PRWOW News Service
The Year 2001 At-A-Glance
DECEMBER 31, 2001
Compiled by Proviana Colon Diaz of PRWOW News Service
Highlights of the year 2001 include the continuing struggle for the ousting of the U.S. Navy from Vieques, the performance of the first-ever elected female governor, an increase in the unemployment rate as countless of corporations closed down operations across the island, plus the heavy rains at the end of the year.
As 2001 comes to an end, PRWOW News Service looks back at the events that marked history on the island.
Although the incident that changed history as we know it did not take place in Puerto Rico, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 in New York and Washington D.C. must be acknowledged as the news event of the year.
However, the attacks indirectly affected the lives of Puerto Ricans, not only on an emotional level due to the loss of relatives and friends who perished in the Big Apple, but also because fear permeated everyday life around the world and security measures were tighten at the island's federal and local government offices, as well as in the airport.
On a local aspect, the year was marked by an increase in the unemployment rate as countless of corporations closed down operations across the island, overwhelming problems with the health reform, the performance of the first-ever elected female governor, the continuing struggle for the ousting of the U.S. Navy from Vieques, plus the heavy rains at the end of the year.
Here is a month-by-month summary of the most important news in 2001:
Gov. Sila Calderon was sworn in as the first female governor of Puerto Rico. A new Legislature, led by the Popular Democratic Party, was also sworn in.
The governor signed an executive order to create the controversial Independent Citizens Committee to Investigate Government Transactions, also known as the Blue Ribbon Committee.
Calderon revealed her first "strategy" to achieve the ousting of the Navy from the municipality - vibroacoustic disease.
Shortly after being sworn in to office, President George W. Bush gave his endorsement to the former Gov. Pedro Rossello - President Clinton agreement on Vieques.
Intel Corp. in Las Piedras announced its shutdown, leaving 1,300 people unemployed.
Oil Company Phillips Petroleum, which operated in Guayama since 1960, shut down operations leaving 276 people unemployed. Hanes clothing factory announced it would shut down several of the island's plants leaving 2,200 people without jobs.
Former New Progressive Party legislator Leo Diaz was sworn in as the party's new president.
Drug czar nominee Jorge Collazo apologized for his participation in the practice of keeping police dossiers against pro-independence Puerto Ricans. After an intensive campaign from pro-independence activists against his nomination, Collazo declined to accept the post.
Former NPP legislator Freddy Valentin pleaded guilty to federal charges of money laundering, fraud, and interference with interstate commerce. Days later, former CRIM Director Eduardo Burgos Lebron did the same on fraud charges.
Job losses continued on the island as Sun Oil in Yabucoa shut down operations, leaving 375 people without jobs. 40-year-old tuna packer Star Kist in Mayagüez left the island and left 1,300 people unemployed.
The month ended with a public fight between NPP President Leo Diaz and Second Vice President Sen. Norma Burgos.
Pope John Paul II beatified Puerto Rican Carlos Manuel Rodriguez during a ceremony at Vatican City in Rome attended by many island residents.
Military exercises in the target range resumed. Masked men cut down hundreds of feet of Camp Garcia's wire fence to engage in civil disobedience. Renowned local and international public figures such as Senate Vice President Velda Gonzalez, Sen. Norma Burgos, Vieques Mayor Damaso Serrano, U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, actor Edward James Olmos, and environmentalist attorney Robert Kennedy Jr. trespassed on Navy restricted land in Vieques. They were arrested, convicted, and served time in jail for the misdemeanor.
The Legislature also made history as they held a session for the fist time outside the capitol, in Vieques.
Local patriotism ruled the month of May as Denise Quiñones became the fourth Puerto Rican beauty to win the Miss Universe title during a ceremony held in Bayamon. One day later, Puerto Rican boxer Felix "Tito" Trinidad beat by knockout William Joppy, winning the World Boxing Association middleweight title.
History was also made in the island's judiciary system as a Ponce judge found cause to accuse a man in the first case of domestic violence in gay couples.
Heavy rains affected the southwest part of the island leaving hundreds of crops destroyed, countless communities affected, and hundreds of people in shelters.
Olympic Mills corporation shut down three of its seven fabrics in the island leaving 315 people unemployed.
President George W. Bush said the Navy would end its military practices and would leave Vieques by May 2003.
Jacqueline Jackson, wife of Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Nationalist leader Lolita Lebron were arrested for trespassing on Navy land in Vieques
Boston Circuit Court of Appeals overruled a decision of a Puerto Rican U.S. District Court judge and ruled the death penalty does apply to the island.
