1 2 Tuesday, November 3, 2015 Marine Diver Self-winding movement. Water-resistant to 300m. 18 ct rose gold case. Also available in stainless steel. U LY S S E - N A R D I N. C O M The San Juan Daily Star
2 GOOD MORNING The San Juan Daily Star, the only paper with 3 Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015 News Service in English in Puerto Rico, publishes 7 days a week, with a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday edi on, along with a Weekend Edi on to cover Friday, Saturday and Sunday. PDP Rep. Carlos Vargas Mourned by Family, Friends, Colleagues Local Mainland Business Interna onal Viewpoint Pets Entertainment INDEX No cias en Español Legal No ces Sports Games Horoscope Cartoons By MARIA MIRANDA SIERRA Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Rep. Carlos Vargas died Monday morning at the Río Piedras Medical Center after being involved in a car accident at the intersection of Jesús Piñero Avenue and César González Avenue in the Hato Rey sector of San Juan. The lawmaker s death was confirmed by San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz on the 11 a.m. Channel 4 mid-morning news segment. According to the preliminary police report, Vargas lost control of his vehicle and hit a newspaper vendor at around 9:20 a.m., then crashed into an electrical utility pole. Río Piedras Medical Center Emergency Room Director Israel Ayala said Vargas arrived at the hospital with respiratory failure and was pronounced dead a few minutes later, even as paramedics had him on a ventilator and had resuscitated him in the ambulance. Responding to speculation that the lawmaker may have suffered some kind of cardiac event, Ayala said it was too early to tell, but added that the superficial injuries he sustained didn t appear to be sufficient to be the cause of death. Pictures taken at the scene didn t show the car to be badly damaged either. Although he reiterated that the cause of death is exclusively a Forensic Sciences Institute (ICF by its Spanish acronym) matter, Ayala did note that the lawmaker s body didn t show any evidence of serious trauma. When he was on his way here [in the ambulance] he was being resuscitated by the paramedics, and once he arrived at our institution we started the corresponding advanced protocol, but he didn t respond to the treatment and was pronounced dead, Ayala told reporters. The newspaper vendor was also taken to the Río Piedras Medical Center. While initial police reports issued at about 10 a.m. stated both men were in critical condition, they also noted that Vargas state was more serious, requiring the use of a ventilator at the scene of the accident. The newspaper vendor, identified as Jimmy Meléndez Negrón, 21, was later said to be in stable condition, police said. The preliminary cause of death, Ayala said, was cardio respiratory failure, according to the Río Piedras Medical Center determination. According to preliminary police theories, which have to be confirmed by the autopsy conducted by the ICF, Vargas could have suffered from some sort of health complication as he was exiting the Las Américas expressway in his black Honda Pilot en route to Jesús Piñero Avenue. Police Traffic Bureau Cmdr. Jorge Hernández Peña said that according to the preliminary police report, Vargas had some sort of health mishap adding that he was wearing his seatbelt and the airbags were activated upon impact with the electric post. Early news reports indicated that Vargas may have had a heart attack, but Cruz said that as far as she knew he was healthy and didn t suffer from any heart conditions or high blood pressure. Unfortunately he had this accident that took his life, Cruz said between sobs. Continues on page 4
3 4 Tuesday, November 3, 2015 The San Juan Daily Star From page 3 The San Juan mayor was one of the first to arrive at the Río Piedras Medical Center upon hearing the news of Vargas accident. Cruz said she had exchanged text messages with Vargas early in the morning about work, and in that sense it was like any other Monday morning. This morning we were group texting with [Reps.] Manuel Natal and Luis Raúl Torres, and it was all normal, the mayor said. This is a loss for his children, his wife, for the PDP, and for the country. She said that any and all legislation that Vargas left and has yet to be passed will be picked up by his colleagues. All of his bills will be picked up right where he left them off and we will follow through with them, Cruz added. Carlos was a man, and will always be remembered as being honest and loyal. He set his personal interests aside to make way for the people s interests and their best hopes. Vargas wife was called by the hospital, and she arrived shortly afterward, as did other family members. As news of the accident hit the airwaves and online media outlets, and was relayed among PDP leaders, House Speaker Jaime Perelló, Senate President Eduardo Bhatia and Health Secretary Ana Ríus also arrived at the Río Piedras Medical Center in the morning hours. Gov. Alejandro García Padilla arrived there a little after noon. Vargas, a Cidra native, was an attorney by profession and PDP lawmaker for the districts of Cidra and Cayey. He was 44 years old and was serving his first term in the House of Representatives. Public hearings of the