Status Is Bush Priority… Rossello Promises Fair Budget For The People… Senate Won’t Approve AAVs Bank Tax… Gov Reorganizes The Police Force… EDB OKs $63M In Business Loans… FAA Funds RR Naval Air Station Study… OSJ To Become A Pedestrian City… Rivera Schatz Won’t Meet With De Castro… HIV Vaccine To Be Studied

Status Is Bush Priority

The Republican chairman said President Bush wants to resolve the long-running issue of Puerto Rico's relationship with the United States.


June 24, 2005
Copyright © 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN - President Bush is committed to helping resolve the century-old problem of Puerto Rico's political relationship with the United States, Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman said Thursday.

Mehlman, who served as Bush's 2004 reelection campaign manager, said a task force that Bush appointed in 2003 to study the island's status issue would submit a report by the end of the year.


The panel will ''determine how best to move forward in a way that respects Puerto Rican self-determination,'' Mehlman told The Associated Press.

Bush ''believes that the people of Puerto Rico need to make a decision about their permanent status,'' Mehlman said.

Mehlman was in Puerto Rico to give a speech to a gathering of elected U.S. leaders of Latino descent.

The status question has divided Puerto Ricans since the United States seized the Caribbean island at the end of the Spanish-American War.

Islanders narrowly rejected statehood in nonbinding referendums in 1993 and 1998. In the last vote, just over 50 percent voted to keep Puerto Rico's status as a U.S. Commonwealth.

A small but vocal minority supports making the island an independent country.


Puerto Ricans are also at odds over what mechanism to use to resolve the issue.

Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, whose Popular Democratic Party supports the commonwealth status, wants to convoke a constituent assembly.

The pro-statehood New Progressive Party supports holding a binding referendum.

Puerto Rico's four million people are U.S. citizens who can be drafted into the U.S. military but are barred from voting for president, have no voting representation in Congress and pay no federal taxes.

Rossello Promises Fair Budget For The People

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin


June 23, 2005
Copyright © 2005 PRWOW News. All rights reserved. 

Just when the proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year was still pending at the House, on Thursday the president of the New Progressive Party (NPP) Sen. Pedro Rossello, assured his constituents that the Legislature would approve a fair budget.

Rossello issued his statement in a special message broadcast by local radio and TV stations.

The NPP president said the Legislative Assembly would eliminate Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila’s proposed excise tax on basic need articles to increase government revenues.

"There will be no new taxes for our families, especially for the needy," Rossello stated.

He also said the Legislature would lower Acevedo Vila’s proposed bank tax from 4% to one percent.

He also said the NPP majority would propose a budget of approximately $9.21 billion that would include the necessary funds to ensure government jobs.

"There will be no excuse to fire people," he said.

Rossello also noted that the budget would be slightly higher than the current one, but $473 million less than the one the governor had proposed.

Senate Won’t Approve Proposed Bank Tax

June 23, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Sen. Jorge De Castro Font on Thursday said the Senate won’t consider the administration bill to impose a 4% tax rate on the net interest income of all financial institutions.

De Castro Font, who chairs the Senate Rules & Calendar Committee, said the Senate wasn’t about to approve the bank tax that Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila had proposed because it could hurt the banking industry in Puerto Rico.

The legislator said the Senate has also declined to consider a lower tax rate.

De Castro Font confirmed that he has heard that the House has been considering the possibility of lowering the proposed bank tax to one percent.

"This is an ill-advised suicide tax that, far from generating more revenues, would cause an adverse effect on stock value," the senator said.

Governor Makes Changes To The Police Force

June 23, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

GURABO (EFE) - Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila and Police Superintendent Pedro Toledo on Wednesday announced several administrative changes to the police force.

Acevedo Vila said the superintendent would have more administrative offices under his command. Some of these offices have to do with the agency’s budget and federal allocations.

He said the police divisions of criminal ID and photography currently assigned to the Auxiliary Superintendence of Citizen Services would be reassigned to the Auxiliary Superintendence of Criminal Investigations (SAIC by its Spanish acronym).

Acevedo Vila said this would help speed up services to citizens who are in need of licenses and certificates of good standing.

He also announced the creation of an Auxiliary Superintendence on Drugs, Narcotics, and Illegal Weapons to be in charge of the areas that are currently assigned to the SAIC.

This new division would take over the duties of the Drug Control Office that had been created during the past administration and has been slated for elimination by year’s end.

Acevedo Vila said 3,000 agents would be assigned to the SAIC and the newly created superintendence.

The governor said these divisions would focus on criminal investigations. He said he is not satisfied with current crime solving rates of 58% and 44% in the areas of violent crime and murder cases, each.

EDB Approves $63 Million In Business Loans

June 23, 2005
Copyright © 2005 PRWOW News. All rights reserved. 

During the current fiscal year, the Economic Development Bank (EDB) approved $63 million in new financial loans to small and medium size businesses in Puerto Rico, generating more than 10,000 direct and indirect jobs, said Juan Vargas Lopez, who is the EDB’s first chief operations officer.

