Pinkcar Launches Operations in P.R.

Editor’s note: The following article originally appeared in the August 31 print edition of Caribbean Business.

SAN JUAN — With more than a year on hold, Pinkcar, the ride-hailing application, made its anticipated debut in Puerto Rico last week. The new service “from women to women,” with about 2,000 female drivers, launched in the San Juan metro area with a specific target in mind: women and children.

Pinkcar officially began its operations on the sunlit afternoon of Aug. 23 with free rides for its passengers. The exclusive app for women and children promises to transform the transportation market and offer an opportunity to female entrepreneurs who aspire to be their own bosses.

(iStock)

“We glimpsed an increase in the total registered users. We will go from our strategy of direct marketing to the drivers, to passenger retention,” explained Melissa Meléndez, legal vice president for Protector LLC, on the Puerto Rican company’s method to attract new users to its platform.

Among its marketing initiatives, Meléndez highlighted a voucher of trips worth $15 for just $5 on Gustazos. The offer, available this week, includes a Starbucks certificate for one latte. In September, Pinkcar will give away 250 gifts from Bettina Cosmetics. Every month will bring a new gift for users.

In what appears to be a fresh start for public transportation on the island, Puerto Rico’s Public Service Commission (PSC) authorized Pinkcar’s operations merely a week after Gov. Ricardo Rosselló signed a law to transfer control of all ground transportation operators to the PSC.

Attorney Luis García Fraga, president of the PSC, recently said the new law has made it possible to simplify the process and requirements for ground transportation operators, including taxis and ride-hailing network Uber, which have been at war for more than a year.

“We have become facilitators for the establishment of new companies and streamlined procedures to develop our economy and create new jobs. This new company, Pinkcar Puerto Rico, was able to benefit from this law and managed to establish itself as a business,” García said.

Meléndez explained that although the new law already transferred the regulation of ground transport operators to the PSC, it has yet to prepare the new regulations that will replace the current bylaws of the Transportation & Public Works Department.

“The Public Service Commission Administrative Transformation Act enabled what is known as a provisional permitting system. The new law, for better or worse, allowed a speedy permitting process and we are very satisfied. [The permit] will last one year,” Protector LLC’s legal counsel said.

Even though the new law allows payments in cash for transportation network companies, Pinkcar drivers have shown reluctance to follow this method. “The feedback we have gathered from our drivers is not positive. We will evaluate the option in the next few months,” Meléndez said.

The app is available for Android users and will soon be accessible through the App Store for iOS customers. Among the service’s exclusive aspects is the integration of children as its customers. This option aims to help mothers in need of a reliable person to pick up their children.

To use the service, children must be between the ages of 7 and 15 and can travel on their own, without the company of an adult, to their destination. As a safety requisite to avoid abductions, kids must carry a smartphone to receive a code via text message that must be equal to the assigned driver’s code.

Pinkcar, along with ride-hailing service Procar, are the first apps launched by Protector, a Puerto Rican company that aims to release about 80 new apps in the next 18 months. “We are a local business dedicated to providing security and protection to our users,” Meléndez said.




Police show of force dominates protest against fiscal board

SAN JUAN – In what promised to be a “national mobilization” similar to the massive demonstration carried out May 1, hundreds of protesters, watched by hundreds of police officers, gathered in Hato Rey’s Golden Mile banking district in rejection of the austerity measures announced by Puerto Rico’s fiscal control board.

Among the measures opposed by multiple sectors on the island is a two-day furlough, which would affect nearly 130,000 government workers. However, compared with the May Day rally, which amassed thousands, few showed up for Wednesday’s.

Before the arrival of various worker unions to Luis Muñoz Rivera Avenue, a large number of Tactical Operations officers surrounded the Popular Center building, which was vandalized in the May protest, while more than 50 officers stood before the fiscal board’s headquarters.

Puerto Rico gov adamant: We’re not going to implement furlough program

While the famous song “Verde Luz” could be heard from the stage, the president of the General Workers Union (UGT by its Spanish initials), Gerson Guzmán, told Caribbean Business that “the relevant thing is not how many people came [to the march], what is relevant is the activity we are carrying out.”