House Treasury Committee, of which Vargas was a member, where Treasury Secretary was slated to talk about proposed fiscal control board, were cancelled. PDP Rep. Carlos Vargas ( ) Later it was announced that all public hearings at the House and Senate were cancelled for the day. The Senate was expected to hold an abbreviated session to express their condolences. García Padilla expressed his condolences to Vargas family -- Vargas left behind a wife and two young sons -- and decreed three days of mourning starting today, after the passing of the young lawmaker. I want to express my deepest regret for the unexpected and too premature departure of Carlos Vargas, García Padilla said at a news conference at La Fortaleza. There are a thousand speculations as to what caused this accident and what could have happened, but at this moment it is time to show our solidarity with his family and close friends. He added that Vargas death, coming as his wife and he had just started a young family, is a sad way to lose him. To his family, I send a hug, and to our lawmakers at the House and the solidarity that engenders the strength needed to overcome this moment, the governor said. Prior to leaving for the medical center, García Padilla said Vargas family can count on him with anything to make sure his children are well. Caguas Mayor William Miranda Torres also expressed his condolences to Vargas family and friends. Carlos was a brave man, never afraid of expressing himself or fighting for what he believed was right, Miranda Torres said. His unexpected departure leaves us with much pain. Thinking of him leads us to reflect on the way we serve the country. Meanwhile, New Progressive Party (NPP) President Pedro Pierluisi suspended the work of the NPP Legislative Conference after hearing of Vargas passing. Pierluisi had initiated the conference at party headquarters in Hato Rey, but after hearing the news he asked for a minute of silence and then ordered the conference suspended until further notice, We received the sad news of the sudden death of Representative Vargas. In my name and on behalf of my wife María Elena, and the entire NPP, our most sincere condolences, Pierluisi said. It is an incredible and very unfortunate loss. Our prayers are with his family.
4 The San Juan Daily Star Tuesday, November 3, Vega Ramos Backs Vargas Proposal to Prevent Conflict of Interest on Fiscal Control Board By MARIA MIRANDA SIERRA Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Rep. Luis Vega Ramos on Monday called for an amendment to the fiscal control board legislation to prevent its members from having government contracts (in the past or currently), thus avoiding any conflict of interest. [PDP Rep.] Carlos Vargas proposed amending the bill so that it not only [excludes] government workers [from being board members], but also to [make sure that board members] haven t had government contracts, and Justice Secretary César Miranda said the amendment is a favorable one, Vega Ramos said in a radio interview. Vargas died Monday morning following an automobile accident. Vega Ramos said that if Vargas amendment is included, that part of the legislation would be remedied. Vega Ramos made his comments regarding a possible conflict of interest if individuals from the private sector have had access to sensitive government information, as has allegedly happened in the past. It has been alleged that some potential fiscal control board candidates from the private sector have been members of the new government s transition committees and that they have access to sensitive government information, which they have allegedly later used [to their benefit] in their private businesses. According to the fiscal adjustment plan, the Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Revitalization Act (FRERA), as the bill is known, would establish a board consisting of five individuals appointed by the governor who must have knowledge and expertise in finance, management, or the operation of business or government, and must be independent from other government entities. The bill provides that board members will serve four-year staggered terms and requires that a majority of the nominated board members be selected from a list provided to the governor by independent third parties. FRERA gives the board oversight authority over most governmental entities, including the commonwealth, the Government Development Bank and public corporations not including the electrical and water utilities. The board would be an independent one with its own revenue source for operations and its own independent staff and professionals. Its five members would have broad powers to assure creditors that the government will comply with the consolidated five-year fiscal adjustment plan the commonwealth will be required to submit to the board by Dec. 31, which marks the end of the second quarter of fiscal year The board must comply with the objectives and requirements provided in the proposed FRERA that include implementing structural reforms that restore economic growth and competitiveness; eliminating, over time, gaps in financing and reducing the debt burden of most governmental entities; and improving institutional credibility by improving budget formulation and execution and data transparency.
