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ATTAINMENTS vs. AFFLICTIONS
("Obra vs. Zozobra")
by Luis Davila Colon
August 26, 2000
Sila Calderon and the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) would like you to think that the upcoming elections represent her crusade against corruption and a means to exorcise the demons from government. They want us to vote for them, taking into account only the alleged acts of corruption of the current administration and its officials, and discard all other considerations. As if one could easily disregard the greediness and mishandling of public funds during their previous administrations.
There are five preponderant considerations one must weigh in when faced with an electoral process. Firstly; Does Puerto Rico find itself currently in a better situation than it was in the past?. Secondly; How do the respective parties fare when you compare their records, as well as those of their candidates, in their strategies and attempts to resolve the main problems facing Puerto Rico?. Thirdly; Do they have any new ideas or proposals in their platforms that are promising or attractive?. In the fourth place; How would they directly impact or affect me (the voter)?. Lastly, Am I, or is my family, better off or worse than eight (8) years ago?. Corruption is ONE of the fifteen (15) or so other possible issues or priorities the voters must take into consideration. The problem this lady ("la dona") has is precisely that she has nothing to offer and her record doesnt hold water. Lets do a comparison of different areas of concern for voters:
During the last eight (8) years, under the New Progressive Party (NPP) administration, there was a reduction in type I crimes from 128,874 and 864 murders in 1992, to 81,854 and 568 murders in 1999. Violent crimes were reduced by more than half, from 32,286 back in 1992 to 14,180 in 1999. Under Superintendent Pedro Toledos administration criminality has dwindled for eight (8) consecutive years. This is an unparalleled accomplishment in the islands history. In sharp contrast, under the administration of Rafael Hernandez Colon (RHC) and Sila Calderon Type I crimes rose to astronomical levels, reaching almost 130,000, 864 murders and 32, 286 violent crimes in 1992. Two of Sila Calderons main advisers in the areas of politics and public safety, Carlos Lopez Feliciano and Coronel Jorge Collazo, were the architects of the failed anti-crime initiatives of the RHC administration.
For the first time ever, a universal health plan was given to two million indigents in Puerto Rico, in a revolutionary step undertaken by the New Progressive Party (NPP) when they gave them their health plan card ("la tarjetita de salud"). Not even the United States government has been able to accomplish this feat. Initially it was criticized, then it was praised and more recently it has been maligned. Now it seems that the health reform initiatives undertaken by the Pedro Rossello administration is turning out to be a success in San Juan. Under the New Progressive Party (NPP) administration, the rate of infant immunization almost doubled from 50% to 98%. New reported cases of measles, influenza, gastroenteritis and AIDS (HIV) have decreased by almost half of their previous levels. In the meantime, the much touted health reform Sila Calderon wanted to institute in San Juan never got of the ground, even though that was one of her first promises when she became mayor. The administration she served under, from 1985 to 1992 wreaked havoc in the public health system; there were no medications, treatment, physicians nor preventive medicine for the poor. Her stroke of genius? Converting CDTs (Centros de Tratamiento-Treatment Centers) into Metropolitan Clinics within a twenty-four (24) hour period.
Economy and Employment
The NPP has managed to lower the unemployment rate from 17% to 10%. Economic growth has tripled. The economy, which was formerly dependent on industries known to contaminate the environment, has diversified. Despite all the detractors to ending the corporate tax exemptions formerly granted under "936" (Section 936 of the Federal Internal Revenue Code), corporations started paying federal and state taxes. Salaried employment rose by 180,000. Inflation is under control. Public sector employees received two raises, including significant raises for the police force, teachers and nurses. The Christmas bonus (required by Labor laws in all industries and in public sector employment) was doubled. There were three (3) reductions in the income tax rates . The rates for basic services were frozen for eight (8) years.
Minimum federal salary increases were imposed locally twice, despite strong opposition by the PDP and their industry and commerce cronies. For the first time in close to three (3) decades, the median family income rose. The previously unfulfilled promise to extend the right to unionize to all public sector employees, became a reality under Law 45 of February of 1998. Some duties (taxes imposed on provisions exposed for sales) were eliminated. The use of "flex-time" was instituted. The number of hotels and room-availability duplicated. On the income-tax return forms for families 5 new deductions were added. And, the government payroll remained stable.
