December 21, 2000

Puerto Rico mayor arrested on corruption charges

                  SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- Authorities have arrested a small-town mayor
                  on federal charges of extortion and soliciting kickbacks, the latest in a wave of
                  corruption cases in Puerto Rico.

                  A federal grand jury indicted Liborio Ruben Caro Muniz, mayor of the west
                  coast town of Rincon, on two counts of extortion and six of receiving kickbacks
                  from a contractor in exchange for projects. Federal prosecutor Guillermo Gil
                  announced the indictment at a Wednesday news conference in the capital of this
                  U.S. Caribbean territory.

                  Officers arrested Caro Muniz at his home Wednesday morning and brought him
                  to the U.S. District Court for Puerto Rico in San Juan. He pleaded innocent, and
                  Magistrate Aida Delgado released him on $100,000 bond.

                  "I'm not guilty," Caro Muniz told reporters as he left the court. "This is an
                  accusation that's on paper there, but I have to study it to see what it is they're
                  saying about me. This morning they arrested me and brought me here without
                  giving me documents or anything."

                  Gil compared the case to that of former Toa Alta mayor Angel Rodriguez, who
                  was convicted of demanding $2.5 million in kickbacks for a federally funded
                  cleanup contract after Hurricane Georges in 1998.

                  "It's the same type of behavior that disgracefully is almost a custom in our
                  country in which many public officials demand payment of kickbacks to
                  authorize contracts," Gil said.

                  The indictment alleges that Caro Muniz was asking a contractor for $20,000
                  worth of kickbacks to award the company two contracts -- one to rezone
                  municipal land and another to design a lighting system for a sports stadium.

                  Copyright 2000 The Associated Press