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Bhatia Says Santini Lies About City Finances... Santini Highlights Financial Achievements… NPP Senators Reject Changes To Language… PIP Urges Voting Among Youngsters… Tourists Rate Puerto Rico Highly… Calderon Refers Blue Ribbon Report On PRIDCO… Sen. Ramirez Denounces Anti-ROTC Activists… SEC Right On Schedule For Primary

Bhatia Says Santini Lies About City Finances

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

October 16, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Popular Democratic Party (PDP) pre-candidate for San Juan mayor, Eduardo Bhatia, lambasted Mayor Jorge Santini and said a report on San Juan’s finances issued Tuesday is a lie to the people.

Bhatia said Santini lied to the citizens of San Juan when he claimed he has not raised taxes and when he said he has not spent municipal economic resources to promote himself.

Bhatia showed a copy of published reports, which stated that last January, the San Juan municipal assembly increased taxes for businesses in the capital, and he criticized Santini for placing his name all over the city.

"That’s the kind of thing that doesn’t contribute to a city’s development," Bhatia said.

He described the signs as an offense to the people and said neither communities nor residents were asked about the initiative.

"This report is a lie, and it is also an excuse to hide the real financial problems the municipal government has," Bhatia added.

Meanwhile, Bhatia vowed to eliminate Santini’s name from all signs if he’s elected mayor.

During the past several months, Santini has invested $1.2 million for the installment of signs to identify communities and urban areas properly. The signs include an exotic flower, the city’s coat of arms, and the mayor’s name.

The PDP leader made his remarks at a press conference in Hato Rey, along with San Juan District Sen. Jose Ortiz Daliot.

Bhatia also lambasted Santini for not submitting an audited finance report, something former mayor and current Gov. Sila Calderon adopted as a standard for public administration.

"What is Santini hiding? Why did he not submit an audit report to the people of San Juan?" said Bhatia, who acknowledged that the law does not require the municipal government to do so.

Santini Highlights Financial Achievements

October 15, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini cited Tuesday the reduction of the capital’s budget deficit as one of his main achievements.

In his finance and administrative activities report, required by the Autonomous Municipalities Law, Santini indicated that San Juan’s budget last year closed with a surplus of $2.5 million in the general fund.

He said that since he took the reins of the municipal administration in January 2001, he has reduced the deficit from $46.7 million to $29.8 million as of June 30, 2003.

"It is appropriate to remember that we have been recovering our fiscal health without imposing taxes that weigh down families’ budget and increase the cost of doing business in the capital," added the mayor, who is seeking re-election in 2004.

Santini also highlighted the municipal government’s initiatives in the fields of culture, sports, security, and recreation.

NPP Senators Reject Changes To Language

October 15, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Believing that having two official languages has not caused any problems to Puerto Ricans, the New Progressive Party (NPP) minority in the Senate opposed the possible derogation of the law to have Spanish as the island’s only official language.

Senate NPP Minority Leader Kenneth McClintock said the law should remain exactly as it was approved in 1993, when both Spanish and English could be used indistinctively at the island’s government agencies.

In his opinion, to change the law would be another sign of how priorities in the island are out of order.

That is how the NPP reacted to the previous statements of Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora, who said that before his term is over, he will file a bill to have Spanish as the island’s only official language.

"Either they are trying to deviate public opinion on the disaster within the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) or the PDP senators realized that Gov. Sila Calderon no longer has the leadership to halt that initiative," the legislator said.

Sen. Norma Burgos said the Legislature should focus on legislation aimed at improving academic skills and school facilities, as well as violence prevention.

Sen. Lucy Arce said there is no reason to change the language law when it is working well.

A recent census reported that 2.5 million Puerto Ricans acknowledged that they speak English less than well, which represents 71.9% of the population.

In 1993, former NPP Gov. Pedro Rossello declared English and Spanish as the island’s two official languages and noted that they could indistinctively be used in the executive, legislative, or judiciary branches.

Rossello overruled the 1991 law approved by then PDP Gov. Rafael Hernandez Colon declaring Spanish as Puerto Rico’s only official language.

PIP Urges Voting Among Youngsters

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

October 16, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

The Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) urged the State Elections Commission (SEC) to develop an information campaign to promote voting among young people. More than 100,000 young people who will be eligible to vote in the 2004 general elections have not registered to do so.

PIP Electoral Commissioner Juan Dalmau Ramirez said Wednesday that nearly 26% of potential voters between the ages of 18 and 24 have not registered or have not updated their registration.

Dalmau said the PIP conducted a study on youngsters and the vote registry using data provided by the Demographic Registry of the Health Department. A total of 472,082 would be over 18 by November 2004. Of those, 91,947 (19%) youngsters have not ever registered to vote, while another 29,629 voters (6%) are inactive voters because they registered but did not participate in the 2000 elections.

