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2002 National Culture Awards Announced... Education Pilot Shows Academic Gains…Calderon’s Summit Participation Criticized, Pesquera Calls It Ineffective …Ombudsman Proposes Electoral Reform Amendments…Gov’t Seeks Trade When Embargo Ends, Island Prepares To Export To Cuba…Coast Guard Intercepts 105 Dominicans…Bill Protecting El Yunque OK’d…Zenon Bros. Get 4 Months

2002 National Culture Awards Announced

November 18, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Ten Puerto Rican artist, among which there is writers, historians, scriptwriter, and painters among others will be honored with the National Culture Award in a ceremony to be held next year.

Manuel Martinez Maldonado, Puerto Rican Culture Institute board of directors resident announced that from now the awards will be granted every two years and not every five as done before.

Artists chosen for the 2000 awards were historian Arturo Davila, painter Osiris Delgado Mercado, writer Emilio Diaz Valcarcel, teacher Josefina Rivera Alvarez and dramatist, playwright Leopoldo Santiago Lavandero.

Artists to be honored with the 2002 award were: musicians Modesto, Petra and Jesus Cepeda, historian Luis Diaz Soler, emeritus professor Jose Ferrer Canales, painter Lorenzo Homar Gelabert and actress Gilda Navarra.

Each will receive $10,000 and in the Cepeda family’s case the award will be divided among them, Martinez Maldonado said.

Education Pilot Plan Shows Increase In Academic Achievement

November 18, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — A pilot plan established by the Education Department in 13 high schools resulted in the increase of their students’ academic achievement compared with other public schools, according to the Puerto Rican Test for Academic Achievement’s most recent results.

A comparative analysis prepared by Doctor Ruben Velez, Education advisor, demonstrates that the 13 schools improved academic achievement by 6%, while the rest 152 island’s other high schools obtained 3.7% less.

According to published reports, when comparing subjects such as Spanish, English and mathematics the level of achievement in the experimental schools increased from 40% to 43%, while in the other high schools it decreased from 47% to 45%.

Among the special measures established in these schools are alternate teaching methods, changes in curriculum and alliances with companies and colleges to assist and train teachers.

NPP Legislator Describes As Ridicule Calderon’s Participation In Summit

November 18, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — As ridicule, the New Progressive Party Rep. Melinda Romero Donnelly, described Gov. Sila Calderon’s participation in the XII Latin American Summit of Head States held last week in Bavaro, Dominican Republic.

Romero said Puerto Rico couldn’t participate on international events where sovereign states participate presented a measure, which prohibits the use of public funds for summits, conferences or events where the participating countries are sovereign.

The legislator said she will be sending a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Collin Powell asking for the to halt any efforts from the Puerto Rico government to participate like a sovereign state in international forums.

"There was no government objective in Puerto Rico’s participation in the summit," Romero Donnelly said.

The bill eliminates the perception that allows the governor, the Secretary of Sate, the Supreme Court Chief Judge and Legislative leaders to pay travel expenses to their spouses and immediate family.

The legislator questioned that more than 15 public officials traveled to the Dominican Republic without obtaining any achievement for the island.

Romero emphasized that the Commonwealth agreed to channel its international relations through the U.S. government.

The NPP representative affirms there is a confrontational approach to federal protocol affairs.

"There is a perception among members of the federal government that Puerto Rico is exercising powers similar to those of republics and without the U.S. President avail," said Romero Donnelly in a press conference in her Capitol offices.

Pesquera: Calderon Makes Believe This Is A Republic

November 17, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

COAMO (AP) - New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera criticized Gov. Sila Calderon again for participating in the Ibero-American Summit that was held at the Dominican Republic.

"She is basically continuing to play the game of living in a republic instead of being here solving problems," Pesquera said during a radio interview.

He added that Calderon and Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado have failed in their effort to be admitted as active members at the summit.

"That summit cannot solve the problems of Puerto Rico. It is a waste of time," he said.

Ombudsman Proposes Amendments To Electoral Reform

November 17, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Ombudsman Carlos Lopez Nieves requested Friday a meeting with Gov. Sila Calderon to present a proposal regarding the public financing of electoral campaigns that among other things, will establish a mechanism to allow the people to decide how much money each candidate to an elective post should receive.

Lopez Nieves said the people also have the right to contribute to the political campaigns to strengthen democracy.

"Let the candidate receive what the people decide to give them, and let them contribute because that is what democracy is all about," Lopez Nieves said in a press conference, adding that through that mechanism the people can decide not to grant the same amount to officials they might believe to have performed poorly.

Although he refused to go into details of the options he might be presenting to Calderon, Lopez Nieves said political campaigns will still be paid with public funds, but without affecting the general fund.

The governor held Thursday the first of several private meetings with island leaders to listen to possible amendments to be included in the electoral reform bill filed by her administration, since it lacks the support of most of the legislators.

The ombudsman said he has not been invited to meet with Calderon.

Government Attentive To Future Of Cuba Embargo

November 17, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Gov. Sila Calderon said her administration does not want to remain "sleeping in the straw" when the moment arrives that the United States ends the economic embargo against Cuba, according to published reports.

