Tax On Banks Blasted… Tension At The GDB… Check In, Out… Rossello Cites Fortuño’s Mistake… NPP, PDP In Tax Reform Pact… McClintock Seeks $200m, Bipartisan Proposal Rejected… LF: Big Gov’t Affects Education… McClintock May Lose PDP’s Support… Rossello: 6 Senators’ Sanctions Painful…LF: NPP Gov. Would’ve Prevented Crisis… AAV Won’t End Work Reduction Plan… Rossello: Govs Lost PDP's Support… Baseball's Last Hero'

Arturo Carrion Blasts 4% Tax On Banks

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

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Puerto Rico Banking Association Vice President Arturo Carrion blast the proposed 4% tax on the banking sector during a public hearing at of the House Treasury & Financial Affairs Committee on Monday.

He said that if this bill is approved, consumers will suffer the consequences, since they are the ones who will ultimately pay for this tax.

Carrion believes that the imposition of this new tax increase is a bad economic policy, because it comes at a time when the Puerto Rico economy is fragile due to increasing fuel prices and an economic slowdown for the past four years.

He also noted that the local government hasn’t been able to implement a public policy that would boost the island’s competitiveness in the global economy.

"What could be worse than the sign that we are giving to global investors by levying new taxes in a time of economic fragility?" said Carrion.

The executive vice president also said that to levy additional taxes on productive sectors is a policy that is likely trigger an economic recession. He also reminded the committee that the governor has already approved a 2.5% tax on the banking sector of Puerto Rico that should be able to generate $180 million to make up for the current fiscal deficit.

Torres Acknowledges Tension At The GDB

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

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Chief of Staff Anibal Jose Torres admitted on Monday that there had been several differences with the Government Development Bank (GDB) Board of Directors prior to the resignation of former GDB President William Lockwood on Friday.

However, Torres insisted that Lockwood’s resignation had been based solely on personal reasons.

Torres said Lockwood’s resignation had nothing to do with Management & Budget Director Ileana Fas Pacheco or with the GDB Board.

"There were discrepancies, just like in any board of directors, but Lockwood always had La Fortaleza’s respect," Torres said.

Lockwood submitted his resignation following rumors that several members of the board had lost their faith in him due to recent transactions at the GDB.

It was also reported that the executive branch was unhappy with the fact that Lockwood had been against the proposed 4% bank tax and because he was never able to mesh well with the rest of Acevedo Vila’s economic team members.

On Friday, Lockwood confirmed that credit-rating agencies were discontent with the fact that a government like Puerto Rico, with a credit rating below A- had approved a bond issue based on changeable interest rates. The transaction is expected to generate $100 million, but Lockwood has said that this transaction isn’t safe.

Check In, Check Out

Oline H. Cogdill | South Florida Sun-Sentinel

August 21, 2005
Copyright © 2005
ORLANDO SENTINEL. All rights reserved. 

A "fragile reality" surrounds the night as Julian Castrodad learns how darkness and the anonymity of a motel can keep secrets. Recently fired from his newspaper job, stalled on his novel, failing at a relationship, Julian now works nights at the front desk of a motel in San Juan, Puerto Rico, renting some rooms by the hour. He's hoping that this mundane job will help him finish his novel by allowing him to "get to the essence of the ordinary" in life.

In Mayra Santos-Febres' novel Any Wednesday I'm Yours (Riverhead, $14), Julian and his Haitian partner, Tadeo, witness a broad spectrum of humanity pass through to rent their rooms, including a drug lord, a labor attorney and a woman whose sole companion is a brandy bottle. For these customers, Julian is "the gust of air that leads the car to the garage, that hands over the keys, brings extra sheets."

But as "an invisible being," Julian is free to scrutinize the customers -- and the fatal consequences that erupt when their lives intersect.

Santos-Febres, a professor of literature at the University of Puerto Rico in San Juan, is a short-story writer, poet and novelist. In Any Wednesday I'm Yours, which she wrote in Spanish and translated herself into English, she brings a poet's touch to this perfectly pitched noir view of the Island of Enchantment.

Rossello Points Out Fortuño’s Mistake

August 20, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — New Progressive Party (NPP) Arecibo Sen. Pedro Rossello said Resident Commissioner Luis Fortuño made a mistake in inviting just a few of the NPP mayors to a meeting on Friday.

Following his meeting with Vega Baja Mayor Edgar Santana Rivera to discuss several projects for that municipality, Rossello told reporters that it had been a mistake not to openly invite those who have supported Rossello’s bid for the Senate helm.

