AAV Vows To Use Special Powers During Budget Impasse Condom Distribution Opposed Marketplace Vendors Evicted... NPP Leaders Dismiss Govt Budget Claims Dispute Disrupts Senate Session Low Recruiting Rates Justified Hwy Tolls Hike Eyed Cynthias 2nd PRTC Sale Criticized Fallen Heroes Remembered $100K UPR Nursing Grant Tax Revenues Up Coalition Fights Death Penalty Fewer Murders
Governors Message Presses For Approval Of Budget
June 1, 2005
SAN JUAN (EFE) Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila on Tuesday announced the creation of a committee that would serve as mediator between the executive and legislative branches to iron out differences regarding the recommended budget for fiscal year 2005-06.
During a televised message, Acevedo Vila said he would issue a series of executive orders for which the Legislative Assemblys intervention wouldnt be needed.
"These actions will be aimed at providing police with the resources they need and allocating the Medical Center with the funds it urgently needs," Acevedo Vila said.
The governor also said he intends to attack tax evasion, help local businesses, and help the Education Department improve schools.
He said he would do all this by June 30.
Acevedo Vila added that if the proposed budget isnt approved by then, he would use everything in his power as governor to make sure the government complies with its mission to provide the funds that people need.
Governor To Use Special Powers
June 2, 2005
SAN JUAN -- Puerto Rico's governor vowed Wednesday to use his decree powers to sidestep the opposition-controlled legislature, which has been mired in political infighting and has refused to approve his budget.
Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá said he would give several executive orders this month to provide funding for the police, public hospitals and the Education Department.
Normally, the governor would seek approval from the legislature , but Acevedo Vilá said he is legally allowed to act by decree.
The governor criticized the pro-statehood New Progressive Party -- which has a majority in both the Senate and the House of Deputies -- for paralyzing the legislature with its highly divisive fight over who should be Senate president.
Baquero Opposes Distribution Of Condoms
June 1, 2005
SAN JUAN (EFE) Education Secretary-designate Gloria Baquero on Tuesday said she doesnt believe the distribution of contraceptive methods in public schools is the best way to prevent teenage pregnancies.
Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila added that so far the method that has proven to be most effective against teenage pregnancy on the mainland has been sexual abstinence.
Acevedo Vila and Baquero held a round table with public school students who also shared their points of view on the subject.
Baquero said she believes the issue of teenage pregnancy wont be solved by distributing condoms in school, but by tending to the emotional needs of teenage students.
Even so, the students who participated in the round table said they believe sex education in school should start at a much younger age.
They said sex education talks at school are repetitive and are given to students when it is too late.
Aguadilla Evicts Marketplace Vendors
June 1, 2005
AGUADILLA (EFE) Aguadilla Mayor Carlos Mendez confirmed on Wednesday that marketplace vendors have been served with an eviction notice, as part of a municipal plan to revamp Aguadillas Plaza del Mercado at a cost of $9.2 million.
According to Mendez, these vendors havent been doing a lot of business lately and people hardly ever visit the marketplace anymore.
Mendez said he would compensate them with $5,000 each.
"Seventy percent of the marketplace is empty. Nine of 12 vendors have already agreed to leave," Mendez said.
The marketplace should be cleared by June 15, he added.
Once the project is finished, these vendors will need to file for a new permit if they are to return.
NPP Leaders Tired Of Claims About Budget
May 31, 2005
New Progressive Party (NPP) Rep. Gabriel Rodriguez Aguilo criticized the executive branch on Monday for repeating false claims regarding the budget that Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila has proposed for the upcoming fiscal that begins July 1.
"Each time one of these officials come to the Legislative Assembly to defend their agencys budget, they always tell reporters that if we dont approve it, we will affect services to the public. What they dont say, however, is that the budget the governor has presented includes allocations that dont exist," Rodriguez Aguilo said.
The representative, who also chairs the House Health Committee, said La Fortaleza has recommended a budget based on prospective allocations from new taxes that, in his view, go against the best interests of the people.
Rodriguez Aguilo mentioned Acevedo Vilas intention of imposing an excise tax of 4% on all banks and insurance companies.
"Thats why we have to be extremely careful when looking at these numbers. This isnt a matter of instilling fear, it is about doing whats right for the people of Puerto Rico," he added.
Rodriguez Aguilo also reiterated the commitment that NPP Rep. Angel Perez and House Speaker Jose Aponte have made to approve a balanced budget before the end of June.
NPP Dispute Disrupts Senate Session
May 31, 2005
SAN JUAN (EFE) The battle of wills between former governor Pedro Rossello and Senate President Kenneth McClintock disrupted legislative work Tuesday during the Senates ordinary session.
The New Progressive Party (NPP) senators who support Rossellos bid for the Senate helm tried to hold a caucus to discuss the controversy.
