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Rossello Lambastes Calderon Administration… Prison Extortion Scheme Bared…Garcia Staying Put… Nat’l Parks Co. To Fight For Isla De Cabras…Coast Guard Detains 236 Dominicans…Balance Island News…Hotel Occupancy Tops ’03…Unemployment Up…PIP Criticized For Protesting Status Hearings…P.R., SUSTA To Hold Exporter's Information Session

Rossello Lambastes Calderon Administration

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

March 15, 2004
Copyright © 2004 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Following reports concerning an unbalanced budget and a possible electoral fraud in the local government’s plan to register Puerto Ricans living on the U.S. mainland, New Progressive Party (NPP) gubernatorial candidate described Gov. Sila Calderon’s administration as chaotic.

Rossello criticized the government for insisting on conducting a $10 million media campaign against violence when it hasn’t even been able to balance the budget based on the Planning Board’s Four-year Investment Plan.

The former governor said that should he be re-elected in November, he would focus on straightening the island’s finances, instead of blaming his predecessors, as Calderon has done.

"We are here to solve problems. It doesn’t matter how big they may be. We will solve them," Rossello said during a press conference at his party headquarters in Hato Rey.

As for the alleged fraud in the registration of Puerto Rican voters in Chicago, Illinois, Rossello said federal authorities should conduct an investigation on what he believes is a huge violation of the citizens’ right to vote.

"The use of public funds to fraudulently register people with the intention of influencing community decisions has never happened before," Rossello said.

The NPP gubernatorial candidate said he will consult with his advisors on whether to prompt a federal investigation of the case. He said the governor’s order to conduct a local investigation won’t be enough.

Police Disclose Prison Extortion Scheme

By Hilario de Leon of Associated Press

March 15, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN — Criminal Investigations Auxiliary Police Superintendent Jose Caldero has disclosed an extortion scheme in which nine inmates of the Guayama Regional Prison used cellular phones to extort $200,000 from prominent businesspeople.

During a press conference at the Hato Rey police headquarters, Caldero said the inmates’s relatives illegally carried cellular phones into the prison.

The inmates would then use the cell phones to threaten businesspeople if they didn’t give into their blackmail.

"These people became intimidated and followed instructions on how to pay their blackmailers. The payments were made in money orders," Caldero said.

The police chief added that the inmates have been released so that they can be indicted for extortion and organized crime.

Garcia Will Not Quit His Post

March 15, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — U.S. district attorney for Puerto Rico, Humberto "Bert" Garcia, plans to stay in his post for quite some time. This means he could continue to be U.S. district attorney stay in his post for another four-year term if President George W. Bush is re-elected and renominates him.

"I have no intention of leaving at this time. If President Bush loses the election, I will have no other option but to leave, because someone else will be appointed immediately," Garcia said.

June 2 marks the second anniversary of Garcia being in office.

He denied that he was planning to leave his post to pursue becoming a judge in his native state of Texas where he still keeps his main home.

"Did anyone say I had an offer? If anyone has said that I have the intention of leaving in the coming months, they are lying," Garcia said.

Garcia, however, acknowledged that one of his professional career goals is to obtain a nomination to become a judge. He added that this is any prosecutor’s dream.

"During my entire career, that has been one of my goals. Although at this stage of my life since I have just turned 60 years old, I don’t know if I would be interested. It might be different if I were 45," Garcia said.

Garcia added that investigations of white-collar crime and corruption schemes will continue but declined to comment if there were ongoing investigations of alleged irregularities at the Urban Train and the Puerto Rico Coliseum.

National Parks Company To Fight For Isla De Cabras

March 15, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The National Parks Company is considering filing a lawsuit against the Police Department and a shooting club that use Isla de Cabras to detonate bombs and stock ammunition, thus putting in danger the island’s historic facilities.

Company Executive Director Samuel Gonzalez said that with the lawsuit, the agency insists it be given use of the land that was transferred to them on April 8, 2001.

However, he hopes to discuss the matter with Police Superintendent Agustin Cartagena.

"I sent him a letter requesting that the area be cleaned out because we are going to develop a recreational project. We will invest $3 million in it," Gonzalez said.

While the judicial process is being carried out Gonzalez plans to change the almost military ambiance that prevails in the island. The park will be know as a the "Part of the Winds."

"To have a shooting club in a recreational area is not compatible," said Gonzalez.

