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Georgia, Alabama Seek Army South

$21M In U.S. Funds For AIDS

Over 70 Military Sites Contaminated

NPP, PDP Celebrate U.S. Citizenship

Activists Vow To Fight For Bears

PRTC To Appeal Telecom Board’s Rates Decision

Telecommunications Board Declares PRTC Rates Illegal

EPA: 471 Environmental Law Violation’s

Montilla Withdraws Candidacy For Federal Prosecutor

Congressmen Trying To Woo Army South From Island To Georgia

March 5th, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

FORT BENNING, Georgia (AP) - Members of Congress from Georgia and Alabama are trying to persuade the Army to move a major command post from Puerto Rico to Fort Benning.

The Army has not disclosed any plans to move the command center, U.S. Army South, from Fort Buchanan in Guaynabo. But the congressmen say they have met with high-ranking Pentagon officials to request the transfer.

The delegation of 17 members of Congress from Georgia and Alabama, including all four of the states' senators, has signed a letter to Army Secretary Thomas White asking for the move. It could create up to 1,500 jobs in the area.

Georgia Rep. Saxby Chambliss, a Republican, raised the prospect again last week with White and Army chief of staff Gen. Eric Shinseki.

"It was an informal meeting," said Krister Holladay, Chambliss' chief of staff. "He brought the issue to their attention."

The delegation is still seeking a formal meeting with the Army secretary.

Army South provides support for U.S. embassies and is the center of U.S. military power for Central and South America and the Caribbean. It also helps coordinate disaster relief and peacekeeping for the region.

Officials said four other cities are trying to woo Army South: San Antonio, Miami, Fort Polk in Louisiana, and Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi.

$21 Million In Federal Funds Allocated For AIDS Patients

March 5th, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN (AP) – The municipalities of San Juan, Ponce, and Caguas will receive approximately $21 million in federal funds to help fight off the HIV virus and AIDS.

According to U.S. Health Secretary Tommy Thompson, the funds granted through the Title 1 and the Ryan White CARE programs correspond to the budget of fiscal year 2002 and will be destined to cover primary health services for people of limited economic resources.

Following a fraud scheme with those very funds, it was concluded that the money will be directly managed by the municipal mayors, according to published reports.

The budget allocation is part of a $597 million package that will be granted to 51 cities in the United States and the island.

The San Juan municipal government will benefit the most from this program with an allocation of $16.2 million. The municipalities of Ponce and Caguas will receive close to $2.8 million and $1.8 million, respectively.

More Than 70 Sites Contaminated By The Military

March 4th, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN (AP) - There are at least 80 locations in Puerto Rico that have been contaminated by the activities of the U.S. military forces, according to a report of the U.S. Department of Defense.

From those, at least 18 need to be cleanse and decontaminated, at an estimated cost of $60 million.

Facts obtained by a local news paper from the Federal Government Accounting Office (GAO) and the U.S. Engineers Corps indicates that some of the most contaminated places are the Tortuguero Camp, in Vega Baja; the Dorado aerodrome, Fort Brooke, the San Juan Naval Station and Ramey Air Base in Aguadilla.

Likewise, the report says Vieques, Culebra, and Desecheo islands present ammunition and explosive contamination.

GAO stated that the estimate for the cleaning cost is not exact, since the Defense Department "does not have a complete inventory and has not used a constant methodology for establishing a consistent cost."

NPP Celebrates U.S. Citizenship

EFE News Service

March 3rd, 2002
Copyright © 2002 COMTEX News. All rights reserved.

New Progressive Party leaders and supporters commemorated Sunday in front of the Capitol, the 85th anniversary of the day in which the American citizenship was granted to Puerto Ricans.

San Juan (EFE via COMTEX) - Puerto Rico's pro-statehood party, the Partido Nuevo Progresista (PNP), on Sunday in front of the Capitol celebrated the anniversary of President Woodrow Wilson's 1917 decision to grant U.S. citizenship to the island's residents.

PNP president Carlos Pesquera and other political leaders led the activities to celebrate the party's 85th anniversary.

Spain handed the Puerto Rican territory to the United States in 1898, and only 288 Puerto Ricans rejected the offer of U.S. citizenship in 1917.

Puerto Ricans comply with the duties of all U.S. citizens, but their sole representative in Congress cannot vote.

Puerto Rico has been an associated commonwealth of the United States since July 25, 1952. They establish their own government and laws, which in case of any conflict with U.S. law are superseded by the U.S. Constitution.

Puerto Rico can govern itself accordingly, but the island cannot have separate monetary, customs, or foreign policies, and is required to adhere to U.S. policy in these areas.

Since the PNP considers the situation as it stands to be unequal, they are seeking U.S. statehood.

Pesquera said full citizenship symbolizes the economic, political and cultural relations Puerto Rico has with the United States, "the world's most powerful nation."

"Under U.S. protection, we have fought hunger and ignorance, but the fight is not over, because what is most important is to guarantee citizenship, the U.S. passport, for future generations."

The PNP leader also pledged to resist those who "want to remove English as Puerto Rico's official language (Spanish is also an official language) and those who seek the island's independence."

PDP Followers Commemorate U.S. Citizenship In Mayaguez

March 3rd, 2002
Copyright © 2002 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

MAYAGÜEZ (AP) - In a message offered during the weekend in Mayaguez to commemorate the U.S. citizenship, Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado urged the Puerto Rican people to enrich the U.S. citizenship with their Puerto Rican culture.

