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Governor Proposes 3.4% ’05 Budget Increase, Blasts Rossello… Island Ranks 4th In Hotel Occupancy…Oldest NYer Dead At 111… Zorrilla Opposes Importing Nurses… Hanes Lays Off 150…Murder Suspects Arrested In Nicole’s Case…P.R. Wants To Invite MLB Teams

Governor Proposes 3.4% Increase In Consolidated Budget For FY 2005

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

February 26, 2004
Copyright © 2004
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

In what has been her last State of the Commonwealth Address, Gov. Sila Calderon presented the Legislature with a consolidated budget of $24.5 billion for fiscal year 2005; which represents a 3.4% increase.

Calderon proposed $8.8 billion--an increase of more than 6%--for the Puerto Rico general fund.

Among the key points presented on Wednesday, the governor promised to create 25,000 part-time jobs through programs from the local Labor Right Administration and the creation of a new employment fund of $30 million.

"We continue to get close to our goal of creating 100,000 new jobs," Calderon said.

The governor also proposed a $23 million fund to help boost the municipal economy of Ceiba and Naguabo; two of the towns that were affected the most by the shutdown of the Roosevelt Roads naval base.

In the security area, Calderon said she would present legislation to increase the Police budget by $48 million to, among other things, boost the number of patrols in high crime areas and acquire new technology to analyze crime.

"We will continue to work tirelessly until we are able to lower crime statistics," the governor said.

As for education, Calderon proposed an additional $45 million to improve facilities in 366 of the 1,600 schools in Puerto Rico. She also said she intends to provide Internet access to 300,000 public school students through the investment of $70 million in federal funds.

"What we have achieved in Education will make 2004 the best school year in the past two decades," Calderon said.

In the healthcare area, the governor proposed an additional allocation of $242 million for the Health Department to improve facilities, technology, and operations within the local public healthcare system.

She also said $50 million will be used to include an additional 60,000 people in the health reform card. However, the governor has been criticized for excluding around 200,000 beneficiaries at the beginning of her term.

Sila Lambastes Past Administration In Her Last Address

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

February 26, 2004
Copyright © 2004
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Gov. Sila Calderon used her last State of the Commonwealth address to attack the administration of former governor and New Progressive Party gubernatorial candidate Pedro Rossello.

Although she never mentioned the former governor's name, she continuously made reference to projects began under his tenure that are being completed by her administration.

The political tone of the address was set from the start when she urged the people to look into the future without imitating the styles of the past.

"The country we want is not built by returning to a past that tried to turn us into something we are not. Puerto Rico's future is built by staying true to ourselves and what we can be," Calderon said.

Throughout the night, Calderon was given numerous standing ovations, especially when attacking the previous administration.

The governor referred to the delays in the construction of the Coliseum of Puerto Rico, the Urban Train and Route 66. She also claimed that her administration had fixed the problems in these projects.

She also mentioned the alleged crisis inherited in the Health Department as a result of the privatization and shutdown of Diagnostic and Treatment Centers.

But Calderon received her biggest standing ovation when she made reference to the corruption scheme at the Education Department under the administration of convicted former Secretary Victor Fajardo.

A long standing ovation was given to the governor, as the NPP legislators looked down.

The NPP legislators had signs on top of their desks the read: "Where is the water. Where are the promises. Where is the labor." However, they never raised them.

Puerto Rico Ranks Fourth In Hotel Occupancy

February 26, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - Puerto Rico ranks fourth in the list of destinations with the highest hotel occupancy announced the Tourism Company executive director Jose Suarez.

The finding is based on a study prepared by Deloitte and Touche.

The study titled "The Hotel Benchmark Survey," measures the performance of the tourism industry according to international tendencies during the past four years, Suarez said.

According to the Tourism chief, the study revealed that in 2003, Puerto Rico came in fourth among the destinations with the most hotel activity and had an occupacy rate of 77.8%. In 2002, Puerto Rico ranked 14.

"We are very satisfied with the findings. The fact that Puerto Rico has obtained such a high score out of 320 markets not only confirms the strength of our industry, but Puerto Rico's leadership in the Caribbean," Suarez added.

The Tourism director said the destinations ranked higher than Puerto Rico are Kuwait City, in Kuwait, as well as the Australian cities of Brisbane and Perth.

Oldest NYer Dead At 111

Neil Graves

New York Post

February 26, 2004
Copyright © 2004
N.Y.P. Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved. 

