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Editorial: Federal aid tied to accountability

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It also represents some relief for the endagered Puerto Rican budget now facing the responsability to reform its finances to return to global capital markets and revive the island´s economy.

However, the federal government imposed strict conditions in order to disburse emergency funds to the island. They include the submission of an economic and recovery plan endorsed by the Oversight Board along with monthly reports to Congress and complying with a detailed list of priorities and metrics.

These federal requirements, provided in the bill, bind the local government to the transparent use of funds and its thorough oversight. These are crucial indicators

on the road to recover the trust of the federal government about the Puerto Rican public management.

This new federal aid for recovery may help the Puerto Rican government sharpen its five-year fiscal plan by providing higher precision on the projected federal funds. Accuracy about the figures as well as the model for government reorganization and the budget balance are key elements for the Board to certify the fiscal proposal.

We are grateful to all those who backed the people of Puerto Rico in this heavy task that gave way to the recovery allocation.  Efforts made by Resident Commissioner Jennifer Gonzalez and Governor Ricardo Rosselló, who knocked on every single door in Washington, should be remarked.

Democratic minority Senators Charles Schumer, Patrick Leahy and Bill Nelson were key in lobbying for these funds.  Also to those lawmakers of Puerto Rico descent, Nydia Velázquez, Luis Gutiérrez and José Serrano who responded to the Puerto Rican call.

So did Darrel Soto during his first year in Congress. In the final stretch of the process, Marco Rubio´s support provided a decisive boost to the bill among the Republican majority.

$11 billion of the $ 15 billion approved are for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. 

This will facilitate access to adequate housing to low and moderate income individuals and families, as well as infrastructure projects in municipalities.  $ 2 billion is allocated to repair the power grid at a time when 30 percent of the population still lacks this vital service.

The 4,8 billion for Medicaid, which funds Mi Salud (My Health) plan, is a lifeline for more than a million people who depend on that plan for healthcare and medicines. Congress passed the maximum amount Puerto Rico can aspire within the next two years, conditioning part of those funds to compliance with federal statistics and anti-fraud regulations.

The amount does not represent parity with the states but it is a recognition of the island´s healthcare emergency, especially after Hurricane Maria.  Up to now, Puerto Rico was awarded with $350 million annually for Medicaid, so these federal additional funds release an important item of the island´s budget. This new scenario improves the conditions for restructuring the public healthcare system to make it sustainable.

These federal funds recently allocated may help Puerto Rico on its road to thorough reforms on infrastructure and healthcare, key areas for shaping our future.

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mikenova
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The Hapless Pirates of Puerto Rico - Google Search

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TODAYonline | Puerto Rico police chief says asked to resign by governor

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NEW YORK - The head of Puerto Rico's police was asked to step down from her post by the governor of the U.S. territory, she told Reuters, as the island's authorities struggle to cope with the aftermath of September's Hurricane Maria.

Governor Ricardo Rossello announced the resignation of Commissioner Michelle Hernandez de Fraley on Monday. But that was at the request of Rossello, Hernandez said.

    "I did not resign; I was asked to resign by the governor," Hernandez told Reuters in an email. She did not elaborate, other than to say that it was effective immediately, and did not respond to additional questions. 

    A spokesman for Rossello declined to comment. 

    Hernandez's departure follows mounting frustration from police unions in Puerto Rico over delays in receiving overtime pay, reflected in huge spikes in absenteeism. 

    Police have been working more overtime than usual since Hurricane Maria smashed the U.S. territory on Sept. 20, killing dozens and knocking out power to all 3.5 million residents. Power has still not been fully restored.

    In recent weeks, more than 2,500 police officers a day were calling in sick, Hernandez had said on local media. That equates to some 20 percent of the island's total police force.

The dip in policing may have contributed to a crime rise since around late December, according to data and anecdotal evidence.

That could be another headache for Puerto Rico, which is in desperate need of investment as it negotiates both its worst disaster in 90 years and the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. The island has some $120 billion in combined bond and pension debt, and its bond prices have cratered since the storm, in some cases to below 20 cents on the dollar.

In the first week of 2018, Puerto Rico saw 23 murders, more than double the 9 recorded in the same period last year, according to Karixia Ortiz, a spokeswoman for the Puerto Rico Department of Public Safety (DPS). 