"Acknowledge our two citizenships. And just like [former Gov.] Luis Muñoz Marin did, we should enrich the U.S. citizenship and proudly carry it inside us while enriching it with the values for which our Puerto Rican people are known: compassion, strength, love for our families, and eagerness to work for our future," Mercado stated.

The State official was the main speaker in the event held in Mayaguez.

Activists Vow To Fight For Bears

By Leah Janzen
Winnipeg Free Press

March 3rd, 2002
Copyright © 2002 Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc. All rights reserved.

Animal activists will not stop fighting for several polar bears they say are being mistreated by circus owners in Puerto Rico.

"This situation is a long way from over,'' said Debbie Leahy, a Chicago-based spokeswoman for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. "We're continuing to look at all our options."

On Thursday, a Puerto Rican judge acquitted the owners of Mexican-based Suarez Bros. Circus of two charges of animal cruelty.

Leahy said the decision was devastating, but she noted the circus owners still have many hurdles to leap before they'll be able to take the polar bears out of Puerto Rico.

The animal-cruelty charges stemmed from complaints lodged last August that seven polar bears -- including three from Churchill -- had been left in sweltering 45 C heat without access to water or air conditioning.

Now that criminal charges have been dropped, Leahy said activists will turn their attention to the USFWS in an attempt to keep the circus owners from taking the bears to the island of St. Maarten -- their next scheduled stop.

PRTC To Appeal Telecommunications Board Decision

March 2nd, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN (AP) - The Puerto Rico Telephone Co. (PRTC) will go to the Circuit Court of Appeals to fight the decision of the Telecommunications Regulatory Board, which declared their rates in Puerto Rico illegal and ordered a million-dollar refund to the customers.

PRT Corporate Communications Vice President Ileana Molina de Bachman warned that the company will exhaust all resources to appeal in the courts because they are convinced that the fees they charged were legal.

Molina de Bachman said they will file an appeal before the Appeals Court "as soon as possible," and she assured that PRT is ready to take it to the Supreme Court.

The board's decision was originally emitted Oct. 11, 2001, but the PRT had requested a reconsideration that was denied Thursday.

The board's decision declared the intra-island rates that PRT charged since 1996 illegal and ordered the access rates be reduced in a period of three years.

It also ordered trimester refunds during the next three years of $67.9 million in excessive charges to all users.

Telecommunications Board Declares PRTC Rates Illegal

March 1st, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN (AP) - The Puerto Rico Telecommunications Board declared the rates imposed by the Puerto Rico Telephone Co. (PRTC) illegal and ordered a million-dollar reimbursement to their clients.

The board's decision is related to the reconsideration of a complaint presented by Lambda Communications, in which the PRTC rates in the island were questioned.

Thursday's determination declared illegal the PRTC intra-island rate invoiced since 1996 and ordered a reduction to the access rate in that line in a three-year period.

"This translates in a gradual reduction of the long distance charges, for which the clients will be paying lower rates," the board said in a press release.

The reimbursement of $67.9 million to the clients in a three-year period for excessive charges will be done every three months.

For their part, Puerto Rico Telephone (PRT) regretted the board's decision of reiterating its prior ruling.

"We are very disappointed with the board' s decision, which reflects the clear inconsistency demonstrated during the case for four years, and that also fails to respond to the real needs of the Puerto Rican people," said PRT Corporate Communications Vice President Ileana Molina de Bachman.

EPA: 471 Stations In Violation Of Environmental Law

March 1st, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN (AP) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) increased to 471 the pumping stations that do not comply with the federal environmental laws in a lawsuit against the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA) and the Water Co.

EPA amended the lawsuit filed in May 2001 to increase from 30 to 471 the pumping stations in violation of EPA requirements.

The legal resource indicates that based on inspections made by EPA, it was detected that since 1997 until the present day, oil, grease, metals, excrement, and other contaminants were found in non-treated waters.

For his part, PRASA Governing Board President Jose Izquierdo said he gave instructions to his legal advisors to negotiate with EPA to only include in the lawsuit the stations identified as in "critical" condition.

"The board understands that there is no operational or legal reason for the stations, whose operation is considered appropriate, which are more than 300, to be included in the order," Izquierdo said in a press release.

The board president affirmed that problems have been detected in 100 stations and another 40 need some improvement works to optimize its functioning.

Izquierdo said PRASA has been working with EPA in an action plan to deal with the problems. The project is been assigned a special allocation of $8 million.

EPA indicated in the legal resource that according to the violations, PRASA should pay $27,500 for each violation incurred between Jan. 30, 1997, and the day the hearing is scheduled at the federal court.

The stations included in the EPA claim are located in 50 municipalities.

Montilla Withdraws Candidacy For Island Federal Prosecutor

March 1st, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN (AP) - Attorney Gary Montilla requested that the White House withdraw his candidacy for the island's federal prosecutor post, since it will be delayed again.

Montilla's offer to the post, which is actually occupied by Guillermo Gil Bonar, was produced 10 months ago, but the certification was never reached.

The attorney said in published reports that he had other offers in the private sector, and the timing forced him to request the withdrawal.

Montilla preferred not to speculate on the delay. The attorney already resigned his post as a prosecutor in Tampa in May 2001, in hopes that before the end of the year the designation could be final.

Recently, the attorney was affected by comments from former Rep. Edison Misla Aldarondo, who said Montilla's designation was going to halt the federal investigation against him.

The attorney said he does not know and has never met Misla Aldarondo.

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