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Mercado Pushes International Role… Prepa Unions Demand Anti-Privatization Guarantees…New Judiciary Law Enacted…RR Public Corporation Proposed…Pesquera Promises To Retake Prasa…PDP: Best Anti-Corruption Plan, Vote Against Rossello…Maximum Compensation In Dossier Trial Granted…Calderon Opposes Privatizations

Mercado Insists On Participating In International Activities

August 23, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado said the government will not halt its efforts to participate in activities of international organizations and denied that the federal government has objections to those plans.

The oficial said in published reports that as part of those efforts, the government will insist on participating in the activities of the Iberoamerican Summit of Government and State Leaders, which will be held in Bolivia.

"We have the intention of participating as it has been done in other summits," Mercado said.

He added that the only formal opposition that the United States has had to the presence of Puerto Rico in international activities was the refusal for the local government to join the Caribbean States Association.

He said that opposition is based on the fear that the quota the Puerto Rico government would pay will also compromise the U.S. government.

Prepa Unions Demand Anti-Privatization Guarantees

By Sandra Ivelisse Villerrael of Associated Press

August 23, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

In response to union demands, House Speaker Carlos Vizcarrondo promised Friday to boost by law for the assets of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) not to be sold.

He will also call Prepa Executive Director Hector Rosario to a House session of questioning so that he can explain the reach of the recently signed law that authorizes Prepa to expand its economic activities.

Vizcarrondo made the decision after a meeting in his office with the leaders of the five unions that group Prepa employees. Rosario was invited to the meeting by declined to attend, the legislator said.

According to Vizcarrondo, these two measures are the only mechanisms available to attend to the suspicions of the unions about the measure that Gov. Sila Calderon turned into law this week.

"We are worried about the language to sell, transfer, cede, and rent [Prepa facilities]," that is container in the new law, said Francisco Reyes, president of one of the Prepa unions. "We understand that it is language too extensive."

Governor Enacts New Judiciary Law

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

August 22, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Gov. Sila Calderon enacted a new Judiciary Law on Friday, which confers more powers on the Chief Justice, increases the number of judges at the circuit court of appeals, and makes it mandatory for judges to take continued education courses, among other aspects.

Calderon enacted the new bill, which derogates the 1994 Judiciary Law passed by former Gov. Pedro Rossello, in a press conference at La Fortaleza, which members of the Supreme Court, jurists, and lawmakers attended.

Chief Justice Jose Andreu Garcia and Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado witnessed the enactment of the law, which resulted from a special committee created by Calderon, and co-chaired by both officials.

"The new Judiciary Law adopts a clear and precise public policy, acknowledges the independent character of the judiciary, makes justice accessible to citizens, and prosecuting faster and more effective," Calderon said.

The governor explained that she is an advocate of judicial independence and that the new law, along with one passed in December 2002—which conferred economic autonomy on the judiciary—will support her public policy on the matter.

The greatest impact of the new law consists in the flexibility of the judicial structure, and the full authority conferred on the Chief Justice to make changes, reorganize judicial districts, decide the composition of the panels of the circuit of appeals, and designate municipal judges as superior ones, superior justices as judges of appeals, and vice versa.

However, Andreu Garcia did not give further details on the parameters or standards that will serve as a base to make such decisions.

"The Chief Justice will establish some objective criteria to exercise his powers, taking into consideration the expertise, skills, and experience of the judge," Andreu Garcia said.

He added that the power to appoint judges for special tasks is an inherent task of the Chief Justice, but making it official—by law—will give him the opportunity to pay special attention to cases that require specialization, such as family relations, drugs, complex litigation, or medical malpractice.

The new law increases to 39 the number of judges of appeals and establishes 253 superior judges and 85 municipal judges.

Mercado added that the powers conferred on the Chief Justice will give him the tools to satisfy the needs of the judicial branch to prevent the overload of cases. Any special or temporary appointment made by the Chief Justice will last up to a year.

Andreu Garcia denied that he negotiated with the Legislature the approval of the law and reaffirmed that judicial employees will not have the right to be part of the syndication of public employees.

A few months ago, some lawmakers refused to endorse the judicial reform bill unless the judicial branch acknowledged that its employees have the right to be organized collectively, which did not happen.

Other aspects covered by the law are:

  • The adoption of a Code of Ethics for the judiciary,
  • The establishment of a ruling and proceedings for the legal representation of low-income alleged offenders,
  • The creation of education programs about the judiciary,
  • The extent of the Circuit Court of Appeals and the competence of the Superior Court,
  • And the geographical distribution of circuit of appeals.

The implementation of the new law will cost the treasury $9.5 million.

Proposal To Create Public Corporation On Roosevelt Roads

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Sen. Juan Cancel Alegria proposed Friday the creation of a new public corporation to follow up on the government’s efforts toward the development of the eastern part of Puerto Rico if the U.S. Armed Forces close the Roosevelt Roads Naval Station in Ceiba.