“It is a phased plan, where we will step up the tone and the activities we are carrying out,” Guzmán said. “We guarantee that in the next events the [people] will move to the street and will continue to number until reaching the level we want.”

National Strike: Amid Indignation, Pepper Spray, Broken Glass and Tear Gas

Regarding the deployment of officers in the protest, Guzmán stressed that “we have always called for them to come fight alongside their peers, the workers. We know they are following instructions, but they will be affected by what the government is doing.”

Meanwhile, the president of the Irrigation & Electrical Workers Union (Utier by its Spanish acronym), Ángel Figueroa Jaramillo, emphasized in his speech that the island can’t allow a fiscal board “imposed” at the federal level to have the last word on Puerto Rico.

“We Puerto Ricans have the capacity and the commitment to solve [the problems]. As Puerto Ricans, we have the responsibility to act and stop the violation the Promesa law, its fiscal board and the fiscal plan represent,” he stressed.

Politicians demonstrate

Several political figures attended the demonstration, held two days before the board-established date to enact the furlough program. Among the crowd stood Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) Rep. Denis Márquez.

“It is yet another concentration of union organizations against the fiscal control board and against the neoliberal policies of this government and that all the adopted legislation has been directed to undermine [workers’] acquired rights,” the legislator said.

Meanwhile, former independent gubernatorial candidate Alexandra Lúgaro stressed that the people’s demonstrations must transcend to have greater turnout, to prove “our inconformity” with the board’s actions with greater strength.

“I believe the time has come for collective indignation, for the people to feel how these measures affect them directly, from their pensions, their university, their schools, their health, how we are being affected by some measures that have a double standard,” she denounced.

Along that line, Popular Democratic Party Rep. Manuel Natal assured that the movement is not only about a few sectors on the island, but “the country in which we want to live in,” adding that it isn’t a partisan movement, and urged the people to join future marches.

The same day a year ago, several groups gathered at the Condado Plaza Hotel in San Juan and held a fiery demonstration against the fiscal board established by Promesa . Today, history repeated itself, now in rejection of its austerity measures.

Contrary to Aug. 31, 2016, when the protest ended in a collision between protesters and police officers, resulting in several wounded on both sides, as was the case during last May’s strike, on this occasion no incidents were reported in the march that concluded little more than one hour after it began.

Among the unions present were the Broad Front in Defense of Public Education, the Puerto Rican Workers Central, the Non-Teaching Exempt Employees Association (Heend by its Spanish acronym), the Puerto Rican Workers Union and the Union Coordinator.

 




Concern over federal funds amid Puerto Rico Family Dept consolidation

SAN JUAN — The discussion over the consolidation of the Puerto Rico Family Department (FD) continued Tuesday, when the Servidores Públicos Unidos union (SPU) denounced the possibility that the move affects federal funds received by the agency, which would disrupt the services it offers.

During a joint public hearing by the Government Committee of both legislative bodies, SPU President Annette González urged the government to “be cautious, wary and secure” that these changes will not eliminate services.

“Servidores Públicos Unidos de Puerto Rico has no major objections to the consolidation initiative, as long as it does not affect the programmatic area, or services of the programs it handles, nor that they eliminate or alter the acquired rights of employees,” he said.

Despite accepting the “need to modernize the government structure,” the union questioned that the changes made so far have only sought to save “dollars and cents,” not necessarily improve upon the services citizens need.
 
Regarding the possible privatization of the agency, the union representing the department’s workers expressed its rejection categorically, saying in a 10-page document that its employees have the capacity to provide excellent service to the citizenry.

“The well-being of our children, our families and our elderly cannot be measured on the basis of a return on investment; families in need are not mere numbers. Our role deals with the protection of lives, quality of life and the well-being of families,” the document reads.

To prevent the privatization of the agency through House Bill 1142, the union suggested as an amendment to eliminate from the bill “all language in which the Family Department delegates its services and/or programs to nonprofits and private entities.”

