AAV To Veto Budget, Cut Back Work Hours… Gov, Cabinet Members Will Take Pay Cut… Fiscal, Tax Reform Needed… Bhatia Praises Congress’ OK Of CAFTA-DR, Energy Bill… PIP: Amend Maritime Laws… Justice Recommends Budget Veto… McClintock, OSJ, Bayamon Hail Barbosa’s Legacy… Fortuño Bill To Honor Barbosa… Burgos: AAV’s Message Hypocritical… Ills Rooted In Colonialism… Ricky Martin: End Arab Stereotypes

AAV To Veto Budget, Cut Back Work Hours

July 28, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

CIALES (EFE) — Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila announced on Thursday that he would veto the budget that had been approved by the Legislative Assembly, but would signed into law the tax measures passed by the Legislature.

Acevedo Vila’s decision means that the government payroll will be cut back and so will the work hours of public employees.

The governor said the budget that the Legislative Assembly had approved had revenues of $9.005 billion, not $9.200 billion, as had been pointed out by New Progressive Party legislators.

"The budget was a great lie and was unbalanced," said Acevedo Vila during a press conference in Ciales.

"This government will do more with less. We will balance the checkbooks and we will straighten this country, but we will do it by telling the truth," the governor said.

Acevedo Vila also said he would freeze job positions in government agencies in order to reduce the payroll. However, he didn’t rule out the possibility of layoffs.

The governor reiterated that the budget and the salaries that are essential to the areas of education, security, and economic development wouldn’t be affected by these actions.

The payroll reduction follows the government announced increases in utility rates and toll rates.

AAV, Cabinet Members Also Take Pay Cut

July 28, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

CIALES (EFE) — The reduction in salaries and work hours that was announced on Thursday will also apply to Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila as well as to cabinet members and former governors’ escorts.

"I will work 24 hours, seven days a week, but while the crisis continues I will only charge for four days of work," Acevedo Vila said during a press conference in Ciales, following an inauguration of a school.

He also gave instructions to Police Superintendent Pedro Toledo, to cut back on expenses and limit overtime for governors’ escorts.

Acevedo Vila gave the instructions following published reports claiming that last year the 70 escorts serving former governors Sila Calderon, Pedro Rossello, Rafael Hernandez Colon, Carlos Romero Barcelo, and Luis A. Ferre’s widow, as well as the Luis Muñoz Marin Foundation, charged nearly $2 million in salaries and benefits and about $2 million more in overtime pay.

The governor, who earns $70,000 per year will receive a 20% pay cut, said La Fortaleza Press Secretary Juanita Colombani.

The pay cut will also apply to Chief of Staff Anibal Jose Torres and Office of Management & Budget Director Ileana Fas Pacheco.

"It will apply to everyone, starting by the governor…who don’t work in key areas," she said.

Key areas include those working in the Family Department’s Child Abuse hotline, as well as police officers, teachers, and nurses.

The governor said that initially, the cutback in work hours would apply only to those who volunteer, but would eventually be mandatory. He also said the cutbacks would be temporary, but that it would depend upon the individual needs of each government agency.

Reform Needed To Change Fiscal Crisis

July 28, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Though the governor’s veto of the budget is not expected to cause an economic recession, the current fiscal problem will remain unless a fiscal and tax reform is not formed, several economists said Thursday.

According to Elías Gutiérrez, director of the Graduate School of Planning of the University of Puerto Rico, "there is no recession in effect." He said "all indicators show that the economy is growing in positive and real terms."

Gutiérrez and other island economists met Thursday afternoon with Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá at La Fortaleza after the governor announced that he was vetoing the budget for the present fiscal year.

The professor does not expect the situation to cause an economic recession.

"I don’t think so because the definition of a recession is that the gross real product stops and doesn’t grow. We will suffer the impact; [the economy] will grow less," he emphasized in a press conference.

