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Governor Launches U.S. Voter Registration Drive

Pro-Navy Group Marches

$1.4B "Tax Bomb"

Calderon, Rossello Spar

5 Protesters Get 30 Days

Senate OKs Anti-Force Resolution

Justice: Calderon Not Linked To Money Laundering

May Target For Vieques Options

Coalition Files Complaint With FBI

Calderon Launches Voter Registration Drive In New Jersey

April 11th, 2002
Copyright © 2002
WOW News. All rights reserved.  

New Brunswick, N.J. – Gov. Sila Calderon announced the launch of a drive to register Puerto Rican voters in the state of New Jersey on Thursday.

The New Jersey drive – part of a 10-state effort by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to register hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans in the mainland United States – will begin next week and will target voter participation in the June 7 state primary elections.

"New Jersey’s Puerto Rican population ranks third in the United States, after New York and Florida. Puerto Ricans make up 4.4% of New Jersey’s total population and can certainly be a decisive swing vote in any highly contested statewide race," Calderon said.

The governor made the announcement at Rutgers University, during a joint press conference at which New Jersey Gov. James McGreevy signed an executive order creating a Hispanic Advisory Council.

Calderon welcomed McGreevey’s initiative as an example of measures that, like the voter registration drive, strengthen the Puerto Rican community.

"Empowering Puerto Ricans in the United States is of paramount importance to me as governor of the Commonwealth, and I will give as much effort and resources as necessary to accomplish this importance objective," said Calderon, adding that over 650,000 Puerto Ricans in the U.S. mainland are not registered to vote.

The Commonwealth’s voter registration campaign will be implemented in 12 markets across 10 states and will comprise field-based grass-roots registration operations supported by a media effort to raise awareness of the importance of registering and voting.

According to Calderon, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, through its regional New Jersey office, has begun identifying and training personnel to coordinate efforts for the upcoming primaries.

Pro-Navy Group Marches In Support Of Military Presence

April 11th, 2002
Copyright © 2002
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.   

SAN JUAN (AP) – Led by an immense U.S. flag, hundreds who support the U.S. Navy’s presence in Vieques marched Thursday in favor of the permanence of the military body on the island.

The group arrived at the area in front of the Camp Garcia military facilities a little before noon, where they were received by a line of police agents impeding their passage to nearby Camp Garcia’s gates.

The main headquarters of anti-Navy groups is located precisely in front of the military facility’s main entrance.

Authorities had agreed to allow a pro-Navy delegation of up to six people to hand a document to the military personnel at the camp’s gate.

Pro-Navy leader Luis Sanchez requested that 10 people be allowed to get closer to Camp Garcia’s gate, but the request was not accepted by Col. Cesar Gracia, who is in charge of the Puerto Rico police on the island municipality, to avoid violence between the two groups.

"I feel like I'm a terrorist here," said Navy supporter Jose Julio Rodriguez, who was punched by anti-Navy protesters last week while carrying a U.S. flag.

Navy supporters waved the Stars and Stripes with the American national anthem blaring in the background. Opponents shouted "Navy Get Out!" to a salsa beat.

Police kept the groups apart and prevented Navy supporters from delivering a letter to Camp Garcia, saying it was too dangerous to allow them through the barricade in front of anti-Navy activists.

One new poll published in a local newspaper Wednesday found that sentiment in Puerto Rico is now nearly evenly split over the Navy's use of Vieques.

According to the poll, conducted for the pro-statehood Alliance for a Better Puerto Rico, 43.8% of those surveyed want the Navy to stay, 40.9% want it out and 15.4% were undecided.

Pollsters consulted a sample of 700 registered voters, and the poll had a 4% margin of error, the newspaper said.

Tax Increases Could Cost The People $1.40 Billion

April 11th, 2002
Copyright © 2002
WOW News. All rights reserved.  

Former Senate President Charlie Rodriguez said Thursday that Gov. Sila Calderon’s proposal to increase excise taxes and eliminate tax breaks will cost the people $1.40 billion in three years.

In what Rodriguez dubbed Calderon’s "tax bomb," Rodriguez affirmed that these measures constitute "strangulation" of the finances of working class families and discrimination and "abuse" against working women.

Rodriguez explained that not only was the tax break legislated by the past administration postponed, but the marriage penalty tax, already eliminated in a bill signed in 2000, was re-imposed in 2001.

