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Santini Asks Mayors To Fight Crime…Ambience Lacking At 'Home', Expos Suffer Blackout…Feds Offer $1.4M To Fight Bioterrorism… Citibank To Stay…Special Committee On Crime Meets, Rivera Ordered To Release Crime Figures… …UT Won’t Be Ready By September…Ecological Corridor Law Hailed…USVI Seeks $100M From P.R. Banks…Ferre With The "Winning Team"

Santini Calls On Mayors To Join Efforts Against Crime

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

September 6, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

Unlike the state Police Department whose superintendent has refused to reveal crime figures, San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini and Municipal Police Commissioner Adalberto Mercado said Friday that crime in the capital city has decreased 10% when compared with the same time last year.

However, as of Friday, a total of 161 violent deaths had been reported in San Juan, an increase of 16 compared with the 2002 figures.

According to municipal police statistics, there have been 13,341 violent crimes in San Juan, which represents a 10% decrease in violent crimes from 2002 when 14,747 felonies were reported.

According to an analysis made by the municipal police, nearly 2,300 out of each 100,000 residents have been a victim of crime on the island, without counting the indirect consequences of crime on victims’ relatives.

The high crime incidence in the capital city, as well as recent reports of shootings and killings, have pushed Santini to invite mayors of five adjacent municipalities to meet with him Sept. 10 to seek ways to halt the high incidence of crime in the metro area.

As a result, Santini called on Popular Democratic Party mayors Jose Aponte de la Torre (Carolina), Pedro Padilla, (Trujillo Alto), and William Miranda Marin (Caguas), as well as New Progressive Party mayors Hector O’Neill (Guayanabo) and Ramon Luis Rivera (Bayamon) to find alternatives to deal with crime. The mayors of Toa Baja and Cataño will also be invited to the meeting.

"Violent incidents, shootings, and homicides in daylight reveal a rampant increase in crime," said Santini’s letter to the mayors of the metropolitan municipalities.

The mayor intends to complement the efforts of the state Police Department, whose superintendent acknowledged Thursday that implemented strategies have not done enough to stop the high incidence of crime.

Santini reaffirmed that the Police Department faces a crisis and that police officers lack equipment and resources to do their work.

"Police officers have a vocation for public service, but the truth is that there is lack of a concrete plan against crime (at the Police Department); there is lack of direction. Police officers say so all the time. It happened in Condado, where after a new police precinct was opened, we had to open another one because the crime incidence was unstoppable," Santini said.

Santini tied the crisis in the Police Department to the removal of nearly 950 police officers from San Juan precincts, and cited the similarity with Bayamon, where 300 officers were transferred to other precincts, and there have been two massacres there in less than a month.

Santini and Mercado identified various aspects in which municipal guards can complement the work of the Police Department, which will be proposed to the mayors at next week’s meeting.

Among those, Mercado listed the investigation and analysis of crime scenes, support with investigative actions to solve cases, the submittal of proposals to the federal government for more resources to buy specialized equipment, and the activation of community organizations against crime.

Santini committed to the fight against crime in all aspects, including offering support for an anti-crime march organized by Hector Muñiz.

"Although I won’t participate in the march, because we are in a primary process, and I don’t want it to be understood as a political act, I praise this man, who recently lost his 16-year-old daughter due to a stray bullet, and the municipality will provide them all the support they need," Santini said.

Ambience Lacking At 'Home': Lots Of Empty Seats; Expos Fever Missing At Hiram Bithorm Stadium


September 6, 2003
Copyright © 2003 MONTREAL GAZETTE. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Attendance at Friday's "home" game against the Marlins was 11,509, with the bleachers and most expensive seats fairly full, entire sections of the medium-priced seats empty and not nearly the atmosphere of some of the other games here.

That was even before the 74-minute power outage came along to disrupt the proceedings. The Expos were expecting close to a sellout for last night's game.