"From January until June 17 of 2005, the EDB approved $38 million in new financial loans; $12.9 million more than as of Dec. 31, 2004," Vargas Lopez said.

From July 1, 2004 until June 17, 2005, the EDB’s loan portfolio grew to $182.2 million; $3.6 million more when compared to Dec. 31, 2004. As of June 17, 2005, the portfolio consisted of the following economic sectors:

*Agriculture: $52.7 million - 28.9%

*Commerce: $39.4 million - 21.6 %

*Manufacturing: $27 million - 14.8%

*Service: $$41.9 million - 22.9%

*Tourism: $ 21 million - 11.5%

"We expect to close the fiscal year with a portfolio of $185 million, so that we can continue to support our small and medium size business owners and contribute to the economic development of Puerto Rico," Vargas Lopez said.

FAA Allocates $125,000 For Study On Naval Air Station

June 23, 2005
Copyright © 2005 PRWOW News. All rights reserved. 

Resident Commissioner Luis Fortuño on Wednesday announced that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has allocated $125,000 to conduct a study as part of a project to convert the Roosevelt Roads Naval Air Base into a civilian airport.

The project will require an evaluation of the land before starting an adequate development of the area.

The resident commissioner said he was pleased with the allocation of funds, as he believes it will boost the economic development of the eastern part of the island.

"This study is an important step for the east area. Our goal is to start the evaluation process as soon as possible and this allocation will allow us to do that," Fortuño said.

The resident commissioner also said he has been working with Fajardo Mayor Anibal Melendez to make sure that any future development of the airport is in synch with the plans for the development of Fajardo.

Old San Juan To Become A Pedestrian City

June 22, 2005
Copyright © 2005 PRWOW News. All rights reserved. 

In order to protect its centuries-old buildings, the San Juan municipal government has announced that by the end of August, Old San Juan will become a pedestrian city.

San Juan Urban Development & Housing Chief Heriberto Sauri and Public Safety Commissioner Col. Adalberto Mercado made the announcement during a press conference on Wednesday.

Sauri and Mercado said the traffic restriction is part of a 60-day pilot plan that, if successful, could become permanent.

"This project is not only important for its historic impact, but because it also has the support of a wide sector of the community," the chiefs said.

They said access to Old San Juan should be restricted because its architecture wasn’t been built to withstand the damage from today’s motor vehicles.

Mercado said the only streets that would stay open to outside traffic are the San Francisco, Norzagaray, Cristo, Recinto Sur, and Paseo Covadonga streets.

Mercado said that before implementing the pilot plan, the municipal government would launch a campaign to educate the public.

Rivera Schatz Declines To Meet With De Castro

June 22, 2005
Copyright © 2005 PRWOW News. All rights reserved. 

New Progressive Party (NPP) Secretary General Thomas Rivera Schatz on Wednesday said he wouldn’t meet with Sen. Jorge de Castro Font, who on Tuesday had requested that they both discuss their differences regarding the dispute over the Senate helm.

De Castro Font currently faces an expulsion process at the party for issuing statements against NPP President and Sen. Pedro Rossello, who has been trying to take Sen. Kenneth McClintock’s place as Senate president.

In his letter, De Castro Font asked Rivera Schatz for a chance to discuss their differences and mark the start of a healing process for the party, but the NPP secretary general decided against it.

"De Castro Font is who he is: a traitor, a liar, an enemy of the NPP. If he wants to keep on sending letter, no one can stop him from doing so, but I don’t meet with enemies of the NPP," Rivera Schatz said in a radio interview.

Rivera Schatz also said De Castro Font’s petition was inappropriate because it had been issued right in the middle of an expulsion process against the senator.

Researchers To Study HIV Vaccine On Island

By Yaisha Vargas Perez

June 22, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

The Center for Maternal and Infant Studies (CEMI by its Spanish acronym) needs volunteers to study the effectiveness of a vaccine to prevent HIV infections on the island, chief researcher Carmen D. Zorrilla said Wednesday.

The first group of 20 volunteers between the ages of 21 y 45 must be in good health and must have tested negative for HIV.

"We would be testing a vaccine known as ADN-GAG, which has an adenovirus AD-5, which is the technical name of the vaccine," Zorrilla said.

She noted that the vaccine doesn’t contain the AIDS virus, but has been developed with artificial products that trick the body into thinking that it has been infected with the virus.

Zorrilla is the chief researcher of a local unit that is linked to an international group of researchers who are working on a vaccine against HIV.

In a second study, the CEMI will need 50 men and 50 women between the ages of 21 and 50 who are HIV negative and have been engaging in high risk activities such as unprotected sex, multiple sex partners, and drug use.

"Some will receive the vaccine, while others will be injected with a placebo," Zorrilla said.

She also said the study would require volunteers to visit the center up to 20 times and that each volunteer would be paid $25 per visit.

The contact numbers are 1-888-VACUNAS (1-888-822-8627), (787) 753-5913, and (787) 771-4740.

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