The bill provides that the agency will be able to form partnerships with municipalities, nonprofits and government to offer of services and programs currently provided by the department, in addition to assuming the role of provider.

Puerto Rico Family Department’s consolidation would save $2 million

Moreover, the union said the workload at the agency has increased. According to statistics, the number of employees decreased by 40 percent, while the number of children in department custody increased from 2,700 to 4,127, or a 52 percent increase.

SPU represents more than 3,900 department employees, including support staff, clerical staff, maintenance workers, specialists, technicians, social workers and others.
 
Meanwhile, the Elderly and Retired People Advocate Office (OPPEA by its Spanish acronym) said approval of the measure would be a “setback” for the administration of the office and would represent additional costs, rather than the savings sought through legislation.

In a hearing for H.B. 1124–and its counterpart, Senate Bill 573–Family Secretary Glorimar Andújar assured that the department’s federal funding would not be affected, although she acknowledged that the bill has not been discussed with the U.S. government.

The consolidation of the Children and Families administration (Adfan), the Family Socioeconomic Development Administration (Adsef); the Child Support Services Administration (Asume); and the Child Care and Development Administration (Acuden) would result in $2 million in savings.
 




Government sued: ‘Chronicle of an anticipated legal dispute’

SAN JUAN – In light of the lawsuit filed by the fiscal control board to force the Government of Puerto Rico to implement the disputed reduction of workdays that would affect nearly 130,000 public workers, members of the Legislative Assembly united in condemning the entity established by the Promesa law.

Just minutes after lawsuit dominated the conversation in the island Capitol’s halls, Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz used his speech during a special upper chamber session to question the federally created panel’s multimillion-dollar budget.

Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz. (Juan J. Rodríguez / CB)

“What a shame to hear that what today is called the fiscal control board has an executive director who earns over $600,000 and intends to cut workers’ day to the worker, retirement pension and run over the less fortunate economically,” said the legislative leader.

Eduardo Bhatia, the Popular Democratic (PDP) minority leader in the Senate, said the lawsuit “is very revealing” because it is the first sample that Gov. Ricardo Rosselló had the opportunity to “protest” the fiscal plan and did not do it in time.

“The governor has not provided a report on whether the government has achieved the necessary savings,” he argued. “The furlough comes in effect automatically if you do not comply with austerity [measures], and the question is, did you comply with austerity, yes or no?”

As for the negotiations between the fiscal board and Rosselló, Bhatia argued these should be public discussions, so people can learn firsthand what the real situation is in Puerto Rico at a time when fiscal insecurity reigns in all sectors.

Puerto Rico governor confident he will prevail against fiscal board over furlough

“When one is bankrupt, one can’t be so secretive,” Bhatia said. “There is much of the fiscal plan that is illusory…a letter to Santa Claus. It’s an illusion. Much of the fiscal plan and the numbers are illusory numbers that don’t correspond with the reality of Puerto Rico.”

Juan Dalmau, spokesman for the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) in the Senate, said that the lawsuit was “no new thing under the sun” because the entity had set the parameters to comply with the fiscal plan approved in mid-March from the start.

Fiscal board sues Puerto Rico government over furlough

“What we are seeing at the moment is [a] chronicle of an anticipated legal dispute,” the senator said. “Regardless of the determination that is made, the substance of the problem continues of a country in its 11th year of economic recession, without a development plan.”

The pro-independence senator said that several scenarios could now proceed, including the possibility that the chief executive decides to defy the suit and not appear before the court; contempt before a court order or other ways of enforcing the furlough.

“All anticipated. The difference is more publicity; the governor wants it to look like he’s resisting something he accepted [in the fiscal plan] and is allowing a third party to decide that dispute. In this case, he wants the ball to be on the board’s court,” Dalmau said.

Meanwhile, independent Sen. José Vargas Vidot echoed the governor’s most recent statements by declaring to Caribbean Business that he is willing to go to prison to stop the board-requested furlough, which he called an affront to the people.

“I believe that being against [providing] working hours in a country that is chronically depressed economically, is ignoring that the work and the product of that work is in itself an essential element for the preservation of the country,” he said, referring to the board as a “disease.”