The so-called war of the flags began with a daylong clash at Winds Hill outside the Capitol between anti- and pro-Navy leaders.
Gov. Sila Calderon held an "act of solidarity" in favor of the government's new economic strategy to obtain U.S. Internal Revenue Code Section 956 for the island.
During a press conference at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum, a near riot occurred when boxer Bernard Hopkins took the Puerto Rican flag from his opponent Felix "Tito" Trinidad and threw it on the floor.
In Vieques, option 2, seeking the immediate and permanent cease of military practices, won the local referendum by 68%.
Military practices resumed anew in Vieques.
Gov. Sila Calderon announced that she would file for divorce from her husband of 23 years, Adolfo Krans.
In the House of Representatives, Jorge De Castro Font became an independent legislator as he was thrown out of the Popular Democratic Party for his opposite views from the collectivity.
Former New Progressive Party 2000 gubernatorial candidate Carlos Pesquera announced his intentions to return to the collectivity as president and gubernatorial candidate for the 2004 general elections.
The month was marked by the terrorist attacks to New York and Washington D.C. On Sept. 11, air traffic was closed off in the island, when two hijacked planes crashed against the twin towers of World Trade Center, and a third airplane crashed at the Pentagon building. The Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport was one of the first to be authorized to reopen, following tight security measures taken by local authorities. As news of Puerto Rican victims continued to be received on the island, a fund-raising campaign began and ended weeks later with over $1 million raised. National Guard reserve members were activated to work at the accident sites.
A national emergency drill, dubbed "security operation" was ordered by Calderon.
In Vieques, anti-Navy leaders declared a moratorium in the practice of civil disobedience during the new round of military practices following the terrorist attacks.
In the world of sports, the island's boxing pride, Felix "Tito" Trinidad, was defeated for the first time by Bernard Hopkins.
This month was ruled by the investigation that led to the indictment on charges of money laundering, obstruction of justice, extortion, and three additional federal counts against former House speaker and House NPP Minority Leader Edison Misla Aldarondo. The legislator later quit his post as minority leader but declined to resign his post as legislator.
An international panel of scientists concluded that there was "no clinically relevant difference" in the heart pericardial thickness of the fishermen from Vieques and Ponce, contradicting the Ponce Medical School study.
Gov. Sila Calderon's Blue Ribbon Committee made public their third report, which dealt with the irregularities found in the management assistance services agreement between the Solid Waste Management Authority and the Puerto Rico Infrastructure Management Group Inc.
Vega Alta Mayor Juan Cruzado Laureano is charged in federal court with extortion, money laundering, theft of federal funds, and witness tampering.
A strike at the University of Puerto Rico left millions of dollars of irreparable losses in the scientific community.
Former DNER Secretary Daniel Pagan and Former Office of Management and Budget Director Jorge Aponte filed an injunction in federal court arguing the unconstitutionality of the Blue Ribbon Committee.
Aponte, Pagan, the members of the committee, and even Gov. Sila Calderon testified before U.S. District Court Judge Jose Fuste on the matter. Fuste later ruled the committee unconstitutional because it violates the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment.
Complaints before the Senate Ethics Committee were filed against PDP Sen. Maribel Rodriguez as she submitted documentation to explain how she used Senate funds to pay for her stay in New York for the Puerto Rican Day Parade.
Police Superintendent Pierre Vivoni was relieved from his post and replaced by Ports Authority Director Miguel Pereira, leaving both federal and local security at the hands of the Pereira-Hunter family; Pereira is the husband of FBI Special Agent in charge of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean Marlene Hunter.
Vieques Mayor Damaso Serrano was released from prison after serving a four-month prison sentence for engaging in civil disobedience. Upon his release, the mayor vowed to seek a meeting with President George W. Bush to discuss the ousting of the Navy from his municipality. Hours later and after meeting with Gov. Sila Calderon, Serrano said this was not the time to hold a meeting as the events of Sept. 11 had changed the world. Hours later, the U.S. Congress approved a bill that eliminated May 2003 as the deadline for the ousting of the Navy from Vieques.
Heavy rains affected the island.
Calderon visited the Dominican Republic and signed a commerce and intellectual exchange plan.
In the Legislature, an Ethics Committee investigation began against NPP Rep. Edison Misla Aldarondo, while the Justice Department recommended a Special Independent Prosecutor against PDP Sen. Maribel Rodriguez for mishandling public funds.