The Roosevelt Roads Land Redevelopment Authority would be responsible for assessing the infrastructure at the military base and the economic impact of its current operations in case the base downsizes operations or closes altogether, Cancel Alegria said.

"Such an important project requires us to assign full-time resources, as has been done in other jurisdictions, where closed military facilities have been successfully redeveloped," he added. Cancel Alegria is also chairman of the Senate Infrastructure, Technological, & Commerce Development Committee.

The new agency would also analyze the processes already conducted by the U.S. government to downsize operations or close other military installations similar to Ceiba’s and would recommend immediate courses of action in the mid and long-term seeking to counteract the negative effects of the closure.

The corporation would have an executive director and a board of directors headed by the secretary of Economic Development and Commerce.

Pesquera Promises To Retake Prasa

By Istra Pacheco of Associated Press

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

New Progressive Party President and pre-gubernatorial candidate Carlos Pesquera promised Friday that should he become governor, he would retake the total operation of the Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Authority (Prasa), including the administration of the Superaqueduct.

Pesquera said the people who work at Prasa have the necessary experience to retake operations, not to mention that the island has a pool of talent from Puerto Rican universities.

"As governor, we will establish a plan to retake Prasa and place its management and operations in the hands of the government," he said in a press conference at his campaign committee in Santurce.

According to Pesquera, he would create a consortium with the universities, along with experts in the subject, to establish a plan "of ordered transition" and a program of employee training.

This would mean that in 2007, when the contract with Ondeo for the operation of Prasa expires, the government would be ready to assume the reins of the agency.

He said that period of time will also be spent looking for a way for the operations of the Superaqueduct, now operated by Thames Water, to return to state hands.

According to Pesquera, the bad operation of Prasa in the past was due to the lack of government investment and the absence of personnel training.

PDP: Best Anti-Corruption Plan Is To Vote Against Rossello

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – The recently appointed secretary general of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP), Anibal Jose Torres, said Friday that the best way to prevent corruption in government is to vote against former Gov. Pedro Rossello’s attempt to return to the governor’s office.

He also asked Puerto Ricans to vote for PDP gubernatorial candidate Anibal Acevedo Vila as a way to advance the honesty and trust in government agencies.

"The people know who has a strong commitment to fighting corruption. Rossello does not have nor will have any serious and real commitment against this terrible evil," he said in a press release.

Almost thirty officials during the eight years of the Rossello administration have been accused or convicted of government corruption.

"We cannot allow this person [Rossello] and his association of delinquents to take possession of our island again, to establish his reign, to rule after the conquest of the impunity of his actions," Torres said.

Rossello has refused to ask forgiveness for the bad management of funds that occurred during his mandate, alleging that he never knew what his subordinates were doing.

Judge Grants Maximum Compensation In Dossier Trial

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – Superior Judge Julia Garriga Trillo ordered the government to pay the maximum allowed compensation, $150,000, to Providencia Trabal Rivera and her two children for the criminal dossier it kept on her for almost 40 years based on her political ideology of independence.

According to the lawsuit, the dossier on Trabal Rivera, 77, contained some 2,700 pages, and she and her late husband, Nestor Nazario Grillo, had cases fabricated against them that obviously the authorities could never prove.

Although the maximum compensation that can be demanded from the government is $150,000, the judge said the damage suffered by "Doña Pupa" is valued at more than $1 million, according to published reports.

"The difficulties, suffering, anxiety, and unease that the plaintiff went through throughout all the years that she was persecuted and discriminated against cannot be rectified by any amount of money. The amounts granted here for compensation are only a material form of relief," the judge said in her sentence.

Garriga Trillo also granted the maximum compensation of $150,000 to plaintiffs Juan Gregorio Cuevas Nieves and Ruben Morales Candelario, who were also persecuted for their political beliefs.

Another 200 consolidated cases are still pending and are scheduled to be heard Sept. 8.

Calderon Reaffirms Policy Against Privatization

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

August 22, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Gov. Sila Calderon reaffirmed Thursday that her administration will not privatize any public service or government agency, including the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa).

"My government has a specific public policy against the privatization of public services," said Calderon.

Calderon denied that the enactment of a new law conferring more operational flexibility to Prepa would result in the privatization of the public corporation and the loss of jobs.

She explained that the law gives Prepa more flexibility, as well as the power to engage in other business ventures, which might result in benefits to the corporation and the Puerto Rican treasury.

Recently, Prepa’s labor unions have said that Prepa’s new law seeks the privatization of the agency and warned that lay-offs might occur if the corporation continues with a recent trend of contracting external resources.

"If the corporation engages in new business activities, with the endorsement of the executive, it will generate more jobs," said Calderon, who guaranteed that Prepa employees won’t lose their jobs.

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