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Calderon Urges Calm

Muted Protests Flare As Exercises Start

Pro-Navy And Anti-Navy Groups Clash

Lausell Appointed To DGA Board

Anti-Navy Demonstrators Hold Caravan

Island’s Federal Courts Slowest

Puerto Rican To Lead U.S. Housing Hispanic Dept.

Mayaguez Bishop Censors Corruption Cases

Calderon Urges Calm

April 1st, 2002
Copyright © 2002 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - Gov. Sila Calderon called on the police and demonstrators in favor and against the new round of military maneuvers of the U.S. Navy to exercise control and prudence while carrying out their protests in Vieques. She also reiterated her trust in the words of U.S. President George W. Bush, whom she said has recently reassured New York Gov. George Pataki that the Navy will end its practices in Vieques by 2003.

"As you know, the President Bush has given his word to the people of Puerto Rico that the practices will end in or before May 2003. Precisely last week he confirmed this to Gov. Pataki, to my representatives (in Washington) and to others who have asked about it. I believe in President Bush's word," the governor said Monday.

However, when asked why those words aren't put in writing, or if she intends to ask the White House to do so, Calderon said she believes it is a good idea and that she would be willing to make that request, but that the people of Puerto Rico must remember the war-like situation that the U.S. is in.

The governor took the opportunity to announce that her representatives in Washington have approached the White House to begin talks regarding the transition in Vieques, that include the transferring of the U.S. Navy land to the Vieques municipal government and to the U.S. Department of the Interior, as well has the mechanisms to carry out that transition.

As for Vieques, Calderon said she hasn't consider the possibility of visiting the island municipality while the military maneuvers take place.

She also mentioned that she has been in contact with Vieques Mayor Damaso Serrano, but was brief in giving the details of their telephone conversation. However, Calderon regretted Serrano's feeling of abandonment in his fight to oust the Navy from Vieques.

"The people of Puerto Rico and this administration continues to be with Damaso Serrano," the governor said.

In recent days, the Vieques mayor accused the Calderon administration of abandoning the cause of Vieques and expressed his disagreement with the governor's decision to send local police officers to help the military police in protecting the fence surrounding Camp Garcia on the island municipality, as well as to intervene in possible clashes with anti-Navy demonstrators.

Calderon also announced that she has requested Police Superintendent Miguel Pereira to exercise his duties by taking the necessary means to ensure safety with the utmost sensibility.

The governor also responded to the expressions of PIP Vice President Maria de Lourdes Santiago and of Vieques female leader Myriam Soba, whom had expressed disappointment with the governor's actions to help oust the Navy from the island municipality.

"They know me well. This is a democracy. Each of them can make political expressions or of any other kind. I think this is not a time for destructive expressions. This is a time for unity and for exerting a lot of prudence," the governor stated.

Santiago was arrested along with other four women on Monday morning for trespassing on Navy restricted land prior to the resumption of their military practices in Vieques.

Muted Protests Flare As U.S. Navy Bombing Exercises Start In Vieques


April 1st, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

VIEQUES , Puerto Rico (AP) - U.S. Navy planes bombarded a contested firing range on this outlying Puerto Rican island Monday just hours after five protesters broke into restricted land leading to the target zone.

Miles away, a pro-Navy demonstrator's knees shook with fear as he paraded the Stars and Stripes before a crowd of anti-Navy militants. The group proceeded to beat him up, with a woman throwing the first punch.

Passions flared on the first day of the expected three weeks of war exercises on Vieques , even though the movement to oust the Navy from its prized Atlantic bombing range has lost vigor and support since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. mainland.

The first act came before dawn when five women from the Puerto Rican Independence Party entered Navy ground.

At about 8 a.m., the Navy said planes from the USS George Washington Battle Group began dropping inert bombs on the Navy's seaside bombing range on the eastern end of the island.

An hour later, Navy military police handcuffed the five intruders. They pumped their manacled fists into the air and shouted anti-Navy slogans in Spanish "Fuera la Marina!" Navy get out!

The arrests were watched by a group of reporters on the civilian side of a Navy fence, who were led to the scene by Independence Party members.

