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Rullan Defends Mental Health Services… Santini Favors Municipal Control Of Education…Doral: Robust… A Latin Beat… 3 Rob Loomis Fargo of $900k… New Vieques Rte 2 Years Off…$320k Collected For Haiti… Governor Vetoes Judicial Unionization; NPP Proposes Override… Gov’t Owes Sor Isolina Ferre Centers $1.4m… Miranda: Vieques Is Better Off, No Date Set For Cleanup OK… Cruz Packs Church… In 1900, 1 Year Ago

Rullan Clarifies Mental Health Report

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – Health Secretary Johnny Rullan said on Monday that the most recent report of the Federal Monitor David Helfeld ignores the constant efforts of the government to improve mental health services in Puerto Rico.

The report that Rullan was referring to points out that the mental health institutions on the island are kept in a critical state, and some of them are getting worse because of overcrowding, and lack of medical personnel and funds.

"The monitor’s report is based on incorrect information and does not take into consideration the changes that came with the implementation of the Health Reform" said Rullan in a press release.

For Rullan, Helfeld’s opinions do not reflect the reality of the health system or the collaboration between the Federal Court and the government.

He explained that the case of Navarro Ayala was reopened on April 2003 because of allegations that there was a proposal to reduce funds to the Psychiatric Hospital of Rio Piedras, that the funds for the hospital had been diverted to other service areas, and that the Center of Mental Health of San Patricio was going to be closed.

"The allegations, which motivated the reopening of the case in 2003 have been shown to be incapable of being saubstantiated" said Rullan.

The Helfeld report evaluates the mental health services over the past four months, and suggest that the Federal Court examine the possibility of imposing disciplinary measures against the Department of Health for the constant failure to comply with the stipulations of the case initiated in 1974.

Helfeld submitted his evaluations on Friday, after the Department of Heath presented a motion to dismiss the case, claiming that it had followed all the stipulations imposed by the court.

The monitor explains that the Department of Health has not complied with the plan approved by the court on February 27,1996.

In the past the Health Department has had to pay fines because reports by the Federal Monitor.

Helfeld requested in the report that the Health Department be ordered to put right the deficiencies with which the program operates before July, and that it establish a remedial plan stet will allow the restoration of the components of the plan that were harmed by the negligence of the government, and the restructuring of services in the Heath Reform.

It also recommends that a person be designated to devise a genuine program of mental health and rehabilitation, and will report to the Health Department, but with complete authority to take decisions and manage the system.

Meanwhile Rullan said that the budget for the Psychiatric Hospital of Rio Piedras has been increased this year to $21.4 million, of which $1.5 million come from paid bills. For the next year, the hospital will have a budget of $23.4 millions.

The Center of Mental Health of San Patricio, has $4.5 million this year in combined federal and state funds. For next year it will have $4.8 millions exclusively in state funds, and with an unspecified amount in federal funds.

Santini Favors Municipal Control Of Education

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – San Juan Mayor, Jorge Santini, on Monday reiterated his approval of giving control of education to municipal authorities and stated that he will ask the Department of Education to hand over control of some schools to the municipality of San Juan.

Santini said that during the next few days he will be meeting with Secretary of Education, Cesar Rey, to discuss the matter. He did not reveal the date and time when the meeting would take place.

The City of San Juan has attempted fruitlessly to gain control of Miguel Such Vocational School in Rio Piedras, a move opposed by the Department of Education.

"Municipalities are very big and need to get involved in public education," said Santini in a press conference to announce the opening of an art exhibit at Jose Rivera de Cupey School, in Rio Piedras.

"What municipal control aims to do is gain control of a few schools so that we can take care of day-to-day operations and better educational models," added Santini.

He stated that if the present administration does not give control of some schools to the city, he will continue to ask the next administration."

Santini pledged to a group of students that he would make sure their school was properly supplied.

Doral: Robust In San Juan

By Gene G. Marcial

May 3, 2004
Copyright © 2004 McGraw-Hill, Inc. All rights reserved. 


Puerto Rico is a place not only for sun but also for stock winners. So says Donald Gimbel of investment bank Carret, which has accumulated shares of San Juan's Doral Financial (DLR).

Among Puerto Rican banks, Doral is No. 4 in assets but No. 1 in home mortgage originations. A chronic housing shortage on the island during a strong economy is fueling steady demand for mortgages. Doral's stock climbed from 26 last August to 38 in early April -- before investor fears of a rise in interest rates pulled it down to 32.74 ``This is a chance to buy before the stock resumes its upward spiral, driven by Doral's dynamic 30% growth,'' says Gimbel. He argues that even if rates edge higher, Doral's growth won't wilt. He sees the stock hitting 60 in a year. The stock is cheap, he says -- at 8.8 times projected 2004 earnings and 7.5 times 2005 estimates.

A Latin Beat

By Daniella Aird

May 3, 2004
Copyright © 2004 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. All rights reserved. 

Strains of mariachi music enveloped Calder Race Course on Sunday during Fiesta Latina, with thousands of people gathering to hear and taste Hispanic culture.