The former Senate president said the cost of the elimination of the tax break to the Puerto Rican people’s budget and the cost of the marriage penalty tax imposition are estimated at $348 million and $240 million, respectively.

Rodriguez also compared the tax rates of the past administration to the present administration’s proposed tax rates and indicated that there is a 25.9% increase.

The attorney described Calderon’s tax policy as "devastating, wrong, and absurd."

"It is an elementary economic principle that when the economy is in a slowdown, taxes are reduced, so the people can have more money to spend and generate economic activity, as has been the norm in the United States," Rodriguez said in open criticism of Calderon’s measures to balance the government budget.

Rodriguez said adding to the already legislated tax impositions, the people’s budget will be affected by the proposed excise taxes on cigarettes, beer, and other alcoholic beverages, which totals $600 million, and the proposed taxes to 4x4 vehicles, which amount to $210 million.

Calderon: Rossello Has No Right To Talk About Island’s State

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

April 10th, 2002
Copyright © 2002
WOW News. All rights reserved.  

TOA BAJA – Gov. Sila Calderon once again insisted Wednesday that former Gov. Pedro Rossello should come to the island and explain how bribery and extortion schemes, as federal authorities have indicated, were made under his administration.

This after published reports indicated the former governor’s intention of not returning to the island for the moment.

"Rossello should come and show his face, for all he did and allowed to be done, as real men and women should do," Calderon said.

In addition, the governor said Rossello has no moral right to talk about the Commonwealth’s current state, as he is responsible for the condition it was in when her administration took over.

"The person who is totally responsible for the nearly bankrupt condition in which this island was left and under whose administration so much was stolen has no moral right to speak about this island’s current state," Calderon said.

Calderon’s statements come as a response to former Gov. Pedro Rossello’s declarations to two island newspapers, in which he dismissed returning to the island for now, until the island "takes a radical turn from its wrong path."

Rossello, who both teaches and studies at George Washington University in Washington D.C., added that he will not react to the recent arrest in federal court for charged of bribery and extortion – among others – to several of his administration’s high-ranking officials, among them his former personal aide Maria de Los Angeles Rivera and former Education Secretary Victor Fajardo.

The former governor affirmed that if those charged are found guilty, they should respond for their actions.

Rossello: Everyone Must Answer For His Or Her Actions

April 10th, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN (AP) – Although former New Progressive Party (NPP) Gov. Pedro Rossello refused to answer questions regarding recent federal accusations against members of his cabinet and La Fortaleza officials for corruption and extortion, he said in published reports that all those involved in corruption acts must answer for their actions.

Rossello added that during his tenure as governor, he was totally dedicated to improving the island’s condition.

"I gave all my talent, time, and dedication during the ten years I was active," the former governor said of his political career.

Rossello dismissed returning to the island "for the moment," and assured he is not depressed, as NPP Sen. Miriam Ramirez de Ferrer had said.

The former governor now teaches public health courses at George Washington University, in Washington D.C., and attends courses as an unregistered student. This summer, he hopes to teach courses on health reform.

In recent days, the U.S. District Court charged his former aide Maria de los Angeles Rivera, with alleged acts of extortion and influence peddling. Charges were also filed against former Deputy Chief-of-Staff Angel Luis Ocasio.

Before that, former Education Department Secretary Victor Fajardo and 16 others were accused for a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme with public funds. The accusations revealed that part of that money ended up in NPP coffers.

First Protesters Sentenced To A Month In Jail

April 10th, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN (AP) – U.S. District Court Judge Salvador Casellas imposed a 30-day prison sentence to the five Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) members who were arrested April 1 for trespassing U.S. Navy land in Vieques.

The five women, led by PIP Vice President Maria de Lourdes Santiago, did not present any defense during the trail, as they refused to recognize the court’s jurisdiction.

"I understand the civil disobedience purpose, and I respect the ideology of the accused, but in my opinion, civil disobedience acts in Vieques at this moment are not justified," Casellas said in open court.

Before giving the sentence, the federal judge made a reference to the fact that the U.S. is in war, a reason why the Puerto Ricans, as American citizens, have "a responsibility and a duty" in the common defense.

The days the group served in jail will be discounted from their 30-day sentences.

The group of women was arrested on the first day of renewed military maneuvers.

Senate Approves Resolution Against Use Of Force In Vieques

April 9th, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN (AP) – The Senate approved a resolution censoring the use of force by the U.S. Navy against those who exercise their right to free expression, on Monday night.

