McClintock Seeks To End Corp Discrimination… Rossello Says Hernandez Denton Decided Election… Drugs Blamed For Spiking P.R. Murders… DOJ Supports Bill On School Metal Detectors… UPR Assembly Ends Amid Shouting, Altercations… 3 Drug, Weapons Groups Broken Up… Ruling Could Impact P.R. Pharmacy Sector… AAV Asked To Consider Illegal-Drug Medication Program

Puerto Rico Senate Pres Seeks To End Corp Discrimination

By Rob Wells

April 27, 2005
Copyright © 2005
Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--The president of Puerto Rico's Senate has a message for U.S. companies: if you don't treat the commonwealth equally, we'll boycott your products.

Senate President Kenneth D. McClintock said in an interview he's drafting an administrative order that would forbid Puerto Rico's Senate from doing business with any U.S. company that discriminates against Puerto Rico.

The Senate's budget is about $38 million, a fraction of Puerto Rico's $65 billion economy. But the order would send a message that one of Puerto Rico's top politicians expects U.S. companies to provide the same product offerings and prices to the commonwealth that are available to states such as Hawaii and countries such as Canada and Mexico.

McClintock equated the effort to the economic boycotts South African leader Nelson Mandela launched to halt apartheid.

"We can always refuse to purchase from companies that discriminate," said McClintock, visiting Washington on a lobbying trip.

McClintock cited cases where airlines provide schedules and pricing for the 50 U.S. states, Canada and Mexico, but classify Puerto Rico as an international destination. He also mentioned computer companies that offer prices to U.S. residents on their Web sites that aren't available to Puerto Rican residents.

Puerto Ricans were granted U.S. citizenship in 1917.

His proposal would make the administrative order effective July 1, 2006 and compel the Puerto Rican Senate not to do business with any company that discriminates against the commonwealth. The president of the Senate could sign off on exceptions on a case-by-case basis, he said.

Rossello Says Hernandez Denton Decided Election For Governor

April 26, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — The president of the New Progressive Party (NPP), Pedro Rossello, on Tuesday said that the chief justice of the Supreme Court, Federico Hernandez Denton, decided the election conflict in favor of Anibal Acevedo Vila.

Rossello, who said that he won the general elections in 2004, said in a radio interview that "by one vote, an illegitimate governor was illegally certified."

He said that "this vote was from the president of the Supreme Court who came here" and in a quick decision, decided the election for governor.

Rossello said that the elections of the last year were won by the NPP and thanks should be given to the general secretary of the party, Thomas Rivera Schatz, whose work he praised.

Drugs Blamed For Spiking Puerto Rico Murders

By Iñaki Estivaliz.

April 26, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved. 

San Juan, Apr 26 (EFE).- Drug trafficking is being blamed for the abundance of murders in Puerto Rico, a U.S. commonwealth with a homicide rate three times that of the country as a whole.

An average of two killings occur every day in Puerto Rico, which has a population of 3.8 million, and the island is surpassed only by Washington, D.C., as the nation's murder capital.

An FBI report said 790 murders were committed in Puerto Rico in 2004, or about 2.1 for every 10,000 residents.

So far in 2005, 246 people have been murdered in the island.

The majority of killings were linked to drug trafficking and were confined to neighborhoods and "hamlets" where the drug trade thrives.

"Many cases remain unsolved due to a lack of witnesses, because of fear of being murdered by hired gunmen from the place (where drugs are sold), or their own neighbors," Jose Lozada Medina, director of the Puerto Rico Justice Department's Special Investigations Bureau (NIE), told EFE.

Drug-related violence, however, also regularly claims the lives of the innocent.

Last December, Puerto Rico Justice Department chief prosecutor of juvenile offenses Antonio Barcelo Jimenez, the nephew of former Gov. Carlos Romero Barcelo, was killed along with two of his daughters, ages 15 and 24, when he drove into a shootout between drug traffickers in a San Juan neighborhood.

The fact that Puerto Rico's average homicide rate is three times that of the total U.S. mainland and four times that of the European Union is a "catastrophe," according to NIE chief Lozada, who blamed the situation on the island's role as "a bridge" in the drug trade linking Colombia, Central America and the United States.

To stem the violence, Lozada said, the first step that needs to be taken is to "more closely inspect shipping containers to prevent the entry of arms and illegal drugs."

Secondly, authorities need to crack down on "the big fish" in the drug trade, Lozada said.

Lozada said the NIE was investigating the businesses that drug kingpins use to launder money and probing their spending to see if their lifestyles match the incomes they report.

"In the Llorens Torres (housing project) we found a 40-foot yacht worth $300,000 whose owner was not paying taxes because he was unemployed," Lozada said.

The NIE's work is slower than pure police work because it targets organizations using undercover agents who need time to penetrate these groups, which are often made up exclusively of long-time residents of a certain neighborhood, Lozada said.

The bureau, moreover, must obtain permission for surveillance operations and work closely with prosecutors every step of the way in an investigation.

Within six or seven months, these operations will lead to the dismantling of several groups, Lozada said.