About 5,000 people came to the Miami-Dade park, where popular Puerto Rican artist Tito Rojas was the main act at the second-annual fiesta. Some danced to the thumping beats, while others ate plates full of Latin food, including casaba, arepas and fried plantains. For the children, the gathering offered carnival games, a merry-go-round and a petting zoo featuring miniature horses Thunder and Lightning.

Proceeds went to the 2004 Miss Puerto Rico USA Pageant of South Florida, said event organizer Luis De Rosa, who is president of the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce of Miami-Dade County.

Rojas is a big draw in the Hispanic community, Rosa said.

"He's been around for, like, 25 years," De Rosa said. "He's an institution to Puerto Ricans and listeners of salsa and meringue. We've been getting calls as far as Central Florida from people wanting to see him."

Three Armed Men Rob Loomis Fargo Truck

May 2, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – On Friday three masked assailants robbed a Loomis Fargo armored truck at a Texaco gas station on road 831 in Bayamon, and escaped with $900,000, authorities said.

A Loomis Fargo employees had just collected money from the Texaco gas station when two armed men approached in a Dodge Caravan van, and announced the robbery, said the Police.

A third man stayed in the van while his companions placed the money into bags, according to the Bayamon Police

No injuries were reported.

The police said the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had assumed jurisdiction of the case.

The van in which the assailants escaped, was stolen, and was found at Jacinto Street in Bayamon, added the authorities.

After the incident the Loomis Fargo employees called the Police from the gas station to report the theft.

New Route To Vieques To Be Ready In Two Years

May 1, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Ports Authority Director Miguel Soto Lacourt announced that a shorter route to Vieques should be available to passengers in two years.

The new route would connect the Mosquito Bay in the western coast of Vieques with Roosevelt Roads naval base in Ceiba. Soto Lacourt said the government would rehabilitate the Mosquito Bay dock formerly used by the U.S. Navy.

Soto Lacourt said the route will reduce travel time from 90 minutes to 35 minutes.

"This will allow us to increase the number of trips," Soto Lacourt said.

Soto Lacourt added that the Navy is developing the project at a cost of $16.5 million which will be deducted from the $40 million fund to improve Vieques’ infrastructure.

Puerto Rico Collects Around $320,000 For Haiti

May 1, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The local government has collected more than $320,000 as part of a campaign to aid Haiti. Political instability has deteriorated the living conditions of more than 8 million people living in the neighboring Caribbean country.

Secretary of State Jose Izquierdo made the announcement on Friday.

Izquierdo said they were able to collect the money in less than a month with the help of government and private employees who volunteered in the relief campaign.

"The need of others is our concern. When a neighboring country is stricken with pain, that is when we must show our solidarity," Izquierdo said during a ceremony in which he handed out the money to the American Red Cross.

Izquierdo said the Red Cross will send the money to its international chapter for distribution. The money will be used to meet the most pressing needs of the Haitian population.

Governor Vetoes Judicial Unionization; NPP Proposes Override

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

May 1, 2004
Copyright © 2004 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

On Friday, Gov. Sila Calderon vetoed the bill that would have allowed Judical Branch employees to form a union. The governor’s move had been expected especially after Puerto Rican Supreme Court Chief Justice Miriam Naveira reiterated her opposition to the bill.

New Progressive Party (NPP) Senate minority leader Kenneth McClintock immediately reiterated his petition to override the governor’s veto to the bill which had been unanimously approved at the Senate and had been okayed by a wide majority at the House.

"We invite Popular Democratic Party legislators to make history because our cause is a just cause. Nothing has been said that we haven’t heard before and the Constitution gives us the power to do justice," McClintock told WOW News.

The governor announced her decision in a prepared statement late Friday afternoon. She said she didn’t believe it would be wise to subject the Judicial Branch to union negotiations because they could hinder the system's performance. She also said they could also undermine the people’s trust in local courts.

"The power of the Supreme Court chief justice is of such importance that it was included in the Commonwealth’s Constitution to protect it from social changes and the interference from other branches," Calderon said.

The Constitution, however, allows the Legislative Assembly to override the governor’s veto.

According to McClintock, he has been the only legislator in Puerto Rico to achieve a unanimous vote to override a governor’s veto since 1952.

McClintock said that in 1999 the Senate approved a motion to override Gov. Pedro Rossello’s veto, but it didn’t pass at the House.

Acevedo Vila Presents Breakdown Of $20,000 Donation

May 1, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – On Friday, Popular Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial candidate Anibal Acevedo Vila presented a detailed breakdown of how he allegedly spent the $20,000 donation Dr. Richard Machado gave him in March 1999.

In a late afternoon press conference, Acevedo Vila submitted copies of the financial statements of the account in which he had deposited the $20,000. The Banco Santander account belonged to a political action committee known as Friends of Acevedo Vila 1996.

Acevedo Vila also presented copies of the financial statements of the credit card he used to pay for expenses related to lobbying efforts against statehood and against the Young Bill in U.S. Congress.

According to Acevedo Vila, the $20,000 were used to pay for approximately $30,000 that had been charged to his personal American Express credit card. He said the $30,000 resulted from transportation expenses, cellular phone bills, and dozens of trips to Washington as part of the lobbying efforts.