Meanwhile, Economists Association President Luis Benítez said restructuring the fiscal system is needed as soon as possible.

"We agree [with the veto] because Puerto Rico is at a crossroads, and it is necessary to make a profound fiscal and tax reform as soon as possible, which is the only thing that could save us from this predicament," Benítez said.

Benítez, co-chairman of the special commission to form a fiscal and tax reform, said Thursday that the Legislature has not met with the government group that intends to create a new tax system starting in April.

Bhatia Pleased With Congress’ Approval Of CAFTA-DR

July 28, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA) Executive Director Eduardo Bhatia said Thursday that he is pleased that Congress approved the Central American and Dominican Republic Free-Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR).

The commercial agreement was approved Wednesday night by the U.S. House of Representatives in a 217-215 vote and now awaits the signature of President George W. Bush.

"This agreement brings important economic benefits for Puerto Rico and, without a doubt, will open a new chapter in our strategic position within the political economy of the Caribbean and Latin America," Bhatia said.

He added that "for us in Puerto Rico, the equation has always been simple: the CAFTA-DR brings us a great amount of benefits, especially now that we are developing the export of services. The CAFTA opens doors of markets in which these activities are restricted for foreigners."

The CAFTA-DR includes Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic, although the parliaments of the last three countries have still not ratified it, and it adds to a series of similar agreements arranged by the United States with other countries.

If signed by Bush, the agreement will become effective Jan. 1, 2006, between the United States and the countries whose legislatures have already ratified it.

Congress OKs Energy Bill That Impacts Island

July 28, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) - Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA) Executive Director Eduardo Bhatia announced Thursday that Congress approved a bill that includes three measures with a direct impact on Puerto Rico that will bring savings of up to $58 million a year for the island.

The first measure, known as the Renewable Fuel Standard, establishes an additional requirement in the production of gasoline in the United States for a percentage of ethanol to be included in its components.

This measure has the support of the farming states because their products are used for the manufacture of ethanol. This measure only applies to the contiguous states and exempts Puerto Rico, Alaska, Hawaii, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa.

"According to our calculations, the requirement to include ethanol in fuel will result in an annual increase of up to $58 million in fuel expenses for families, companies, and government agencies in Puerto Rico and an expense of up to $600 million throughout the next 10 years," Bhatia said.

The second measure, named Energy Safety for Island Areas, provides $6 million a year in federal funds to protect and strengthen Puerto Rico’s infrastructure of electrical transmission to avoid its damage or failure during a natural emergency caused by hurricanes or tidal waves.

The measure also benefits Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa.

The third measure, called Independence of Island Energy, provides $500,000 a year to the island and territories for the evaluation of strategies and projects that could potentially reduce petroleum dependency, thereby increasing energy efficiency and developing new alternatives of energy sources.

Based on the results of this evaluation, $4 million a year will be provided in federal funds for viable studies in favor of the implementation of these alternatives.

"Puerto Rico right now depends on the import of petroleum for 90% of its energy and 70% of its electric generation. The need to use alternate sources of energy is very important to reduce the island’s cost of energy and the dependency of foreign valued liquid," Bhatia said in a press release.

PRFAA Executive Director Eduardo Bhatia announced Thursday that Congress approved a bill that includes three measures with a direct impact on Puerto Rico that will bring savings of up to $58 million a year for the island.

PIP Legislator: It’s Time To Amend Maritime Traffic Laws

July 28, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) Rep. Victor Garcia San Inocencio on Wednesday said the fiscal situation of the island has created a favorable moment to push for the exemption of U.S. Cabotage Laws–which give the United States exclusive rights to operate maritime traffic to and from its territories.

The PIP legislator said the political leaders who currently hold positions of power would favor this proposal which–according to a study prepared by the University of Puerto Rico’s Center of Economics and Econometric Studies–could save up to $500 million per year.

"The moment is ripe for it," said Garcia San Inocencio.

