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Senate Oks Constitutional Assembly

Pesquera: Give English Constitutional Rank

More Trespasses As Exercises End

Pro Statehood Demonstrators Show Navy Support

Rabin Sentenced To 6 Months

1st Priest Sex Abuse Complaint

Sanes’ Remembered

Serrano: Vieques Is A Concentration Camp

Senate Approves Report Calling For Constitutional Assembly

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

April 23rd, 2002
Copyright © 2002
WOW News. All rights reserved.  

Following an extensive debate late Monday, the Senate approved a Judiciary Committee report in favor of calling for a Constitutional Assembly as one of the possible alternatives for solving the island’s status issue.

The report was finally approved with the expected votes from the members of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) majority, and Puerto Rican Independence Party Sen. Fernando Martin.

Although Judiciary Committee Chairman Eudaldo Baez Galib tried once again to explain that the approval of the report did not mean that a people’s assembly would be used to solve the status issue, but it is simply one of the options that could be used to resolve the matter, his argument did not convince six of the eight members of the New Progressive Party (NPP) delegation.

Senate NPP Alternate Leader Orlando Parga began his turn to debate apparently in favor of the report.

"After being born, raised, and currently living in a colony, I don’t rule out any mechanism that leads to a possible status solution, and I agree that we don’t have to ask Washington for permission," Parga said.

The senator, however, changed his speech radically and dedicated the rest of his debate to criticizing the PDP’s history in regards to the status issue. Parga, as well as Minority Leader Kenneth McClintock and fellow Sens. Lucy Arce, Migdalia Padilla, Miriam Ramirez de Ferrer, and Pablo Lafontaine, voted against the report.

McClintock described the mechanism of a people’s assembly as an "elite" measure that will leave the island status decision at the hands of a few.

His argument was the only one raised by the minority to receive an answer by Baez Galib, who argued that McClintock’s premise was wrong, on the contrary, people from all political ideologies would form the assembly.

Martin also agreed with Baez Galib on the subject.

"The mechanism of a Constitutional Assembly grants equality and assures a negotiation with U.S. Congress," Martin said.

Meanwhile, Burgos used her debate turn to criticize the members of the delegation voting against the report.

"As pro-statehood, I want the status issue to be solved now. I don’t know what my peers’ fears are. Maybe their fear is that the United States is not willing to grant us statehood," Burgos said.

Pesquera Proposes To Give English Constitutional Rank

By WOW News staff

April 22nd, 2002
Copyright © 2002
WOW News. All rights reserved.  

The New Progressive Party (NPP) House and Senate delegations will file two bills to give English and Spanish —the island’s two official languages, a constitutional rank.

NPP President Carlos Pesquera, who has criticized Popular Democratic Party (PDP) efforts to establish Spanish as the sole official language, commended the initiative.

Gov. Sila M. Calderon has said the language debate is not a priority for the PDP or her administration.

In a press release, Pesquera said the bills would leave the final decision up to voters.

"That way we will avoid this sterile debate by establishing a permanent and clear public policy. The public should acknowledge that being bilingual is a tool for progress and well being," said the NPP president.

"Our children deserve the best opportunities for progress. Language preference is not an issue of national affirmative action or of denying our identity. It is a tool to achieve social and economic progress in the world," said Pesquera.

The pro statehood leader added that once the bills are approved, the government should assign the necessary resources to implement the public policy of learning both languages fluently.

The PDP legislators promoting Spanish as the only official language on the island, Sens. Antonio Fas Alzamora and Margarita Ostolaza, have said the measure does not affect learning English in schools, favoring learning both languages and perhaps others.

Civilians Trespass Onto U.S. Naval Base In Puerto Rico

EFE News Service

April 21st, 2002
Copyright © 2002 COMTEX News. All rights reserved.

Four civilians trespassed onto a U.S. naval base in Vieques as an act of civil disobedience and stayed for four days without being detected. "It's incredible how easy it is to play a joke (on the U.S. Navy); despite the technology and resources at their disposal, we are able to make fun of them," U.S. citizen Andres Thomas Conteris, one of the participants, told EFE.

Conteris entered the Garcia military base on Wednesday with Luis Rodriguez Morales, Mario Perez and a resident of Vieques who did not reveal his name, but is known as "Lena Verde" (Green Wood).

Three of the men managed to elude military surveillance. Only Rodriguez Morales was arrested - at the request of the group - to establish that civilians were on the base while bombing exercises were being conducted.

"We fulfilled our mission and made a farce of the (Navy's) security. Finally, we reached a 'bunker' where we left them some clues; we arrived and we achieved our goal," the man known as Lena Verde told EFE.

On Saturday night, the Navy completed the bombing exercises it began three weeks ago on the island of Vieques .

Pro Statehood Demonstrators Show Support For U.S. Navy

APRIL 21, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN (AP) - Several pro statehood groups reached the Roosevelt Roads naval base in Ceiba to hand in a resolution to U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Kevin Green in favor of the Navy presence in Vieques and in Puerto Rico.

The document was handed in during a manifestation led by New Progressive Party (NPP) Sen. Miriam Ramirez on Sunday.

