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Prats: Island Should Stop Depending On Federal Tax Incentives… San Juan Mayorality Campaign Heats Up…UPR Student Council Denounces ROTC Scare Campaign…Governor Allocates Funds To Legal Aid…NGA Backs Northern Marianas Cong. Delegate…San Juan FTAA Comm. Likes Its Chances

Prats To Have Puerto Rico Join The Worldwide Economy

March 4, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Popular Democratic Party (PDP) resident commissioner candidate Roberto Prats announced that should he be elected in November, he will focus on leading Puerto Rico into a worldwide economy. He said the island should stop depending on federal tax incentives.

The PDP senator noted that he is not against federal tax breaks, but reiterated they are not enough to develop Puerto Rico’s economy.

"We are facing issues regarding the FTAA [Free Trade Area of the Americas.] We need to develop a global economy," Prats said during a press conference at the Banker’s Club in Hato Rey.

He added that his economic advisors, lead by former Resident Commissioner Antonio Colorado, are working on identifying tax incentives that are specifically aimed at technology and research development.

In the past few decades, the Puerto Rico economy has heavily relied on federal tax breaks to encourage job creation. The PDP has consistently lobbied for that type of incentive.

PDP And NPP's San Juan Campaigns Intensify

March 4, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini—who is seeking reelection—said he wouldn’t be intimidated by Popular Democratic Party (PDP) mayoral candidate Eduardo Bhatia’s taunts.

Santini issued his remarks in response to a press conference that Bhatia simultaneously held just a few meters away from his.

The NPP mayor complained that Bhatia’s staff has been following and taking pictures of him.

Bhatia called a press conference to discuss his plan to ensure access for people with disabilities.

Santini warned Bhatia that he was inciting violence. He also called him a liar and a fool.

Bhatia denied the accusations and criticized Santini for failing to eliminate architectural barriers for people with disabilities in San Juan.

UPR Student Council Denounces Scare Campaign Concerning ROTC

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

March 4, 2004
Copyright © 2004 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Lillian Aponte, president of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) General Students Council of the Rio Piedras Campus accused New Progressive Party (NPP) gubernatorial candidate Pedro Rossello, former UPR President Jose Saldaña, and current UPR President Antonio Garcia Padilla of disseminating a scare campaign by making people believe that federal funds would be lost if ROTC access on campus is denied.

The student leader submitted copies of the Solomon Amendment of 1996, a document which has been mentioned in recent days. According to the document, the federal departments of Education, Labor, and Human Resources would be forbidden to grant funds to institutions that deny ROTC access or military recruitment on campus.

However, Aponte showed that a second amendment approved in 1999 exempts programs such as the Federal Pell Grant from the initial Solomon Amendment’s restrictions.

General Students Council member Hugo Delgado argued that institutions shouldn’t be penalized for opposing the military.

"Poor students have the right to get an educatinon. Grants are not a luxury or a gift from the federal government. Even the funds for research—which are subject to the amendment—result from professors who compete for those funds," Delgado said.

Delgado said the money blocked by the Solomon Amendment is around $60 million, not $240 million, like pro-military groups have tried to make people believe.

He also said he believes ongoing research projects are much too valuable for the federal government to discard overnight.

"The student body is deeply offended by Saldaña, Garcia Padilla, and Rossello’s allegations," Aponte said during a press conference at the Rio Piedras campus.

The student president questioned their moral standing for discussing such an issue. She reminded the press that the Rossello administration reallocated $40 million of the UPR budget to pay for the public education system reform.

Aponte added that Saldaña doubled tuition in 1992 and Garcia Padilla has 23 aides on staff and spends thousands of dollars on dinners.

"Student assemblies of the past few years have approved resolutions against war, militarism, the ROTC, and in favor of peace for Vieques. Today we reaffirm these resolutions," Aponte said.