    Douglas Leff, director of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation's San Juan field office, told Reuters in an interview that criminals in one rural town recently stole a backhoe, then used it to break into numerous businesses.

"The consensus is that this brazen crime was pulled off because of the absence of police on the streets," Leff said.

    Although crime has long been relatively high in Puerto Rico, murders had fallen in 2017, according to DPS data. The island finished the year with 679 killings, slightly down from 700 in 2016, the data showed.

Hernandez, a former military officer, was the first woman to lead Puerto Rico's police force.

    Rossello said he had designated Lieutenant Colonel Henry Escalera as interim Commissioner while the administration searched for a replacement. 

    Rossello's office said it had also asked for the resignation of Puerto Rico's tourism minister, Jose Izquierdo, due to a "loss of trust" in the director. REUTERS

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Rosselló takes responsibility | GOVERNMENT

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Governor Ricardo Rosselló yesterday refuted the finding of federal monitor Arnaldo Claudio, who told the federal court that the secretary of the Department of Public Security, Héctor Pesquera, had violated the chain of command of the police.

"I am the governor of Puerto Rico and I am the commander in chief of the Police, and I delegated to him the function of taking the actions he had to take," defended the governor.

The report presented before Judge Gustavo Gelpí in the federal case for the reform of the Police - and reviewed in scoop by EL VOCERO - revealed that Pesquera gave instructions to the Police on how to act in the demonstration on May 1 against the Federal Board of Fiscal Control, when he had not yet been confirmed as secretary of Public Security and the law that governs that agency had not entered into force.

The Law of the Department of Public Security of Puerto Rico, signed in April, entered into force in October, five months after the intervention of Pesquera in the demonstration. The organic laws of all the agencies that were negotiated, such as the Puerto Rico Police Law, were repealed for that date.

Sin embargo, Rosselló reiteró que fue él quien le delegó a Pesquera intervenir con los aspectos de seguridad de esa protesta. Con esta acción, el gobernador confirmó la desautorización de la ahora excomisionada de la Policía, Michelle Hernández, primera mujer seleccionada a ocupar ese puesto.

La propia Hernández confesó que el mandatario no tenía comunicación directa con ella desde octubre y que Pesquera emitió una directriz para que los comisionados pidieran su autorización antes de proceder con ciertos asuntos. Rosselló le pidió la renuncia a Hernández en enero.

Rosselló reiteró ayer que el secretario de Seguridad Pública goza de su confianza.

El monitor federal también sostuvo que la creación del Departamento de Seguridad Pública afecta la implementación del acuerdo con el gobierno federal para que se cumpla con la reforma de la Policía.

"The current administrative structure is not working well and has been clearly established during the period of this report. The result must be an intervention that restores the clear lines of leadership and administration in the Puerto Rico Police, "states the report, which covers the period from June 10 to December 9, 2017.

"It's wrong" the monitor

However, Rossello said that "Comrade Claudio is wrong or maybe he did not have that information" about him being the commander in chief of the police and can delegate functions to people who enjoy his trust.

To questions from the press about the Acting Commissioner of the Police, Henry Escalera, who is on a list of defendants for political persecution for the year 2006, Rosselló said that "everything that has to be investigated, investigated."

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Without many options to reduce crime | Law

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The secretary of the Department of Public Security, Héctor Pesquera, said that the "values ​​of the people" are the alternative to handle the rise in crime and armed robbery or "carjackings".

When Pesquera was asked yesterday about plans to address a criminal incident that led to 13 murders over the weekend and an increase in carjackings, he mentioned the agreement with federal authorities to deal with car theft cases. at gunpoint. But this agreement has not been able to eliminate this practice for years.

Then, he was questioned if there is another alternative to achieve a reduction in the number of murders, which until yesterday totaled 117, 21 more compared to this date for last year.

"The criminal element does it and does not wait. If you look for other jurisdictions, Detroit had 900 last year and they are events that happen. The alternative is the values ​​of the people. The criminal actions of the people, how to keep them in check? We have a problem, we are conscious. But when the event arrives, it's already late, we have to start from before, "Pesquera answered.

It will take time

He affirmed that the interim commissioner of the Bureau of Police, Henry Escalera, "has strategic plans at the island level, but this is not solved overnight, this takes time".

