"I Told You So", Diaz Saldaña Says Of Prasa Acevedo Vila Wont Promise To Keep New Top Cop Police Academy Graduates 1,361 Public Housing Renovations Begin P.R., U.S.V.I. Leaders Discuss Anti-Drug Efforts Ondeo Investigation Sought, Gov. Praises Contract Cancellation FL. Meetings Focus On Island Gag Order Issued In Riot Trial
"I Told You So", Diaz Saldaña Says About Prasa
January 15, 2004
SAN JUAN (AP) Commonwealth Comptroller Manuel Diaz Saldaña, criticized the government on Thursday for failing to take into account his suggestions regarding retaking the administration of the Puerto Rico and Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (Prasa).
Diaz Saldaña said that since the summer of 2002 his office has been issuing reports highlighting deficiencies and the lack of supervision from Prasa board of directors on the privatizes company.
"The reports showed that the privatization of Prasa was not having any results and we suggested that the government should retake the administration of the authority," Diaz Saldaña said.
"Sadly they decided to act contrary to our recommendation and ended up with contracting Ondeo. More that $6 billion were invested in this process ...It is very sad that it happened," Diaz Saldaña said.
The government cancelled its ten-year contract with Ondeo on Monday.
The cancellation of the contract begins today but there is a six-month transition process.
Acevedo Vila Makes No Promise To Keep New Police Chief
By Manuel Ernesto Rivera of The Associated Press
January 15, 2004
SAN JUAN Popular Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial candidate Anibal Acevedo Vila said he hasnt promised Gov. Sila Calderon that he will keep the fourth police superintendent who has yet to be appointed.
Acevedo Vila added that Calderon has not asked for his opinion regarding possible candidates to replace Police Superintendent Victor Rivera Gonzalez.
The resident commissioner said he has discussed the issue with the governor, but never possible candidates.
"We have talked about it, but it is her decision. I know she is committed to choosing the best available person," said Acevedo Vila, who has had bitter differences with Calderon regarding the aborted nomination of former Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado to preside over the Puerto Rico Supreme Court.
The PDP gubernatorial candidate said that should he win the November election, he would not necessarily keep the police chief appointed by Calderon.
He declined to comment on the people who have been rumored to be eligible for the position.
Acevedo Vila was kept quiet on the possibility of appointing Jorge Collazo to the post.
Collazo was nominated for Drug Control Office director at the beginning of Calderons term, but faced massive opposition because he participated in the compilation of political dossier against supporters of the Puerto Rican Independence Party. His nomination was later withdrawn.
More Than 1,300 Cadets Graduate From Police Academy
January 15, 2004
SAN JUAN (AP) On his last day in office, outgoing Police Superintendent Victor Rivera Gonzalez and Gov. Sila Calderon presided over the graduation ceremony of 1,361 police officers, thus increasing the number of agents to more than 20,000.
Calderon chose to keep the suspense going by not revealing the name of the person who will be in charge of the police force that, for the time being, will remain under the interim command of Col. Hector Laureano.
The governor said she hoped to announce Rivera Gonzalezs replacement by next week. She used the opportunity to praise the superintendents performance and to regret his departure.
In his speech to the new police agents, the superintendent said he felt very moved and urged them to work as hard as he did.
Laureano said he would continue the work plan left by the outgoing chief.
He added that while he has not been interviewed in the current evaluation process, Chief of Staff Cesar Miranda did interview him not long ago for the associate superintendent post.
Improvement To Public Housing Projects Begin
January 15, 2004
SAN JUAN (AP) At a cost of $21.6 million, renovations to some 44 public housing projects began on Thursday thanks to a $700 federal government bonds issue.
The announcement was made Thursday by Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila and Housing Secretary Ileana Echegoyen during a visit to Las Dalias public housing project in Rio Piedras where the renovations were scheduled to begin.
"The beginning of the modernization in this community is clear proof that this government has transformed the way in which federal funds are being administered to public housing," Acevedo Vila said.
U.S. Congressman Mark Green Rep, joined him.
Governors Of Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands Meet To Discuss Anti-Drug Matters
January 15, 2004
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - The governors of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands met Wednesday to discuss joint cooperation in fighting drug and weapon trafficking in the U.S. Caribbean territories.