"I have worn this military uniform for 34 years and I have never being as proud to be an American as I am today," Green said visibly moved when Ramirez and former Gov. Luis A. Ferre handed him the document.

During his brief speech, Green said to those present that they really understood the importance of the U.S. fight against terrorism.

Thousands of pro statehood supporters were there, including NPP Reps. Jose Aponte, Epi Jimenez, and Jennifer Gonzalez, as well as Aguas Buenas Mayor Bonnie Davila and Alianza para un Puerto Rico Mejor spokesman Hector Cuevas.

Pro statehood supporters gathered in Ceiba chanted "Puerto Rico, USA" while several NPP leaders addressed the crowd.

"The Navy is not the U.S. Navy, it is our Navy. We have to have that very clear in our minds to make sure that they know there are loyal people here who won't betray the U.S.," Ferre said to a cheering crowd.

Robert Rabin Sentenced To Six Months In Prison

April 20th, 2002
Copyright © 2002 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – U.S. Magistrate Gustavo Gelpi sentenced anti-U.S. Navy activist Robert Rabin to six months in prison for trespassing on Navy land in Vieques.

Gelpi also sentenced Hiram Lozada to 120 days in prison, and Oscar Charriez and Ivan Elias to 100 days. Rabin was also ordered to pay a $500 fine, and the others have to pay a $250 fine.

Gelpi based his decision on the national state of emergency declared by the U.S. government after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and said the courts don’t determine that situation but comply with it.

He added that the action arranged by the activists, who recognized having achieved their purpose of momentarily interrupting the exercises April 11, "put at risk their lives and military personnel lives."

"This is very serious; it is not a joke," the magistrate said right before closing the trial.

Rabin said although federal authorities "want to apply the antiterrorism law" to those who incur in civil disobedience acts for the Vieques cause, "they have the dilemma of facing a peaceful force."

"Each bomb will be answered by civil disobedience," he said.

Sex Abuse Complaint In Puerto Rico

April 19, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- Puerto Rico's archbishop is investigating the first reported complaint of sexual abuse by a Roman Catholic priest in this U.S. Caribbean territory.

Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez Nieves said in a statement released Friday that the priest had been relieved of his duties for an indefinite period following charges made by a man claiming he was abused as a minor.

The statement gave no details of the complaint and the archbishop's office refused to give any to The Associated Press on Friday.

Gonzalez Nieves said that if the complaint is found to be true, he would proceed according to church and civil law.

Activity Held In Commemoration Of Sanes’ Death

April 19th, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN (AP) – Gov. Sila Calderon and officials from all political parties, along with religious leaders, artists, and hundreds of people, participated Friday morning in the "Dawn for the Peace in Vieques" activity.

Although Calderon has been criticized for allegedly abandoning the Vieques fight against the U.S. Navy’s presence in Vieques, she said Friday that her commitment stands firm in that direction.

"I think that we all have been strengthened, particularly myself, with this activity. . .I am as committed [to this fight] as always," Calderon said in a television interview after the ceremony.

The event was held at the Third Millennium Park in Puerto de Tierra in commemoration of the third anniversary of the death of civilian guard David Sanes, who was killed when a Navy bomb accidentally hit an observation point at the Vieques firing range.

The crowd demanded the Navy’s ousting from Vieques during the activity.

New Progressive Party Sen. Norma Burgos admitted that two years ago, as acting governor, she was able to corroborate that the Navy’s real plans are to stay indefinitely on the island municipality, since it is economically favorable for them.

"We have to continue claiming for the Navy’s ousting. The keys to achieving peace and stoping the bombings in Vieques are going to be activities like this and civil disobedience," Burgos said.

Meanwhile, Puerto Rican Independence Party Rep. Victor Garcia San Inocencio reiterated that Pres. George W. Bush should put in writing his promise of removing the Navy from Vieques. However, he said he would prefer for the ousting to be immediate.

The Puerto Rico Symphonic Orchestra, artists Chucho Avellanet, Danny Rivera, Zoraida Santiago, Antonio Caban Vale, and the University of Puerto Rico Chorus participated in the event.

Serrano: Vieques Is A Concentration Camp

April 19th, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

PONCE (AP) - Vieques Mayor Damaso Serrano accused the U.S. Navy of keeping the Viequenses in slavery and in a concentration camp, in addition to seizing 26,000 acres of land in the municipality.

Some 150 people gathered Friday at the Ernesto Ramos Antonini Square in Ponce to remember the death of David Sanes Rodriguez and to advocate the Navy’s immediate departure from Vieques.

"As we stand here, the Navy is bombing Vieques. Navy out of Vieques; not one more bomb," Serrano said.

He said Sanes Rodriguez’s death three years ago has been the catalyst that brought the public to its feet to demand the Navy’s departure.

"For 62 years, Vieques has been the negotiating token of great North American interests," Serrano said in his message.

Serrano, who served four months in jail for trespassing on Navy land last year, traveled to Ponce with his wife Nelly.

Ponce Mayor Rafael "Churumba" Cordero and Juana Diaz Mayor Ramon Hernandez Torres attended the event, along with Puerto Rico Bar Association President Jaime Ruberte.

Cordero said his administration invested $900 in the event and said the travel expenses of Serrano and his wife were paid by an unidentified private donor.

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