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Acevedo: I Did Nothing Wrong, Despite SEC’s Decision… Berrios Blasts Proposed Capital Gains Cut… Hotel Occupancy At 5 Yr. High… New Command At Ft. Buchanan… Osvaldo Rios Gets 3 Mos. In Jail… Telephone Subsidy Program Launched… Rio Piedras’ Retailers Face Difficulties… Acevedo Gets 15 Days To Explain Donations… Calderon Nixes Gay Marriages

Acevedo Vila: I Did Nothing Wrong, Despite SEC’s Decision

By WOW News Staff

July 8, 2004
Copyright © 2004
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Regardless of the State Elections Commission (SEC) decision to (permit) Anibal Acevedo Vila to contest a negative audit report, the PDP president reiterated that he did nothing wrong when he accepted up to $30,000 in donations from former pre-candidate for San Juan mayor, Richard Machado in 1999.

"Yesterday it was made clear that the auditor’s report was preliminary. It was clear that the PDP was not given the opportunity to react to it. The auditor’s report confirms that I didn’t violate the law," Acevedo Vila said on Thursday.

The PDP gubernatorial candidate made his statement regarding a report in which Electoral Auditor Luis F. Mendoza said Acevedo Vila may have violated the law when he accepted up to $30,000 from Machado.

The PDP has insisted on their version that Machado gave the money to help the PDP pay for its lobbying efforts against the Young Bill that was meant to solve the status issue of the island as well as for their efforts to guarantee the defeat of the New Progressive Party’s statehood option in the 1998 plebiscite.

Acevedo Vila reiterated what PDP Electoral Commissioner Gerardo Cruz has said so far: that he was not a candidate at the time of the donation; that the funds were used for efforts related to the Young Bill and the referendum of 1998; and therefore, there was no limit on fund raising and no need to report the money.

"I don’t regret anything I’ve done to defend Puerto Rico and stop the Young Bill and achieve the triumph of the fifth column," said Acevedo Vila, who also used the opportunity to launch attacks at NPP gubernatorial candidate Pedro Rossello and the corruption cases of the past administration.

Acevedo Vila has been given 15 days to present an argument against the report. On Thursday he declined to comment on what course of action he would take if the SEC rules against him.

Outrage Over Governor’s Proposed Capital Gains Bill

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

SAN JUAN (AP) — Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) gubernatorial candidate Ruben Berrios blasted Gov. Sila Calderon’s administration for submitting a bill to the legislative assembly that would lower applicable taxes on capital gains from 10% to 5%.

Berrios said that only the Governor’s own financial advisors, as well as corporate and individual investors, will benefit from the bill, which is being considered in the extraordinary legislative session.

"This bill represents a gross robbery to our treasury and a scandalous gift to special interest. In fact, it becomes the mother of all pork barrels for the benefit of a privileged few," said Berrios in a press conference.

Berrios asked the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) legislative majority to refrain from becoming the governor’s rubber stamp and to shoot down the bill.

He reminded that in 2001 Calderon’s administration legislated a reduction tax rates on capitol gains from 20% to 10%, a move that benefited people with large sums of capital while placing a larger burden on the middle class.

Hotel Industry Registers Highest Room Occupancy In Five Years

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

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Puerto Rico Tourism Co. announced on Thursday that at the end of the 2004 fiscal year they had registered the highest hotel occupancy rate in five years.

Tourism Co. Executive Director Jose M. Suarez said that occupancy rates for the 2004 fiscal year, which ended on June 30, stood at 79.1%; surpassing 2000’s rates by 9%.

"If we compare present rates with last year’s 74.2%, we are able to appreciate a 4.9 jump. However, these rates are even more remarkable if we compare them to 2000-2001 rates, which reported rates at 69.8%, showing that we have surpassed those by 9.3 points," said Suarez in prepared statement.

For Suarez, the rise in occupancy is part of a wither recovery of the U.S. economy as well as the hosting of large events such as Mayor League Baseball Games and the Grand Prix, to name a few.

"The increase is also due to those who promoted Puerto Rico as a tourist destination, both locally and abroad, even when current events threatened the industry," he added.

Likewise, Suarez said that this past fourth of July weekend there was a 92.7%, which surpasses last year’s rate by 5.2 points.

He explained that geographically, occupancy rates are 91.3% in the metropolitan area and 95% island wide.

As Of Friday Fort Buchanan Will Be Under New Command

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

SAN JUAN (AP) — During a military ceremony on Friday, which will be attended by military personnel from the Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, command of Fort Buchanan will he handed over to Ohio native, Colonel Stephen Ackman.

Col. Ackman will assume command of the Fort from Col. Edward Short, who held command from July 8, 2002, thus informed Buchanan spokesman Jose Pagan.

The recently appointed officer will have the task of mobilizing National Guard and Reserve Units from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

During the two years that Short held command of Buchanan he mobilized troops from both U.S. territories to different military operations.

The military ceremony, to be held at 10:00 Friday morning in Fort Buchanan, will be attended by a National Guard unit from the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Also in attendance will be Officers from the Reserve Command and Installation Management Agency, which administers Fort Buchanan.

Before being given command of Buchanan, was Chief of Staff of the Central Command Directorate with its headquarters in MacDill Airbase in Florida.

