Calderon Signs Panama Cooperation Pact Tourism Cancels Natl Geographic Ads Cruz: RR Closing Illegal Web Promotes P.R. Investments MLB Tax Exemption OKd Garcia Appt. Official Rossellos Support Grows PDP Legislators Consider Giving Up Per Diems LMM Airport Among The Worst Expos To Be Embraced Fishing Declines
Puerto Rican Governor, Panama's President Sign Cooperation Agreement
March 11, 2003
PANAMA CITY (AP) - Puerto Rico's governor and Panama's president signed a cooperation agreement Tuesday aimed at strengthening economic and cultural ties.
Puerto Rico Gov. Sila Calderon arrived Tuesday in Panama for a two-day visit and met with Panama's president, Mireya Moscoso. The two signed the cooperation agreement, which was drawn up by Puerto Rico's secretary of state, Ferdinand Mercado, and Panama's foreign secretary, Harmodio Arias.
The document tries to "open the doors to a new source of diplomatic relations," Mercado said.
On Wednesday, Moscoso and Calderon will inaugurate the Feria Expocomer 2003, a trade exposition that generates about $100 million a year in transactions.
Tourism To Cancel Ads In National Geographic
March 11, 2003
SAN JUAN (AP) The Puerto Rico Tourism Co. is canceling plans to advertise in National Geographic magazine, a reaction to an article that some have criticized as presenting a negative portrayal of the island.
Economic Development & Commerce Secretary Milton Segarra demanded an apology from Editor-in-Chief William L. Allen in a letter sent last week and obtained Tuesday.
Segarra said he ordered the Tourism Co. "to immediately cancel its plans to place ads in National Geographic and its sister publications," as well as pull a new commercial to run on the National Geographic Channel.
The magazine defended the article titled "True Colors: Divided Loyalties in Puerto Rico," which was the cover story of its March Spanish-language edition.
"One of the most difficult issues a writer faces when covering a topic as broad as Puerto Rico is what to include and what must be left out due to space limitations," the editors said in the statement.
Written by Andrew Cockburn, the article reflects on the politically charged subject of Puerto Rico's relationship to the United States.
Photographs by Amy Toensing range from images of demonstrators protesting U.S. Navy bombing exercises on Vieques to heroin addicts shooting up, landscapes, and a woman parading in a sequined dress adorned with the Puerto Rican flag.
Radio talk shows have received phone calls denouncing the article, with several callers saying they fear it will put off tourists. Some 4.4 million tourists visited the island in the fiscal year ended June 2002.
In the letter sent Friday, Segarra and Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila took issue with a photograph showing a Santeria chicken sacrifice, "an exotic religion practiced by merely 1% of the population."
They claimed the article ignored "the historical and cultural influences of Catholicism and other Christian religions, practiced by well over 85% of the population."
However, a photograph posted on the National Geographic Web site shows crosses at a Puerto Rican cemetery bathed in morning light, described as "stone symbols of the Catholic faith."
San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini criticized the depiction of drug addicts given that the problem exists in cities throughout the United States.
"There are negative things that happen, but we aren't the only ones in the world," Santini said. He said he didn't think the article would hurt the movement to make Puerto Rico the 51st U.S. state.
Acevedo Vila and Segarra said "our unique relationship with the United States is not an example of 'divided loyalties' - as you entitled the article" but is a "mutually beneficial relationship."
Ceiba Mayor: Roosevelt Roads Base Closing Illegal
March 11, 2003
SAN JUAN (AP) Ceiba Mayor Gerardo Cruz denounced Tuesday that the possible closing of Roosevelt Roads Naval Base in his municipality would be illegal because the U.S. Navy started to reduce its operations there without officially announcing its closing.
He said as long as there is no official communication from the Navy, the Puerto Rico government and the municipality cannot draft a plan to face the economic and social impact of the closing.
"They are reducing operations there, and since they are doing it illegally, it is producing these effects," the mayor said before testifying at a public hearing of the House Labor and Veterans Affairs Committee, which is investigating the effects of a possible closing of Roosevelt Roads.
