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Velazquez Sets Saratoga Jockey’s Mark…Prepa: Bill To Prohibit Privatization Unnecessary…Over 20,000 Infected With Conjunctivitis…Calderon Forms Anti-Crime Committee, Rejects Use Of Nat’l Guard…Weapons Law Not Being Fully Implemented, Investigation Sought…Governor Accused Of Washing Her Hands On Crime Increase…Fiscal Year Closes Without Deficit

Velazquez Sets Mark for Saratoga Jockeys

August 30, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All Rights Reserved.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (AP) - John Velazquez won his 56th race at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday, breaking the single-season track record.

Velazquez rode Lightning Lyla to victory in the second race to give him the record-breaking win.

The previous record was set by seven-time Saratoga riding champion Jerry Bailey in 2001. The season was extended to 36 days of racing in 1997. Velazquez tied the mark Thursday, but failed to get a win Friday.

"It's good to get it out of the way and not think about it," Velazquez said. "I've been very blessed to ride for the people I ride for. It's great to get it done, but my feeling is I want to continue to win. I want to get another 10 wins by the end of the meet."

Velazquez, a 31-year-old native of Puerto Rico, has benefited as one of the favorite jockeys for trainer Todd Pletcher, who set a new record for victories in a Saratoga season here Aug. 14. Pletcher had 34 wins heading into Saturday.

Velazquez won the riding title in Belmont Park's spring season with 70 wins in 55 days. After 33 days of racing, he was 16 wins ahead of Bailey - his nearest competitor. The meet ends Monday.

Velazquez was the leading rider in New York state in 2002 with 215 wins and earnings of $11,975,407.

Prepa: Bill To Prohibit Privatization Unnecessary

August 30, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All Rights Reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) Executive Director Hector Rosario said the House bill aimed at prohibiting the privatization of that public corporation is unnecessary.

"To find ways of fixing something which is not broken has never made sense," said Rosario in a prepared statement.

"Prepa is not even remotely in danger of being privatized. It is diversifying itself, creating jobs, and generating additional income to stabilize the price of electricity in Puerto Rico," Rosario added.

The proposed bill which was filed by Popular Democratic Party Reps. Carlos Vizcarrondo, Jose Varela, and Jorge Colberg Toro, seeks to amend a law to prevent Prepa from being partially or totally privatized.

More Than 20,000 People Infected With Conjunctivitis In Recent Weeks

August 30, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All Rights Reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – The Health Department informed on Friday that the conjunctivitis outbreak continues to spread rapidly throughout the island, where until Thursday there were registered 21,714 people suffering the condition.

Secretary of Health Johnny Rullan urged people to take preventive measures to counteract the contagious condition.

"Although the outbreak has covered most of the island, the region with most cases is Bayamon with 4,746 infected people. Second area is Arecibo with 3,645 cases, and then, Metro area has 3,236 cases. Aguadilla has 3,362 conjunctivitis cases, Caguas has another 2,852, Ponce has 2,315, Mayagüez has 1,300, and Fajardo has 258", he said in a press release.

Until Thursday last week, there were 16,273 cases registered, which represents an increase of 5,441 new cases in one week.

Rullán urged affected people not to go to work or school after the fifth day of having the condition.

Conjunctivitis is an ocular condition through which the conjunctiva swells, and might be caused by a virus, bacteria or other organisms, as well as for chemical or physical allergies.

Common symptoms are pain, itch, or discomfort in the eye. It also produces redness, swell eyelids, yellowish secretions, excessive tearing, and it the most severe cases, the condition requires to be treated with antibiotics.

It is still unknown if the outbreak is viral or bacterial. The Health Department awaits for the laboratory results, which will give more light in terms of which type of conjunctivitis is affecting people.

Calderon Forms Special Committee To Fight Crime

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

August 29, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All Rights Reserved.

Following a morning-long meeting with hundreds of people who answered her call, Gov. Sila Calderon formed an eight-member committee and gave appointed committee chairwoman Family Department Secretary Yolanda Zayas three weeks to submit the first report on her administration initiative for a joint effort between the civil society and the government to fight crime.

Calderon selected the members of the committee after hearing their suggestions. She identified them as labor leaders Federico Torres Montalvo and Jose Rodriguez Baez, New Independence Movement President Prof. Julio Muriente, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) President Sonia Sterling, Social Worker Milagros Rivera, TV Children Personality Sandra Zaiter, Sociologist Salvador Sanchez and San Juan Community leader Carmen Villegas.

At times disorganized but nevertheless frank and open citizens, ranging from university professors to public housing development leaders, took the microphone to express their concerns on general terms they told Calderon and her cabinet members that they were willing and able to work on making a better Puerto Rico but that the bureaucracy needed to end within the government agencies.

Quoting Martin Luther King, San Juan community leader Villegas said she believes people have the ability to change for good but noted that the government "has to put it’s heart in the community."

Rivera for her part noted that although the meeting had been convened by Calderon following the recent rise in violent deaths, the ramifications of violence were being felt in Puerto Rico beyond the act of killing.

