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New Anti-Crime Initiatives Announced…Island Gets $2.7m Federal Grant To Fight Crime…6 Convicted Vieques Rioters Face December Sentencing…Crime Increases Despite Gov’t Efforts…Construction To Push Up Economy…Project 2025 Continues As Non-Profit…Rodriguez Targets Fed. EITC If Elected

Government Announces New Measures To Halt Crime

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

September 4, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All Rights Reserved.

After acknowledging that current strategies implemented by the Police have not been enough, Police Superintendent Victor Rivera announced Thursday various efforts to halt the high incidence of crime affecting the island.

Among the new strategies, identified by Rivera as ‘extended security efforts,’ police officers will be required to work 12-hour shifts increasing the number of police officers at high-peak crime hours, which according to police studies are from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m.

"After making an analysis of the crime trends, we have decided to implement these strategies without ruling out other possible alternatives," he said.

Rivera explained that the increase in working hours will allow the Police Department to have 500 police officers on the streets at those dangerous hours. Most of the police officers will be assigned to the Bayamon, Carolina, and San Juan areas.

"We are going to have around 500 working man-hours divided among the three areas, Bayamon, Carolina and San Juan, which have reported increased criminal activity," he said.

As a result, police officers who have a 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. shift will be required to work until midnight, while members of special units like S.W.A.T. and Tactical Operations will be on the streets to cover the period from 12 midnight to 4 a.m.

The superintendent also announced that authorizations for police officers to participate in recreational activities will be cancelled, and that officers, who work at the Community Relations division, will also be integrated into the surveillance and patrolling efforts.

Rivera added that 250 cadets from the Police Academy will offer support to the force once a week, the use of undercover agents for drug traffic operations will be resumed, and the police phone number 343-2020 for confidences and crime denouncements will be activated.

Another strategy the Police will implement is an electronic surveillance system in the metro area, especially in those municipalities where Public Order Codes have been established.

All strategies will be implemented next week.

Rivera called on mayors to stop politicizing the crime issue, to join efforts with the Police Department, and to use municipal guards in conjunction with state police officers.

"We cannot play with the security of the people, and we need to end the eternal politicization over the island’s important issues because that puts people back," Rivera said.

Rivera also mentioned that Gov. Sila Calderon will swear in 1,200 new police officers who will join the force in January 2004, while another 250 cadets are expected to graduate in December.

He also promised 1,000 new vehicles to police precincts by the end of November, and another 1,500 new units are expected to come by the end of the year.

He also said he had given instructions to the Payroll Division of the Police Department to speed the payment process for the overtime hours police officers will be working.

However, Rivera denied that police officers are unhappy with their working conditions and said they are committed to the security of the people.

"I bet on my police officers; they risk their lives every day. They need a salary to feed their families, but they work to give the best protection to the people," he said.

He was unable to say how much these initiatives will cost the Treasury, claiming that government cannot set a price on the people’s protection.

He insisted that violent crimes have decreased but refused to give statistics on the crime incidence because statistics prepared by the past administration are not trustworthy.

Rivera explained that current statistics are being audited, but he did not say when the statistics will be released. He committed with the press to have a list of all the drug sites, which the Police have allegedly dismantled next week.

Rivera made his remarks in a press conference at La Fortaleza after holding a meeting with some cabinet members for new strategies against crime.

Other measures like the activation of the National Guard were not dismissed by the Police superintendent, while other government agencies are working on new prevention programs to end violence. Those programs will be announced promptly, Rivera said.

Acevedo Vila Announces Funds To Fight Crime

September 4, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All Rights Reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila announced Thursday that three municipalities will receive federal funds totaling $2.7 million to work against crime, which this year has taken 530 lives.

The municipal governments of San Juan, Mayagüez, and Comerio will receive the money to increase personnel in their respective municipal guards.

"I am firmly convinced that municipal police are essential in fighting crime in our communities throughout the island. I’m convinced that an effective coordination between these police groups and the state police could stop the violence and crime in our streets," Acevedo Vila said in a press release.

The resident commissioner, who is also the Popular Democratic Party gubernatorial candidate, did not specify when the funds would be available.

According to Acevedo Vila, San Juan could contract 25 additional municipal guards with the $1,288,500 assigned.

Meanwhile, Mayagüez could increase its municipal guards by 30 with the allocation of $1,179,855.

Meanwhile, Comerio could employ seven additional municipal guards thanks to the $312,863 granted under the program Community Oriented Policing Services of the U.S. Justice Department.

Acevedo Vila indicated that the allocation to these three municipalities is part of the $99.3 million assigned for the contracting of 1,319 local police in 204 communities in U.S. jurisdictions.