5 6 Tuesday, November 3, 2015 The San Juan Daily Star Treasury Chief Says Gov t May Cut Workers Hours By MARIA MIRANDA SIERRA Commonwealth Treasury Secretary Juan Zaragoza confirmed Monday that the government is contemplating reducing public workers working hours, which the agency calculates could save about $90 million, a sum that will allow the government to comply with the upcoming month s commitments. Zaragoza said in a radio interview that the government s financial management is similar to juggling finances to meet monthly payments. The agency chiefs, he said, make daily decisions on what checks go out each day and which ones don t. These decisions are made based on the criteria the administration considers to be a priority. The Treasury chief said a government shutdown is not on the table for discussion right now, but there is a contingency plan for reductions of public workers daily working hours to six hours or half a day (four hours). It can t be something that is generalized, he said, referring to having to make special considerations for workers staffed in the Corrections and Police Departments and other essential agencies such as the Fire and Health Departments, and for teachers. It s not one valve that you can close and say that I m saving those $90 million dollars, he said. For the first payroll of Nov. 15 everything looks good. We should have the money. For the second payroll we have to be more aggressive with [holding off on payments], especially with suppliers, Zaragoza said. December and January are complicated because in December I have the additional payment of the Christmas bonus that adds up to $120 million. And then on January 1, I have the government obligations payment of some $330 million. Treasury will also continue controlling the tax refunds that represent close to $200 million, while the Government Development Bank (GDB) will continue trying for a short-term financing source to fill the gap of the Tax and Revenues Anticipation Notes [TRANs] that the bank was not able to obtain at the beginning of the year. The GDB typically would procure some $1 billion in TRANs to operate during its first couple of quarters; however, this fiscal year only $400 million were attained in TRANs, issued by solvent public corporations. Economist Juan Alameda said that reducing public workers hours will affect the already limited government operations, while reducing the amount the government workers consume and thus the private sector s profit, further hurting the already stagnant economy. There will be three consequences if there is a reduction in government operations: first, on suppliers because people stop buying from them; secondly, on the citizens who seek public services and find offices are closed or that there are fewer staff; and finally, public employees with fewer working hours will have to spend their savings to buy what they would normally buy with their salary, Alameda said. The economist said that if, for one month, the working hours of 89,000 public employees were cut by half, this would represent an impact of $66.5 million on employees consumption, which in turn would mean a decrease of $3.6 million in the gross national product (GNP). Zaragoza Gives Qualified Backing to Proposed Fiscal Control Board By EVA LLORENS VELEZ Commonwealth Treasury Secretary Juan Zaragoza on Monday supported the creation of the Fiscal Supervision and Economic Recovery Board that would oversee government expenditures, but with conditions. In his presentation to a hearing of the Government and Treasury committees, which was suspended because of the tragic death of Popular Democratic Party Rep. Carlos Vargas, Zaragoza objected to the allocation of $1 million every month, or $12 million a year, for the board s expenses as required by House bill Zaragoza said the expenses of the board must be framed within austerity rules imposed by the government and should not be extravagant or excessive. The board should be required to submit to the Treasury Department and to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) a breakdown of its expenditures and a certified resources plan, he added. It is necessary to note that any allocation and disbursement of funds will be based on the priorities established in the Constitution of Puerto Rico and statutes, Zaragoza said. The Treasury secretary also warned against language in the bill that would require his agency to provide administrative, professional and statistical support to the board because the agency has lost a substantial portion of its staff. The daily operations of the Department may be affected because staff will have to be reassigned to help the board, he said. To provide the necessary assistance to the board, it would be appropriate for the Department to hire additional staff for this purpose which, in turn, must stay in the Department assisting with other tasks, which would require a revision of the budget of the agency. The bill calls for officials to separate 2.5 percent of the budget s operational costs such as suspended assignments that can not be used unless they are liberalized by the board. However, due to liquidity problems, Zaragoza requested changes to the bill s language to ensure the funds can be used so as not to adversely affect services. As for the creation of a budgetary fund, of which only 50 percent of the money can be used, Zaragoza said the bill s language should be relaxed to allow the government to use more than 50 percent because of the fiscal crisis. Zaragoza also objected to a disposition in the bill that calls for all purchases of more than $20,000 to be certified by the OMB because, he said, that would delay all government purchases.