When asked if he considers that there is a real possibility of stopping the imposition of the furlough, Vargas Vidot said it is necessary to “dig trenches” in addition to stating that “if we all have to be taken prisoner, let’s go to prison” to stop the board.

Following the governor’s refusal to implement a two-day-a-month furlough for executive branch employees, the fiscal board on Monday filed a lawsuit to have the measure included in the fiscal plan, as well as a 10 percent cut to the pensions of more than 125,000 retirees.

On several previous occasions, House Speaker Carlos “Johnny” Méndez, said he was willing to use all available legal resources to stop the furlough. It is not known whether he continues to maintain that position only four days before Sept. 1.




Powers of P.R. Statistics Institute Uncertain

Editor’s note: The following article originally appeared in the August 24 print edition of Caribbean Business.

SAN JUAN — While debate continues in court over which Puerto Rico Statistics Institute (PRSI) board of directors has the last word on the entity’s decisions, Executive Director Mario Marazzi showed concern about the uncertainty caused by the lack of a governing body.

After a roundtable discussion held at PRSI headquarters, Marazzi explained that the weakened powers following Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s dismissal of four board members included a blow to its quasi-judicial and quasi-legislative powers.

With these powers—as stated in the 2003 Puerto Rico Statistics Institute Act—the PRSI has the power to “monitor government agencies’ and private entities’ compliance with the public policy” of the statute.

Dr. Mario Marazzi-Santiago, executive director of the Puerto Rico Statistics Institute (SI) / File

“If we were to [file a complaint], we would be more timid; we wouldn’t file it, or if we did, which board would see the case and resolve it? I can issue a subpoena for information to any agency [and] maybe they will reply. [But if they fail to reply], which board of directors will see the case and decide whether the subpoena proceeds or not?” he asked.

The law states: “The Institute has the power to order the cessation of activities or acts in violation of any provision of this law or its regulations; conduct inspections and reviews; issue subpoenas for information; investigations and compliance audits; impose administrative fines; [and] holding public hearings,” among others.

“We are going to continue working, we have lots of projects, but we are limited and quite weakened in our ability to control other agencies’ statistical work,” said the executive director of the entity in charge of coordinating the production of government statistics.

The PRSI leadership crisis began in July when the Rosselló administration dismissed four members of its board of directors and appointed Planning Board President María Gordillo as the entity’s new leader.

Under this scenario, the PRSI filed a lawsuit against all members of its board, including those dismissed and appointed by the governor, so the court can decide who has the authority in law to make decisions for the entity. The Court of First Instance of San Juan will issue a declaratory judgment in the case.

The PRSI has experienced cuts in recent years and its current budget is just over $2 million. Economists such as José Alameda and Vicente Feliciano are among those who have defended the institute’s work. “Without the statistics, you cannot run the government ship, period. When we are in a crisis, like the one we are in, having a clear idea [of the situation] is important. We don’t know where we are going if we do not have up-to-date statistics and of the quality we need,” Feliciano said.

Overestimation in retail sales

During a roundtable to offer details on the new methodology for estimating the island’s retail sales, Marazzi said overestimation at InfoVentas made it possible to artificially inflate the soundness of the Sales Tax Financing Corp. (Cofina by its Spanish acronym).

“To the extent that [the retail sales report] could be used to market and sell more Cofina bonds, it has an implication since about $18 billion is included in the February 2017 fiscal plan,” he said, pointing out that the new methodology is more precise and seeks to not have this situation happen again.




Puerto Rico has least expensive rent market in US

SAN JUAN – Compared to the 50 states, Puerto Rico is the least expensive jurisdictions when renting an apartment. This was verified by the “Out of Reach 2017” study, which takes a look at the high rental costs in the United States.

(iStock photo)

Renting in Puerto Rico

The manager of Reality Realty, Milton Serrano, told tCaribbean Business that the number of people looking to rent property in Puerto Rico has increased. Among the reasons, the real estate broker stressed there are many people who have yet to decide whether to move from the island.