Expos Suffer Power Outage

Power Goes Out During Expos - Marlins Game

September 6, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — The Montreal Expos shook off a one hour and 14 minute power failure to thump the Florida Marlins 6-2 in San Juan on Friday.

With one out and Todd Zeile stepping to the plate in the bottom of the fourth inning, four of the stadium's eight light towers and the scoreboard

The island's electric authority spokesperson, Ada Torres Toro, said there was some problem with the stadium's electric system but didn't elaborate.

Some of the players hung around the dugout and posed for fans' pictures, while others went into their dugouts.

With the win, Montreal improved to 11-6 in Puerto Rico, where they play 22 ``home'' games this season.

Federal Funds To Fight Bioterrorism Are Available

September 6, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - The Health Department announced that more than $19 million have been allocated by the federal government to help local hospital prepare in case of a bioterrorist attack or any kind of public health emergency.

The office of Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila released a prepare statement to announce the information.

Acevedo Vila said in his statement that he had been officially notified of the allocation this week by U.S. Health Secretary Tommy G. Thompson.

"Puerto Rico's share is part of a $1.4 billion allocation for all U.S. jurisdictions," he said in a prepared statement.

Citibank To Stay In Puerto Rico

September 5, 2003
Copyright © 2003 BUSINESS NEWS AMERICAS. All rights reserved.

US-based Citibank will not abandon its constitutional or governmental financial operations in Puerto Rico or elsewhere despite speculation to the contrary, Puerto Rican daily El Nuevo Dia quoted Citibank spokesperson Zuna Maza as saying.

Maza added the institutional and governmental businesses were integral parts of Citibank's operational portfolio and will continue to be attended to by "specialized personnel."

The US bank is the current financial custodian of Puerto Rican development bank Banco Gubernamental de Fomento (BGF) as well as several of the country's state retirement funds, the paper added.

Citibank has operated in Puerto Rico since 1918 and its parent Citigroup is one of the largest financial groups in Latin America.

Special Committee On Crime Increase Meets

September 5, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — With more than 100 recommendations, the special committee of citizens who answered Gov. Sila Calderon’s call for a joint effort to fight crime met Friday.

The committee chairwoman, Family Secretary Yolanda Zayas, said she was pleased with the meeting but declined to comment on what was discussed.

The group agreed to meet again Sunday to determine the form in which the proposals will be evaluated, Carlos Albizu University President Salvador Santiago said.

Children’s TV presenter Sandra Zaiter, spokeswoman for the group, warned that the members of the committee don’t have a magic wand to end crime.

Santiago added that each citizen has in his or her hands the daily task of creating a culture of peace.

Calderon: People Have Right To Know Figures On Crime

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

September 5, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

Gov. Sila Calderon ordered Police Superintendent Victor Rivera on Friday to release the crime incidence statistics as soon as possible as people have the right to know the real numbers.

Calderon’s statements came one day after Rivera refused to release the most recent figures on crime alleging that they are not reliable and that the figures are subject to an auditing process.

"I believe it is legitimate for the people to have access and to know the results of the efforts we have been making. As soon he is ready to release those statistics, he should do it," Calderon said.

On Thursday, Rivera announced the implementation of various strategies to halt the incidence of crime affecting the island and acknowledged that current efforts to deal with crime are not enough.

Among the new efforts, police officers will be required to work 12-hour shifts to ensure more officers on the streets at peak crime hours and specialized units for surveillance and patrolling purposes will be introduced.

Although Rivera claimed that crime figures have decreased, he declined to reveal the figures or the cost of the new strategies to be implemented.

"There is no reason for not revealing those statistics, once they’re final," Calderon said.

Calderon also promised police officers that overtime work will be paid and said the police will have all the resources they need to deal with crime.

"Those extra hours are going to be paid. I guarantee that," said Calderon, adding that "the life of Puerto Ricans do not have a price," and she told Rivera that she is willing to allocate all necessary resources to stop the crime wave on the island, which has caused the deaths of more than 530 people so far this year.