"In the case of the 'carjackings', there is an initiative with the Federal Prosecutor's Office and the agencies are cooperating, which is why most of the important cases where there are injuries or deaths have been taken by the ATF (Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) under the federal initiative, "he said.

Pesquera participated yesterday in a tribute at the Capitol to the fallen policemen in the line of duty.

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Defense of ex-administrator of the Chamber requests dismissal charges | Law

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The defense of Xavier González Calderón, former administrator of the House of Representatives under the administration of Jaime Perelló, asked Superior Judge Enrique Silva Avilés to reject the criminal charges against the former official, stating that the facts are based in the state forum have already been adjudicated and tried in the Federal Court, where he was convicted.

González Calderón pleaded guilty and was sentenced by federal judge Pedro Delgado to three and a half years in prison for his participation in the scheme of fraud in relation to the granting of the telephone contract to the company of 3 Comm Global of the convicted businessman Anaudi Hernández Pérez

"My client is convicted in the federal sphere for the same facts. There is a provision of rule 64 (b) of the Criminal Procedure of Puerto Rico that establishes as a reason for a motion to dismiss, it is called res judicata. The facts that give rise to this case are the same as the federal one, which is res judicata, "argued lawyer Ernesto Hernández Millán.

He explained that prior to Sánchez Valle's case, it had already been resolved that the federal jurisdiction was one and the state one another.

“Así que para que hubiese doble exposición o cosa juzgada tenía que ser dentro de la misma jurisdicción pero, cuando viene Sánchez Valle y resuelve que por la condición específica de Puerto Rico de que nuestra Constitución está bajo el Congreso de Estados Unidos, por lo tanto, nosotros somos diferentes de los 50 estados que tienen unas constituciones que son autónomas en términos de la cuestión estatal y el Congreso no tiene nada que ver con esas constituciones. Las aprobaron ellos en sus legislaturas estatales. La de nosotros no es así y se determinó que todo estaba bajo una misma jurisdicción. Por lo tanto, ahí es que se abre la puerta en el caso de Sánchez Valle y se plantea que hay doble exposición y resuelve que sí la hay”, acotó el letrado.

Afirmó que la decisión del Tribunal Supremo de Estados Unidos en el caso de Sánchez Valle, no habla de “cosa juzgada”.

“Yo entendí que en el caso mío lo que hay es cosa juzgada y Sánchez Valle sí me abría la puerta para enmarcarlo que somos una sola jurisdicción...la doble exposición es que sean los mismos delitos. La cosa juzgada es que sean los mismos hechos”, planteó.

Las expresiones de Hernández Millán se produjeron al concluir una vista de status del caso a la que compareció el acusado, que extingue su sentencia bajo el Negociado Federal de Prisiones (BOP).

La moción radicada por Hernández Millán será atendida por el juez Rafael Taboas.

El letrado, quien es profesor de derecho, pidió al juez Silva Avilés que no se inicie el proceso de vista preliminar por si el juez Taboas resuelve a favor de su cliente, por lo que concluiría el caso.

Por su parte, Leticia Pabón y Ramón Mendoza, de la Oficina sobre el Panel del Fiscal Especial Independiente (OPFEI), señalaron que la moción no procede.

“Entendemos que estas mociones no proceden, que no deben ser sostenidas con el efecto que pretende la defensa y que estos no son los mismos casos (del foro federal). Una cosa son los delitos a nivel federal por el esquema federal con fondos federales y los elementos de jurisdicción federal que ahí se vieron. Otra cosa es aquellos delitos relacionados a su función pública que a nivel estatal se han radicado, que es por la función pública, no necesariamente por el manejo o por otros elementos relacionados a fondos federales o jurisdicción federal. Son cosas distintas”, manifestó Mendoza.

Mientras, la fiscal Pabón expuso que en el foro federal Calderón fue convicto por conspiración.

"We are filing for the position he held as a public official and the position and obligations of him as a public official in relation to that position and decision making and his intervention in the contracts awarded to Anaudi Hernández and the other partners of Anaudi Hernández ", said Mendoza.

In the federal forum, González Calderón was indicted by a grand jury for conspiracy to commit electronic fraud and misuse of federal funds.

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