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Urban Train Faces Another FBI Inquiry… 5 Municipal Autonomy Laws Signed… Sgt. Gary A. Vaillant Killed In Iraq… Health Dep’t Expands Study Of Metals On Vieques… Hicks Muse To Buy P.R. Cable Co…. For Medina, 9/11 A Bittersweet Date To Remember… Rivera Schatz Says Gracia’s Decision Promotes Corruption…

Fagundo Says Urban Train Faces Another FBI Inquiry

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

SAN JUAN (AP) - Transportation and Public Works Secretary Fernando Fagundo said that U.S. authorities are looking into the Urban Train’s administrative operations, separate from the criminal investigation by the FBI that is already ongoing.

Fagundo said documents the FBI has requested for the criminal investigation only apply to the hiring phase for firms that built the train, agreements signed under the past administration of Pedro Rossello.

He acknowledged that the administrative investigation is headed by the Office of the Inspector General, and covers the past administration as well as the present.

Regarding the first inquiry, Fagundo told a newspaper that the FBI is investigating who decided which firms that constructed the Urban Train got contracts described as disproportionately lucrative.

"There were loaded contracts awarded to contractors in an appalling way," Fagundo said.

Fagundo pointed out that the former secretary of the Transportation and Public Works Department, Sergio Gonzalez, and the New Progressive Party legislator Jose Aponte, supported the investigation when the FBI was focused on the actions of the present administration.

"It pains me that Sergio and Aponte are saying nonsense without knowing," he said.

He said the administrative inquiry is focused on changes in orders and covers the entire administrative history of the Urban Train.

One of the things being investigated in the administrative phase includes an order change that was approved during the previous administration in which Siemens was paid an additional $2 million for bringing several vehicles of the train to the island and they could offer free rides before the general elections in 2000.

"After Siemens brought them, they lost the 2000 election and didn’t want to pay the company," Fagundo said.

Fagundo made his statements in a telephone interview from Washington, where he traveled to meet with federal officials about the Urban Train.

The official asked for meetings with both the federal Transportation Secretary, Norman Mineta, and the executive director of the Federatl Transportation Administration, Jennifer Dorn, to tell them of the importance of public participation in the final phase of work on the train.

The system is in the stage known as "pre-revenue," the final phase before the inauguration of the system.

Fagundo is exploring a plan that would allow the public to use the system for free during weekends, which would allow people to get to know the system, and authorities could continue testing the reliability of the train.

Five Laws Are Signed In Favor Of Municipal Autonomy

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – Interim governor Jose Izquierdo on Tuesday signed five laws that are intended to promote and reinforce the municipal autonomy of the 78 municipalities on the island.

Izquierdo said the most important measure that was approved awards municipalities the highest autonomy possible, providing them the resources necessary for taking on a leading role in their urban, social and economic development.

"Today we are passing the bill that is most historic and most important in the process of attaining full autonomy for the municipalities, which is one of the main promises of this administration," Izquierdo said.

"All the towns have the potential to be autonomous, the old law did not allow towns to aspire to this," he said.

Izquierdo is acting as interim governor while Gov. Sila M. Calderon is in Washington on official business.

Another Puerto Rican Soldier Killed In Iraq

DOD Identifies Army Casualty

September 7, 2004
Copyright © 2004
Federal Information & News Dispatch, Inc. All rights reserved. 

Department of Defense Documents

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Staff Sgt. Gary A. Vaillant, 41, of Trujillo, Puerto Rico, died Sept. 5 in Khalidiya, Iraq, when his tank ran over an improvised explosive device. Vaillant was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 72nd Armor, Camp Casey, Korea.

The incident is under investigation.

Health Department Expands Study Of Metals On Vieques

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

PONCE (AP) – A Health Department study that was initially developed to determine the presence of heavy metals in the children of Vieques has been expanded to include samples that represent all groups of the population.

This was announced Monday by the commissioner for the islands of Vieques and Culebra, Juan R. Fernandez, who predicted that results of the investigation would be ready this month.

"The study of heavy metals has been expanded to include not only children but also the entire Viequenese population, and this has caused the study of the analysis samples that they are making to take a little more time. We are confident that later in September we will have the results," he said.

Fernandez said that 800 samples of hair and blood were taken from the population of 9,106 residents.

Hicks Muse To Buy Puerto Rican Cable Co.

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

DALLAS (AP) -- Dallas investment company Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst Inc. said Tuesday it has agreed to buy a cable television company in Puerto Rico for $155 million in cash.

Centennial Puerto Rico Cable TV Corp. has 73,000 cable television subscribers and 5,000 high-speed Internet customers in southern and western parts of the island, including the cities of Ponce and Mayaguez.

The deal, subject to regulatory approval, is expected to close early next year.

Hicks Muse believes Centennial has ``significant growth potential'' if it provides outstanding customer service, offers a wide selection of video channels and strong high-speed data service, said Peter S. Brodsky, a partner in the Dallas firm.

For Medina, 9/11 A Bittersweet Date To Remember

Bernard Fernandez

September 7, 2004
Copyright © 2004
The Philadelphia Daily News. All rights reserved. 

JOSE MEDINA couldn't wait to celebrate his son Joshua's sixth birthday later that evening when television brought us those gruesome images of hijacked jetliners slamming into the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

"The day the world changed, for all of us who live in this country," said Medina, a welterweight from North Philadelphia by way of his native Puerto Rico.

So now Joshua Medina gets his cake, ice cream and presents on a day U.S. citizens forever will associate with tragedy and outrage.

As a fighter, Jose Medina knows a thing or two about courage and commitment. He marvels at the police officers and firefighters who paid the ultimate price by entering the burning, doomed skyscrapers on 9-11-01 to save as many as they could.

So it was a no-brainer to Medina when his promoter, P.J. Augustine, offered him the choice of taking an ESPN2-televised fight in Uncasville, Conn., on Aug. 27 or fighting a non-televised bout at the Adam's Mark Hotel this Saturday night, his son's ninth birthday and the third anniversary of the day when the world changed again.

"It means a lot," Medina (10-2, 9 KOs), who is paired against Puerto Rico's Juan Cintron (9-2, 9 KOs) in a scheduled eight-rounder, said of the significance of fighting on 9/11. "I'm dedicating this bout to all the fallen heroes at Ground Zero."

Rivera Schatz Says Gracia’s Decision Promotes Corruption

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – The election commissioner for the New Progressive Party, Thomas Rivera Schatz, on Monday asked the president of the State Election Commission, Aurelio Gracia, to revise his decision regarding the donations received by the Popular candidate for governor, Anibal Acevedo Vila, from Dr. Richard Machado.

Rivera Schatz said that without meaning to, the chairman’s decision "promotes the corruption of political campaigns," because it allows candidates and party officials to receive donations and not report them on campaign finance reports.

"(Gracia) is promoting anarchy in the collections; he is giving in to the responsibility that the State Election Commission has to supervise, and is promoting, without wanting to, corruption," he said.

Gracia exonerated the chairman of the Popular Democratic Party who allegedly had violated election law in 1999 by accepting donations higher than $30,000 from Machado.

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