“When we talk about rentals…we are seeing more families, whether professionals, couples or families, looking for housing for rent. That does not mean that rent prices are increasing; [the number of] people looking to rent is increasing,” Serrano said.

Although the study states that the average rental price for a room on the island is $421 or $504 for two rooms, Puerto Rican real estate agent Zairy Ramos clarified that these rents can only be found outside the metropolitan area.

“There still are many people with the ability to pay $1,000 rents,” said the owner of Marquesa Management Puerto Rico stressing that the market is stable despite the fiscal crisis. “The Condado and Isla Verde area is not far [off] from Miami and other coastal areas” in terms of pricing, she added.

Ramos estimated that rent in areas such as Isla Verde and Condado can range from $900 to $1,000 for one room, while a three-room apartment could fo for $3,500. In Guaynabo, Serrano said it could range from $800 to $1,200.

States with largest Puerto Rican diaspora

In the case of Florida, with an $8.10 an hour minimum wage, “Out of Reach” estimates that the price of a two-room apartment exceeds $1,000 a month, while the minimum hourly income required to afford it–without using more than 30% of the earner’s budget–is $20.68.

According to the study, in Texas, with the federal minimum of $7.25, as in Puerto Rico, a two-room apartments average $956 a month. In Pennsylvania, wich also uses the federal minimum, the estimated cost for a two-bedroom property could go for $971 or higher.

The picture changes in New York, where rent for one room can be $1,243, while for two rooms, it increases to $1,460 and $3,895 in areas like Manhattan. Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, which has an $11 minimum wage, two rooms go for $1,424.

Factors to Consider

Beyond the cost of rent, Caribbean Business consulted with experts who indicated that it is of utmost importance that people consider other factors before packing for a better future, such as the cost of living, taxes and insurance.

CPA Héctor Carrasquillo, of Carrasquillo CPA Group, said the U.S. rents increase 5% to 10% annually, while finding a property is getting harder.

“The first thing one has to look for is where they are going to move, because property rents vary a lot from one place to another,” Carrasquillo said. “The person has to do a [careful] analysis about where [they are] going and with what budget.”

Meanwhile, CPA Luis Rodríguez said rent and quality of life depend on the cost of goods and services of each state. As an example, he noted that the minimum wage in Massachusetts “might be enough, but those $11 in New York, you don’t even have to research that.”

Both accountants agreed it is more feasible to live in Puerto Rico with the minimum than in many states, because factors such as the cost of living greatly increase expenses. “With the minimum wage in New York you can’t do anything, but here you could,” Rodríguez said.

“The people who can move from Puerto Rico are those who have a profession, because if you earn the minimum [on the island], moving [stateside] to earn the minimum is still the same. I believe that people who have a technical profession can do well,” Rodríguez said.

Among the professionals most likely to do well stateside, Rodríguez said were teachers, doctors and engineers. The 2015 Migrant Profile, released by the Puerto Rico Statistics Institute, reveals that 1,888 to 4,506 teachers left the island that year.

According to the Community Survey prepared by the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 285,530 Puerto Ricans left the island between 2011 and 2015. The main reason for emigrating for 80% of the men and 60% of the women between 2010 and 2012 was to “work or look for work.”

Rent for two rooms, according to the “Out of Reach 2017” study:

  • Puerto Rico: $504
  • Florida: $1,075
  • Texas: $956
  • Pennsylvania: $971
  • Nueva York: $1,460
  • Massachusetts: $1,424

Higher prices in US squeezing both renters and would-be homeowners




Bill to prevent water rate hike during droughts passed in Puerto Rico House

SAN JUAN — During the second day of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives’s second regular session, it approved House Bill 285 to prohibit rate hikes by the Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Authority (Prasa) were the governor to declare a state of emergency due to drought.

“Drought emergency periods should not be used by the State as a pretext to increase the cost of the essential service,” reads the bill authored by New Progressive Party (NPP) Rep. Jorge Navarro Suárez.

The bill, which now goes to the Senate for consideration, highlights that in 2015, when a state of emergency was declared via executive order, the public utility considered increasing the price of water to reduce consumption and generate additional revenue.