The legality of Machado’s donation has raised doubts among the opposition because Acevedo Vila never reported the $20,000 to the State Elections Commission or to any other agency.

Government In Default On Payment To Sor Isolina Ferre Centers

April 30, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

PONCE (AP) – The government owes more than $1.4 million to Sor Isolina Ferre centers for the social, educational, and housing services that the entity provides.

Sor Isolina Ferre Center Director Jose Luis Diaz revealed the information on Friday and added that the delay is financially damaging to the entity.

"One of the greatest problems are delays in reimbursements. The government owes us $1.4 million," said Diaz during an interview with the AP.

Diaz indicated that Sor Isolina Ferre centers have had to pay approximately $50,000 in interests because of the government’s delay in payment.

Several government agencies have hired the centers’ services.

According to Diaz’s figures, the Department of Education owes the center $362,000; the Department of the Family, $809,000; the Justice Department, $17,000; and the municipality of San Juan, $14,000. Other agencies owe $202,000.

Seventy-seven percent of the $10 million that the Sor Isolina Ferre centers receive come from federal funds.

Diaz added that only 10% of the funds they receive are invested in payroll and operational costs. He said 90% of the money is used to provide direct service.

Miranda: Vieques Is Better Off Now Than A Year Ago

By WOW News Staff & Wire Reports

April 30, 2004
Copyright © 2004 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

The recent complaints of Vieques residents prompted Chief of Staff Cesar Miranda to claim on Friday that the island municipality is better off now than a year ago.

Miranda said he understands the objections of several sectors of the Vieques community that have accused the government of not fulfilling its promises to help them.

"The projects that were created have been working and many Viequenses have been participating," said Miranda during a press conference at La Fortaleza on Friday.

However, Miranda acknowledged that Vieques residents make a point which must be heard.

He said it is understandable that Viequenses may want to see immediate changes after decades of withstanding military exercises. However, he said dealing with federal bureaucracy is complicated and it takes time.

Miranda also said Gov. Sila Calderon’s administration has invested $105 millions in Vieques. He added that the government would spend $19 million more by the end of its four-year term.

Vieques Mayor Damaso Serrano, who was also present at La Fortaleza on Friday, said he was completely satisfied with the work done on the island municipality.

On another note, Miranda said the inclusion of Culebra in the request to clean up former military land have stalled the progress with Vieques.

Miranda explained that the U.S. Army has opposed the inclusion of Culebra in the list of priorities of the Environmental Protection Agency citing a release of responsibilities that was signed three decades ago.

Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez said she is confident that the local government’s petition will prevail at the U.S. Management & Budget Office.

"This is only a ploy to evade their legal responsibility," Rodriguez said.

No Date For Approval Of Vieques And Culebra Cleanup

April 30, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The evaluation being conducted by the United States Budget and Management Office on the proposal to include the cleanup of former military training grounds in Vieques and Culebra, by way of the Federal Superfund Law, has yet to be scheduled for conclusion.

Federal Budget and Management Office spokesman, Chad Kolton, evaded setting a date for the conclusion of the process, which is awaited by Puerto Rico’s government and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) so they may determine a course of action in the decontamination and cleanup of sites formerly occupied by the US Navy.

"We have the proposal and it is under analysis, but we cannot set a time frame for its review," said Kolton.

Resident Commissioner, Anibal Acevedo Vila; Secretary of Justice, Anabelle Rodriguez, and the Chairman of the Environmental Quality Committee, Esteban Mujica, defended the inclusion of Vieques and Culebra cleanup initiatives in the list of Superfund Projects in a separate meeting held with military officials and the Army Corps of Engineers.

"The Navy must assume its responsibility for the cleanup of Vieques and Culebra," said Acevedo Vila, saying that one of the meetings was with US Army Deputy Assistant Secretary, Ray Fatz.

Last December the EPA granted the preliminary approval to use the Superfund Law to regulate the cleanup and decontamination process of former military testing grounds in Vieques and Culebra.

Cruz Packs Church


April 30, 2004
Copyright © 2004 North of England Newspapers. All rights reserved. 

The Northern Echo

NEARLY 1,000 people packed a small North-East church over two nights to hear legendary preacher Nicky Cruz.

The former New York gang leader told his remarkable story at the Christian Life Centre, in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham.

It was one of only three venues on his first tour of the UK for nine years and attracted people from as far away as Liverpool and Manchester.

Mr Cruz told his life story - from his hate-filled childhood with his witchcraftpractising parents in Puerto Rico to his years as the notorious leader of the Brooklyn street gang known as the Mau Maus. He also told of his meeting with scrawny street-preacher David Wilkerson, who helped him turn his back on a life of drugs, violence and bloodshed and embrace Christianity.

In 1900, One Year Ago

Today in History - April 30

April 29, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

Today's Highlight in History:

In 1900, Hawaii was organized as a U.S. territory.

One year ago: The U.S. Navy withdrew from its disputed Vieques bombing range in Puerto Rico, prompting celebrations by islanders.

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