Governor Allocates Funds To Legal Aid Society

By Manuel Ernesto Rivera of Associated Press

March 3, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN – Gov. Sila Calderon has signed an executive order to allocate $680,000 to the Legal Aid Society (LAS) to alleviate the entity’s financial troubles. LAS had stopped accepting new cases on Monday because of insufficient funding.

The governor ordered Treasury Secretary Juan Flores Galarza to issue the funds so that the Justice Department could transfer them to LAS.

Calderon didn’t say whether she would sign into law a Senate bill to allocate an additional $700,000 to LAS.

She added that the executive order met the amount LAS requested to make up for its deficit. However, the governor said her administration doesn’t have the funds necessary to grant the salary increase LAS members solicited.

The union has complained that the $700,000 proposed in the legislative resolution to tend to LAS’ fragile financial situation isn’t enough to solve its problems.

Union President Alice Agosto said the union contract with the government expires next month, but its management maintains it doesn’t have enough funds to renegotiate the next one.

Agosto, who is an attorney, warned the government that the union will continue to make its demands until they are met.

The union leader reiterated that LAS meager finances prevent it from keeping talented attorneys on staff.

She said LAS attorneys’ base salary is $2,400 a month, while a prosecutor earns a base annual salary of $64,000. 

U.S Governors Association Support CNMI Delegate In Congress

March 2, 2004
Copyright © 2004 Asia Pulse PTE Ltd. All rights reserved. 

PACNEWS, the Pacific News Agency Service

02 MARCH 2004 HAGTNA (Pacnews) --- In preparation for [next] week's hearing [in Washington] on the potential for a delegate in Congress for the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas (CNMI), the Governor of Guam, Juan N. Babauta had succeeded in having the National Governor Association (NGA) renew its support for a Northern Marianas delegate.

The NGA is composed of all 55 U.S. governors, representing the 50 states and the five non-state areas - American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Marianas, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

"I am very grateful for the support the nations' governors have shown for the people of the Northern Marianas," said Governor Babauta after the vote approving the delegate policy.

According to Gov Babauta, "the people of the Northern Marianas are U.S. citizens. We deserve a voice in our own national government."

San Juan FTAA Committee Trusts Its Chances To Win Official Site

By WOW News Staff & AP

March 3, 2004
Copyright © 2004 WOW News & AP. All rights reserved.

The executive director of the Puerto Rico Export Council, Federico Gonzalez Denton, said Puerto Rico’s relationship with the U.S. mainland gives it an advantage over the 10 other cities competing for the FTAA headquarters.

During a press conference in Old San Juan, Gonzalez Denton distributed a letter from the FTAA Trade Negotiations Committee co-chairs—Ambassadors Peter F. Allgeier and Adhemar G. Bahadian—confirming the Puerto Rico capital is being considered for the seat.

"No other city combines the two main juridical systems of the hemisphere. It is a mixture of the civil code and common law. The experience our law professionals have in both systems gives us a great advantage because many of the disputes within the FTAA will concern legal issues," Gonzalez Denton said.

The San Juan FTAA Committee prepared a presentation containing information about the current cost of air and ground transportation, hotel accommodations, telecommunications, crime rate statistics, security, human resources, quality of life, migration issues, and financial resources of the island. The information is required of all candidate cities.

The committee, chaired by Export Council Secretary Jose Gonzalez Freyre, will begin an aggressive lobbying process among the vice ministers in charge of choosing the official FTAA headquarters.

Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora and the Department of Economic Development & Commerce have allocated $120,000 and $225,000, respectively, for these purposes.

Gonzalez Denton said that should Puerto Rico become the official FTAA site, San Juan would become the capital of the Americas because the decisions affecting commerce in this side of the world would be made here.

The other cities competing to become the FTAA headquarters are Miami; Atlanta; Chicago; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Houston and Galveston, Texas, in the U.S.; Cancun and Puebla in Mexico; Panama City in Panama; and Port of Spain in Trinidad & Tobago.

The decision will be made through consensus of the vice ministers of commerce of the 34 countries of the Americas. The meeting has been scheduled for July and will be held in Brazil.

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