"There is violence in the behavior of the people as they are driving, there is violence in the home when a child is mistreated, there is violence when daddy hits mommy and when they hit each other. The government must focus itself on creating a non-violent society," Rivera said.

Others such as Sterling came to the meeting prepared to provide amendments to the current laws. In reference to the vehicles law, the woman who lost a child in an accident caused by a drunken driver, said there is a contradiction in allowing a .8 alcohol blood level test in drivers from the ages of 16-18 because in reality the legal drinking age is 18. In addition she argued that a citizen should not have the right to decline to take an alcohol blood level test.

Calderon accepted both suggestions and ordered Secretary of Justice Annabelle Rodriguez to draft those amendments in to the law.

The governor also rejected several of the ideas proposed such as having the National Guard back in high crime areas or establishing a midnight curfew for all those under the age of 18.

Meanwhile, the governor urged volunteers to participate in helping the communities and urged the private sector to join the fight against crime.

Weapons Law Not Being Fully Implemented

By Sandra Ivelisse Villerrael of Associated Press

August 29, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All Rights Reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – While the government seeks alternatives to fight criminal activity, it fails to comply with some dispositions of the 2000 weapons law.

The law establishes the creation of a interagency committee to evaluate the illegal trade of weapons but such a committee has not been established.

Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez confirmed this on Friday during a press conference with Gov. Sila Calderon following a meeting with citizens to discuss strategies for fighting crime.

"We are in the process" Rodriguez said, while Calderon remained quiet.

Rodriguez defended the non-existence of the committee, arguing that members of the Department made several amendments to the law to make it tougher but which were yet to be approved by the legislature.

"We have submitted a series of amendments to the law ever since the last session, not all of which were adopted, aimed at making the illegal trade of weapons more difficult," Rodriguez noted.

Legislator To Investigate Effectiveness Of Weapons Law

August 29, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All Rights Reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – As a result of the call made by Gov. Sila M. Calderon to evaluate initiatives against crime, a majority legislator proposed on Friday to investigate the implementation and effectiveness of the Weapons Law in Puerto Rico.

Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Majority Leader at the House, Rep. Roberto Maldonado, also proposed to establish a reward system to attract those who are linked to the criminal world to inform on the illegal traffic of weapons.

"Although this (Weapons) Law made important changes to counteract these criminals, it extent is limited in terms of the expectations we have," he said.

Police superintendent Victor Rivera Gonzalez said Weapons Law (No. 404) of Sept. 2000, relaxed the legal guns market facilitating the acquisition of mortal weaponry, and its reselling on the black market.

Maldonado announced in a press conference on Friday two bills seeking to review the law, and to request confidential information on illegal activities related to weapons traffic. He expects both proposals tol be evaluated by the legislature as soon as possible.

According to the lawmaker, crime is supported on two basic activities, which need effective attention: drug traffic, and weapons traffic.

Maldonado’s proposal comes a day after Gov. Calderon invited all sectors to participate in a summit, to discuss ideas to counteract criminal activity on the island, since murder figures have surpassed half milliard during this year.

Politicians Believe Calderon Is Unaware Of Crime Increase

August 29, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All Rights Reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – New Progressive Party (NPP) Rep. Iris Miriam Ruiz believes Gov. Sila M. Calderon intends ‘to wash her hands’ of the crime increase in the island.

Ruiz said it is unconceivable that Calderon spent over $50,000 on a televised speech to bring the people a reality totally different from what they experience.

According to Ruiz "people live in fear and behind bars in their own homes because of the inability of the government to reduce crime and protect people."

Ruiz said the dismantling of the Police Dept. after the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) took power has negatively affected the morale of police agents, who do not have government support, nor equipment to fight against drug dealers who have set operations in the island.

"Sila Calderon and the PDP leadership, have allowed the criminal to take over the streets again, and now, they are deceiving the people about their fight against crime," she said.

Ruiz’ remarks were in reply to a televised speech offered by Calderon on Thursday evening, in which the governor did not announce any new measures to fight against crime, but gave a review of her administration’s efforts.

In her speech, broadcast through television and radio, Calderon invited Puerto Ricans to join the government in the fight against violence.

"The time has come for citizens to be united, to stand up, and assume their responsibility with the public authorities," Calderon said.

Fiscal Year Closes Without Deficit

August 29, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All Rights Reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – Secretary of the Treasury, Juan Flores Galarza said fiscal year 2002-03 ended without deficit because on the past months, his agency was able to collect more earnings than last year.

The Treasury Department was able to collect $7,841.7 million, surpassing by $387 million, government collections for fiscal year 2001-02, and by $5.7 million government estimates, which served as a base to prepare that year’s budget.

According to published reports, the announcement dissipates the uncertainty that prevailed between the government and its opponents regarding a possible $100 million deficit.

The government registered an increase of $187 million on excise taxes, which includes $33 million from cigarette sales, $81 million from motor vehicles, and another $53 million from slot machines.

Flores Galarza said a $292 million increase was also registered from regular taxes. Individual contributions rose up to $317 million, while corporate contributions increased in $70 million. On the other hand, the Treasury registered a decrease of $66.2 million on withheld taxes to non-residents.

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