The representative sent a letter to House Speaker Jose Aponte urging him to consider a resolution that he had filed in January to request that the U.S. Congress exempt the island from the application of such laws.

Garcia San Inocencio said the laws, which date back to 1900, state that all maritime traffic between the U.S. and its territories should be conducted through the use of U.S. registered cargo ships.

Justice Recommends Vetoing Budget To Control Expenses

July 27, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Justice Secretary Roberto Sánchez Ramos said Wednesday that the governor would have more flexibility to control the expenses of the government if he vetoes the budget approved by the Legislature.

He also said that the approved budget is unconstitutional because expenses are greater than income.

"If the governor vetoes the budget, [the island] will operate with last year’s budget. The difference is that last year’s budget has a clause that allows the governor to move money from one agency to another if needed. This clause was not included in the budget approved this year by the Legislature," Sánchez Ramos said.

Sánchez Ramos added that he already informed Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vilá about the budget’s legal analysis and said the recommendation to veto the budget is only one of the factors the governor has to consider.

According to the Justice Department’s legal analysis, the current budget consists of three parts. One part consists of $5.522 billion for the Joint Resolution of the General Budget.

Another part consists of $2.389 billion for the so-called inevitable laws, which are those that assign recurring funds, and a third part consists of $1.448 billion for the laws approved during the fiscal year that assign funds for the government’s ordinary expenses.

The three parts total 9.359 billion, an amount that could be raised if the governor signs additional allocations before his consideration.

Sánchez Ramos also explained that due to the deficit the island is confronting, the Constitution allows the governor to limit money given to agencies and municipalities and use resources to cover other priorities.

"The truth is that we are in a very particular situation similar to the one in 1984 when then Gov. [Carlos] Romero Barceló vetoed the Joint Resolution of the General Budget. But now the situation is more complicated because we have a much greater deficit," the Justice secretary said.

According to the Justice Department’s legal analysis, the current budget consists of three parts that total $9.359 billion, an amount that could be raised if the governor signs additional allocations before his consideration.

McClintock Announces Museum In Honor Of Barbosa

July 27, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Senate President Kenneth McClintock announced Wednesday that he will propose that the Legislature assume control of the old tropical medicine building in Puerta de Tierra to convert it into a museum that will be named José Celso Barbosa y Alcalá.

McClintock said the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources should leave the building, named Antonio R. Barceló, in September and then the Legislature can assume control of the facility in order to establish a tropical medicine museum there.

"The museum would house many years of history about the practices, equipment, and advances in the health field. It would offer a historic vision on medicine in Puerto Rico. . .." he said during the tribute he paid Wednesday to José Celso Barbosa at the Capitol.

In related news, the Senate president said Wednesday that political leaders should follow the example of the "Father of Statehood" in advancing the causes they believe in but respecting the right of others to defend theirs.

McClintock opted not to attend the activity in honor of Barbosa in Bayamón but paid tribute to the statehood leader by presenting a flower arrangement at the María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery in Old San Juan and offering a simple message at the Capitol.

"In politics, personal aspirations need to be put aside for the good of the party. . .," he said during a press conference after the activity. "We have to respect that different persons have different visions of life, and there has to be a moment in which a level of consensus is reached. The aspirations out of place must be set aside to allow the institution to work, something that José Celso Barbosa did."

Barbosa's Legacy Honored In Old San Juan

July 27, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Despite the division within the New Progressive Party (NPP), a group of pro-statehood followers held a ceremony at the Maria Magdalena de Pazzis cemetery in Old San Juan on Wednesday to mark the 148th anniversary of Jose Celso Barbosa’s birth.

Dozens of people participated in the event to honor the memory of the founding father of the statehood movement by placing flower offerings on his grave and reciting Barbosa’s own words. Resident Commissioner Luis Fortuño also sent a flower arrangement for the ceremony.

