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Governor Confident Navy Abandoning Vieques, Requests Official Announcement… Island To Benefit From CSG Role… Justice Obtaining Education Fraud Evidence… Poll: Pesquera Would Beat Calderon…States Support Amendments To 956…Island Gets $292K To Increase Seat Belt Use

Calderon Asks For Official Announcement On Vieques

November 27, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Gov. Sila Calderon asked Secretary of the U.S. Navy Gordon England for an official announcement from the U.S. government regarding the cessation of military maneuvers in Vieques by May 2003 and the closing of the firing range.

In a letter sent on Nov. 26, Calderon says that because May is quite close it is important to deal with the necessary steps to implement the decision [the cessation of maneuvers].

Calderon also said it was time to appoint a committee to manage an orderly transfer of the U.S. Navy facilities in Vieques.

"I have already began to identify some of the potential members in Puerto Rico —serious, dedicated and capable people with broad knowledge of the legal, environmental and security aspects. I am counting on your collaboration and leadership to complete the process, and to guarantee a peaceful transfer," said the governor.

The governor said the letter is an answer to England’s October letter, in which the military confirmed the Navy’s plan to begin a transition process to end military exercises in Vieques.

"Subsequent conversations between officials from the Puerto Rico government and the Defense Department reaffirmed the commitment, and served as grounds for my public statements to the Puerto Rican people regarding the definite cessation of military maneuvers," said Calderon.

Calderon Confident With Navy’s Pledge To Abandon Vieques

November 26, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – Gov. Sila Calderon affirmed Tuesday that it has been confirmed to her that before Gordon England leaves his post as Navy secretary, the military corps’ commitment for the cease of their maneuvers in Vieques will be set.

The governor, however, didn’t say who confirmed the information.

"Yes, there is still time, as it has been confirmed to me directly. We have been in contact with the U.S. Navy, and I intend to send a letter to the Navy today [Tuesday]," she said in a press conference in Lares.

According to Calderon, she will be sending her written request asking that the commitments be complied with before England leaves his post to become the new deputy secretary of the newly formed National Security Department.

"We have been told there is enough time. He [England] is not going to assume his new responsibility for another two months," she added.

Regarding the content of the written communication, Calderon said she will state "the desire and request of the people, through my administration, regarding the Navy’s commitments before England leaves."

The U.S. government has said operations in Vieques will cease in May 2003.

Island To Benefit From CSG Participation

November 26, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – Popular Democratic Party Rep. Hector Ferrer and Sen. Jose Ortiz Daliot reiterated Tuesday that Puerto Rico will receive benefits from its participation in the regional conference of the U.S. Council of State Governments.

Ferrer and Ortiz Daliot, new presidents of the east region of that council, indicated that aside from the unanimous support of the proposed amendments to Section 956 of the Internal Revenue Code, the island would benefit from the celebration of the council’s next annual convention on the island.

"The celebration of this event in Puerto Rico benefits the Puerto Rican tourism sector during low season, since 700 to 900 people already made their hotel arrangements with Caribe Hilton to stay Aug. 17 to 21 in 2003," Ortiz Daliot said in a press conference.

He added that the Council’s Executive Committee would also be meeting on the island March 20-21.

"All these public officials have great influence over Congress. These people would have the opportunity to experience the Puerto Rican reality and help the government implement strategies to boost the economy," Ferrer said.

Justice Receiving Evidence On Education Fraud Case

November 26, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

PONCE (AP) – Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez announced that her agency began receiving witness testimony and documental evidence gathered by a federal grand jury involving the million-dollar fraud case in the Education Department.

The Justice chief had urgently requested the documents from U.S. District Court Judge Hector Laffitte after arguing the alleged crimes committed by several contractors and officials involved in the illegal scheme could go unpunished.

"On Monday, we started to receive the information from the U.S. District Attorney’s Office. The first packet of documents was received, and we expect to continue receiving the rest soon and to act on them," the secretary said before beginning a meeting with members of the Property Registry.