Gonzalez said Isla de Cabras houses the historic site where leprosy patients were sent to die in the 15th century.

"There are also other installations that were used by the Armed Forces in the Second World War," Gonzalez said.

Coast Guard Detains 236 Dominican Boat People

From The Miami Herald Wire Services

March 14, 2004
Copyright © 2004 MIAMI HERALD WIRE SERVICES. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN -- The U.S. Coast Guard said it had detained 236 Dominican migrants crammed aboard two small boats attempting to reach Puerto Rico.

The two migrant boats were discovered Friday off Puerto Rico's west coast. A Coast Guard cutter detained the migrants, all of whom were likely to be repatriated to their neighboring Spanish-speaking country.

There has been a record rise in the number of Dominicans caught trying to reach Puerto Rico illegally, as the Dominican Republic faces a worsening economic crisis marked by a severe drop in the peso's value and 42 percent inflation. The Coast Guard has detained 2,672 Dominican migrants since Jan. 1, compared to the 1,469 detained during all of 2003.

Balance Puerto Rico News


March 13, 2004
Copyright © 2004 The Allentown Morning Call. All rights reserved. 

There are many good things to write about Puerto Rico but all I have seen in the newspaper in recent weeks has been bad news. It's time for some balance, something positive about the most advanced island in the Caribbean.

For those who don't know much about the island, it has the best hotels, golf, clear-water beaches, fishing and historical sites.

Edward Melendez

Hotel Occupancy Rate Up Compared With March 2003

March 12, 2004
Copyright © 2004 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Tourism Co. Executive Director Jose M. Suarez announced on Friday that Puerto Rico’s hotel occupancy rate has increased five percentage points during the first week of March, compared with the same period in 2003.

When examining this year’s data from January to March 9, the occupancy rate reached 83.1%, an increase of 3.1% compared with the same period in 2003.

Hotel occupancy rate in the metropolitan area increased to 87%. As for the rest of the island, hotel occupancy rate reached 74.9%. The numbers represent increases of 2.2% and 4.4% respectively when compared with the same period in 2003.

"These statistics confirm the expectations for growth in the tourism industry at an international level," Suarez said in a prepared statement.

The tourism chief recalled that Puerto Rico has been able to maintain respectable occupancy rates in the midst of global economic instability.

Increase In Unemployment Reflected In January

March 12, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Department of Labor Statistics Bureau revealed on Friday the results of a January poll that show an 11.3% increase in unemployment; this represents an increase of 1.2% when compared with December 2003.

Labor Secretary Frank Zorrilla said unemployment reached 10.1% in December 2003.

"It is important to remember that January is usually a month with a noticeable increase in unemployment because the jobs related to the Christmas season end," Zorrilla said.

PIP Criticized For Protesting Legislative Hearings

March 12, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — House Judiciary Committee Chairman Charlie Hernandez criticized the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) for refusing to participate in the public hearings to discuss the mechanisms that can be used to resolve the island’s status issue.

For Hernandez, the PIP is following the New Progressive Party (NPP) attitude towards discussing the matter.

"First it was the NPP what hindered the Popular Democratic Party administrations initiatives and declined to participate in the Committee for Unity and Consensus and now it is the PIP that hopes to derail this new initiative proposed by Acevedo Vila and our administration," Hernandez said.

Southern U.S. Trade Association and Puerto Rico Department of Agriculture to Hold Exporter's Information Session

March 11, 2004
Copyright © 2004 Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved. 

U.S. Newswire

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico-- The Southern U.S. Trade Association (SUSTA) is a non-profit trade association providing services and programs to offset the risks of international marketing.

Each year, SUSTA cooperates with the Puerto Rico Department of Agriculture to educate companies with food and agricultural based products about export opportunities. Join us this year on March 31, 2004 for an Exporter's Information Session. Companies will learn how to lower export expenses, meet foreign buyers, participate in industry promotions, and discover the basics of exporting.

In order to participate in SUSTA programs, companies must:

-- Be "small" according to SBA guidelines or be a farm cooperative

-- Document total sales exceeding $100,000

-- Have a product that is at least 50 percent U.S. agricultural origin

-- Market a product under a brand name

-- Label the product as "Product of the USA" or "Made in the USA"

To attend our Exporter's Information Session in Puerto Rico, contact Special Assistant to the Secretary of Agriculture Winda L. Torres Ortiz of the Puerto Rico Department of Agriculture at 787- 724-8494 ext. 3117.

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