6 The San Juan Daily Star Tuesday, November 3,
7 8 Tuesday, November 3, 2015 The San Juan Daily Star Assembly Yields Pledge to Stage Islandwide Protest of Fiscal Adjustment Plan By EVA LLORENS VELEZ Dozens of union, political, civic, student and community organizations agreed over the weekend to stage an islandwide protest during an assembly convened at the Antonio R. Barceló Coliseum in Toa Baja to discuss the fiscal adjustment plan, which they say would eliminate public- and private-employee rights. In a declaration adopted by more than 20 labor organizations, it was established that there is an urgent need to express our opposition in a clear and defined way. Thus, this Assembly of the People is committed to work regionally and nationally to carry out a national strike, according to Inter News Service. The fiscal adjustment plan still needs to be reviewed by a fiscal control board whose creation must be approved by the Legislature. The meeting in Toa Baja was one of seven regional assemblies held throughout the island over the weekend to unify the movement and to plan activities to protest austerity measures, as well as disseminate and report ideas and proposals. As part of the assemblies, spokespeople were chosen and presentations on such issues as electric power, education, healthcare, retirement, and government, fiscal and labor reform were given. The decision to hold the meetings came after the release of the government s fiscal adjustment plan, which opposition movement participants say aims to reduce or eliminate workday hours, the Christmas bonus, vacation days, sick leave, young workers minimum wage and the extension of new employees trial period. Given the evident exhaustion of the economic and political model, a clear policy of austerity and adjustment against the interests and aspirations of the people is proposed, the document reads. The privatization of the leading economic development industry, the [Puerto Rico] Electric Power Authority, is insisted on. The document also says the public education system is being attacked, starting with the closure of schools, followed by the conversion of others to private charter schools and the strangulation of the state university. Healthcare is a business where healing is not the goal. In addition to approving a national strike, the group agreed to back a series of proposals including a moratorium on debt repayment, investing the withheld payment in economic development, a citizen-conducted audit of the debt, processing those who broke the trust placed in them, and the passing of a comprehensive tax reform that taxes the rich There is consensus on the need for further work regionally and endorsement of a strong national event where we can demonstrate opposition to everything represented by the fiscal adjustment policies, Luis Pedraza Leduc, spokesman of the movement, told Inter News. 521 Fernández Juncos, Avenida Puerta de Tierra Tel Horario: lun a dom de 11:00 am a 11:00 pm
8 The San Juan Daily Star Tuesday, November 3,
9 10 Tuesday, November 3, 2015 The San Juan Daily Star Perelló Warns Against Hasty Review of PREPA Revitalization Plan By EVA LLORENS VELEZ House Speaker Jaime Perelló warned Monday that the Legislature has little time to evaluate the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority Revitalization Plan. The bill had not yet been filed as of Monday afternoon. Perelló said the Legislature is evaluating the bill that would create the Fiscal Supervision and Economic Recovery Board bill despite acknowledging that the approval of PREPA s plan is vital to ensuring the completion of the negotiations with creditors of the public corporation. He said he knows the island Senate has concerns about the bill, which seeks to implement an expedited process to revise electricity rates. It is not a good idea to pass this in a rush, Perelló said. Senate Majority Leader Aníbal José Torres also recommended that the bill be introduced as soon as possible. The legislative session is slated to end in mid-november. However, Torres said there is enough time for the relevant analysis in the Energy Affairs Committee and predicted that the measure will be subject to a wide discussion. PREPA last week extended forbearance agreements with bondholders and lenders that will allow it to keep negotiating a restructuring deal with other creditors. Facing more than $8 billion in debt, the utility said in a statement that it had extended through today an agreement that expired Friday to finalize its pacts with the forbearing creditors and continue discussions with its monoline bond insurers. The lenders and bondholders who signed the extension have already agreed to a restructuring deal with PREPA, but the agency needs the support