Economic and Commerce Development Secretary Ramon Cantero Frau said he has already held several meetings with U.S. Commerce Department officials to coordinate the details of how Puerto Rican businessmen can position themselves as an aggressive competitor in the Cuban market once the actual laws restricting commercial exchange are deregulated.

"This decision we are taking, we are taking it with the federal government. Puerto Rico wants to position itself, in relation to other countries, in a competitive form when the market is open and the U.S. government determines to raise the embargo," Calderon said.

The actions being taken by the government with the U.S. Commerce Department was described as positive and beneficial for the island by politicians of the three parties.

"It is inevitable that as a consequence of the movement in the relationship between the United States and Cuba and the openings that are generating, not only Puerto Rico, but all countries, try to inject themselves in what appears to be an excellent market," said Sen. Eudaldo Baez Galib of the Popular Democratic Party.

New Progressive Party Sen. Kenneth McClintock recalled that when he was chairman of the Senate Federal and Economic Affairs Committee, he conducted an investigation on the particular and warned that "we had to convert the eventual opening of Cuba to the U.S. market of a danger or risk into opportunities."

"It pleases me because the problem is that we are ready," he added.

Puerto Rican Independence Party Sen. Fernando Martin affirmed that "all that Puerto Rico can do to help end the embargo is something positive."

"Anything that benefits the development of the Cuban economy in the end benefits all the Caribbean," Martin added.

Puerto Rico Prepares To Export Products To Cuba

November 16, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Economic Development and Commerce Secretary Ramon Cantero Frau confirmed that in February the Puerto Rico government began the process to prepare to export products and services to Cuba, anticipating the possible elimination of the commercial embargo the United States has in effect against Cuba.

The official said in published reports that he had already met with officials from the U.S. Department of Commerce to establish aggressive strategies in the Cuban market, once the current restrictive laws regarding commercial exchange are changed.

According to Cantero Frau, the opening might be in effect as early as next year, especially since the Republicans won the elections.

A month ago, local company Pan American Grain participated in a fair in Havana and obtained a $500,000 contract to export its product, Rico rice, and grains to Cuba.

US Coast Guard Intercepts 105 Dominicans Off Puerto Rico

November 16, 2002
Copyright © 2002
Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.

AGUADILLA, Puerto Rico (AP)--The U.S. Coast Guard apprehended 105 Dominican migrants off Puerto Rico's western coast, authorities said Saturday.

A Coast Guard vessel, supported by local police and the U.S. Customs Service, spotted the illegal migrants on Friday crowded aboard a 35-foot (10.5-meter) wooden boat powered by two outboard motors, police said.

They were detained near Desecheo Island, some 10 miles (16 kilometers) off the west coast of this U.S. Caribbean territory. The 66 men and 39 women were repatriated to the Dominican Republic on Friday, authorities said.

U.S. immigration authorities in Puerto Rico detained 838 illegal migrants, mostly Dominicans, in fiscal year 2001-2002, which began Oct. 1 last year and ended Sept. 30.

Since last month, 528 illegal migrants, including the latest group, have been detained in Puerto Rico, officials said.

Each year, masses of impoverished Dominicans attempt to cross the sometimes-rough waters of the Mona Passage to reach Puerto Rico, where wages are higher. Many make the dangerous voyage in small, rickety boats.

U.S. House Approves Bill Protecting El Yunque

November 15, 2002
Copyright © 2002 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

Washington D.C. — The U.S. House of Representatives approved Friday with bipartisan support a bill that declares a 10,000-acre zone on the west side of El Yunque Natural Reserve a protected wildlife zone granting its natural resources and ecological surroundings the maximum legal protection, Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila announced.

Acevedo Vila said Bill HR 3955 was unanimously approved before the current congressional session was concluded, work that can be resumed sometime during December, before the new Congress initiates its session in January.

"The approval of this bill at a time when Congress had resumed its work to deal with very delicate issues like national security, demonstrates, from Republicans as well as Democrats, that they are prepared to address the issues of Puerto Rico," Acevedo Vila said.

HR 3955 proposes the creation of the El Toro Natural Reserve as well as granting the area legal environmental protection designating it part of the U.S. Wildlife National System, Acevedo Vila explained.

The resident commissioner said this is a bill that complements other legislation to protect the integrity of the three rivers that run through El Yunque, which was also approved by the House.

Four-Month Jail Sentence Imposed To Zenon Brothers

November 15, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Brothers Cacimar and Pedro Zenon were sentenced to four months in jail and a year on probation for the misdemeanor of trespassing in the military restricted zone in Vieques.

Regalado Miro, accused of the same crime, was sentenced to 45 days in prison and a year on probation, according to published reports.

However, Magistrate Aida Delgado left suspended the sentences allowing the accused to go free and granted their attorneys 10 days to appeal the sentences and demonstrate that the U.S. Navy does not have the permits required by several federal and state agencies.

The defense stated that because the Navy does not have the certifications required by law and are using the waters illegally, people can’t be accused of trespass.

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