He said the funds will defray 75% of the salaries of the guards and marginal benefits for three years.

"The municipal guards are a fundamental instrument in our island to give security to our communities, along with the state police. These funds, without a doubt, come to comply with an essential purpose in these municipalities," Acevedo Vila added.

The Police reported Thursday killings in Ciales, Guanica, Mayagüez, and Santurce in a seven-hour period.

Another crime, a triple assassination, occurred in Bayamon on Wednesday.

6 Convicted For Vieques Riot To Be Sentenced In December

By Manuel Ernesto Rivera of Associated Press

September 4, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All Rights Reserved.

U.S. District Court Judge Jose Fuste will sentence on Dec. 4 six defendants who pleaded guilty Thursday to charges related to the destruction of federal property in Vieques during the May 1 celebration for the departure of the U.S. Navy.

Fuste warned the six that he is not obliged to agree with the agreements reached by the defendants and the U.S. District Attorney’s Office.

"I will consider their recommendations, but I am not obliged to follow them," Fuste said in court.

It is expected that three more of the 12 defendants in the case will also plead guilty.

Vieques leader Nilda Medina, Jorge Cruz, Heriberto Hernandes, Manuel Perez Santiago, Osvaldo Skerret, and Nestor De Jesus pleaded guilty in hopes of receiving a lighter sentence.

The prosecution recommended a six-month prison sentence for Medina and Perez Santiago after they pleaded guilty to destroying the guard house of what for over 60 years served as the main entrance to the Navy’s Camp Garcia.

The recommended sentence for De Jesus is of four to 10 months in prison plus one year probation.

For Cruz, who is charged with destroying a vessel, his recommended sentence is one year and nine months in prison.

Hernandez will probably be sentenced to four months in prison and two years probation.

The recommended sentence for Skerret is six months in prison and 10 months in probation.

Medina said her decision to plead guilty is a strategy that will benefit the Vieques cause.

"This agreement is strategic as it helps the Vieques cause because the struggle continues," Medina said.

She took the opportunity to request that funds be given in Sunday’s radio marathon to help the families of those who might go to prison.

Others who are expected to plead guilty are William Miro and former Teachers Federation President Jesus Delgado Burgos.

Jose Montañez Sanes, nephew of David Sanes, the civilian guard accidentally killed by a Navy bomb in 1999, whose death sparked the movement for the ousting of the Navy from Vieques, could allege that his uncle’s death was traumatic for which he will request a reduced sentence.

The property according to federal authorities had an estimated value of $250,000 and had been transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Crime Continues To Increase Despite Alleged Government Efforts To Halt It

By Proviana Colon Diaz and Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

September 3, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW News. All Rights Reserved.

While government authorities insist on blaming the recent increase in crime on police efforts to dismantle drug-dealing locations, violent killings continue to occur in areas not associated with criminal activity.

The latest example of this was Wednesday’s triple homicide in broad daylight at a Bayamon shopping center.

The triple killing is the second massacre to take place in Bayamon in less than three weeks.

The first, which occurred Aug. 17 at Weekends pub on Road 167, in which a teenager and two adults were killed, was the first of what seems to be an unstoppable wave of crime in which innocent bystanders are being killed.

Wednesday’s massacre occurred at 10:30 a.m. in the parking lot of Dunkin’s Donuts in the Santa Rosa shopping mall. The mall is located one block away from the Bayamon Judicial Center, where two of the men killed and another one, who was injured, had just been booked for violations to the weapons law.

The trio and a female companion were ambushed as they were about to leave the area in a wine colored Suzuki Vitara 2002. Witnesses said a green Ford Explorer transporting several men who opened fire on their victims and later fled the scene, intercepted the vehicle.

Police authorities identified the driver of the Suzuki, who allegedly had a clean criminal record as Janette Ruiz Hernandez, 35, of Vega Alta. The woman, who did not survive, was shot multiple times in the shooting.

Her husband Jose Melendez Cruz and a third man identified as Juan Rivera Quiñonez were also killed.

The wounded man identified as Rafael Colon is said to be in stable condition at the Rio Piedras Medical Center.

Meanwhile, Gov. Sila Calderon lamented the killings but said it was allegedly due to the constant struggle between drug dealers on the island.

"The death of people is always a disgrace, but everything seems to indicate that these deaths are the consequence of drug trafficking. We are going to continue hitting drug sites, we will continue our efforts against violence, especially in the prevention area, and we keep calling on citizens to be part of this fight," Calderon said.

Moreover, Calderon said citizens must come with concrete proposals to fight against crime and added that prevention efforts at homes, schools, and communities are essential to stopping the crime wave.