(Courtesy)

To prevent this from happening again, H.B. 285 proposes to amend the Uniform Act for Rate Revision and Modification to prevent a rate hike while an executive order that decrees a state of emergency is in force

“Puerto Ricans suffer enough during droughts to be penalized with water rate hikes. In addition, water rate hikes during drought periods represent a hard blow to thousands of small businesses,” the bill reads.

Meanwhile, H.B. 769 was also approved to address non-compete contracts and clauses. Specifically, the proposal dictates that it will be “public policy” to prevent employees who were dismissed by companies “not to be hired in the same industry.”

“It is public policy of the Government of Puerto Rico to watch for workers’ best interests, safeguard job security and offer protection against arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable actions by employers,” it reads.

Meanwhile, House Bill 847 proposes to amend the Puerto Rico Funeral Services Act to empower the Department of Consumer Affairs (DACO) to include in its rules of procedure to dictate burial, exhumation, and shipment fees.

The House decreed a recess until Monday, Aug. 28, at 11 a.m., by which time it will hold a special session to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the ombudsman. The ordinary session will resume at 1 p.m., as will the Senate.

 




Senate passes resolution to investigate electric outages in Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN – In light of the possibility of a general blackout in Puerto Rico, the upper legislative chamber passed Senate Resolution 345 on Monday to order an investigation into the electric power system’s high incidence of outages reported daily and establish a plan to address them.

“Over the years, the infrastructure of the electrical system has faced a series of failures and technical problems, which reflect that the conservation and protection of the electric power system lacks adequate preventive maintenance,” the resolution reads.

The bill, presented by Popular Democratic Party Sen. Aníbal José Torres, orders the Senate Government Commission to present a report within 90 days on the incidences of electric outages around the island and evaluate infrastructure improvement programs.

Puerto Rico electric utility puts infrastructure improvement plan on track

In a turn in favor of the resolution, Torres noted that 141,000 customers’ electric service is disrupted monthly and takes more than an hour on average to be restored. Between 2010 and 2017, there was a 402% rise in services disruptions.

“We have filed this resolution with the intention that, once and for all, the country can be assured of what kind of situation is actually happening at the Electric Power Authority [Prepa] to face the crisis that is causing so many blackouts in the country,” the legislator said.

Manufacturers recommend putting Puerto Rico electric utility under emergency oversight

The resolution also seeks to investigate the actions of the Electric Power Authority to “address the ongoing outages in the system, including those determinations that affect [Prepa’s] governance, both in its administrative and financial structure.”

A week ago, the executive director of the public corporation, Ricardo Ramos Rodríguez, said he has begun working on a strategic plan to reduce disruptions and improve the quality of the service, and assured that the island is not going through an energy crisis.

Prepa’s Aguirre Central plant (pictured) suffered a fire Wednesday, Sept. 21, leaving most of Puerto Rico without electricity. (File photo)

Eye on co-ops

Meanwhile, Senate Resolution 51 was also approved to investigate “the status and efficiency of the Cooperatives Supervision & Insurance Corp. [Cossec by its Spanish acronym]” and determine if it made spending and budget cuts in accordance with the state of fiscal emergency.

“The Senate of Puerto Rico is committed to the development of cooperatives throughout Puerto Rico. Therefore, it is imperative that the status and efficiency of [Cossec] be investigated,” reads the preamble of the measure authored by Sen. Eric Correa Rivera.

During its ninth public meeting in early August, the fiscal control board approved the corporation’s fiscal plan with amendments. It gave the government 30 days to amend the laws that govern Cossec.




Puerto Rico Legislative Assembly begins second regular session

SAN JUAN — The second regular session of Puerto Rico’s Legislative Assembly began Monday without major setbacks and the passage of 11 bills in the House of Representatives, another 12 bills in Senate, and a discussion about where Popular Democratic Party (PDP) representatives would be seated.

After a three-hour recess, the upper chamber passed Senate Bill 102, which adds to the places approved for mothers to leave their children in the care of the state, as well as to list support programs for mothers who hand their children over to the Women’s Advocate Office.