Siemens: Urban Train Won’t Be Ready By September

September 5, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Executives of Siemens, the company that has been administrating and building several segments of the Urban Train, has confirmed that the transportation system won’t be ready by Sept. 29, but by the end of the year.

After the project is handed over to the Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTOP by its Spanish acronym), the government agency will set the inauguration date.

The Urban Train is part of a multimodal transportation plan that has yet to be completed.

Siemens Financial Vice President Mark E. Evans said in published reports that the government will receive the project by Dec. 29 with at least 12 of its 16 stations ready, together with the security, communications, and electrical systems properly installed.

Last week, DTOP Secretary Fernando Fagundo said it would be difficult to complete the train by Sept. 29. If the project isn’t handed over by that date, Siemens must pay a $3 million fine.

Signing Of Ecological Corridor Law Celebrated

September 5, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — An environmental organization sang victory Friday for the signature of the law that creates the Ecological Corridor in San Juan, which is intended to halt the urban sprawl in the capital city.

Gov. Sila Calderon signed the law Thursday, according to La Fortaleza.

"With profound joy, we join today the announcement of our governor on the law that designated the Ecological Corridor of San Juan. . . The measure radically transforms public policy in respect to conservation and the protection of land in our capital city," the Pro Ecological Corridor Alliance indicated in a press release.

According to the organization, the new law promotes the economic development of San Juan by significantly reducing urban sprawl.

The new law establishes that the Department of Natural & Environmental Resources will acquire public and private land between the Berwind Estates neighborhood, to the east of San Juan, and the property of the University of Puerto Rico, adjoining the University Gardens and Villa Nevarez neighborhoods.

US Virgin Islands Seeks $100M From Banks To Meet Payments

September 5, 2003
Copyright © 2003 DOW JONES & COMPANY, INC. All rights reserved.

CHARLOTTE AMALIE, U.S. Virgin Islands (AP)--The governor announced Thursday that the U.S. Virgin Islands would borrow $100 million from two Puerto Rico-based banks to meet income tax refunds and payments owed to contractors.

The loan will cover an estimated $46 million that the U.S. Caribbean territory's government owes to taxpayers in refunds, and the rest will go toward $54 million worth of outstanding payments to contractors, Gov. Charles Turnbull told a news conference.

The government plans to use gross receipts taxes - a 4% sales tax on almost all goods and services - to pay the loan off to creditors Banco Popular de Puerto Rico and FirstBank Puerto Rico.

Officials have projected that the money will be paid back to the two banks within a year. The loan is shared between the two banks with Banco Popular picking up 65% and First Bank, 35%.

Turnbull said that the loan was necessary because of the fiscal woes in the territory of 108,000.

Ferre Joins Rossello In Fortuño’s Committee Inauguration

By Sandra Ivelisse Villerrael of Associated Press

September 5, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

New Progressive Party (NPP) supporters who attended the inauguration of Luis Fortuño’s campaign committee stood flabbergasted for a few seconds Thursday when they heard NPP founder Luis A. Ferre say he was happy to be with the "winning team."

Ferre made his statements while sharing the stage with pre-gubernatorial candidate Pedro Rossello at Fortuño’s rally. However, it was not clear if he was referring to the Fortuño-Rossello duo because he didn’t mention any names.

Fortuño is one of four NPP candidates who will run for NPP resident commissioner in the Nov. 9 primary. The other candidates are former Senate President Charlie Rodriguez, former Gov. Carlos Romero, and NPP Sen. Miriam Ramirez de Ferre.

The committee building is located at the corner of the Roosevelt and Ponce de Leon avenues.

In previous occasions, Ferre has expressed his support for NPP President Carlos Pesquera, who is running against Rossello for the official gubernatorial candidacy.

Rossello told reporters that Ferre has always been a wise man but didn’t answer when asked if he thought he had Ferre’s support.

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