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Calderon Orders SEC To Initiate Federal Referendum Process

Protest Leaders Want Governor To Be More Proactive

Cops Deal Drug Ring Jolt

$300M For Health Reform Couldn't Be Saved

Fajardo: `Special' Use Of Federal Funds Justified

CRB Might Run Again


Calderon Orders SEC To Initiate Federal Referendum Process

By Proviana Colon Diaz

September 6, 2001
Copyright © 2001 PuertoRicoWOW News Service. All rights reserved.

VIEQUES - Complying with the federal law that enables a Nov. 6 referendum on the presence of the U.S. Navy in this island municipality, Gov. Sila Calderon gave the order Thursday for the State Elections Commission (SEC) to initiate the process.

Calderon's notice to SEC President Juan R. Melecio came one day after the Navy's top officer in Puerto Rico, Rear Adm. Kevin Green, issued a letter to the governor informing her that his staff had already started talks with the SEC to "take the necessary administrative and logistical steps required to achieve this undertaking."

[E]ven though she ordered Melecio to go ahead with the process, Calderon said she would continue to lobby in the U.S. Congress and the White House in favor of President George W. Bush's proposal to eliminate the referendum and substitute it with language that establishes the departure of the Navy on or before May 2003.

"At this moment, we have before us another referendum that was federally legislated in the U.S. Congress. I am not in favor of such a process, and I can't be fully in favor of it because it does not contain the option of an immediate halt [to Navy practices]. However, it is a federal law, and as long as it is a law, we will most probably have the referendum in Puerto Rico," Calderon said.

Vieques Protest Leaders To Ask Governor To Be More Proactive

September 6, 2001
Copyright © 2001 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

VIEQUES (AP) - Several Vieques leaders announced that during the meeting scheduled for today on the island municipality, they will ask Gov. Sila Calderon to be more proactive in her efforts to oust the U.S. Navy from Vieques.

The protest leaders will also ask the governor join in their campaign in favor of releasing Vieques Mayor Damaso Serrano from prison, where he is serving a four-month sentence for trespassing on Navy land in Vieques.

"It's impossible to conduct a referendum when our mayor is in prison. She must demand and tell the federal government that the Vieques mayor must be freed if they want the Nov. 6 referendum to take place," said Miriam Soba, spokeswoman of the "Viequenses for Peace" organization.

Meanwhile, Vieques fishermen Carlos Zenon and Carlos Ventura will demand that the governor order the withdrawal of police officers guarding the premises of Camp Garcia in Vieques so that the people may conduct peaceful acts of civil disobedience.

For his part, retired teacher Ismael Guadalupe said "the governor has feet of lead." He added "there is a general discomfort and dissatisfaction with the governor."

Cops Deal Caribbean Drug Ring Hard Jolt

By Iván Román | San Juan Bureau

September 6, 2001
Copyright © 2001 Orlando Sentinel. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Drug-enforcement authorities said Wednesday that they had dismantled a drug-trafficking ring that brought tons of Colombian cocaine to the United States by shipping it through Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

Agents were able to link the ring to more than 3 tons of cocaine worth $62 million seized off boats in the Caribbean. Thirteen people, including the organization's alleged ringleader, Wilfredo Andujar-Guzman, were arrested Wednesday in San Juan, the Dominican Republic, Orlando and West Palm Beach. Eight others are still at large in Venezuela, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Panama.

"These people moved tons of cocaine through the Caribbean," said Rogelio Guevara, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration's Caribbean office in San Juan. The 12-month investigation revealed the ring brought the cocaine in ships from South America, had speedboats pick it up at sea and take it to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

During the yearlong probe, agents also confiscated $2.5 million cash, cars, fake passports and credit cards.

Calderon: $300 Million For Health Reform Couldn't Be Saved

By Proviana Colon Diaz

September 5, 2001
Copyright © 2001 PuertoRicoWOW News Service. All rights reserved.

Gov. Sila Calderon acknowledged Wednesday that her administration failed to obtain the $300 million needed to cover the increase in costs in the government's health reform from savings in bids presented by health insurance companies, obtaining only $62 million in cost reductions.

The remaining $238 million to reach the needed amount will be obtained by transferring funds, refinancing the public debt to a lower interest, and hiking the tax imposed on people who work through professional contracts from 7% to 10%, she said.

As part of the $238 million, the governor announced that $32 million would be transferred from the Special Fund to the General Fund, and $25 million from the Emergency Fund will also be used to cover the expenses of the health reform.

Furthermore, $117 million will be achieved by refinancing the Commonwealth's public debt at a lower interest rate.

"In reality, we didn't achieve what we wanted," Calderon said.

Fajardo: `Special' Use Of Federal Funds Justified

September 5, 2001
Copyright © 2001 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - Former Education Secretary Victor Fajardo on Wednesday washed his hands of the alleged misuse of Title I federal funds at the department under his tenure.

"It's the current administration's responsibility to justify or answer why those funds were used for things that are currently in the Education Department," he said in a radio interview.

Fajardo was reacting to an audit by the U.S. Office of the Inspector General, which revealed that $269 million in Title I funds were used incorrectly under his tenure. The federal agency has required that the island return more than $16 million in such funds.

According to Education Secretary Cesar Rey, the misuse and waste of public funds has jeopardized the federal funds received by the agency. The audit covered fiscal years 1999 and 2000.

"We developed projects that were proposed by different private companies that were new to the Education Department. It's not strange that in audits regularly made by the federal Department of Education they found changes to how the money was used before," Fajardo said.

Romero Barcelo Might Run Again In 2004 Election

September 4, 2001
Copyright © 2001 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - Although former Resident Commissioner Carlos Romero Barcelo didn't rule out Tuesday the possibility of running for an elected post in 2004, he added that it is still too early to make a decision about his political future.

"I have not made any decision on what I will do for 2004," Romero Barcelo said.

According to the former New Progressive Party governor, things change rapidly in politics, and decisions made at the wrong time can create problems.

"Many things could happen in three years. From now to two years or two and a half years, we will be in a much better position to make decisions," he noted in radio reports.

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