The Puerto Rico Senate on the first day of the second regular session. (Génesis Ibarra/CB)

Puerto Rican Independence Party Sen. José Vargas Vidot introduced amendments to “humanize” the bill’s language, among which is a 30-day extension, to 60 days, for the Family Department to establish protocol was approved.

Among the bills passed by the House was Senate Bill 142, which creates an Interagency Committee to design and offer training to Education Department employees on how to identify cases of child sexual abuse.

Meanwhile, House Bill 404 establishes an interdisciplinary working group to evaluate minors suspected of being victims of abuse by family members, while H.B. 868 allows for people jailed for failing to make alimony payments to be sent to harvest coffee beans.

House PDP caucus complete

During the first day of the session, House PDP Minority Leader Rafael Hernández said his party’s caucus was complete after Reps. Manuel Natal, Luis Vega Ramos and Luis Raúl Torres were reintegrated as part of the delegation.

“We notify you that we have all the members of the Popular Party delegation within the caucus of the Popular Party. We have already assigned it for the different committees and look forward to your [House speaker’s] determination,” Rep. Tatito Hernández said.

The discussion began when the New Progressive Party (NPP) delegation questioned the location of three so-called dissidents’ seats within the chamber and saying the lawmakers could not move from their assigned seats without communicating it officially.

“The instructions to the Sergeant of Arms is to return to each legislator to the seats that had been assigned, until you [Hernández] and I sit with the spokesman of the majority and see how the seating will be are configured,” Méndez said.

The House established a recess until Thursday, Aug. 23 at 11 a.m., while the Senate will resume its labor on Monday, Aug. 28 at 1 p.m.

The House will be in recess until Thursday, Aug. 24 at 11 a.m., while the Senate resumes work Monday, Aug. 28 at 1 p.m.




Puerto Rico resident commissioner to request meeting with revitalization coordinator

SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González announced she will be sending the fiscal control board a written request Monday to meet the newly appointed revitalization coordinator, Noel Zamot, who is tasked with putting the island’s critical infrastructure projects on track.

“I think that, at a time when the economy of Puerto Rico must be pushed, it cannot only be cutting costs, it has to be the role of the revitalization coordinator, to move the economy, to move projects and to get that approved for Puerto Rico,” he said.

Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González. (Juan J. Rodríguez / CB)

González also said the fiscal board’s first report, describing the work it performed during its first year, did not include economic development initiatives. The board, however, has said this issue is not its responsibility.

The official said the federally created entity did not include any of the measures submitted to the U.S. Congress since it took office either, among which is the inclusion of Puerto Rico in U.S. tax reform.

Resident Commissioner: Trump Budget Provides Relief to P.R. Medicaid

The New Progressive Party leader also believes the board’s intention to audit Puerto Rico’s debt and determine the root cause of its fiscal crisis should be tied to economic improvement measures, as the current priority must be the island’s economic growth.

“While that happens, what are they doing to move Puerto Rico’s economy? I think both things should go hand in hand; do the audit, but also, how are we going to move the economy? The measures are there; I’m filing measures in Congress,” she said.

González made the remarks during the presentation of the Congressional Gold Medal to Borinqueneer Carlos de la Rosa Mangual’s widow. He joined the Army in 1950 and was active for eight years in the 65th Infantry Regiment.

Veterans Services scarce

Amid the medal ceremony, widow Ana Romero Sánchez questioned the lack of adequate services for the island’s veterans, particularly at the Veterans Hospital, which she called “lousy” due to its lack of specialists.

“Veterans in Puerto Rico should have better care,” she said. “When [her husband] had to see specialists, he had to wait six months. Almost always those who saw him were nurses and practitioners, but for the specialist they gave him an appointment every six months.

“I find that they should be more efficient at the Veterans Hospital, more frequent, not an appointment in a month and then four months. When veterans have a chronic condition they need to be treated properly. They don’t receive the attention they should receive,” Romero said.

The resident commissioner said she has taken several steps to improve the quality of life of Puerto Rican veterans and has held several meetings at the federal level on the matter, but acknowledged that “much remains to be done.”