"This is what I have been wishing for many years; a sincere and modest ceremony filled with beautiful messages," said Carmen Barbosa, granddaughter of the Puerto Rican national hero.

She added that this year’s ceremony had meant more to her than the traditional festivities that the NPP usually holds in Bayamon.

"For me the tomb is a sacred place. It’s not the same as a political rally," she stated.

During her brief speech, she urged Puerto Rico youths to follow in the footsteps of her grandfather, who loved his country and served his people with respect.

Senate President Kenneth McClintock, Sen. Jorge De Castro Font, and NPP Rep. Jose Luis Rivera Guerra were some of the leaders who attended the ceremony.

Even Ateneo Puertorriqueño President Eduardo Morales Coll–who doesn’t share the same ideology as Barbosa–participated in the event. According to Morales Coll, "we all need to acknowledge those who have done well for their country and whose spirits continue to live on in the hearts of Puerto Ricans." 

Barbosa Remembered In Brief Ceremony In Bayamón

July 27, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Contrary to previous years in which the municipality of Bayamón sponsored a massive activity in honor of José Celso Barbosa, a brief and modest ceremony was celebrated Wednesday before the bust of the statehood leader at the Parque Central of that municipality.

Bayamón Mayor Ramón Luis Rivera reminded that the objective of this year’s event was to remember Barbosa.

"It doesn’t matter the way in which you recall the activity. The important thing is to remember the man who sowed the seed of what we all aspire," the mayor said before the ceremony started.

The municipality of Bayamón determined this year to not hold the massive activity that it traditionally sponsors due to the internal division within the New Progressive Party (NPP) caused by the struggle between NPP President Pedro Rosselló and Senate President Kenneth McClintock.

"We fight to see Puerto Rico converted into a republic within the confederation of the republics of the United Status," the mayor said.

The ceremony was attended by Barbosa’s grandson José Celso Barbosa Muñiz and great-grandchildren Jamie Barbosa and José Celso Barbosa López.

Also at the activity was legislators Jorge Navarro, Joe Rivera, Cristóbal Colón, Margarita Nolasco, and House Speaker José Aponte Hernández.

The ceremony ended with several trees being planted in an area near the bust of the statehood leader.

According to Rivera, the activity was a success.

"It was definitely what we had planned — a simple, brief, symbolic ceremony. . . We are all members of the same family, and that solidarity and cohesion must be sought," he said.

Fortuño Files Bill To Honor Barbosa


July 27, 2005
Copyright © 2005 PRWOW. All rights reserved. 

Resident Commissioner Luis Fortuño on Tuesday announced the filing of a bill to name the U.S. Postal Service Building in Bayamon after Dr. Jose Celso Barbosa.

"Barbosa was the founding father of the pro-statehood movement in Puerto Rico, but his legacy has reached beyond political arenas and has had a profound and positive impact on today’s modern society," Fortuño said in a prepared statement.

The Resident Commissioner, who filed the bill to honor the anniversary of Barbosa’s birth, is expected to make a statement before the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday to highlight Barbosa’s efforts to achieve statehood and political equality for Puerto Rico.

"I’m pleased to be able to honor, from Congress, the memory of this great Puerto Rican. His life is full of examples of the kind of human being that he used to be and that all Puerto Ricans should aspire to be," Fortuño added.

The Resident Commissioner also noted that Barbosa, a native of Bayamon, was known for his numerous facets as a public figure and should be remembered for his commitment, respect, and dedication to the people of Puerto Rico.

Burgos: AAV’s Message Reflects Current Crisis

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

SAN JUAN (EFE) — New Progressive Party (NPP) Sen. Norma Burgos on Monday said Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila’s message during the 53rd Constitution Day celebration was a reflection of the current crisis in Puerto Rico.

Burgos said "Gov. Acevedo Vila’s message constitutes an act of cynicism and contempt against the people of Puerto Rico."

She said Acevedo Vila based his electoral campaign on a program of lies and deception.

