003
SAN JUAN (AP) New Progressive Party President Carlos Pesquera promised that if he is elected governor, he will allocate all the necessary funds to continue the development of the Port of the Americas in Ponce, as it was envisioned.
He also said he will lobby in favor of the permanence of the Roosevelt Roads military base in Ceiba and rejected its closure, according to published reports.
With this, Pesquera distanced himself from the proposal of his primary challenger, former Gov. Pedro Rossello, who proposed a transshipment port on the military land before its imminent closure.
"This is a matter of common defense, first; economy, second; and status, third," he said, while establishing the link the closure could have with the interest that Congress could have in changing the political relationship with Puerto Rico.
UPR: Novel Sponge-Derived Agents Active Against Malaria, Malignancy
July 30, 2003
2003 JUL 30 - (NewsRx.com & NewsRx.net) -- A series of novel sponge-derived agents have demonstrated antimalarial and anticancer effects.
"From a small specimen of the marine sponge Plakortis halichondrioides collected in Puerto Rico," researchers in the United States "isolated the known unsaturated ester methyl (2Z,6R,8R,9E)-3,6-epoxy-4,6,8-triethyl-2,4,9-dodecatrienoate (1) along with the known cyclic peroxide plakortide F (2)."
"In addition, the structures of two new polyketide endoperoxides, namely, plakortide M (3) and plakortide N (4), were fully characterized by spectroscopic and chemical methods," according to M.D. Jiminez and colleagues working at the University of Puerto Rico.
"The absolute stereochemistry of plakortide M methyl ester (3a) has been determined by analysis of the (R)- and (S)-MTPA esters of the acyclic derivative 5 obtained by hydrogenolysis," the report indicated.
"Plakortide M (3) and plakortide N (4) exhibited potent cytotoxicity in the NCI human cancer screening program, whereas plakortide M methyl ester, 3a, displayed strong antimalarial activity against Plasmodium falciparum," the researchers concluded.
Jimenez and coauthors published their study in the Journal of Natural Products (Plakortides M and N, bioactive polyketide endoperoxides from the Caribbean marine sponge Plakortis halichondrioides. J Nat Prod, 2003;66(5):655-661).
For more information, contact A.D. Rodriguez, University of Puerto Rico, Department of Chemistry, P.O. Box 23346, San Juan, Puerto Rico 00931, USA.
Puerto Rico To Host Pre-Olympic Basketball Tournament
By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News
July 29, 2003
Puerto Rico will be the venue for Las Americas 2003 Basketball Tournament, which serves as a pre-qualification event for the Olympic Games to be held in Athens next year.
Along with Puerto Rico, basketball delegations from Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Venezuela, Mexico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic, the USA, and Canada will challenge their skills on the court with the goal of winning the three classification posts for the Olympic games in Greece.
The event will set a precedent in terms of media exposure since television network HBO and Pay-Per-View will broadcast some of the games.
The tournament will begin Aug. 20 at 2:30 p.m. with the game between Argentina and Mexico. All games will be held at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in Hato Rey.
Tickets for the 40-game 11-day event are available online at www.ticketpop.com and at local music retailer Casa de los Tapes.
Rossello Out Raises Pesquera 17:1
July 29, 2003
SAN JUAN (AP) According to State Elections Commission reports, former Gov. Pedro Rossello and his primary contender, New Progressive Party President Carlos Pesquera, have seen a noticeable difference in fund raising.
According to the agency, from April to June 30, 2003, Rossello has received 17 times more money than Pesquera, according to published reports.
In total, Rossello raised $360,481 during 15 fundraising activities, while Pesquera has raised $21,075 in five activities.
The difference also reflects differences in expenses. Of Rossellos total income, his expenses were up to $34,430, while Pesquera has spent $2,144.
Rossellos activities also got more participation as 1,802 people attended and 245 went to Pesqueras fundraisers.
Number Of Genetic Experiments On Island High
July 29, 2003
SAN JUAN (AP) - Puerto Rico occupies fourth place in the U.S. jurisdictions with the most experiments on the genetic alteration of food, according to a study by environmentalist group Environment California Research & Policy Center.
Only Hawaii, Illinois, and Iowa have conducted more biotechnological experiments than Puerto Rico, according to published reports.
Between 1987 and 2002, 2,957 field tests were conducted on the island to develop biogenetic harvests in corn, rice, soy, tomatoes, papaya, and cotton, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department.
According to the report, supervision by the federal government is highly critical in ensuring that these genetically altered harvests do not harm the environment or humans health.
New York Couple Takes Crown At "World Salsa Open" In Puerto Rico
July 28, 2003
San Juan, Jul 28 (EFE) - A Venezuelan-Puerto Rican couple who reside in New York emerged victorious from the "World Salsa Open," held here last weekend.
Winning the title were Venezuelan Maryelis Molina, 26, and Puerto Rican Jesus Aponte, 27, who have been dancing together for the past two years. They received a cash prize of $14,000.
The competition, which concluded Sunday night at San Juan's Hotel Caribe Hilton, featured 24 dance pairs from countries including Colombia, Hungary, Sweden, Spain, Canada and the United States.
Dressed to the nines in colorful customes, dancers put on a spectacular display full of acrobatic moves aimed at catching the eye of judges.
Molina said she and Aponte planned to "travel the world, teaching salsa - our technique." The couple also "wants to make movies," she added.
Dozens Of State Supreme Court Justices In P.R.
July 28, 2003
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Dozens of state supreme court justices from the United States are in Puerto Rico for a weeklong annual conference to discuss public confidence in the courts.
The meeting of the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators also includes a seminar on the need for more competent courtroom interpreters and what effect they have on the justice system, said Shelley Rockwell of the National Center for State Courts, an organizer of the event.
"The need for competent court interpreters is increasing while state funds for services are disappearing in these hard budget times," the meeting's program said.
There are 38 chief justices from the United States and Puerto Rico attending the meeting which runs from Sunday through Thursday at a hotel in the capital, San Juan, Rockwell said.
Gov. Sila Calderon is scheduled to address the meeting on Tuesday in addition to New York's Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye, who is also president of the Conference of Chief Justices.