"In 2005, when the new process of closing bases begins in the United States, the Navy can say lets close Roosevelt Roads because there is only a skeleton there, and that is at the margin of the law," he added.
Cruz said his city would lose some $1.5 million annually in payments of municipal license fees and construction taxes from companies that work on the base, almost 3,800 civilian base employees who could be unemployed, and the economic impact to neighboring commerce.
"The Navy has not officially said it is closing the base, but in practice, it is. This is going to create chaos economically, socially, and even politically," he said.
Cruz indicated that in view of the uncertainty and ignorance, it is illogical to speculate about the use that could be given to the land and facilities of the base.
"No one in Puerto Rico can talk about what we can do with the port, the track, the houses, the hospital, because we dont know because the Navy is not officially closing the base, it is unofficially closing," he said.
New Web Site To Promote Investments In Puerto Rico
March 11, 2003
SAN JUAN (AP) The Economic Development & Commerce Department announced Tuesday the launch of its new Web site that seeks to inform the national and international community about the benefits of the island as a destination for investors.
Economic Development Secretary Milton Segarra said the new Internet portal "will be a very valuable resource to provide information for investors interested in doing business in Puerto Rico."
According to Segarra, the Web site will supply information about the most important projects in economic terms on the island, as well as economic statistics and information presented in a simple manner.
The Web site is www.ddecpr.com.
Major League Promoters, Players' Tax Exemption Approved
March 11, 2003
SAN JUAN (AP) The House of Representatives approved an administrative bill that exempts promoters who bring a Major League Baseball game to Puerto Rico from paying taxes on their profits.
House Treasury Committee Chairman Francisco Zayas Seijo defended the bill saying the promoter who is bringing the Montreal Expos games to the Hiram Bithorn Stadium in Hato Rey in April will spend $10 million in the local economy before receiving a cent.
The House also approved a bill that reduces from 29% to 20% the tax rate applied to the income of Major League baseball players who are not U.S. citizens. The approved rate is the same that U.S. citizens would pay, according to published reports.
Despite the reduction and thanks to the higher income of the players, the government will receive $3.2 million in taxes, Zayas Seijo said.
The bills passed with 32 votes in favor and 10 New Progressive Party (NPP) votes against. Puerto Rican Independence Party Rep. Victor Garcia San Inocencio and NPP Reps. Luis Roldan Maldonado and Jorge de Castro Font voted for it.
Bush Formalizes Garcias Appointment As U.S. Attorney
March 11, 2003
The U.S. Attorneys Office announced Monday that President George W. Bush signed the presidential commission appointing Humberto S. Garcia as U.S. attorney for the district of Puerto Rico.
According to a press release distributed by Garcias office, a private swearing in before U.S. District Court Judge Hector Laffitte will be held in the next few days.
A public swearing-in ceremony will be held at a later date still to be announced, officials said.
Garcia thanked Bush for the appointment and the district judges, especially Laffitte, for giving him the opportunity to get a head start on the position by appointing him interim U.S. attorney in September 2002.
"I pledge to do my best in assuring that the resources of the U.S. Attorneys Office are used wisely to meet the priorities of the administration and to better the lives of the citizens of Puerto Rico," Garcia said in the press release.
Support For Rossellos Comeback Continues To Grow
March 10, 2003
SAN JUAN (AP) - Support for former Gov. Pedro Rossellos comeback continues to grow, and New Progressive Party Rep. Jose Aponte predicted that it would grow even more before Saturday when he is expected to arrive on the island.
"There will be surprises. I am very confident that there will be many, many people attending the activity," Aponte said.
He noted that people who have yet to come forward and endorse Rossello would do so before Saturday.
Apontes prediction was followed shortly after by San Juan Mayor Jorge Santinis invitation to the public to attend Saturdays event.
Although he declined to openly endorse Rossello, his participation in the welcome event is meaningful support for the former governor.
Meanwhile, on Monday, a group of civilians calling themselves "Volunteers with Rossello" announced their intention to recruit over 10,000 people to campaign in the streets for the former governor.