"I think it is totally correct to hold this type of meeting to attract the resources that the mayors need…but it seems to me that they all should’ve been invited…that the subject was of interest to all mayors…I believe it was a mistake not to invite all of the mayors," Rossello said.

He added that Fortuño has every right to aspire to the candidacy of his choice, but that he should be straight with the people. Rossello said he believes Fortuño tells the truth when he says he hasn’t decided to run for governor.

The NPP president said the party has others, like San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini, House Speaker Jose Aponte, and NPP Sen. Jose Emilio Gonzalez who are also capable of governing the island.

NPP And PDP Make A Pact For Tax Reform

August 18, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — New Progressive Party (NPP) legislators and mayors came to an agreement Thursday with Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá for the governor to sign legislative measures that favor municipalities in exchange for the legislators of the majority to evaluate the bills to collect money that La Fortaleza sent to the Legislature and to form a Tax Reform.

The pact occurred while the Popular Democratic Party Senate delegation conditioned their support of the presidential seat, occupied by NPP Senate President Kenneth McClintock and desired by former Gov. and NPP Sen. Pedro Rosselló, to the legislators of the majority approving the tax measures that the governor sent.

The NPP politicians who appeared Thursday at La Fortaleza to endorse the agreement were Mayors Federation President Itzamar Peña, House Municipal Affaire Committee Chairman Angel Peña, and Sen. Carmelo Ríos, allied to Rosselló in the Senate.

The agreement consists in Acevedo Vilá signing several measures to increase the lending margin of the municipalities, allow them to pay their debt in 40 years instead of 30 so they can assign less money to the payment of that debt, and raise the municipalities’ bidding limit from $40,000 to $100,000.

In exchange, the legislators assumed "the responsibility of accelerating a possible agenda in terms of increasing collections, giving participation to the municipalities to take them out of the hole they are in," Angel Peña said.

However, this promise does not include a guarantee that the governor’s measures will be approved, since the legislators told reporters that the collection measures will be "studied".

Meanwhile, Ríos said there are 10 NPP senators prepared to overcome the differences between the legislative and executive branches to achieve a Tax Reform that collects more money for the central government.

McClintock Willing To Look For $200 Million

August 17, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — The Senate Committee currently evaluating the discrepancies between the budget numbers presented by the legislative and executive branches, held its second meeting Wednesday mainly to find ways to identify the $200 million needed to prevent layoffs and avoid reducing the schedules and salaries of government employees, said Senate President Kenneth McClintock and Argeo Quiñones, economic advisor to the Puerto Rico Workers Federation upon exiting the meeting.

Once again, McClintock denied the executive branch’s claims that there is a lack of funds to cover payroll expenses. However, he said the committee will try to determine how they can come up with the $200 million to avoid affecting government employees.

McClintock said he is intent on looking for conclusions that will ensure that the government’s payroll won't be affected.

He also said he wouldn’t be investing his time and effort if he didn’t think something good could result from it.

McClintock made his statement after he was asked whether he believed they would be able to reach an agreement by September, when credit rating agencies are expected to visit the island.

Acevedo Vila Rejects Bipartisan Proposal

August 17, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila on Wednesday lambasted the bill that the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) and the New Progressive Party (NPP) House delegations had filed to authorize a credit line for public corporation in order to implement a gradual increase in government service rates.

"The Government Development Bank (GDB) doesn’t have enough cash-flow… This specific proposal isn’t viable… We can’t keep fooling ourselves and I can’t allow something that I know it can’t be implemented," Acevedo Vila said during a press conference.

If approved, the bill filed by PDP Reps. Luis Raul Torres, Jose Varela, Hector Ferrer, and Jorge Colberg, as well as NPP Reps. Epifanio Jimenez, and Angel Perez would be applicable to the service rates of the Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Authority (Prasa), the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa), the Highway & Transportation Authority (HTA), the Metropolitan Bus Authority (AMA by its Spanish acronym), and the UPR.

"The most important aspect of this bill is the fact that NPP legislators have finally admitted that what I have said so far is true; a rate revision is necessary. From that point of view, this is an extraordinary step forward," the governor stated.

He also said the downgrading of the GDB’s credit rating would make it impossible to use the GDB to finance this plan.

"If the Legislative Assembly approves new sources of income to generate $200 million, I might be willing to consider the implementation of a rate revision divided into two stages," Acevedo Vila said.

The governor declined to say whether he would veto the bill. However, since it was a bipartisan effort, the House might have the votes to overturn his veto.

Fortuño: Government Gigantism Affects Education


August 16, 2005
Copyright © 2005
PRWOW News. All rights reserved. 

