Puerto Rico mayor blasted for giving himself big raise

San Juan, Jul 3 (EFE).- People in recession-battered Puerto Rico were fuming Wednesday over the news that the mayor of a town of 40,000 near San Juan increased his monthly salary from $6,500 to $8,000.

By comparison, the mayor of San Juan - a city of around 400,000 people - receives $10,000 a month.

The pay hike for Mayor Isabelo "Chabelo" Molina's pay hike was approved by the city council in Vega Alta, controlled by the main opposition PNP party, media outlets said.

The councilors also voted to increase their per diems for attending sessions from $64 to $100, Primera Hora newspaper pointed out.

PNP councilors said the pay increases were within the law and stressed that the municipal government is not running a deficit.

Javier Garcia, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Vega Alta on the ticket of Puerto Rico's governing PPD, recalled that during the 2004 mayoral campaign, Molina promised to forgo his salary.

After two years in office, however, Molina began collecting his pay of $5,000 a month, later increased to $6,500.

Puerto Rico's cash-strapped government is about to implement significant cuts to public employees' pensions even as it increases the amount withheld from current government workers' paychecks to finance the retirement system.