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Statehooder Considered for Ports Post... Former Youth Affairs Employee Arrested... Bhatia Begins At PRFAA... Fortuño’s Family Assigned Security... Urban Train Rides Successful... Retailers Want Different Trade Boss... Mendez To Announce Tax Plans... Vizcarrondo: "Yes" to Sales Tax

Statehooder Considered for Ports Post

January 14, 2005
Copyright © 2005 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vila will evaluate statehood supporter Enrique Cruz, once a manager at American Airlines, to hold the post of executive director of the Ports Authority.

Chief of Staff Aníbal Jose Torres confirmed this information on Thursday and said the one-time possible NPP candidate for resident commissioner is among several names under consideration.

"There are several names, including his, that are being considered," Torres said.

After putting aside his political aspirations in July 2003, Cruz attributed his decision to personal ties he had with the U.S. Republican party here, Luis Fortuño, who eventually ran and was elected to the post over the PDP’s Roberto Prats and PIP’s Edwin Irizarry Mora.

Former Youth Affairs Employee Arrested

January 14, 2005
Copyright © 2005 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Judge Elizabeth Linares, of the San Juan Supreme Court, ordered the arrest of a former employee of the Office of Youth Affairs for allegedly illegally appropriating $38,000 in public funds and depositing them in her personal account.

The designated Justice Secretary, Roberto Sanchez, said Thursday that the accused woman, Janet Salichs Semidey, faces 12 charges of illegal appropriation of public funds and another 12 charges for possession and sale of falsified documents.

"The Justice Department investigation was the product of three lawsuits filed by several participants in the Juvenile Program at the OAJ. They indicated they had not received checks for work done between the years 2000 and 2003," Sanchez said in a statement.

He said the investigation was carried out by Special Agent Edna Cruz, of the FBI. The case was presented by attorneys from the Division of Public Integrity, Carlos Peña and Ignacio Morales.

The judge also imposed a fine of $240,000 on Salichs Semidey, who was not present at the hearing, Sanchez said.

Bhatia Begins At PRFAA

January 13, 2005
Copyright © 2005 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — With the initiatives for the Puerto Rican government in the stimulation package in the U.S. Congress, the new director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, Eduardo Bhatia, on Wednesday began his duties in Washington, D.C.

Because for the first time, the resident commissioner, Luis Fortuño, is from the New Progressive Party, and the governor, Aníbal Acevedo Vila is from the Popular Democratic Party, Bhatia’s duty is to get the most attention for proposals the governor wants to promote.

"The agenda of this office is going to be more active than it was in the past," Bhatia said in newspaper reports.

Bhatia, who was defeated in his run for mayor of San Juan, said his first week on the job will be dedicated to meeting the officials that can help his work with the PRFAA.

Fortuño’s Family Assigned Security

January 13, 2005
Copyright © 2005 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — The designated Police Superintendent, Pedro Toledo, announced Thursday that he had a assigned security escort to the wife and children of Resident Commissioner Luis Fortuño.

Toledo said his decision was necessary so the Fortuño could calmly fulfill his duties in Washington while his family remains in Puerto Rico until they complete their move in May.

"I think it is fair that if he (Fortuño) is there working for us, his wife and children are protected here in Puerto Rico, and later they will go in May the escort will end," Toledo said.

The superintendent said that he was unaware what happened on Monday when Fortuño’s car was robbed and documents and office equipment were taken. Fortuño and his guard were in a restaurant in Barceloneta when the robbery occurred.

Urban Train Rides Successful

January 13, 2005
Copyright © 2005 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — More than 300,000 people have taken a free ride on the Urban Train since it opened in December.

Jack Allison, interim secretary of Transportation and Public Works, called the free rides, which have been offered to citizens to help them get familiar with the train, a "success."

"We began the 'trillitas' the day of the inauguration on Dec. 19, and since then we have transported 319,858 passengers," he said in a statement.

"We are very happy and proud of the response of the citizens, who so far have been satisfied and happy with the services of the Urban Train. Even the comments and suggestions we have received from the users have served to improve the service," he said.

The free rides will continue on Saturdays and Sundays during the month of January.

Retailers Want Different Trade Boss

January 13, 2005
Copyright © 2005 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — The ‘Centro Unido de Detallistas’ (CUD) on Thursday asked Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vila to reconsider the nomination of engineer Ricardo A. Rivera Cardona as director of the Trade and Export Co.

The request was in the form of a letter sent to the governor by the president of the CUD, Enid Toro de Baez, who thinks the person chosen for the post must have vast experience in the area of small and medium-size businesses because the Trade and Export Co. is meant to support this group.

"We think the interests of Rivera Cardona are going to be more directed to large companies, that already have experience in this," he said in a statement.

Nevertheless, he said Rivera Cardona is very qualified to lead agencies such as the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority.

"We think there are other people more familiar with small and medium-size firms, individuals committed to this sector, that know it well and can be of great help. We ask you to consider other people to occupy this post," the letter said.

Mendez To Announce Tax Plans

January 13, 2005
Copyright © 2005 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Before the end of the month, the designated Treasury Secretary, Juan Carlos Méndez, hopes to deliver his recommendations on future tax reform to Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vila.

Mendez said the governor gave him no limitations on how much to implement some type of sales tax.

"The governor has requested that I make an analysis and use my professional judgment with no conditions," he said as he entered the governor’s "Saludo Protocolar" at La Fortaleza on Thursday.

Mendez said he had studied the tax systems of Puerto Rico and the United States many times over.

"I know the virtues and disadvantages of both systems," he said.

He would not answer which type of system he is more inclined to recommend, saying he prefers to study more before making that statement.

A report by the U.S. firm Bearing Point, hired by the administration of former governor Sila M. Calderon, suggested a tax reform that comes under the taxes of contribution on income and establishes a value-added tax (IVA by its Spanish acronym) on all consumer items and many services.

Vizcarrondo: "Yes" to Sales Tax

January 13, 2005
Copyright © 2005 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — The former House president, Vizcarrondo, was receptive Thursday to evaluating different tax options, including the consumer tax known as "sales tax" that was so criticized by Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vila during his election campaign.

"To me it seems all alternatives must be evaluated," Vizcarrondo said as he arrived at La Fortaleza Thursday morning.

He said he thinks it is a "good idea" to establish a tri-partisan committeee to study the tax options.

And when asked if there is a political contradiction to consider the tax opposed by Acevedo Vila, he said "in view of a shared government and with the reality that there a budget that must be covered, we have to look for an answer."

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