Former Sen. and Judge Daniel Lopez Soto came back into public view and joined rookie legislator Jennifer Gonzalez in her support for Rossello, adding that he has opened a web page, www.pnp.org, where thousands of supporters have expressed their willingness to work in the campaign of the former governor.
"Its been amazing. I was developing that page for the party, but people kept writing asking what they could do in favor of Rossello," Lopez Soto said.
PDP Legislators Consider Giving Up Per Diems
March 10, 2003
SAN JUAN (AP) On Sunday, Popular Democratic Party (PDP) representatives agreed to give up their tax-free per diems. In return, they will request a salary increase to bring their annual income equal to that of judges and agency heads.
This will be one of 10 changes that the PDP representatives agreed to propose to Gov. Sila Calderon regarding the legislative benefits and the Legislative Assemblys structure, according to published reports.
Puerto Ricos Commonwealth Constitution forbids a Legislative Assembly to increase its own income. Therefore, all raises must be applied to the next Legislative Assembly that takes office.
Right now, legislators who dont occupy any leadership position earn a base salary of $60,000 a year. The president of each legislative body earns $90,000 a year. These salaries dont include tax-free per diems, which average $20,000 a year. In comparison, appellate judges and agency chiefs start with $80,000 annual base salary.
Meanwhile, PDP Senate majority leader Jose Luis Dalmau said legislators wont increase their salaries.
"The proposal was to eliminate the tax exemption on per diems starting January 2004," Dalmau said in a radio interview. "We never talked about increasing the salary," he said.
He added that he is against a salary raise for legislators. However, he defended the privileges that they have, like per diems, driving a government vehicle, and using government funds to pay for their cellular phones.
LMM Airport Ranks Among The Worst In The U.S.
March 10, 2003
SAN JUAN (AP) According to a survey of the Condé Nast Traveler tourism magazine, the Luis Muñoz Marin International (LMM) Airport is the seventh worst airport of all U.S. jurisdictions.
Following an opinion poll, the worst airports are New Yorks John F. Kennedy airport, Michigans Detroit airport, Boston airport in Massachusetts, La Guardia airport in New York, and the airports of St. Louis, Missouri, and Miami, Florida.
Meanwhile, the airports of Tampa and West Palm Beach, Florida were singled out as the best in the nation.
Although LMMs management didnt react to the survey, they announced that the plans for expansion and improvement of the local international airport are well ahead of schedule.
Expos To Be Embraced By Fans In Puerto Rico
March 9, 2003
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - From all preliminary indications, the vagabond Montreal Expos will be very well-received when they play 22 games in San Juan, Puerto Rico, this season, and that could mean even more games there next year.
There has been speculation that Major League Baseball and the players union could agree to stage half of the Expos home schedule in Puerto Rico in 2004 if no decision has been made on relocating the franchise permanently to Washington or another site.
"You're open-minded," Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Donald Fehr said on Thursday. "Whenever you do an experiment like this, you don't prejudge the results."
Union official Tony Bernazard, a native of Puerto Rico, is confident that the area would be supportive of a larger schedule of games and could play host to the team for a full season if necessary. The area apparently is not a serious option for permanent relocation of the Expos, but that might change if things go as well as hoped this season.
"I was hoping it would be more than 22 games [this year]," Bernazard said.
"I know it will be successful for a short period of time, even if it was 81 games. The question is what would happen over the long term. Let's see how it works out."
Fishing In Puerto Rico Decrease In Past Decades
March 9, 2003
SAN JUAN (AP) The fish and seafood caught by Puerto Rican fishermen has decreased 44% in the past 25 years, according to the Department of Natural & Environmental Resources (DNER).
The main reason for this notable decrease is overfishing in Puerto Rican waters, biologist Daniel Matos Caraballo told published reports.
He said some of the main symptoms that the resource is overfished is the decrease in disembarkations and the capture of smaller fish.
"These symptoms have been identified in the fish resource in Puerto Rico," he said.
According to DNER figures, in 1977, reported disembarkations totaled 5.3 million pounds, and in 2002, the amount reported was 3.5 million pounds.