Ackman, who has a doctorate in Strategic Studies from the Army War College, has been a strategic and concept analyst in the General Army Headquarters in the Pentagon, said Pagan.

Three-Month Sentence For Osvaldo Rios

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

SAN JUAN (AP) — Puerto Rican actor Osvaldo Rios was sentenced on Thursday to three months in jail for beating former girlfriend Daisy Annette Santiago in 1996.

Upon hearing the verdict read by Superior Judge Angel Ramirez, Rios looked up and released a heavy sigh.

Rios faced a maximum sentence of 18 months and minimum of nine months for his domestic violence conviction.

He could have also been redirected to a three year outreach program, at the discretion of Judge Ramirez.

Rios, was arrested in Miami while he was recording the soap opera "Angel Rebelde."

Judge Angel Ramirez allowed Rios to remain under house arrest after being released from the hospital, this after receiving medical certification of the actor’s medical problems.

In June 2003, a jury convicted the actor on one count of domestic violence for beating former girlfriend Daisy Annette Santiago in 1996 at the couple’s then Isla Verde home.

PRT And Family Dept. Launch Telephone Subsidy Program

July 7, 2004
Copyright © 2004
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Puerto Rico Telephone (PRT) announced on Wednesday the launching of the Automatic Subscription Program of the Guaranteed Access subsidy (Lifeline) in collaboration with the Family Department.

The new initiative qualifies 400,000 participants of the Nutritional Assistance Program, automatically known as PAN, for subsidized telephone service.

PRT developed the program following an order handed down by the Telecommunication Regulation Board, in compliance with Law 242 signed on October 9, 2002, which requires for automatic subscription of all PAN recipients to the Lifeline program.

"The traditional telephone line has been transformed into a daily tool…It represents access to the world, to education, job opportunities, as well as access to a host of services in our community," said PRT President and CEO Cristina Lambert.

For her part, Deputy Family Secretary Marta Elsa Fernandez said this benefit represents an indispensable service for low income families.

People who receive assistance from PAN, Medicaid, Energy Assistance Program, and Section 8 housing subsidies are eligible for the program.

Difficult Situation For Retailers In Rio Piedras’ Center

July 7, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The United Retailers Center (URC) urged both municipal and island officials to provide economic aid to Rio Piedras retailers who are loosing the ability to operate in the areas historic center, many of whom will have to close their doors.

URC President Enid Toro said that 32 small businesses in Rio Piedras historic center have reduced staff, limited hours of operation, and some have even closed down all together.

"We are urging the Municipal and central government to provide quick aid to these retailers, they are in need of decisive action," said Toro.

Toro blames renovations to the historic center for the dwindling number of shoppers who visit the Paseo de Diego shopping district.

She highlighted that the explosion of the Humberto Vidal building and the construction of the Urban Train have affected area stores for the last eight years.

"We are not opposed to a remodeling of the area, but the efforts lack sound planning. The efforts denote lackluster organization from contractors to the central government,’ she added.

Toro highlighted that the delayed opening f the train have worsened conditions.

Toro said the sidewalks are in such a bad shape that they pose a threat and are prone to people falling, therefore the government could face more lawsuits.

Cynthia Rodriguez, who decided to close down her jewelry store until the works are completed said they have met several times with government officials but have failed to reach any agreement.

"I was operating with 60% of losses for which I was forced to shut down until the construction is completed," said Rodriguez.

Waldo Lopez, owner of a hardware store and Angel Diaz owner of a mobile phones shop also expressed their concerns for the bad conditions of Rio Piedras.

"The noise caused by these machines and the cracked sidewalks, have significantly affected our economy," said Toro.

Acevedo Vila Given 15 Days To Explain Donations

July 7, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The State Elections Commission (SEC) gave the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) 15 days to present an argument against a report from the Electoral Auditor, which accuses Anibal Acevedo Vila of alleged violations of the Electoral Law for donations he received in 1999.

PDP Electoral Commissioner Gerardo Cruz argues that Acevedo Vila did not break any laws when he accepted a $30,000 donation from Richard Machado because at that time he was not a candidate for public office.

"The Auditor himself recognizes that he did not have to report the donations because he was not running for political office , yet on the other hand he said that they had to be reported because Anibal was PDP President. That demonstrates one thing, that the Auditor is confused," said Cruz in prepared statement.

He also said that Electoral Auditor Luis F. Mendoza got it wrong when he categorized lobbying efforts against the Young Bill, for which the money was used, as political activities.

The SEC clarified that by granting a 15 day deadline, Cruz’ attempts to dismiss complaints lodged by New Progressive Party (NPP) and Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) Electoral Commissioners will be paralyzed.

Calderon Disapproves Of Gay Marriages

July 7, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Gov. Sila Calderon rejected the possibility of ever acknowledging gay marriages in Puerto Rico.

That was Calderon’s reaction to the announcement Puerto Rico For All President Pedro Julio Serrano made on Tuesday regarding his plan to marry his long-time companion Leo de Jesus in Massachusetts.

Serrano said he would then come to the island to challenge the local ban on gay marriages.

"Puerto Rican law doesn’t allow marriages among members of the same sex and I personally support that law," said Calderon in a press conference.

Serrano and De Jesus also announced that once married, they would hold a religious ceremony in Puerto Rico and begin the process to adopt a black Puerto Rican girl.

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