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Weekend Drug Shootings Kill 21

Referendum May Come Without Congress Decision

LULAC Asks For Vieques Ouster Truce

Serrano Calls Navy Bombings Terrorism

Fewer Puerto Ricans Missing

Soldiers Sent To U.S. Military Facilities

Governor Delivers Donation To Pataki

Weekend Drug Shootings Kill 21 In Puerto Rico

Iván Román | San Juan Bureau

October 23, 2001
Copyright © 2001 Orlando Sentinel. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- In one of the most violent weekends in Puerto Rico's history, 21 people were killed from Friday night to Monday morning -- most in drug-related shootings.

Puerto Rico police Superintendent Pierre Vivoni attributed the carnage to power shifts among street dealers after thousands of recent arrests and a battle about shrinking drug supplies caused by tighter security since the Sept.. 11 terrorist attacks.

Drug Enforcement Administration officials said they have seen no evidence of a slowdown in drug trafficking in Puerto Rico or to the mainland United States. Vivoni disagrees.

In a twist, Vivoni pointed to his department's crime-fighting -- which he thinks destabilized part of the island's underworld structure -- as a factor that may have helped set off the killing spree.

Vivoni said his department did not put enough effort into controlling the volatile situation among dealers, concentrating instead on restricting the flow of drugs.

"This could have been foreseen, and we didn't do it and we're not here to give excuses," he said. "I'm going to be evaluating this ... I'll make whatever changes are necessary."

Vivoni said information he is getting from the streets and preliminary investigations indicate 19 of the 21 deaths are drug-related.

He said police will continue trying to choke off the drug flow, while making a bigger effort to control violence among criminals.

"I am not giving up. This is an unacceptable situation, and we're going to attack it head on and firmly," Vivoni said.

Most homicides in Puerto Rico, with a population of 3.8. million, have been attributed to drugs since the late 1980s, when officials cracked down on trafficking in South Florida, and the island became a springboard for drugs.

Referendum Day May Come Without Congress Decision

October 22, 2001
Copyright © 2001 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila said the date of the federal referendum scheduled for Nov. 6 could come without having a decision from the U.S. Congress on the event.

Acevedo said in published reports that he met with Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO) member of the Armed Forces Committee and he assured Acevedo there was no agreement on the issue.

The version approved by the U.S. House of Representatives eliminates any reference to the presence of the U.S. Navy in Vieques or the proposal to oust the Navy by May 2003. Instead, it states that the military forces will decide when to conclude the maneuvers on the island municipality.

Acevedo added that if Congress does not act on the issue by Nov. 6, and the people of Vieques votes to oust the Navy, "I don't see how the Congress could change that."

LULAC Asks For Truce To Demands To Oust Navy

October 21, 2001
Copyright © 2001 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - Enrique Dovalina, president of the United Latin American Citizens League (LULAC for its Spanish acronym) said on Sunday that Puerto Ricans and the local government should decree a truce to the demands for ousting the U.S. Navy from Vieques.

"Now is not the time for Vieques, or for anything else, especially in these times of war. Now is the time to unite for the U.S. government," said Dovalina, whose organization has supported in the past the ousting of the Navy from Vieques by 2003.

The leader of Mexican origin compared the demands of the Puerto Rican people to those of four million Mexicans in the U.S. that seek to have the U.S. citizenship.

Dovalina also said it is necessary to wait for a congressional guarantee that will force the Navy to exit Vieques and to clean the lands.

"It's not just to oust the Navy; it's also to clean the island. If there are no funds to remove all the bombs, there won't really be someone who will invest on the island," said Dovalina, who has in the past visited the civil disobedience camps in Vieques accompanied by Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Serrano Calls Navy Bombings On Vieques Terrorism

October 21, 2001
Copyright © 2001 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

GUAYNABO (AP) - Incarcerated Vieques Mayor Damaso Serrano called "terrorism" the bombing exercises that the U.S. Navy has been performing on the island municipality of Vieques for the past 62 years.