However, McClintock denied the request and said he would call a caucus Monday when the 17 NPP senators would be present.
Rossello immediately called a legislative conference, but McClintock said he would address Rossellos call after the Senate session was over.
Tuesdays session was marked by confrontations between senators who support Rossello and those who support McClintock.
The Senate chamber was filled with visitors who wanted to witness the conflict.
Some visitors even referred to senators as Judases for defending McClintocks decision not to relinquish the Senate presidency to Rossello.
Marquez Justifies Low Recruiting Rates
May 31, 2005
SAN JUAN (EFE) Puerto Rico National Guard Adjutant General Francisco Marquez said the National Guards low recruiting rates is due to the fact that different military corps have been competing for the attention of potential recruits.
Marquez said that for the past several months the National Guard hasnt been able to recruit the same amount of youths as in previous years.
"This is due to the extremely tough competition among the U.S. Army Reserve, the National Guard, the U.S. Army Active Division, as well as other branches of the Department of Defense," Marquez told EFE.
Marquez participated in the Memorial Day ceremony that was held at Bayamons National Cemetery on Monday.
Marquez said that in previous years, the National Guard would recruit up to 90 people per month. Now it recruits about 45.
He said he expects to recruit 60 in May.
Governor Studies Possible Hike In Highway Tolls
May 31, 2005
SAN JUAN (EFE) Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila on Tuesday said the Highways Authority is considering a 10 to 25 cent increase in highway tolls to boost agency funds and help alleviate the Authoritys financial situation.
The governor said the Highways Authority needs to raise money to finish several projects and construct new buildings.
"The Highways Authority, like other government entities, lacks economic resources. The situation could take a turn for the worst if we dont act now," the governor said.
Acevedo Vila noted that Transportation & Public Works Secretary-designate Gabriel Alcaraz is still studying the proposed toll increase.
The governor issued his statements during a press conference at the Education Department following a round table with dozens of students.
Miss Canada Is Crowned 2005 Miss Universe
May 30, 2005
BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) -- Miss Canada, Natalie Glebova, was crowned Miss Universe in the 54th annual pageant held in the Thai capital of Bangkok. The brunette from Toronto was chosen over Miss Puerto Rico Cynthia Olavarria [a 12-1 favorite according to on-line betting service Sportsbook.com, came in second].
The two were among five contestants selected to answer questions onstage in the final round of the competition. The others were from Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.
Glebova, 23, was asked what she considered the biggest challenge of her life. She said it was remaining optimistic.
''I always try to maintain a positive outlook on life,'' she said.
Earlier, the 12-judge panel narrowed the field of 81 contestants to 15, then 10 as the Miss Universe hopefuls modeled evening gowns and swimsuits.
Thailand hopes that hosting the pageant will boost the country's tourism sector, which was badly hurt by last December's tsunami.
Contestants, who arrived in Thailand about three weeks ago, have visited tsunami-struck areas along the southern coastline and historic Buddhist temples around Bangkok.
Governor Criticized For Wanting To Sell Assets
May 31, 2005
Johnny Mendez, chairman of the House Committee on Work & Labor Affairs, criticized Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila on Monday for wanting to sell the governments assets at the Puerto Rico Telephone company.
"I find it highly worrying that Anibal Acevedo Vila continues to lie to the people. During his campaign, we could hear him say no to privatization efforts. Now we see that his administration has executed a plan to culminate the privatization process at Puerto Rico Telephone by relinquishing the governments power to intervene in any situation that may affect Puerto Rican workers in that company," Mendez said during a press conference.
Mendez noted that this is the third time Acevedo Vila has gone back on his word.
He said the first time was when he decided to veto the status bill at the last minute. The second time was when he announced his plan to impose a sales tax after he had campaigned against it while running for governor.
Mendez said the Popular Democratic Party administrations of former Gov. Sila Calderon and Acevedo Vila have openly criticized the selling of the Puerto Rico Telephone.
The first transaction was conducted during the administration of former New Progressive Party Gov. Pedro Rossello in 1999. At that time, the Puerto Rico government retained 43% of its assets.
In January 2002, Calderon sold even more assets to obtain $172 million for the governments budget. As a result, the Puerto Rico government now controls 28% of the companys shares. Verizon controls 52%, Popular Inc., 13%, and PRT employees control the remaining 7%.
Puerto Rico Remembers Fallen Heroes
May 31, 2005
SAN JUAN (EFE) Felix A. Santoni, civil aide to U.S. Army Secretary Frank Harvey in Puerto Rico acknowledged the contribution of Puerto Rican soldiers who have died in military conflicts around the world.
Santoni was the main speaker at the Memorial Day ceremony held in Bayamons National Cemetery on Monday.
"We must give thanks for having soldiersmany of whom are reservists and National Guard memberswho are willing to fight for our principles and values in other countries," Santoni told EFE.
