Hansen To Study Cutting P.R. Funds
Fed Judges Question Constitution
Witnesses Testify Of Rights Violations
Legislature Awaits Calderon's Early Referendum OK
U.N. Condemns Caceres Killers Sentences
Bush Snubs Pataki
Hansen To Study Cutting Puerto Rico Funds
May 8, 2001
SAN JUAN (AP) - U.S. House Resources Committee Chairman James Hansen (R-Utah) said he will start studying the use of the $14 billion in federal money that Puerto Rico receives each year.
Through his spokesman Bill Johnson, Hansen said the committee that he presides will particularly study the $1.2 billion destined for education, as a response to the local proposal to eliminate English as an official language, according to published reports.
Hansen denounced that the island, without paying federal taxes, receives more education funds than 42 states.
Previously, Hansen had submitted a bill to eliminate the annual payout of approximately $250 million of the import tax of the Puerto Rican rum that is sold in the United States. The bill is pending approval by the House Ways and Means Committee.
In other matters, Hansen, along with Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), said the federal government will not accept the local referendum proposed by several Popular Democratic Party legislators on the permanence of the U.S. Navy in Vieques.
Johnson said Puerto Rico does not have the constitutional authority to validate the local referendum with the option of the immediate cease of bombings.
The Vieques agreement provides for a referendum with the options of the Navy's exit in 2003 or the permanent continuation of practices.
Johnson added that the local referendum would be useless and would constitute another example that the Puerto Rico government does not have intentions of complying with the agreement established by former President Bill Clinton.
Federal Judges Question Puerto Rico Constitution
May 8, 2001
SAN JUAN (AP) - A panel of three judges from Boston's First Circuit Court of Appeals questioned whether the Puerto Rico Constitution should prevail over the U.S. Constitution in studying the possibility of applying the death penalty on the island.
According to published reports, that question was the theme of Monday's hearing on the U.S. Justice Department's appeal against U.S. District Court Judge Salvador Casellas, who determined in July 2000 that the death penalty did not apply on the island because it goes against the Commonwealth Constitution.
The judges asked the lawyers opposed to the death penalty if Puerto Rico could exempt itself from federal law when it wants to.
Judges Sandra Lynch, Frank Coffin, and William Schwarzer will decide in the next few days whether they will revoke Casellas' decision.
The litigation emerged after a petition was filed to apply the death penalty to Hector Oscar Acosta Martinez and Joel Rivera Alejandro, both accused of murder.
Death-penalty opponents said the United States accepted the Commonwealth Constitution in 1952 in a pact with Puerto Rico, which means that imposing the U.S. Constitution would be a unilateral decision.
Witnesses Testify Of Civil Rights Violations At Senate Hearings
By Proviana Colon Diaz
May 8, 2001
"I believe the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico's bill of rights was violated because our dignity was offended."
This statement by New Progressive Party (NPP) First Vice President Sen. Norma Burgos summed up Monday's testimony of three other senators and one mayor, in which they described civil rights violations during their arrest for trespassing U.S. Navy land in Vieques during last week's military practices.
Burgos, along with Senate Popular Democratic Party Vice President Velda Gonzalez, Sen. Yazmin Mejias, Sen. Juan Cancel Alegria, and Vieques Mayor Damaso Serrano, delivered testimony during a special Senate session investigating whether the civil rights of those detained were violated.
Prior to the first testimony, Senate NPP Minority Leader Kenneth McClintock described the session as "discriminatory" because it was only going to hear the witness accounts of five "American citizens," when more than a hundred people had also been arrested in Vieques.
House And Senate Await Calderon's Signal To Approve Early Referendum
By Proviana Colon Diaz
May 7, 2001
Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora said he would not push forward the bill filed on Monday to hold a local referendum on Vieques to decide the U.S. Navy's future on the island municipality, until Gov. Sila Calderon decides if the bill is in accordance to her strategy.
"The project will stay in the committee [Government] until it is clear whether the referendum is in accordance with the governor's strategy," Fas Alzamora said.
The Popular Democratic Party (PDP) senators who drafted the bill, Yazmin Mejias, Juan Cancel, Jose Ortiz Dalliot, Angel Rodriguez, and Rafael Rodriguez, argued that if approved, the bill would enable the residents of Vieques to choose between a `yes or no' option regarding the Navy's presence on the island municipality.
The bill establishes that the referendum would be held on July 8 and would constitute a "petition to the Commonwealth Government, the president, and the Congress of the United States to act according to the referendum's results."
In the House of Representatives, the bill provoked similar reactions.
For his part, NPP minority leader Rep. Edison Misla Aldarondo said the bill is part of a "diabolic conspiracy" and "another threat to the federal law."
U.N. Condemns Light Sentences For Caceres Killers
May 4, 2001
JAKARTA, Indonesia - An Indonesian court Friday found three East Timorese militiamen guilty of killing three U.N. aid workers -- including a U.S. citizen -- and sentenced them to prison terms ranging from 16 to 20 months.
The sentences were immediately condemned by the United Nations and foreign diplomats who wanted tougher punishments
``We are very upset and disappointed because the sentences are so light,'' said Kemala Ahwil, a U.N. official attending the trail.
The Sept. 6 attack by a mob of pro-Indonesian militiamen on an office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees was the deadliest ever against civilian staff of the United Nations. It occurred in the town of Atambua, in Indonesian West Timor.
Witnesses said the aid workers -- from the United States, Croatia and Ethiopia -- were stabbed and stoned to death and their bodies were then dragged into the street and set on fire. The American was Carlos Caceres, 33, a native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, whose family lives in Florida.
Lawmaker Says Pataki Snubbed
May 3, 2001
WASHINGTON -- The dean of New York's congressional delegation said Wednesday that the Bush administration's decision to continue Navy bombing exercises on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques is a "slap in the face" to Gov. George Pataki, who toured the island last month to protest the military action.
Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., said he was disappointed that Pataki could not convince the White House to stop the bombing practices. "Most people thought that he (Pataki) could get a little attention from President Bush," Rangel said. "But instead of studying it, the President resumed the bombing. So it's kind of a slap in the face, I would think."