Like some of the nearly 1,000 protesters who have broken into Navy land to thwart the bombing exercises in the past two years, the women will refuse bail, be charged in federal court and serve jail sentences as part of a civil disobedience campaign, said Jorge Fernandez Porto, the Independence Party's environmental adviser.

"This civil disobedience campaign has been the single most important political factor putting political pressure on Washington and the U.S. Navy" to get the sailors to halt 60 years of bombing exercises on the island, Fernandez said.

Pro-Navy And Anti-Navy Groups Clash In Vieques

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

April 1st, 2002
Copyright © 2002
WOW News. All rights reserved.  

VIEQUES - A violent incident occurred Monday noon outside Camp Garcia when two members of the pro-statehood organization known as ‘Renacer Estadista’ arrived at the area in front of the Justice and Peace Camp carrying a U.S. flag to demonstrate their support for the presence of the U.S. Navy on the island municipality.

The presence of the two pro-Navy demonstrators was seen as a "provocation" by those who have formed camps to oppose the Navy’s presence in the area, following the accidental death of civilian David Sanes in May 1999 due to an errant bomb.

Minutes after his arrival and just after the organization leader Jose Julio Diaz had accepted a Vieques flag, anti-Navy demonstrators walked toward the two men and demanded that they leave the area.

"How would you like it if a confronting agent went to your home? You would not accept it. Get out," said Nilda Medina of the Justice and Peace camp.

When Diaz and his companion who declined to identify himself, refused to leave the area, anti-Navy demonstrators confronted them and in their discussion hit Diaz with their fists, making him fall to the ground and lose hold of the American flag, which was snatched out of his hands and thrown into the air.

Diaz then argued that it was his right to be there and that it was those in favor of the Navy ousting who were provoking them.

Police was immediately moved to the area and guarded the pro-Navy demonstrator making way for them to get into a vehicle that would escort them out of the area.

In the process however, also pushed and shoved anti-navy demonstrators.

Puerto Rican Designated To The DGA Board Of Directors

April 1st, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN (AP) — Attorney and businessman Miguel D. Lausell was designated as a member of the Democrats Governors Association Board of Directors (DGA) informed the organization Treasurer Mark S. Weiner.

The announcement coincides with an unprecedented effort within the DGA to realign their organisms on a state level before November, when the North Americans will vote to elect 36 governors.

"Miguel Lausell is a political and community leader in Puerto Rico and an opinion maker ion a national level. The Board of Directors is composed by leaders from all the nation, who have an important role in the DGA agenda definition," said Weiner in a press release.

Weiner pointed out that Lausell will help the Democratic Party to get the Hispanic vote.

Lausell, for his part, said he expects with the designation to "use the designation to promote additional opportunities among the Hispanic population in the United States".

For several decades Lausell has served in various National Democratic Party committees and working groups.

Anti-Navy Demonstrators Hold Caravan On Easter Sunday

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

March 31st, 2002
Copyright © 2002
WOW News. All rights reserved.  

VIEQUES - Easter Sunday concluded on this island municipality with no signs of the resumption of military maneuvers, despite a notice from the U.S. Navy closing off maritime space to local fishermen and declaring the area dangerous from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.

U.S. Navy spokeswoman Lt Comm. Katherine Goode said no one was to use the inner range on Sunday and maneuvers would begin Monday.

"Nobody is going to use the inner range today," Goode said.

The day also ended with a request for Gov. Sila Calderon's presence during the current round of military practices.

"We ask the governor of Puerto Rico to come here, to be present, just as she once got down on her knees and kissed the contaminated sand of Vieques," Father Nelson Lopez said.

The Catholic priest, who was once arrested for trespassing on federal land in Vieques to engage in what protesters have come to know as civil disobedience, also asked Calderon to prohibit the cooperation that currently exist between the Navy and the local police.

"Their (state police) behavior is outdated, they don’t have to be accomplices," Lopez said.

Lopez, the town's Catholic priest issued his call following a caravan through Vieques roads to protest the resumption of military maneuvers.

The caravan ended outside Camp Garcia's main entrance where demonstrators parked their cars. Although the gate is strongly guarded by local police, the protester's presence caused an immediate reaction of military personnel who formed a double line inside the camp.