UPR Assembly Ends Amid Shouting, Altercations

April 26, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — The president of the General Student Council, Nina Valedon, on Tuesday abruptly ended the General Assembly of students held at Pedrin Zorrilla Coliseum to decide if the strike by University of Puerto Rico students at the Rio Piedras campus should continue.

Meanwhile, thousands of students cried out for the end of the strike, demanding to continue the assembly that got out of control of the student leaders.

Valedon was attacked with a microphone stand when she tried to start the assembly, and was removed from the area as a security measure.

Later, she returned to the coliseum in a second attempt to take control of the event.

After several minutes, Valedon, who is considered an illegitimate leader of the Student Council by students who favor continuing the strike, ended the meeting and again was removed from the area.

"We are the majority, we are the majority," yelled students seeking the end of the strike.

Justice Dept. Supports Bill On School Metal Detectors

April 26, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — The Justice Department on Tuesday said it supported Senate Bill 391, which proposed using security cameras and metal detectors at schools.

Betzaida Quiñones, a Justice Department representative, said Tuesday before the Senate Public Security Committee that "although it is constitutionally permissible to sue the metal detectors in schools in an effort to impede the entrance of weapons, it is imperative to establish some guidelines," for security guards and police.

She said, according to a press statement, tht the school must notify students in an appropriate and reasonable way that the detectors will be used, and maintain an inspection and maintenance program.

Three Drug, Weapons Groups Are Broken Up In Special Operation

April 26, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — The Drugs and Weapons Unit of the Special Investigation Bureau carried out "Operation Northeast" which produced 41 charges against 15 people, on whom bail was imposed of more than $4.415 million.

This was announced Tuesday by Justice Secretary Roberto Sanchez Ramos, who said in a statement that the investigations were carried out throughout the year in Trujillo Alto, Gurabo, Carolina and Guaynabo.

He said that "as part of the investigation three cells were broken up, two of which were dedicated to the sale and distribution of controlled substances and the other to the sale of firearms.

During the investigation 22 and a half pounds of marijuana was bought, an eighth of heroin, and five weapons, each one with its respective clips and ammunition.

The cost of the evidence is higher than $50,570, and they also said that annual sales for the three cells together exceeded $5.2 million.

Court Ruling Could Have Major Effect on Puerto Rican Pharmacy Sector

Encarna Nunez-Diaz

April 26, 2005
Copyright © 2005
Global Insight Limited. All rights reserved. 

The local newspaper El Vocero has reported that the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston (US) has declared the Certificate of Need and Convenience Certificates Law currently in force in Puerto Rico as unconstitutional. The court ruled that this law, which obliges companies looking to open pharmacies on the island to meet certain requirements, fails to observe the US constitution, since it affects interstate commerce. Puerto Rico was the only jurisdiction in the US to still apply its certificate of need law to pharmacies, since the US Congress repealed this law in 1986.

Significance: The ruling gives the green light for US drugstore chain Walgreen to continue its expansion plans in Puerto Rico, as it will not have to obtain a certificate of need and convenience (CNC) for every new outlet opened on the island. The company, which has a workforce of 3,000 people in Puerto Rico, claims that the ruling is highly beneficial for both consumers and the local pharmacy sector, as it will promote competition. According to Walgreen, domestic sales of prescribed medicines have trebled during the last 10 years, whereas the number of pharmacies has only increased by 1.6%.

Meanwhile, the Puerto Rican association of community pharmacies (AFC) and the association of small retailers (CUD) have strongly opposed the court's decision, highlighting the necessity of legal regulations to control the local pharmaceutical sector. Both associations have added that many small and community pharmacies will be affected by the ruling, as pharmacy chains are likely to expand their operations and monopolise the sector. There are currently 1,125 pharmacies operating in Puerto Rico, including the major chains Walgreens, El Amal and Farmacias Plaza, and the supermarkets Wal-Mart, Sam's Club and K-Mart, among others. It is claimed that the island has the highest ratio of pharmacies of any US jurisdiction, with one per 3,400 people; this compares to a US average of one every 5,600 people.

Acevedo Vila Asked To Consider Illegal-Drug Medication Program

April 25, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved. 

PONCE (EFE) — The president of the Association of Police Officers, Jose Taboada de Jesus, asked Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila to evaluate the implementation of a illegal-drug medication project to deal with the problem of drug trafficking on the island.

According to Taboada de Jesus, nearly 90 percent of violent crimes on the island are related to drug trafficking, and efforts to deal with it in the past have failed, which is why it is necessary to make a change in the policy related to the problem.

"My call to the governor is to seriously consider the establishment of a pilot plan of medication for illegal drugs, as part of a program to combat the serious problem of the use of controlled substances on the island," Taboada de Jesus said in a statement.

The union president said illegal-drug medication is supposed to significantly increase methadone programs and others that treat drug addicts as sick patients and not as criminals.

Taboada de Jesus said medicating for drugs is a method to use against drug trafficking that is backed by many criminologists, social workers and lawyers.

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