The oldest person in New York, Esperanza Marrero, has died at 111. She passed away Tuesday at Beth Israel Hospital.

Marrero was a popular fixture at the Jacob Riis Houses on the Lower East Side, where she played bingo at a nearby senior citizens center and danced the mambo a little. Born in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico on Jan. 18, 1893, Marrero came to America at age 56 in 1949, working as a domestic.

Zorrilla Opposes Importing Nurses

February 26, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - Labor Secretary Frank Zorrilla said bringing foreign nurses to the island would set a bad precedent.

Zorrilla said the Hospitals Association’s is proposal unacceptable because the island has a considerable number of nurses, plus a significant number of students graduating each year.

"For years, Puerto Rican nurses have proved themselves to be excellent professionals," Zorrilla said in a prepared statement.

The secretary's reaction followed the association's suggestion to import nurses from the Dominican Republic, Central and South America to make up for the shortage of nurses on the island.

Jorge Torres, president of the Hospitals Association, said the plan is not aimed at displacing local nurses.

"We will only fill vacant positions," Torres said.

The average monthly salary of a nurse on the island is $1,000.

Hanes Lays Off 150 Employees In Puerto Rico

February 26, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - In the next five months, around 150 employees of Hanes Menswear in Puerto Rico will be laid off, said Elliot Holt, local spokesman of the company.

The cut follows the company's decision to transfer the Ponce operations to several other plants on the U.S. mainland.

According to published reports, the additional cut will increase the number of laid of local employees who have been laid off to 3,700. In the past three years, Sara Lee, the parent company of Hanes, has shut down plants in Camuy, Guánica, and San Sebastian; Platex in Barceloneta, and Bali in Rio Piedras

However, Holt said the Sara Lee subsidiaries in Puerto Rico, including Hanes, still employ 4,000 people in Corozal, Dorado, Vega Baja, Humacao, and Ponce.

He added that the 150 people who were laid off in Ponce will receive a severance pay equal to two weeks of work, plus an additional week's pay for each year of work at the company. Hanes will also pay for employees' healthcare plan for three months.

Police Arrest Murder Suspects In Nicole’s Case

February 25, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — On Wednesday morning, the police arrested four of nine people suspected of murdering 16-year-old Nicole Muñiz, who was killed on Aug. 19, 2003 in Rio Piedras.

Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Linares ruled that there was probable cause and ordered the arrest of the nine suspects for murder and violation of the weapons law. Bail was set at $4.1 million.

Comdr. Reinaldo Bermudez said the arrest of the four suspects took place at 12:45 a.m. in Villa Esperanza housing project, where the shooting that killed Muñiz had occurred.

The arrested were identified as Javier Sierra Rodriguez, 27; John A. Quiñones Lizynnes, 24; Angel Leon Figueroa, 24; and Frankie Beardsley Rolon, 26.

A fifth suspect identified as Javier Franco Marin, 24, was already in custody, but was released for indictment.

Bermudez said the police have yet to arrest Ramon Morales Saez, 26; Rafael Perez Rivera, 21; Hector Torres Villegas, 24; and Jose Zabala Castro, 29.

On the night of Muñiz’s murder, she was driving home when she got caught in the shooting and was hit by a stray bullet.

Authorities believe the girl’s white Sport Utility Vehicle may have been mistaken for a similar one from which individuals had fired at the housing project minutes earlier.

The police said the shooting was drug-related.

Hilda M. Gonzalez Cruz and John D. Gonzalez Hernandez, both 22, were also caught in the shooting, but weren’t fatally wounded.

Puerto Rico Wants To Invite Baseball Teams


February 25, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- The promoters who brought the Montreal Expos to San Juan in 2003 and 2004 may try to attract other major league teams for 2005.

Puerto Rico is among the candidates to become the permanent home of the Expos, who will play 22 games at Hiram Bithorn Stadium for the second straight season.

``There is the possibility that if the Expos are not relocated to Puerto Rico, that other teams could come here to play,'' Antonio Munoz Grajales, the son of lead promoter Antonio Munoz, said Wednesday. ``Major league baseball wants to keep bringing games to Puerto Rico ... either with the Expos or with another team.''

He mentioned the World Series champion Florida Marlins, Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Pittsburgh Pirates as potential candidates.

MB Sports guaranteed the commissioner's office $10 million for this year's games in San Juan and submitted a plan for a permanent move, but the proposal lacked a new ballpark.

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