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Activist Gets 5 Years In Prison For Vieques Vandalism… Bill Limiting Closing Hours Filed…Prasa, Ondeo Negotiations Deadlocked, Their Resumption Likely… Expos To Play 22 In P.R. Again…Kmart Must Pay Xmas Bonus…Rivera’s Replacement Chosen…Ondeo Decision Due…Santini: Return State Police To Santurce…Soldiers Begin Training

Five Years In Prison For Vieques Destruction

December 11, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Judge Jose A. Fuste sentenced Jose Perez Gonzalez to five years in prison for destroying federal property on Vieques on May 1, when the land that had been used by the U.S. Navy as a target range for over 60 years was turned over to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

He was the only of the twelve defendants who pleaded innocent to charges related to the May 1 incident. Perez Gonzalez, who has been in prison since being found guilty Sept. 11, left the courtroom in tears.

He was convicted of one count of burning federal property, one count of conspiracy, and two counts of damage to federal property for the destruction of a guard house, a boat, and a vehicle. Sentencing guidelines for those crimes call for a prison sentence of 51 to 60 months.

Fuste ordered the maximum and also ordered the 34-year-old contractor from Mayaguez to pay a $10,000 fine to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Following his time in prison, Perez Gonzalez will be on probation for two years.

Ileana Morales, Perez Gonzalez’s wife, said the sentence was unfair, while his attorney, Jorge Almenteros, said he would appeal.

Perez Gonzalez has three daughters, ages 18, 14, and 4.

Bill To Limit Closing Hours Of Discotheques Filed

December 11, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Popular Democratic Party Rep. Jose Conny Varela filed a bill to set the closing hour of discotheques and pubs at 2 a.m. pursuant to a request by Police Superintendent Victor Rivera.

Following a massacre at 4:45 a.m. Monday outside a discotheque in Santurce that claimed four lives, Rivera said establishments where alcoholic beverages are served should be required to close earlier.

Varela said if the bill is approved, all establishments selling alcoholic beverages would be required to close at 2 a.m., including those in tourism zones.

Owners of establishments who fail to comply with the new law would be fined $5,000, and could lose their permits and operating licenses.

"This action is taken to allow the people of Puerto Rico some rest. This is a drastic measure needed at this time," Varela said.

Negotiations Between Prasa And Ondeo Deadlocked

December 11, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The negotiations between the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (Prasa) and its administrative company, Ondeo, came to a halt Wednesday, said Linnette Teisonnaire, Ondeo spokeswoman.

"There was a deadlock in the negotiations today [Wednesday]," said Teisonnaire in published reports, declining to reveal what caused the deadlock.

Gov. Sila Calderon said earlier this week that the negotiations between Ondeo and Prasa should conclude by Monday.

"If the situation is resolved, there will be an independent arbitrator. . . Apparently that was a date that the governor had selected. I believe the negotiations will continue once the deadlock is solved," Teisonnaire said.

Diverse media have said the government wishes to cancel the contract with Ondeo and reassume Prasa’s operations, but the information has not been confirmed officially.

Ondeo: Negotiations With Prasa Will Resume

December 11, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - Ondeo in Puerto Rico President Charles Dupont said he was confident that the stalled process of renegotiating the contract between his company and the Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Authority (Prasa) would resume.

Dupont said that "for inexplicable reasons," the government is presenting the French company with obstacles and confirmed that the negotiations stopped Wednesday.

Prasa President Juan Agosto Alicea said, "We entered into these negotiations in good faith, and we want to help resolve the problems of the water system of Puerto Rico."

Dupont said in public legislative hearings that Ondeo’s request for an additional $93 million from the government is necessary because the company has incurred expenses it could not have foreseen when it began its 10-year contract in 2002.

But Agosto Alicea reiterated in a written statement that the additional sum requested by Ondeo is "totally unacceptable."

"In the business world, errors are paid with money," Agosto Alicea said in a press release. "The government and the families of Puerto Rico do not have to pay for Ondeo’s errors in judgment."

Expos Confirm They'll Play 22 Games In Puerto Rico Before All-Star Break

December 10, 2003
Copyright © 2003
THE CANADIAN PRESS. All rights reserved. 

MONTREAL (CP) _ The Montreal Expos confirmed Wednesday that they will play 22 ``home'' games in Puerto Rico for a second consecutive season in 2004.

But unlike in 2003, when the Puerto Rico games were spread throughout the season and became a travel burden on the players, all 22 Puerto Rico games will be played before the all-star break.

The games at Hiram Bithorn Stadium include a three-game series from July 2 to July 4 against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Confirmation of the plan had been held up by a dispute over control of television rights to the games. That was resolved Tuesday, when Antonio Munoz, promoter of the Puerto Rico games, was granted the TV rights by the commissioner's office.

The Puerto Rico games, which generate higher revenues than home games in Montreal, leave only 59 games at Olympic Stadium.

The financially challenged Expos head the San Juan on April 9 for a three-game series against the New York Mets followed by three games against the Florida Marlins.

They return to the Caribbean island on May 18 for three games against the Milwaukee Brewers followed by three against the San Francisco Giants.