Govs. Sila Calderon of Puerto Rico and Charles Turnbull of the neighboring U.S. Virgin Islands met with federal officials at Calderon's official residence, La Fortelaza. Both governors discussed security matters but did not provide specifics.
"We are fighting a very evil opponent," Turnbull told reporters. "There are so many violent crimes that are related to drug trafficking."
Puerto Rico reported 779 killings last year, compared to 783 in 2002 with officials saying about 80 percent of the violence on the island of 4 million residents is drug-related.
In the U.S. Virgin Islands, police reported 33 homicides last year and a record 45 in 2002. About 90 percent of the killings in the territory of 108,000 residents are drug- or gang-related, police spokesman Sgt. Thomas Hannah said Wednesday.
Despite international efforts to block Caribbean drug shipments, the region remains a major smuggling route for South American cocaine bound for North American and Europe.
Comptroller Asked To Investigate Transaction Between Prasa And Ondeo
January 14, 2004
SAN JUAN (AP) - Arguing that the contract between the Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Authority (Prasa) and French company Ondeo was made in secrecy, New Progressive Party Sen. Orlando Parga requested on Wednesday an investigation by Commonwealth Comptroller Manuel Diaz Saldaña.
Parga believes it is necessary to investigate as soon as possible all the details of the transaction, or the local government runs the risk of not detecting quickly any possible irregularities.
"The comptroller cant wait five years to determine if irregularities occurred and who is to be held responsible for them. The time to act is now to save the interest of the people," Parga said.
Puerto Rican Independence Party Rep. Victor Garcia San Inocencio also sent the comptroller a letter requesting an investigation into the cancellation.
Calderon Pleased With Contract Cancellation
January 13, 2004
SAN JUAN (AP) - Gov. Sila M. Calderon said Tuesday she is pleased with the cancellation of Ondeos administrative contract with the Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Authority (Prasa).
Legislative leaders, who discussed the transition process with the governor, also were pleased with contract cancellation.
"From a financial point of view, the agreements have been very positive and, more important from a service point a view, which is what has been the basis for all negotiations and finally canceling this contract," Calderon said.
During a press conference at La Fortaleza, following a Legislative conference meeting, Calderon said the negotiations that lead to the cancellation of the contract were "long, difficult, and complex."
In addition, she convoked a meeting with the legislative conference for Friday to discuss details related to the transaction.
For his part, Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora said he was pleased with the Commonwealth reclaiming management of Prasa because he always has been opposed to the privatization of essential services.
House Speaker Carlos Vizcarrondo and Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila concurred with his statement.
Meetings Focus On Puerto Rico
Sentinel staff reports
January 14, 2004
KISSIMMEE -- The Central Florida Hispanic Business Exchange will take place next week, featuring businesses from Puerto Rico that are interested in investing in the local market.
The exchange will be Jan. 21-23 at Osceola Heritage Park. It will center on individual business meetings that will develop relationships between businesses here and on the island.
Primarily, Puerto Rican businesses are looking for distributors, joint-venture partners and some direct-sales work.
Industries will include food-product manufacturers, greenhouses, business consultants and beauty-care products.
Those interested in participating, should call the Osceola County Economic Development office at 407-343-4050.
Gag Order Issued In Riot Trial
January 14, 2004
SAN JUAN (AP) - Superior Court Judge Ruben Torres Davila issued on Wednesday a gag order to prevent the prosecution and the defense from publicly discussing the riot trial of four New Progressive Party leaders.
In addition, the judge denied a motion for the jury selection to be based on individual interviews. The jury will be selected from four different panels.
Torres Davila said he doesnt think it will be necessary to sequester the jury, but he didnt dismiss a motion to that effect.
Rep. Edwin Mundo, former legislator Leo Diaz, former party President Carlos Pesquera, and Electoral Commissioner Thomas Rivera Schatz are charged with rioting during incidents at the Womens Advocate Office in June 2002.
Rivera Schatz and Diaz will face trial by jury, while Pesquera preferred that Judge Torres Davila decide whether he is guilty.
Mundo has yet to decide but must do so before the completion of jury selection, which will continue Thursday.
The prosecution, headed by District Attorney Jose Capo, said he will present 28 witnesses, while the defense will bring two: Rep. Anibal Vega Borges and Pedro Rossellos campaign manager, Juan R. Melecio.