Santoni said Fort Buchanan has remained open thanks to the contribution of these soldiers.
He also acknowledged the efforts of Resident Commissioner Luis Fortuño in reminding U.S. Congress of their contribution.
Santoni said more than 50% of Puerto Rico National Guard soldiers has been deployed to the Middle East.
He also said that approximately 80% of U.S. Army Reserve soldiers has been activated.
Santoni added that the National Guard and the U.S. Army Reserve have lost one soldier each, and that approximately 30 Army soldiers in active dutyincluding two womenhave been killed.
UPR Gets $100,000 For Its Nursing Program
May 30, 2005
Johnson & Johnson last week presented a $100,000 donation to the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) for the institutions Nursing Scholarships Program.
Iris N. Ramos, Johnson & Johnsons Director of Public Affairs, handed over the check for $100,000 to UPR President Antonio Garcia Padilla and Dr. Pedro A. Sandín Fremaint, the UPRs Director of Student Affairs. The ceremony was held in the UPR administrations offices located within the grounds of the Botanical Gardens in Rio Piedras.
Johnson & Johnson is contributing a total of $500,000, to be paid in five annual installments of $100,000 each, to support the Nursing Scholarships Program at UPR. This years donation is the third installment. Each year, 50 nursing students receive scholarships valued at $2,000 each. The scholarship recipients are enrolled in the Nursing Programs at six UPR campuses: Medical Sciences (Rio Piedras), Mayagüez, Carolina, Aguadilla, Arecibo, and Humacao.
In a written statement, UPR President García Padilla thanked Johnson & Johnson for the donation and added: "The support being given by this important pharmaceutical company is an acknowledgement of the quality of our nursing programs. Its also an extraordinary contribution to the future of the nursing profession in Puerto Rico."
Speaking on behalf of J&J, Ramos said the company made the donation "because we recognize the important role that professional nurses play in providing medical care to patients."
"We are also aware of the need that exists in Puerto Rico to train more nurses in order to meet the growing demand for the services of these health professionals in our society," Ramos added.
Income Tax Revenue Collection Goes Up
May 30, 2005
SAN JUAN (EFE) Treasury Secretary Juan Carlos Mendez on Monday said that in April, the government collected $102 million more in income tax revenues than in April 2004.
Mendez said this represents a 24.4% increase that has surpassed government expectations.
On another note, the Treasury chief denied allegations that the agency has been delaying the emission of tax returns to island residents in order to generate more interests and increase the agencys coffers.
"We have already disbursed approximately $250.5 million in tax returns and the agency will disburse the rest of the money within the next eight weeks," Mendez said in a prepared statement.
He also noted that, according to the Internal Revenue Code, the department has until July 31 to disburse all tax returns.
Local Coalition To Campaign Against Death Penalty
May 30, 2005
SAN JUAN (EFE) The Puerto Rican Coalition Against the Death Penalty on Monday announced that it would start collecting signatures to demand that the U.S. Congress exempt Puerto Rico from the application of a 1994 death penalty law.
"We will conduct a massive educational campaign on the truth about capital punishment," said Osvaldo Burgos, president of the Civil Rights Commission, which is a member of the Coalition that groups 35 civil, political, and academic organizations against the death penalty.
Burgos told EFE that the Coalition would visit island entities who are interested in learning about capital punishment in Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rican Juan Melendez will participate in the campaign. Melendez was on death row for 17 years in Florida, before exculpatory evidence revealed he had been unjustly convicted of a crime.
Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila as well as several local legislators have declared themselves to be against capital punishment.
Acevedo Vila even sent a letter to U.S. General Attorney Albert Gonzales in April to oppose the application of the death penalty on two Puerto Ricans who had been convicted of a federal crime.
Capital punishment has been banned in Puerto Rico since 1929. Its prohibition was ratified in the Commonwealth Constitution in 1952.
However, in 1994, the U.S. Congress passed a law enabling the application of the death penalty in all federal jurisdictions, including Puerto Rico.
Police Report 23 Fewer Murders Than In 2004
May 30, 2005
SAN JUAN (EFE) From Jan 1 to May 29, 317 murders were reported in Puerto Ricothat is 23 murder cases less than in the same period last year, police statistics revealed.
Statistics also showed a 6.8% reduction of the islands murder rate.
The five jurisdictions with the greatest number of murder cases are San Juan, 72; Bayamon, 61; Ponce, 60; Carolina, 43, and Fajardo, 18.
Other areas are Caguas, with 17 cases; Humacao, with 16; and Arecibo and Guayama with 11 cases each.
The police has also registered a reduction of 41.8% in the number of reported sexual assaults for the same period.
In addition, authorities have also noted a 15.1% decrease in the number of robberies on the island.