The Blue Jays series is followed by three games against the Atlanta Braves beginning July 5 followed by a four-game set against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Expos, who are owned by the 29 other major league clubs, are to release their full schedule by the end of the week, when they will also release their ticket pricing structure for 2004.

Kmart Must Pay Christmas Bonus

December 10, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Labor Secretary Frank Zorrilla determined Wednesday that Kmart must pay its nearly 3,000 employees in Puerto Rico their full Christmas bonus.

"The Labor Department determined that the management of the corporation is obligated to pay the Christmas bonus to its employees in full, based on the 2% [of the employee’s salary], before Dec. 15, 2003," Zorrilla said in a press statement.

The determination is based on Article III of Law 148 of 1969, which establishes that an employer is obligated to file its financial statement, including earnings and losses, no later than Nov. 30 of each year.

If the employer has had losses, it may file an exemption request with the Labor Department to free it from paying the Christmas bonus.

Kmart asked for an exemption because the parent company has filed for bankruptcy protection, but Zorrilla denied the request after evaluating the situation.

"It is important to indicate that if the management of Kmart does not pay the bonus by Dec. 15, then the corporation is obligated to pay 3% of the employee’s salary; if it takes longer than six months after the due date, then the bonus will be 4%," Zorrilla said.

As of Wednesday, some 152 companies had requested they be exempted from paying the Christmas bonus to their employees; 126 requests were approved, and 26 were denied.

Calderon Has Already Chosen Rivera’s Replacement

By WOW Staff and wire reports

December 10, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

The island’s police force will soon have its fourth chief in less than three years as Gov. Sila Calderon announced on Wednesday that although Police Superintendent Victor Rivera has not tendered his resignation, she has already identified his replacement.

In an afternoon broadcast interview, Calderon said Rivera has even suggested names for his replacement, an alleged sign of continuing good relations between the two.

The governor’s statements were issued a few hours after Rivera held a press conference in which he said if he were to resign it would be due solely to financial considerations, but added he had not yet decided to step down.

He said his annual $106,400 salary as police superintendent isn't sufficient to cover his financial responsibilities. Rivera has two children in college on the U.S. mainland and a 14-year-old daughter whose educational expenses have led him to take out a series of loans.

Calderon said she regrets that the law does not allow her to raise Rivera’s salary, which would allow him to cover his debt.

"Unfortunately the solutions and the increase that the law allow us to offer at this moment are not enough to cover his needs," Calderon said.

During a press conference in Santurce, the governor said, "He has decided to leave his post."

Up until Tuesday, Calderon had been a strong defender of Rivera’s performance in the post despite the failure of his anticrime plan.

On Wednesday afternoon, in brief remarks to the press regarding Rivera, the governor noted she would make public the name of the Rivera’s replacement as soon as the transition process begins.

"I hope that it is soon," Calderon said.

Since Calderon took office in January 2001, the police department has had three leaders: current Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Pierre Vivoni, current Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Miguel Pereira, and Rivera.

Decision Regarding Ondeo Due Monday

December 10, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Gov. Sila Calderon said her administration could conclude negotiations regarding Ondeo, administrator of the Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Authority (Prasa), by Monday.

"Our goal is to conclude such conversations by Dec. 15," Calderon said.

She has declined to reveal what direction the negotiations are taking, but published reports indicate that Ondeo will no longer be Prasa’s administrator and the government will reassume that responsibility.

Ondeo has a 10-year contract, but it recently requested more money allegedly because Prasa’s infrastructure is worse than it had believed.

The government refuted the allegations, and the Legislature issued a resolution to deny the French company a funds increase.

Citizen’s Advocate Carlos Lopez noted that Ondeo heads the list of complaints to service companies.

Santini Calls For Return Of State Police To Santurce

December 10, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini called Tuesday for the return of 970 state police officers who have been transferred out of Santurce over the past three years.

He said the agents’ transfer and lack of police patrols, particularly in Santurce, made it easier for the criminals to commit Monday’s massacre outside the Stargate disco.

"Had there been two, three, or four police agents patrolling the area, it would have been difficult for the shooters," said Santini, who acknowledged that the municipal police doesn’t have the resources to patrol high-crime areas.

Soldiers Begin Training

December 10, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Some 700 soldiers of the National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve began training on Wednesday in Salinas for possible mobilization to Iraq.

Fort Buchanan command said the soldiers would receive 45 days of training at Camp Santiago in Salinas.

"Most of the units will serve in Iraq," the Army said in a press release.

Troops will be granted a pass from December 23 to 28 so that they can be with their families during the Christmas holiday.

The soldiers are members of military police battalion 125, engineer battalion 448, postal service company 313, ammunition handling company 266, and firefighter team 215.

Meanwhile, company 301 of the military police will be required to report to Salinas in January.

As part of the training, a camp similar to the ones in Iraq is being built so soldiers can practice how they would respond to an attack.

With the activation of these troops, the number of U.S. Army Reserve soldiers activated for war rises to 2,870, although some have already returned from Iraq. The U.S. Army reserve in Puerto Rico has 4,900 members.

As a U.S. jurisdiction, Puerto Rico ranks ninth in the number of soldiers activated for the U.S. war in Iraq.

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