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NPP Legislators Asked To Evaluate Government

Church Rocked By Allegations

Reservists To Leave For Mideast

Calderon Fine-Tunes Goals

Pesquera Seeks Army South Retention

Figueroa Leads Mars Mission

Government Will Control Prasa's Rates

Poets Invade Vieques

Garcia To Replace Gil

U.S. House Renews PAN

Pesquera Asks NPP Legislators To Evaluate The Current Government

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera requested that the elected leaders of that party put aside their differences to focus their energies on evaluating the work of Gov. Sila Calderon’s administration.

Pesquera, who met with NPP legislators on Tuesday, denied there is a leadership problem within the party and sated that the problem is to refocus on what’s really important.

"I reiterate that what’s more important here is that we focus on our position to evaluate this government, to find solutions, and to present proposals at a time when the current government is crumbling," Pesquera said in published reports.

NPP Sens. Miriam Ramirez de Ferrer and Kenneth McClintock star in the new chapter in a series of internal disputes among NPP members.

On Tuesday, Ramirez de Ferrer accused McClintock of trying to hinder her aspirations to run for resident commissioner in the general elections of 2004.

Ramirez de Ferrer alleged that McClintock’s intentions were disclosed when he cancelled her trip to the State Legislatures Conference to be held this week in Washington D.C.

Church Rocked By Allegations

By Iván Román | San Juan Bureau

May 7, 2002
Copyright © 2002 Orlando Sentinel. All rights reserved.

ARECIBO, Puerto Rico -- Most of the congregation of La Merced church, in the town of Florida, say they just don't believe the former altar boy.

They say they don't think the imposing Rev. Andres Davila threw 18-year-old Carlos Ortiz on a bed the day before last Thanksgiving, unbuttoned his shirt and kissed him on the mouth. And officials of the local Roman Catholic diocese apparently agreed, dismissing Ortiz's allegations against the priest when he complained last year.

Now Ortiz wants his day in court. "I want him to accept what he did," Ortiz said of Davila, after authorities at the prosecutors' offices here took a sworn statement. "That's all I want."

The case is such a hot potato that prosecutors Friday passed it on to Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez for a decision. It's one of two cases involving Catholic figures that could hit the courts this week, the first such cases in Puerto Rico since church leaders vowed two weeks ago to take more aggressive action on complaints against priests.

In addition, Monsignor Roberto Gonzalez Nieves, archbishop of San Juan, is expected to announce by Friday the results of the church's investigation of a third case in the capital city

When the first news reports emerged about the case, Arecibo's Bishop Iñaki Mallona said his investigation showed that what happened was "a small thing of no importance."

If Rodriguez decides to file charges, the Arecibo court building is in for packed hearings and clashes. Her decision could come as soon as today.

Puerto Rican Reservists To Leave For Mideast

May 7, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN (AP) – More than 200 National Guard Infantry reserve officers from Cabo Rojo and Sabana Grande will head to the Middle East in the coming weeks, National Guard Public Affairs Officer Mayor Efrain Soto said Monday.

According to Soto, the group will have to comply with a 120-day mission. Later, they will be relieved and replaced by Unit 295 from the Caguas, Juncos, and Gurabo areas.

The official indicated in published reports that the reserve officers will have to report to Camp Santiago in Salinas on Monday and will be transferred several days later to Camp McCoy in Wisconsin, where they will be trained for the assigned task.

Although National Guard officials are frequently mobilized to help during emergency cases on the island, this is the first time infantry units will be transferred to the Middle East, Soto said. Currently, a group of military police from Unit 544 is in the Mideast, the official said.

Officials indicated that 160 officers from Cabo Rojo will be headed to Kuwait, and 74 from Sabana Grande will go to Saudi Arabia.

Calderon Fine-Tunes Her Administration Goals In Cabinet Meeting

By Proviana Colon Diaz

May 6, 2002
Copyright © 2002 WOW News. All rights reserved.

Gov. Sila Calderon held a daylong meeting with members of her cabinet, days after acknowledging that her administration is not "where she wants it to be" and announcing that changes will be made.