Sila Calderon and her party cannot compete with those attainments. During the administration of her current platform director, Ramon Cantero Frau, when he held the post of president of the Governmental Development Bank (GDB) ("Banco Gubernamenta de Fomento-BGF), government showed negative growth, the rate of bankruptcy doubled, salaries were frozen, utilities were raised twice, the amounts paid for the expressway tolls were raised, the construction industry came to a virtual screeching halt, amnesties were granted to tax evaders, a series of revenues were raised by imposing duties on petroleum ("cruditas"); carbonated beverages ("refrescazos") and other goods and services. Under Sila Calderons administration as mayor of San Juan she has done more of the same. She has built some little parks ("parquecitos") and some little squares ("placitas") while raising by more than 33% municipal taxes ("patentes"-sales, real & estate property taxes) after promising she would not raise them.
In the last eight (8) years, the New Progressive Party (NPP) has constructed over 50,000 dwellings for the poor and have granted over 25,000 property titles to individuals (some where squatters while others had never had their properties duly registered). Public housing has undergone renovation, controlled-access was implanted and some were "rescued" by police and National Guard operations (Some public housing projects were in control of gangs and/or drug dealers and these operatives were undertaken to restore control to the residents and law enforcement). Nowhere is the contrast sharper than in this bracket.
On the 14th of April, 1990 (El Nuevo Dia-END article, page 1), the Housing Authority ("Vivienda") pointed out that 200,000 dwellings were needed and that, contrary to the promise made by the PDP administration that they would build 10,000 habitats a year, the government only had the capacity to build 4,000 a year.
On May 16, 1990 (END page 18), the Secretary of the Housing Authority admitted that the promise made by "La Fortaleza" (literally The Fortress but herein refers to the Governors mansion) had been preposterous since constructing 10,000 dwellings in a year was not feasible. The PDP not only left the Housing Authority (formerly known as "CRUV"-"Corporacion de Renovacion Urbana y Vivienda) in bankruptcy, with a debt of $500 million, the management of the public housing projects in the hands of their major party donors and a 200,000 deficit in the number of available housing, but was also only able to build a mere 5,000 dwellings, which represents a tenth of the number constructed during the same span of years by the NPP. That must be why they resort to campaigning on the themes of corruption and government scandals.
The educational system has undergone significant reform under the NPP. The concept of community schools was implemented in a concerned effort to integrate parents and teachers, 150 new schools have been built, the drop-out rate has been reduced by half, 150,000 computers were purchased, the number of students utilizing the school breakfast and lunch programs doubled with a "new menu", English-language instruction has been revised and fortified, and grade point average and achievement scores have improved for all grades and subgroups. The NPP has granted the largest salary increases for teachers in our history. On the other hand, the legacy of the PDP and Sila in this area could not have been worse. "Of a total 1,626 public schools, 1,428 are in a state of disrepair and require major improvements", as published by END on the 7th of August 1999, page 28. The high school drop-out rate hovered around 50%. The average salary of a teacher was $1,200. Three (3) out of four (4) students lacked basic skills. In short, a total disaster.
In addition to the aforementioned attainments by the NPP, one must mention the highways and expressways that are first-rate, the Super-aqueduct, the success of the reorganized Bus Authority ("AMA"-Autoridad Metropolitana de Autobuses), the construction of the infrastructure for the Urban Train ("Tren Urbano"), the elimination of the use of selective power outages, the construction at the public beach in Luquillo of "Mar sin Barreras" (ramps that made accessible and possible for wheel-chaired bound and differently abled individuals to bathe in the ocean), the improvements to the Luis Munoz Marin Airport, the Super-port in the Southern region of the island, the Museum of Art of Puerto Rico, the regional water-works and the expenditure of millions in improvements to the infrastructure. Therefore, it is necessary to compare and contrast. That is the task voters should undertake.
It is evident that Sila cannot compete and does not desire to do so. That is why she wants the voters to focus on the issue of corruption and other demons. You see, the only other alternative allows voters to see how the parties and the candidates records match-up and therein lies her affliction
Translation of Luis Davila Colons column published in "El Vocero" on Saturday, August 26, 2000.