"These bombings, which are no different from those in Afghanistan or the terrorist attacks against the "Twin Towers" [in New York] have killed beings of flesh and bone," said Serrano in a written message read by his daughter Lizamarie Serrano during a solidarity act called "A hug for Damaso."

In his message, the mayor questioned the difference between the bombs dropped against Afghanistan and "those that during 62 years have taken away the lives of so many Viequenses."

"We could also call this an act of terrorism against Vieques, because [the bombings] have been dutifully planned in dark rooms and perpetrated by the Navy and the incumbent governments with the intention of causing harm and panic to the population in the name of the so-called democracy," added Serrano, who has served 69 days of his four-month prison sentence.

Serrano, who was imprisoned for trespassing on military restricted land on Vieques, said "what is not good for New York, or for any state or country in the world is in no way good for Vieques."

"We have to see the Vieques cause in another perspective: the perspective of justice. It is time that [the federal authorities] understand that Vieques is not the landfill of the United States Navy," he said.

Fewer Puerto Ricans Missing

By Walter Pacheco

October 20, 2001
Copyright © 2001 El Sentinel. All rights reserved.

More than one month after terrorists toppled New York City's financial and structural landmarks of the World Trade Center, trapping thousands of victims inside, the Office of the Government of Puerto Rico in New York announced that 400 of the initial 900 Puerto Ricans believed to be missing were found.

"That list has been one of the most frustrating tasks we've had to handle," said Celeste Díaz-Ferraro of the head office in Washington. "That was not a list of Puerto Ricans missing because of the terrorist attacks, but in fact, a list of people that relatives and friends reported couldn't be reached after the Sept. 11 attacks."

The remaining 500 people, Díaz-Ferraro said, are not necessarily missing, but "unreachable."

"We are very happy that these people appeared," said Luis Pastrana-Silva, the director of the Office of Puerto Rico in Orlando. "The more that number of missing people declines, the better we feel."

Puerto Rican Soldiers Sent To U.S. Military Facilities

October 19, 2001
Copyright © 2001 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - Twenty-six Puerto Rican soldiers, belonging to Troop Wing 156 of the National Guard, left Friday on a support mission in U.S. military installations.

National Guard Asst. Gen. Francisco Marquez indicated that the group will render security to two aerial bases, one in Georgia and the other in New Mexico.

Interim Gov. Ferdinand Mercado saw the troop off and indicated that its transfer obeys a call made by President George W. Bush after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

He recalled that last year 110 soldiers of Arecibo Military Police Company 770 were activated and participated in a military operation in Kosovo, while in 1996 and 1997, Public Affairs Detachment 113 participated in the military conflict in Bosnia.

Governor Delivers Donation To Pataki

October 19, 2001
Copyright © 2001 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

NEW YORK (AP) - Gov. Sila Calderon delivered Friday to her New York counterpart, Gov. George Pataki, a donation of $1.6 million collected in Puerto Rico to help the survivors and families of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"Our heart beats with the heart of the victims' families," Calderon said as she gave the symbolic check to Pataki in a ceremony at the Julia de Burgos Cultural Center, located in the El Barrio in the Bronx.

The governor expressed her "hope and confidence" that the United States "will continue to move forward, and while moving forward, it will be stronger and emerge as a better nation."

She said the donation, collected during a telemarathon, symbolized the unity and solidarity of the Puerto Ricans with the victims of the tragedy in New York. She added that the government continues to receive thousands of dollars in contributions, which will be sent to New York.

Meanwhile, Calderon said this is her third visit to New York City after the terrorist attacks for three reasons: "First, because I love New York; second, because New York is safe; and third, because I want to have a good time in New York."

For his part, the New York governor said he felt proud and grateful for the Puerto Ricans' "tremendous humanitarian help" to the state, not only through the financial donation, but through the sending of a group specialized in rescuing victims that traveled to "ground zero" immediately after the destruction of the World Trade Center.

Pataki and Calderon maintain a close relationship, fostered by the efforts of the Puerto Rican governor to seek support for the Vieques cause, in which the New York governor has been an important ally.

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