Calderon however, declined to address the media on Monday and instead assigned La Fortaleza Chief of Staff Cesar Miranda to meet the press.

In his brief statements Miranda did say that the Monday meeting was indeed related to Calderon’s own acknowledgment of inconformity with her administration performance.

"Definitely, the governor has said that her government is not where she wants it to be, and obviously (the meeting) has to do with that," Miranda said.

He declined however, to reveal any of the problems identified during the meeting or to pinpoint any of government agency heads’ performances.

Miranda insisted that Monday’s meeting was ordinary, although the governor’s calendar is prepared months in advance. It wasn’t until past 8 a.m., and after published reports had stated that such a meeting would occur, that La Fortaleza press officials announced the meeting.

Miranda’s acknowledgement that the people’s perception of the government was being discussed during the meeting and the need to improve it, is contrary to the manner in which the press was addressed on Monday. The government’s Reception Center was used instead of the Executive Mansion to hold the meeting because it’s space allows the governor to hold large meetings, it was explained. However, the press was never allowed into even one of the center’s rooms.

Instead, Miranda answered media questions at the building’s entrance.

Calderon’s administration has been characterized for concentrating information. A government agency head rarely dares to answer media questions without first consulting La Fortaleza officials. The same procedure is followed by the government press officers.

When asked however, if such conduct would change, Miranda said it wouldn’t because he believed such premises were incorrect.

"There is no centralizing of a message, what does exist is the coordination of a message, when the message involves more than one agency,’ Miranda said.

It was also confirmed that Calderon’s administration as portrayed by the media will be discussed during the daylong meeting as all government press officers were summoned to attend it.

NPP President To Defend Army South Permanency

May 6, 2002
Copyright © 2002 WOW News. All rights reserved.

New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera announced he will join sectors calling for Army South’s permanency in Fort Buchanan.

At a meeting in Morovis, Pesquera – accompanied by former Gov. Luis A. Ferre, said the group will evaluate the possible transfer of the military corps to Georgia. The group was originally transferred to Puerto Rico from Panama in 1998.

"The loss of jobs and the further impact in our already affected economy should be studied in a responsible manner. Moreover, we will have to do what the government has not done [which is to] fight for its permanency on the island", said Pesquera, who calculated at $200 million the possible annual loss in income if Fort Buchanan shuts down.

After criticizing Gov. Sila Calderon for doing nothing to secure the military corps’ permanency on the island. "Not only has Calderon not been able to halt the closing of factories on the island, but now, the only thing she does is smile and say she is sorry. We do not see any affirmative action from her government to counteract this crisis and protect our political and economical relations with our nation", Pesquera said.

According to the NPP president, many states fight to be chosen as the military corps headquarters, while "the local government hands in this privilege in a silver platter."

Pesquera added that Guaynabo Mayor Hector O' Neill and Bayamon Mayor Ramon Luis Rivera Jr. will join efforts to retain the Army South, since both municipalities would be the most affected by the possible transfer.

"It is evident that Calderon opted not to defend the Army South permanency. This constitutes another sign of this government’s separatists efforts," Pesquera said.

The NPP president will communicate with congressmen and Pentagon officials.

Puerto Rican Engineer On A Mission To Mars

May 6, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN (AP) – Puerto Rican engineer Orlando Figueroa has been chosen to lead a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) team experts on a mission to explore the possibilities of life on Mars.

As director of the NASA Mars Exploration Program, Figueroa will be in charge of the scientific investigation related to the Red Planet.

According to Figueroa, the space probe Odyssey that reached Mars in October has already sent data acknowledging the presence of hydrogen on the Martian surface.

"We are very excited," said Figueroa.

The initial data show that frozen hydrogen is present in the first three feet of the Martian surface. Scientists hope to find water in deeper layers, said Figueroa, who is a University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez Campus graduate.

The next step in the exploration of Mars will be in 2003, when NASA sends two robots to take samples of the Martian surface.