"During the past electoral campaign, Acevedo Vila promised that he wouldn’t increase taxes or the cost of life of Puerto Rican families. Now, in less than seven months after taking office, the Acevedo Vila administration has increased taxes to middle class and working class families like unlike any other government in the past 20 years," Burgos reiterated.

She also remembered that the governor has currently proposed a water rate increase of at least 128%, in addition to the elimination of government subsidies for public housing projects, and the increase in the cost of car licenses and toll fares. She also blamed him for triggering price hikes in consumer products such as coffee, ice, and other basic foods.

"How can he tell us that the road to progress is based on truth when he has contributed the crisis we see today by deceiving the people. The road to progress lies on not deceiving the people by acting responsibly," Burgos said.

The NPP senator made her statement after Gov. Acevedo Vila defended in his speech the proposed increases on utility bills and bus fares, which he claimed will be the road to many rewards, even if it requires temporary but hard sacrifices.

Rooted In Colonialism

Letters to the Editor

July 26, 2005
Copyright © 2005 ORLANDO SENTINEL. All rights reserved. 

Regarding the Sentinel's special report on Puerto Rico: The social ills that plague Puerto Rico are completely rooted in its colonial status. The drug-related crimes that haunt the residents of Puerto Rico are birthed from an economic system that does not benefit its citizens.

Puerto Rico's inability as a colony to design an economic system that can, and would, stimulate growth and prosperity for its citizens leaves it in the pitiful and disgraceful state it is in now. Only as a sovereign nation can we design an economic system whose sole beneficiaries are the Puerto Rican people and not foreign companies who for decades have raped Puerto Rico for its wealth and resources.

For too long we have allowed an unjustified fear to cripple our aspirations for independence. Independence is not something that should be feared. On the contrary, what should be feared is the continual slow death of our people by the rusted sword of colonialism.

Christian Mártir-Córdova

Ricky Martin Seeks End To Arab Stereotypes

Associated Press Writer

July 25, 2005
Copyright © 2005 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

AMMAN, Jordan -- Pop singer Ricky Martin, on his first ever visit to the Middle East, pledged Monday that he would try to change negative perceptions of Arab youth in the West.

"I promise I will become a spokesperson, if you allow me to, a spokesperson on your behalf. I will defend you and try to get rid of any stereotypes," he told youngsters from 16 mainly Arab countries attending a youth conference. The children, aged 14 to 16, expressed concern about being labeled as "terrorists" by the West.

"I have been a victim of stereotypes. I come from Latin America and to some countries, we are considered 'losers,' drug traffickers, and that is not fair because that is generalizing," said Martin, sporting a black tee-shirt and jeans.

"Those comments are made out of ignorance and we have to sometimes ignore the ignorant, but we also have to educate the ignorant. You have me here as a friend," he added.

Martin, who is a United Nations Children's Fund Goodwill Ambassador, said he wanted to get to know the youth and their cultures better by spending time together.

He said he planned to do a concert tour of the Mideast and North Africa, including Jordan and the Palestinian territories, tentatively scheduled for May 2006.

Martin, a Puerto Rico native, posed for photos with fans at the youth conference, at one point draping over his shoulders a traditional Palestinian kaffiyeha scarf with the slogan "Jerusalem is ours" written in Arabic on it.

Martin attended the silver jubilee of the Arab Children's Congress set up 25 years ago by Jordan's Queen Nour, King Hussein's widow, to promote creativity, peace, cross-cultural understanding and tolerance. He said he would like to promote a similar youth congress for his native Latin America.

Martin said he would travel later Monday to Thailand where his organization, the Ricky Martin Foundation, had built 225 homes to protect children orphaned by the tsunami that swept through South Asia earlier in the year.

"I couldn't stay at home with my arms crossed," he said.

Martin said his foundation is also working to combat child pornography and prostitution worldwide.

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