"More than preparing an advertising campaign, the SEC should go and knock on the doors of these youngsters and inform them about the importance of voting," Dalmau said.

He said the PIP is promoting the importance of voting among young people but insisted that the SEC has a duty to promote participation.

Dalmau acknowledged that young peoples’ lack of interest in the election process could be understood as an expression of dislike or rejection of the government and of politics in general.

He also acknowledged that young people are tired of the way politics are handled and that there’s dislike among that age group toward the discussion of transcendental matters related to the island’s development and progress.

However, he stated that in a democracy, the most effective vehicle to express dislike toward a party is through the vote.

"Staying at home and not expressing themselves through the vote is a form of reward to those who abuse the trust people gave them," he added.

Dalmau sent a letter to SEC President Aurelio Gracia asking the commission to take further action on the situation.

In the 2000 general elections, 2.4 million citizens were registered to vote, but only 2 million did so. It was not clear how many of those voters were between the ages of 18 and 24.

Puerto Rico electoral law establishes the age of 18 as one of the eligibility factors for voting.

Tourists Rate Puerto Rico Highly

October 16, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Tourism Co. said Wednesday that a study conducted in June among U.S. tourists who visited Puerto Rico reflected that 96% of them would recommend the island as a tourist destination.

The study, which questioned 1,400 visitors, also reflected that 78% of those surveyed said they would return to Puerto Rico.

According to a Tourism Co. press release, most of the interviewees expressed a high level of satisfaction with the hotels, restaurants, and other attractions of the island.

For example, 82% of those surveyed who stayed in hotels were very satisfied with their service and amenities.

Similarly, 80% of the interviewees were very satisfied with the variety and the service of the island’s restaurants, the press release said.

The study, conducted by the Gaither company, was conducted to measure the expectations of U.S. tourists after selecting the island as a tourist destination, evaluate their satisfaction after their vacations, and identify the strengths and weaknesses of the destination, the Tourism Co. said.

Calderon Refers Blue Ribbon Report On PRIDCO

October 12, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Gov. Sila Calderon referred to the Justice Department and six other agencies a report by the Independent Citizens Committee to Evaluate Government Transactions that details alleged irregularities of the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Co. (PRIDCO) and the Economic Development Bank (EDB) during the past administration.

The organization, also known as the Blue Ribbon Committee, reports that PRIDCO and the EDB improperly gave a $4.1 million incentive to a now-defunct company called Starcom.

"The irregularities include: sale of influences, payment of commissions to public officials in exchange for the granting of incentives, cancellation of debts and release of guarantees, and the irresponsible and improper disbursement of incentives for some $4 million in violation of the applicable norms," the 54-page report indicated.

Starcom was organized in 1997 with the purpose of manufacturing, selling, and installing electronic equipment for communications, data management, and electronic security and began operations in 1999, La Fortaleza said in a press release.

However, the company ceased operations a little after receiving the incentives, the Blue Ribbon Committee said.

The governor also referred the report to the Treasury Department, the Economic Development Department, the Accounting Board, the EDB, and the Senate and House of Representatives.

Sen. Ramirez Denounces Anti-ROTC Activists

October 14, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — New Progressive Party (NPP) Sen. Miriam Ramirez de Ferer denounced the fact that the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez Campus, also known as RUM by its Spanish acronym, is at risk of losing federal funds because of a group of students who have impeded the remodeling of the ROTC building at that university.

Ramirez, who is running for the NPP resident commissioner candidacy, said she has referred the issue to the federal authorities so that they can take immediate action.

The senator said the group is comprised of students who advocate the demilitarization of the university. She said the students trespassed on the construction site to promote their campaign against the military program.

"Young independentistas are protesting against the federal funds which have been allocated to the University of Puerto Rico," the senator said during a press conference Monday.

She said a similar situation occurred at an Ivy League university on the mainland U.S. The school finally had to protect the ROTC recruitment offices on campus to continue receiving federal aid and grants.

Ramirez de Ferrer also urged UPR President Antonio Garcia Padilla, Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila, and Gov. Sila Calderon to take action.

SEC Right On Schedule For Primary

October 12, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The process of printing the ballots for the Nov. 9 primary should end Oct. 27, State Elections Commission (SEC) President Aurelio Gracia said Friday.

Gracia said the SEC will print out 6.18 million ballots for the New Progressive Party (NPP) and 3.25 million for the Popular Democratic Party (PDP).

The SEC president added that the NPP and PDP ballots cost more than $330,000 and more than $200,000, respectively.

"We are doing very well and are ready to have the first internal practice Oct. 21," Gracia said.

He added that so far more than $5.5 million of a $9 million budget has been spent for the preparation of the primary.

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