Government Will Keep Control Of Prasa's Water Rates

May 5, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN (AP) - Government Development Bank President Juan Agosto Alicea said the new contract to manage the operations of the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (Prasa) establishes that the government will keep control of water service rates.

Agosto Alicea said in a radio interview that French company United Water of Ondeo assured that the government will keep control of the rates, the infrastructure improvements, and the financing of the contract.

He also said the contract doesn't include the concept of a total privatization of Prasa.

On the other hand, Prasa union leader Hector Rene Lugo said the union never participated in the contract negotiation, but that it did meet with Agosto Alicea on several occasions prior to the signing of the contract to express the concerns of the workers.

Poets Invade Vieques

May 4, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN (AP) – A group of artists from New York and Puerto Rico exchanged bullets for words to bomb the island municipality of Vieques in an artistic weekend named Viequethon.

As part of the activities, the poets, musicians, and plastic artists invaded Friday one of Vieques’ public schools to recount stories and recite poetry with Vieques children, said Ricardo Leon Peña-Villa, a Colombian writer based in New York.

The Viequethon was officially inaugurated Friday night with a vigil and a poetry reading at the Fortin Conde de Mirasol.

On Saturday, there will be seminars, conferences, and poetry readings, and the activity will close Sunday with a ceremony at the Justice and Peace Camp.

Leon Peña-Villa said the group, comprised of more than 30 Puerto Rican and foreign artists, received a proclamation from Gov. Sila Calderon supporting the activity.

"We are workers of peace, and we want to name the island of Vieques as Poets Island to contribute to the consciousness of peace and justice for Vieques residents," he said.

Another participant at the event, photographer and graphic designer Adal Maldonado, said when the activity finishes Sunday, the artists will take the message of the Navy’s exit from Vieques to other places.

"Though we finish here Sunday, we will then start the true fight to take the message to other states," he said.

Maldonado said they have already received requests from other U.S. communities to take the Viequethon and create consciousness over the situation of the Vieques people and their opposition to military practices.

Puerto Rico's U.S. Attorney May Be Replaced By Texas Assistant U.S. Attorney

May 3, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - The Department of Justice recommended a Texas assistant U.S. attorney to replace Puerto Rico's outgoing U.S. attorney, who held the office for eight years without confirmation.

Puerto Rico's U.S. Attorney Guillermo Gil turned in his resignation Wednesday, but indicated he would stay in Puerto Rico as assistant U.S. attorney, said Department of Justice spokesman Mark Corallo.

No one could be reached at Gil's office late Thursday.

Corallo said the department has recommended to President George W. Bush that Bert Garcia, an executive assistant U.S. attorney in Sherman, Texas, replace Gil.

The Bush administration must nominate Garcia and the Senate Judiciary Committee must approve the nomination which could take several months, Corallo said.

Garcia, a Mexican American, would move into the U.S. Caribbean territory's top attorney spot once he is officially nominated, which will likely take a few weeks, Corallo said.

He said Gil would stay in his current post until then.

Gil was nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1993 but was never confirmed. He spent his initial years focusing on drug trafficking prosecutions. In recent years, Gil's focus has shifted to corruption cases against government officials, police, and businessmen.

The first of these cases was in 1999 when administrators of the former San Juan AIDS Institute were convicted of stealing dlrs 2.2 million in federal money.

U.S. House Approves Bill That Renews PAN

May 3, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN (AP) – The U.S. House of Representative approved Thursday an agriculture bill that includes renewing the Nutritional Assistance Program (PAN by its Spanish acronym) in Puerto Rico.

Published reports indicated that the legislation, approved with 280 votes in favor and 141 against, authorizes Puerto Rico to obtain a direct increase of $10 million each year for the next six years, as well as an increase for the cost of living.

Puerto Rico now receives some $1.35 billion under PAN, which would increase to a little over $1.4 billion during fiscal year 2002, officials said.

Approximately 400,000 families in Puerto Rico have access to PAN, which substituted at the start of the 1980s the food coupons still being used in the U.S. mainland.

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