Resident Commissioner Luis Fortuño expressed his concern about the way that government gigantism has affected special education programs for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in Puerto Rico.

"Education programs for children with this type of condition cost approximately $3,000 per month. In a jurisdiction like our own, where the average income is $16,543 per family, you can just imagine what an economic challenge that is for the parents of these children," said Fortuño during his participation at a book fair Monday. The event was held in Plaza Las Americas to help a non-profit organization dedicated to the education of children with (ASD) in Puerto Rico.

Fortuño reiterated that the problem with local education in general isn’t the lack of funding or money, but the misuse of it.

"Instead of reaching the classrooms, the money simply just gets lost in the existing bureaucracy at the Education Department. This government gigantism–which is getting us closer to bankruptcy–causes mismanagement of funds, service delays, and deficient education," Fortuño stated.

The resident commissioner reiterated his concern about the lack of information and education regarding ASD. He said early intervention with autistic children does contribute to a better quality of life that at the same time will help them increase their productivity, self-reliance, and social integration.

This type of disorder affects a person’s mental development. Symptoms usually appear during the first three years of life. The condition interferes with the normal development of a person’s communication ability, motor skills, and social interaction.

AAV: McClintock May Lose PDP’s Support

August 15, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila on Monday warned Senate President Kenneth McClintock that he may lose the support of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) delegation if he doesn’t allow the approval of tax measures to increase government revenues and help alleviate the current fiscal crisis.

The governor said PDP senators aren’t part of the fratricidal fight among NPP Senate majority members. Acevedo Vila emphasized that the PDP’s main concern right now is to get those tax bills approved.

"I hope the Senate president understands the historic turning point that he is in. The country has lent him its support so that he can make decisions that will help Puerto Rico move forward," Acevedo Vila said.

A few hours prior to the governor’s statement, PDP minority leaders at the House and Senate, Hector Ferrer and Jose Luis Dalmau, respectively, said they would support a new NPP leadership at the Legislature if McClintock refuses to allow the approval of the bills.

PDP leaders have expressed their dissatisfaction with McClintock’s actions during the past extraordinary session, because he refused to consider the proposed tax measures.

Ferrer and Dalmau said they will support the NPP leader who is willing to back Acevedo Vila’s proposed tax measures.

Pedro Rossello: Sanctions Against Senators Were Painful

August 14, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — New Progressive Party (NPP) President Pedro Rossello described the ouster of Sen. Jorge de Castro Font and the sanctions against five other senators on Sunday as a painful process that everyone has had to endure.

"Of course I feel it (the loss of the senators). It is a painful process. These fellow members have worked with me on many campaigns and we’ve gone through difficult moments together, but in spite of that, sometimes there are decisions that require us to take that tortuous path," Rossello said during a press conference following the General Assembly that ratified the NPP directorate’s recommendation to oust Sen. Jorge de Castro Font and suspend the five senators who are against Rossello’s intentions to wrest the Senate helm away from Senate President Kenneth McClintock.

They are also to be stripped from their positions within the party and forbidden to run as NPP candidates in the next general election.

These senators are Migdalia Padilla, Lucy Arce, Orlando Parga, Carlos Diaz, and McClintock.

During the press conference, Rossello declined to say whether he would run for governor once again in 2008.

"I don’t find it appropriate to give a yes or no answer. My biggest responsibility is to ensure that our party is able to continue to work in the next elections," Rossello said. "Whatever it is required of me to achieve that, I’ll do," he added.

De Castro Expelled; Five Senators Suspended

August 14, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — The New Progressive Party (NPP) General Assembly ratified the directorate’s decision to oust Sen. Jorge de Castro Font from the party and suspend Sen. Kenneth McClintock, as well as the group of senators who support him for the Senate presidency.

Both motions were approved out loud by the Delegates Assembly, with the opposition of Yauco Mayor Abel Nazario, who also rejected several amendments to the party rules.

The amendments affected the senators who are against NPP President Pedro Rossello’s intentions to wrest the Senate helm away from McClintock.

According to NPP Secretary General Thomas Rivera Schatz, the motions have stripped Sens. Orlando Parga, Lucy Arce, Migdalia Padilla, Carlos Diaz, and McClintock from their leadership positions within the party.

The new party rules also state that the suspended senators may not run as NPP candidates in the next general election.

After the amendments were approved, Nazario left the room and was yelled at on his way out of the Caribe Hilton Hotel by a group of militants, who even followed him all the way to the parking lot and threw objects at him.