of bond insurers such as Assured Guaranty and MBIA s National Public Finance Guarantee for the deal to work.g. PR Gov t Misses Own Deadline for Filing Audited Financial Statements By MARIA MIRANDA SIERRA The Puerto Rico government failed to submit its audited fiscal 2014 financial statements by a self-imposed Oct. 31 deadline, according to a Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) filing. U.S. lawmakers once again pushed government officials at Senate public hearings last month to turn in the documents if they expect Congress to act and help the cash-strapped U.S. territory get out of a nearly decade-long economic recession. U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah, and Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, told commonwealth officials during the recent committee hearings on Puerto Rico s fiscal troubles that it must improve its financial disclosures before the federal government can help the island. The commonwealth s economy has struggled to grow since At U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearings last month, Murkowski, who chairs the committee, noted the wide range of economic, fiscal and demographic issues affecting the island, particularly liquidity issues that are expected to worsen by the end of the year. Commonwealth government officials are trying to restructure Puerto Rico s reported $70 billion debt load by negotiating with investors. But Murkowski added that the lack of financial audits on government finances are needed in order to help the commonwealth. We want to help, but in order to be helpful we need reliable data, she said. Gov. Alejandro García Padilla responded that the audited financial statements should be ready in the coming weeks or months. According to Bloomberg, an MSRB filing noted that the commonwealth cannot provide an estimate at this time of when it will be able to complete and file the statements. Economist Gustavo Vélez said Puerto Rico has a lack of transparency problem and Congress has reiterated that the financial Sen. Lisa Murkowski statements are crucial if the commonwealth expects any kind of help. They [U.S. congressmen] continue telling government officials that there is a lack of credibility problem. Puerto Rico is burned out in Washington, Vélez said. And they are right when they say they need the audited financial statements, until the commonwealth turns those in, there will be no action from Congress. Economist Antonio Rosado said the governor and Government Development Bank (GDB) President Melba Acosta have to demand that the agencies and municipalities turn in the audited statements being requested by Congress if they expect any kind of help. I think they haven t been turned in because everyone is trying to manipulate the data, Rosado added. Vélez, meanwhile, added that Congress is not going to take Puerto Rico seriously until the government is transparent and there is unity of purpose. A U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requires municipal-bond issuers to file audited annual reports within 305 days after the end of a fiscal year, said Height Securities analyst Daniel Hanson, a Washingtonbased broker dealer. As of Monday the audited 2014 financial statements were 183 days overdue, with no estimate as to when they will be turned in. It marks longest such period of delinquency in filing audited financial statements since at least A number of government agencies have yet to submit reports and an independent auditor is conducting additional procedures given Puerto Rico s liquidity risk, according to the filing posted late Friday on the MSRB website known as EMMA. The commonwealth cannot provide an estimate at this time of when it will be able to complete and file its audited financial statements, according to the filing. Local Republican Party Selects New Leaders Puerto Rico s Republican Party has selected new leaders while calling on GOP presidential candidates to support statehood for the island. Jeb Bush Jr., son of the former Florida governor and presidential candidate, attended the Sunday assembly and addressed the forum for his father. Presidential hopefuls Marco Rubio and George Pataki sent written statements. All three back statehood for Puerto Rico. About 1,235 Republican delegates ratified House Minority Leader Jenniffer González as party president and former Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuño as national committeeman. They also chose attorney Zoraida Fonalledas as national committeewoman, Yauco Mayor Abel Nazario as first vice president and attorney Jorge San Miguel as second vice president. González recently announced plans to run in 2016 for resident commissioner, Puerto Rico s sole congressional representative.