The resolution resulted from incidents on Saturday, in which military police fired tear gas at a group of protesters in front of Camp Garcia.

Navy spokesman Corey Barker said the military personnel only respond to Vieques activists when necessary and explained that Saturday’s incident was provoked by protesters throwing rocks at military personnel.

The resolution was approved with 21 votes in favor from the Popular Democratic Party delegation, Puerto Rican Independence Party Sen. Fernando Martin, and New Progressive Party (NPP) Sens. Norma Burgos and Sergio Peña Clos.

On the other hand, the legislative measure was rejected by NPP Sens. Orlando Parga, Lucy Arce, Migdalia Padilla, Miriam Ramirez, and Pablo Lafontaine. NPP’s Minority Leader Kenneth McClintock abstained from the voting process.

Justice: Calderon, Cantero Not Linked To Money Laundering

April 9th, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN (AP) – Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon told the Justice Department that Gov. Sila Calderon and Economic Development and Commerce Secretary Ramon Cantero Frau are not the objects of an investigation of money laundering through the Banco Bilbao Vizcaya-Argentaria (BBVA).

Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez indicated that Garzon informed the department in a letter responding to the one she sent last Tuesday.

"To this day, none of the two people cited are accused nor are the objects of an investigation by this court," said the letter signed by Garzon, dated April 6, and received Monday at noon, Rodriguez said in a press conference.

Garzon was in San Juan with an investigation team for two days in the U.S. District Court headquarters as part of a probe that he is conducting on a substantial number of BBVA officials in Madrid and several countries, including a possible role in money laundering of important figures in the countries involved.

The inquiry centers on Grand Cayman, as well as Panama, Colombia, Peru, and Madrid, including Puerto Rico.

Calderon denied from the beginning the versions that linked her to the investigation and said the allegations were produced by persons she did not wish to identify, who are attacking her fight against corruption.

Alternatives To Vieques Training To Be Known In May

April 8th, 2002
Copyright © 2002 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – The alternative sites study for the U.S. Navy training in Vieques should be ready by next month, confirmed Navy Secretary Gordon England’ s spokesman Kevin Wensing.

The official said the Navy still has plans to abandon the Vieques range by May 2003, but affirmed the final decision will depend on the study results and the alleged military corps needs against the war on terrorism.

A similar study, performed by the Navy in August 2000 and made public last year, determined that there where very "promising" locations in North Carolina and Florida as alternatives to the Vieques training site, according to published reports.

For his part, James Hansen (R-UT) a strong U.S. Navy advocate said the environmental studies that should be performed in the alternate sites could take years, so he is skeptical that the Navy can transfer its operations from the island municipality to another site by May 2003, as stated by President George W. Bush.

National Puerto Rico Coalition Files Complaint With FBI

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

April 8th, 2002
Copyright © 2002
WOW News. All rights reserved.  

Members of the Puerto Rican National Coalition, including its President Manuel Mirabal, filed a complaint with the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Regional Office of Puerto Rico on Monday, against the U.S. Navy for violation of civil rights.

The complaint comes two days after more than 100 members of the coalition were overcome by tear gas that was allegedly thrown by Navy personnel into the civilian population who were protesting military training exercises in Vieques outside Luisa Guadalupe camp in front of Vieques’ Camp Garcia.

The incident, which has outrage the island civil population, including the Commonwealth’s Gov. Sila Calderon, was described by members of the coalition, as a "cowardly ambush."

"The unexpected attack of the Navy and the use of tear gas and other chemical agents against members of the coalition was particularly surprising because none of our members did anything to provoke this type of reaction from police personnel or the military," Mirabal said.

When the 45-minute altercation began, members of the coalition were aboard busses and about to leave the area, however tear gas infiltrated the busses and all those inside were affected.

Mirabal said gas turned the buses into gas chambers inside.

Attorney Luis Batista, who is representing the group in the U.S. Federal District Court for Puerto Rico, said the case is unlike any other that has been presented since demonstrations in favor of the ousting of the Navy from Vieques began in 1999, following the death by accidental bombing of civilian guard David Sanes.

The fact that there are over 100 witnesses to the incident makes it "virtually impossible" for the FBI to dismiss the complaint, Batista said. Still he added that if such were the case, other "legal alternatives" could be explored including the filing of a class action lawsuit against the Navy.

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