For her part, Vieques resident and Women's Alliance member Judith Conde also urged the local police to refrain from its new-found attitude of helping the military and warned of the "consequences" they could face if tear gas is thrown to demonstrators.

Conde's statements could be interpreted as a threat that seemed to have materialized hours earlier when an alleged demonstrator injured a police officer.

Fajardo Area Police Commander Col. Cesar Gracia identified the agent as Rodrigo Ramos Aponte, 23, who was on duty on Saturday evening around 9:50 p.m. when he noticed what seemed to be a break-in into Camp Garcia and tried to intervene.

Because of the darkness of the area the agent allegedly fell down while trying to catch the intruder. The alleged aggressor, whom the agent was able to identify, hit the agent in the back of the neck with an unidentified object.

Ramos Aponte was taken to the town's Diagnostic and Treatment Center and was said to be in stable condition.

The incident, according to Gracia, occurred near the Luisa Guadalupe protest camp.

Demonstrators who were there at the time the incident allegedly occurred denied the police statements.

"Impossible. They have lights pointing at us and we have lights pointing at them. This area is no longer in the dark. If an agent was injured it was not here," said Antonio "Toño" Corcino.

Gracia for his part said the investigation into the matter would continue and could lead to an accusation against the alleged aggressor.

Puerto Rico’s Federal Court Slowest

March 31st, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) -- The five fastest and slowest of the 94 federal court jurisdictions in handling criminal cases, from filing to disposition, as measured in fiscal 2001 by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts:


1. Southern California, 4.0 months
2. Arizona, 4.3 months
3. New Mexico, 4.5 months
3. Southern Texas, 4.5 months
5. Northern Marianas, 4.9 months


94. Puerto Rico, 13.5 months
93. Massachusetts, 13.2 months
92. Hawaii, 12.7 months
91. Western North Carolina, 12.7 months
90. Connecticut, 12.6 months

Puerto Rican Named To Lead U.S. Housing Hispanic Dept.

March 30th, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN (AP) — A Puerto Rican was named Friday to lead the new U.S. Hispanic Department of the housing assistance program, known as the Future Homes Assistance Program (FHAP).

FHAP Executive Director Edward Hays said in a press release that Aida Perez will be in charge of the Hispanic Department that will serve communities where a great concentration of Hispanics exist, such as Florida, Texas, California, and Arizona.

In other matters, officials announced the appointment of Carlos Torres, who will direct the Puerto Rico Regional Office, located in San Juan.

According to Hays, the creation of this division responds to the rapid growth among the Hispanic population in the United States, which is "notably ignored by the majority of businesses."

"That is why we have extended all the aspects of the program to Hispanics, who would not have otherwise known about the opportunities of buying housing due to language barriers," the official said.

Perez, who was a university professor in Puerto Rico some years ago, said she feels very proud and enthusiastic about her new tasks, which she described as "extremely rewarding."

FHAP is a non-profit organization that collects funds to help buyers gather certain requirements to obtain money for a down payment on the house they wish to buy or for closing costs.

Mayaguez Bishop Censors Corruption Cases

March 29th, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

PONCE (AP) - Mayagüez Diocese Bishop Monsignor Ulises Casiano censored the corruption acts conducted by government officials and affirmed that the situation "cries before the eyes of God."

"We feel very disappointed as Puerto Ricans and these corrupt acts, in which money is wasted and the people are not well served," the Catholic bishop said.

Casiano was referring to the recent corruption acts revealed by the federal authorities.

"This cries before the eyes of God. I censor all that. And if it’s true, it is a shame. And if it is not true, it is also a shame, since the person’s reputation has already been damaged," Casiano said in a radio interview.

The Mayaguez bishop affirmed that government corruption is unacceptable and constitutes a bad example for the people. "People who participate in these activities give a bad example to their country," Casiano said.

Likewise, the bishop affirmed that the government should give priority to education and health issues instead of allocating millions to pay for the political parties campaigns or increasing the lottery games.

"I think we already have enough games," Casiano said.

The Catholic bishop said the government should use other means that do not entail the intensification of lottery games to cover the budget’s deficits.

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