Although she repeatedly said citizens must play their part against crime, Calderon said she would not participate in a march against violence because she does not participate in such events.

"I respect all kinds of public expressions from citizens or groups, it is part of democracy, but I cannot participate in a march. Everybody can express themselves, but apart from that, the call I make is to have decisions and commitments of concrete actions through which citizens can complement and strengthen the work and the responsibility we have assumed," Calderon said.

Calderon insisted that violent deaths on the island are due to the drug traffic, while Police Superintendent Victor Rivera last week said 97% of the killings were related to narcotics, Calderon said Wednesday that the figure was 70%.

She was not able to say how many drug seizures the police have made recently.

So far this year, there have been more than 526 killings in the island, 23 more than last year.

Calderon praised the work of the Police superintendent and said she is happy with his performance and the performance of police officers.

Construction To Push Up Puerto Rican Economy - BBVA

September 3, 2003
Copyright © 2003
Spanish News Digest, AII Data Processing Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

Public construction in Puerto Rico will be the engine of the economic recovery of the country in the next years, a report of the Spanish bank Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA) showed on September 2, 2003.

BBVA estimated the economic growth in the country for the fiscal year 2003/04, ending June 30, 2004, to range between 3.2 and 3.5 pct. The building permits in the country from July to April of the fiscal 2002/2003, ended June 30, 2003, rose by 7.5 pct year-on-year in number and marked a 29.1 pct growth in value, the report added. The building permits in the public sector reached a 127.8 pct increase in number and a 122.5 pct rise in value from July to April of the fiscal 2002/03, compared to the same period of the fiscal 2001/02.

The dynamic growth in public construction figures will push up the economic growth of Puerto Rico in 2004 and 2005, BBVA said. The manufacturing sector in the country is still weak, the report of BBVA showed, but a recuperation is expected in 2004. The economic growth forecast for the fiscal 2003/04 considerably exceeds the planned 1.6 pct growth for the fiscal 2002/03.

Nonprofit Organization May Continue Project 2025

September 3, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All Rights Reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – The implementation of the Puerto Rico 2025 project will be the responsibility of a nonprofit organization that will continue operations aside from the results of the 2004 general elections.

The current Advisory Committee of Puerto Rico 2025, appointed by Gov. Sila Calderon, will change into a nonprofit organization headed by economist and former chairman of the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce, Jose Joaquin Villamil. Calderon appointed Villamil for the post Tuesday.

"The Puerto Rico 2025 project meets a legitimate claim made by the Puerto Rican people to develop and implement a long-term vision for the country with a specific plan to achieve it," Calderon said in a press release.

Among the members of the nonprofit organization are the governor’s fiancee, Ramon Cantero Frau, and statehood entrepreneurs Jaime Fonalledas and Manuel Casiano.

Charlie Rodriguez Set On Seeking Tax Credit If Elected

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

September 3, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All Rights Reserved.

Former Senate President Charlie Rodriguez said that should he be elected resident commissioner in 2004, he will fight economic disparity by urging U.S. Congress to extend the Earned Income Tax Credit to Puerto Rico residents.

"This program is part of a series of measures on our economic agenda for the island that I intend to pursue aggressively to benefit low-income and middle-class families," said Rodriguez during a press conference at his campaign committee in Santurce on Wednesday.

Rodriguez is one of four candidates who will run in the Nov. 9 primary to become the official New Progressive Party (NPP) candidate for resident commissioner in the general elections of 2004. Former Resident Commissioner Carlos Romero Barcelo, NPP Sen. Miriam Ramirez de Ferrer, and Luis Fortuño, Puerto Rico’s National committeeman for the Republican Party, are also running for the post.

According to Rodriguez, the Earned Income Tax Credit was approved in 1975 to give low-income and middle-class workers relief from the Social Security deductions from their paychecks. It was also meant to encourage people to find jobs and get off welfare.

Rodriguez said the exclusion of Puerto Rico from this benefit is discriminatory. He acknowledged that while U.S. citizens residing on the island don’t pay federal taxes, they do pay for Social Security, therefore should benefit from this type of tax credit that is available to U.S. citizens on the mainland.

"We are definitely going to achieve the extension of this credit to the island. That is my commitment," Rodriguez added.

The former senator said that had the tax credit been available to Puerto Rico in 2002, more than 70% of the population would have benefited from it, representing a $700 million boost to the local economy.

Rodriguez said his plan has been endorsed by the Institute for Policy Innovation in Washington, giving him more reason to believe that the tax credit extension for Puerto Rico is a real possibility.

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