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Feds Cut Jobs Programs By $100m…Rossello Wants Courts To Resolve Corruption Cases…2 Soldiers Wounded In Iraq… Riot Trial Continues With Expert Testimony…Prasa Operations Should Be Apolitical…Women Continue To Lag Politically…Calderon Stands Behind Anti-Violence Campaign, Rossello Calls It Misguided

Zorrilla Acknowledges Federal Cuts To Jobs Programs

March 10, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - Contributions to federal programs that help unemployed people in Puerto Rico have experienced a dramatic cut in the past few years, said local Labor Secretary Frank Zorrilla on Wednesday.

The agency chief said he expects a $4 billion cut for next fiscal year.

Zorrilla said the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) has been affected the most, with a $100 million cut in two years to its regular allocation to the island.

The labor secretary cited an increase from to 2% to 7% in the U.S. unemployment rate as the cause of the redistribution of federal funds.

As for the School to Work Program, Zorrilla said the federal funds have dropped from $12 million in 2002 to $5.1 million in the current fiscal year.

He added that the program’s federal funds have been eliminated for the next fiscal year.

Zorrilla presented this information during budget hearings at the Legislature on Wednesday.

Rossello Wants Courts To Resolve Corruption Cases

March 9, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - If former Gov. Pedro Rossello had "a magic wand" to resolve the allegations of corruption schemes made against politicians and public officers, he would use it to send the cases directly to court.

For the New Progressive Party president, the courts are the best forum in which to hear the allegations of corruption.

"The House of Representatives is a political forum. If I had a magic wand, I would prefer the cases be solved only through the courts," Rossello said.

That was Rossello’s reaction when asked for his opinion as president of his party’s legislative conference on how lawmakers should vote regarding the recommendation for expulsion of NPP Rep. Oscar Ramos.

A House Ethics Committee investigation concluded Ramos is guilty of 31 of 40 corruption charges, for which he should be expelled.

Thirty-nine votes are needed to expel Ramos. The majority has 29 lawmakers. Puerto Rican Independence Party Rep. Victor Garcia San Inocencio will vote in favor of expulsion. Nine members of the NPP minority must vote in favor of the report for the expulsion to occur. WOW sources, however, say such a number of NPP lawmakers will not vote in favor of expulsion. As a result, Ramos most likely will remain in his post.

Two Puerto Rican Soldiers Wounded In Iraq

March 9, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - Fort Buchanan Spokesman Jose Pagan said Tuesday that two Puerto Rican soldiers stationed in Iraq were wounded during an explosion Monday.

Pagan identified the wounded men as Sgts. Second Class Angel Rivera Delgado and Reinaldo Pagan Peña, who were assigned to transportation unit 432 of the Puerto Rico Reserve.

"Rivera received minor injuries to his left arm. Pagan is in a delicate state with multiple wounds to his hands and face," he said.

According to Pagan, both soldiers were transferred to Hospital 31 in Baghdad.

Riot Trial Continues With Expert Testimony

March 9, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – On Tuesday, the jury in the trial against four New Progressive Party leaders charged with rioting heard testimony from an expert who conducted several tests on the shattered glass front door of the Women’s Advocate Office. He concluded the door cracked from the inside as a result of strong blows it received from the outside.

Alexander Pechenick, a glass-making expert, said the door could have been broken by a wood cylindrical object, compatible with the flagpole of the U.S. flag that hit the door on June 20, 2002.

"It had to have been with an object softer than metal but stronger than a hand," Pechenick said. "A piece of metal would have broken the door from both sides," he added.

Pechenick noted that the glass door was covered by plastic, which prevented it from crumbling when broken.

"Great strength is needed to break laminated glass. It isn’t easily broken. I couldn’t break it with my hand," Pechenick said.

The witness said the cracks to the door occurred from the strength of the impact that the door received from the outside.

Prasa Won't Improve As Long As It Is Subject To Politics

March 8, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

PONCE (AP) - Former Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Authority (Prasa) Executive Director Emilio Colon said the government corporation's difficult situation wouldn't improve as long as local politics get in the way.

"I believe it is possible to manage Prasa through either a private company or the government. The problem is that things won't improve as long as political parties keep changing Prasa's operations every four years," Colon said.

Colon added that Prasa's Government Board should be in charge of decisions concerning service rates.

He said Prasa's payroll is 45% bigger than what it really should be. However, Colon said there is no need to lay off employees.

Colon suggested that Prasa's operations become more automatic. He also said Prasa should freeze vacant job positions.

Women Continue To Lag Politically

March 8, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – In Puerto Rico Women continue to achieve multiple accomplishments but still fall behind in the world of politics, despite having elected the first female governor.

Women’s Advocate Maria Dolores Fernos said the legislature is a perfect example of such behavior as in terms of number women don’t even reach half of the members of the legislature.

"The legislative area is where we have advanced the least, not in terms of laws but in numerical terms, Our history has not changed in 60 years. We have never exceeded 20% of the members of the legislature," Fernos said.

"There is something about the world of politics that doesn’t seem to attract women. t is an aggressive world which we women just don’t like," Fernos added.

Calderon Insists On Anti-Violence Campaign

March 8, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Gov. Sila Calderon said on Monday that the much criticized anti-violence campaign is the product of a committee working to produce ideas in the fight against crime and not just idea of her own.

Calderon said most of the recommendations given by the committee, known as "Everyone against Violence," were accepted by her administration and have already been implemented.

"The campaign was one of many recommendations that were given by the group and that we carefully discussed," Calderon said.

In addition she noted that no funds have been allocated and will not be outlay until the State Elections Commission Advertising Regulating Board determines if the campaign can go on during closed season.

"We won’t promise anything until this campaign is evaluated by the SEC during this election year," Calderon said.

"I want to make sure that everything is done in accordance to the law," Calderon said.

The so-called Puerto Rico in Peace advertising campaign could cost the government up to $10 million.

Rossello: Peace Campaign Is Out Of Place

March 8, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – New Progressive Party (NPP) President Pedro Rossello said the government has picked the wrong time to launch an antiviolence campaign. He called the effort a waste of public funds.

The gubernatorial candidate also lambasted the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) for allegedly protecting (PDP) Sen. Bruno Ramos by creating a citizens’ committee to investigate the complaints against the senator.

Rossello said in published reports that instead of spending $10 million on an advertising campaign, Gov. Sila Calderon should have allocated those funds to help private organizations with a long history of fighting against drugs and violence. Rossello mentioned the Puerto Rico Without Drugs Alliance as an example.

"First of all, I believe the campaign is out of sync. Secondly, I don’t believe it will be effective, and thirdly, it is a waste of resources," Rossello said.

International Supreme Courts To Meet In Puerto Rico

March 8, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - Puerto Rico will be the site of the 14th Summit of Supreme Courts of Central America, the Caribbean, and Mexico, said Miriam Naviera, president of the local Supreme Court.

The event will be held in October. The chief justices of Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico are expected to participate.

According to a prepared statement, the summit will address possible solutions to the problems that affect the supreme courts of the region.

Naveira also said the participants will examine the need to develop new computing tools.

She added that they will study the implications of liberalizing commercial barriers among the judicial systems of Central America and the Caribbean.

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