Fortuño: An NPP Governor Would’ve Prevented Crisis

August 13, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Resident Commissioner Luis Fortuño said on Saturday that a New Progressive Party (NPP) governor would have prevented the current fiscal situation of the island.

"If we had an NPP governor, like I wanted, this wouldn’t be happening in Puerto Rico and we would have been able to prevent this disaster," said Fortuño upon leaving the NPP Youth Assembly that was held at the Caribe Hilton Hotel.

According to Fortuño, Puerto Rico’s colonial status is the root of the economic problem that is currently affecting the island.

"We must understand that the root of this problem is our colonial situation. We must fight and that fight must come from our youth so that Puerto Rico can be transformed into a society of growth and opportunity; so that our future will no longer be on a one-way ticket to Orlando, (Florida), but here on the land where we were born, so that all Puerto Ricans can have a promising future," he stated.

The NPP leader also criticized Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila for wanting to increase government revenues through the imposition of additional tax measures.

"Thank God we have an NPP Legislature that has been able to prevent these tax increases. If not, how many of you would have been able to get through this month with what you earn today? To make matters worse, now they are asking you to work 20% less," Fortuño said.

AAV Won’t Eliminate Work Reduction Plan

August 13, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila on Friday ruled out the possibility of eliminating his plan to reduce the work schedules and salaries of government employees.

According to Acevedo Vila, the Legislature is the only one that can prevent the measure from becoming a mandatory plan, by approving new tax measures to increase government revenues.

"We are waiting for the Legislative Assembly to act. If the Legislative Assembly allocates the money that we need, a mandatory work reduction plan won’t be necessary," the governor said.

Acevedo Vila insisted that he would "continue to make profound changes to solve serious problems in Puerto Rico."

He also said that if he could, he would approve a higher tax rate on financial institutions and increase the current capital gains tax.

The governor reiterated that by refusing to make these changes, the Legislative Assembly has become part of the problem.

Rossello: AAV Has Lost PDP's Support

August 12, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila has lost the support of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) and of the people of Puerto Rico, New Progressive Party (NPP) President Pedro Rossello said Thursday.

"It is obvious that he has lost all kind of support that he might have had from the PDP, as well as from the people of Puerto Rico," he said during a radio interview.

Rossello’s statements were in reaction to Acevedo Vila’s radio address that was aired on Wednesday night to urge PDP militants to support his decisions to straighten out the government’s finances and pressure the NPP-led Legislative Assembly to approve tax measures in order to increase public revenue and alleviate the current economic crisis.

The also NPP senator said he believes the governor has suffered a loss in credibility, as a result of his current actions, which are contrary to what he had promised during his gubernatorial campaign.

Rossello said Acevedo Vila has gone from promising not to increase taxes and rates, to proposing the biggest tax increases and rate hikes yet in Puerto Rico.

He also criticized Acevedo Vila for claiming that the Calderon administration had straighten out government finances, only to find out months later that the administration that he had belong to had generated the biggest deficit in the history of Puerto Rico.

Rossello also noted that the current government has been unable to tackle the increasing crime and unemployment rates. He also promised to limit government expenditures, but increased the government payroll during the first six months of his administration instead.

'Book Recalls Baseball's Last Hero'

Doug Moe

The Capital Times & Wisconsin State Journal

August 12, 2005
Copyright © 2005
Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved. 

MADISON NATIVE David Maraniss has finished his new book on the late baseball star Roberto Clemente, and it is tentatively scheduled for publication next April 25.

"Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero" is now up on, which lists it as 384 pages and priced at $26.

Roberto Clemente was a Puerto Rico native, a great ballplayer, and more. His on-field exploits for the Pittsburgh Pirates were remarkable: four National League batting titles; more than 3,000 hits; and 12 Gold Gloves for fielding.

Unlike so many star athletes, though, Clemente was also a humanitarian interested in social justice. On New Year's Eve 1972, the 37-year-old Clemente was aboard a plane taking food, clothing and medical supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. The plane went down off the coast of Puerto Rico, and Clemente's body was never found.

The subject would seem to be a natural for Maraniss, who has written in the past of his love of baseball. One such occasion was an essay Maraniss contributed to the 2002 book, "What Baseball Means to Me: A Celebration of Our National Pastime." In that piece, Maraniss wrote about listening on the radio as a boy in Madison in 1959 when Clemente's Pirates played a historic game against the Milwaukee Braves in County Stadium. In that game, Pirates pitcher Harvey Haddix pitched 12 innings of perfect baseball - and didn't win the game. The game was won by the Braves in 13 innings.

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