Rodriguez declined to comment on the case of contractor Joaquin Arbona Lago, who, since the past administration, has rented four warehouses from the Education Department and, according to an external audit, hasn’t followed a standard bidding process.

"When asked about specific cases, the Justice Department doesn’t comment on the status of the investigations," the official said.

She clarified that the local Justice Department started the investigation into acts of corruption in the Education Department, not the federal authorities.

"In May or June 2001, we made the first referral to the Special Independent Prosecutor and, this year, we made the second referral. This one specifically regards bribes being given in the Education Department," Rodriguez said.

However, she explained the U.S. District Attorney’s Office evidence, which consisted of bills and original cancelled checks, is fundamental for her agency since, in some cases, it is the only evidence that exists in relation to some of those involved.

"That is why we were prevented from acting since we needed that documentation to file the corresponding charges. We don’t file charges unless we have the proof," Rodriguez insisted.

Poll Reflects Pesquera Would Win General Elections

November 25, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – If the general elections were held today and undecided voters did not show up to vote, New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera would win the election, indicates a poll performed by Pablo Ramos and revealed on Monday.

Pesquera should be declared innocent of the charges of rioting that were filed against him for the incidents that took place at the Women’s Advocate Office in June.

Ramos presented the poll results and stated that the poll was paid with private funds, and rejected any link with a political party.

According to Ramos, 2,350 people from all social classes were interviewed in their residences in 12 municipalities where the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) dominates and eight municipalities from the New Progressive Party (NPP).

The poll determined that if the elections were held today Pesquera would obtain 33.5% votes, followed by current governor Sila Calderon with 29.5%.

Approximately 20.9% would not vote, while 12.4% are undecided. Only 3.6% would vote for Ruben Berrios, according to the poll, which has a three percent margin of error.

"Despite all the governor has done to disqualify Pesquera, he is up front with a comfortable advantage We can now conclude that the true reason that Sila has to disqualify Carlos Pesquera is precisely that Carlos would defeat her," he said in a press conference.

State Governments Support Amendments To 956

November 25, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – The U.S. State Governments Regional Conference endorsed the approval of amendments to Section 956 of the Internal Revenue Code, which will grant new incentives for manufacturing companies to be established on the island.

The organization expressed its support to the amendments in its annual meeting last week in Saint John, in the Virgin Islands, according to published reports.

Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Rep. Hector Ferrer Rios, who represented the Puerto Rican legislators along with Senators Modesto Agosto Alicea and Jose Ortiz Daliot, said the organization’s support was unanimous and described the endorsement as "key piece" in the efforts to approve the amendments.

During the meeting Puerto Rico was selected as next year’s host of the Organization’s annual meeting.

U.S. Grants Island Gets $292K To Increase Seat Belt Use

November 25, 2002
Copyright © 2002 M2 Communications, Ltd. All rights reserved.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta announced that 34 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico will share $50.47 million in incentive grants for increasing seat belt use.

"Seat belts are the most effective vehicle safety device in a motor vehicle crash. They save about 12,000 lives each year and would save thousands more if everyone buckled up on every trip," Secretary Mineta said. "These grants give states an additional incentive to try to increase seat belt use, thereby saving lives and Federal medical costs."

Fiscal year 2003 is the fifth and final year that incentive grants have been awarded to states that have either achieved a seat belt usage rate above the national average for 2000 and 2001 or that have achieved a usage rate in 2001 that is higher than the state had in any previous year since 1996.

The amount of each states grant is based on savings in medical costs to the federal government from increased seat belt use.

The award amounts range from a low of $19,800 for Alaska to a high of $16.5 million for California. Puerto Rico will receive $291,800.

Sixteen states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico exceeded the national average use rate in 2000 and 2001.

Funds provided as seat belt use incentive grants support a variety of state programs ranging from encouraging seat belt use to special traffic enforcement programs.

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