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Serrano Attacks Government

Navy Suit Undecided

Pesquera Asks Calderon To Facilitate Practices

Pataki: Exercises Will End In ’03

Gov’t In Dialog With Navy

Serrano: Civil Disobedience Is Only Solution

Vieques Case To Federal Court

Bush Nominates Carmona Surgeon General

Governor: Reacts To Arrests, Keeps Watch On Clean Money Bill

Vieques Mayor Attacks Calderon’s Government

March 28, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN (AP) — In a harsh attack to Gov. Sila Calderon’s administration, Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Vieques Mayor Damaso Serrano censored Thursday the government because it is leaving him alone in the fight to oust the U.S. Navy from the island municipality.

Likewise, Serrano affirmed that no one from the executive branch has effectively dealt with the Vieques people’s requests.

However, Calderon said she maintains her firm commitment with the Navy ousting by May 2003, according to President George W. Bush’s word.

"I understand that in terms of the Vieques people’s fight for achieving the Navy ousting from here, yes, definitely. Naturally, the government has made a commitment based on the president’s word, but as far as they go, I really expected more from the Puerto Rico government," Serrano said.

The municipal official went as far to say that the governor has not paid attention to his multiple requests for a meeting to discuss the island municipality’s problems.

"I have not had the opportunity of talking to Sila [Calderon], and I have really made the efforts. I am going to say this because I say things as they are. We have tried to talk to her about the police problem and other Vieques issues, but we have not been able to get to her," the Vieques mayor said in a radio interview.

Serrano also attacked Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez for not having spoken to him as acting governor to discuss the municipality’s situation only three days before the exercises renewal.

"At this moment she is the acting governor, and I think that the most sensible thing to do is to call the Vieques mayor, who is the voice and the people’s representative, to try to reach an agreement over this whole situation, but no one from the government has called me to at least discuss this matter," the mayor said.

Serrano criticized that the only thing the government has done is ordered Police Superintendent Miguel Pereira to arrest every activist that tries to enter the military area during the maneuvers without authorization.

The mayor also lambasted Pereira for sending 200 police agents to Vieques for the military maneuvers, instead of dealing with the criminal wave affecting the municipality.

No Final Decision On Vieques Maneuvers Case

March 28, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN (AP) — U.S. District Court Judge Juan Perez Gimenez left hanging the final decision on the case presented by the Vieques municipality, which intended to halt the next round of maneuvers scheduled to begin Monday.

At noon Thursday, time at which the federal offices closed for the Holy Week recess, Perez Gimenez’s final decision had yet to be received.

The federal judge did not recognize standing to the co-defendants groups that include the ‘Grupo de Trabajo Sobre Vieques,’ composed by the ‘Ateneo Puertorriqueño’, the ‘Congreso Nacional Hostosiano,’ ‘Todo Puerto Rico con Vieques,’ attorney Edgardo Perez Viera, and political commentator Juan Manuel Garcia Passalacqua.

However, Perez Gimenez did recognize Vieques Mayor Damaso Serrano’s standing to present the case, which maintains the lawsuit alive.

In a twelve-page opinion, Perez Gimenez affirmed that the arguments presented by the co-defendant organizations are not enough to legitimate their active inclusion in the case.

Serrano and the civic organizations allege that without the compliance certificate with the Coastal Zone Management Program, which was denied by the local Planning Board, the U.S. Navy is impeded of bombing in Vieques.

The lawsuit also alleges that the Navy does not have the Environmental Quality Board authorization based on the federal Clean Water Act.

However, Navy spokeswoman Lt. Katherine Goode has said the military force does not need the authorization to perform its exercises.

The defendants requested the court to halt the next round of military exercises that will have a duration of 22 days beginning Monday.

Pesquera Requests Calderon To Facilitate Navy Practices

March 28, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN (AP) — New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera requested that Gov. Sila Calderon’s administration facilitate the U.S. Navy military maneuvers set to begin in Vieques on Monday.

"The government should facilitate the exercises and not obstruct them," Pesquera said in published reports.

For the NPP leader, the value of democracy and human liberty, especially in times of war, are issues that the Puerto Rican people should address in these sacred days."

"To those who will protest next week’s exercises in Vieques, I tell them not to put their ideological interests before the fight against terrorism in favor of liberty and democracy, Pesquera said. "I remind them that we Puerto Ricans love the peace, and we recognize the U.S. values and principles contribution in our security."

Pataki Trusts Navy Will Leave Vieques In 2003

March 28, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN (AP) — New York Gov. George Pataki said U.S. President George W. Bush reassured him Wednesday that his public policy to withdraw the U.S. Navy from Vieques by 2003 is still intact.

"I spoke with President Bush and he assured me that the plans to withdraw the Navy from the island still stand and I know he is a man of his word," Pataki said in published reports.

According to the New York governor, his conversation with the White House was motivated by mixed information that the military practices could extend to after 2003.

Meanwhile, congressman Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat candidate for Chicago governor, sent a letter to Bush requesting that he sign an executive order stating his commitment to halt the training in Vieques, published reports said.

"The Navy has demonstrated that it can meet it’s training needs through other methods and in other places," Blagojevich said.

Local Government In Dialogue With U.S. Navy

March 28, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Puerto Rico government assured that it is holding a confidential dialogue with the U.S. Navy to try solving the impasse triggered by the Navy’s insistence in carrying out its military exercises on Vieques without the Planning Board’s permission.

Interim Gov. Anabelle Rodriguez said the government hopes to have a stance on the dialogue within the next few days. Thus, she dismissed joining Vieques Mayor Damaso Serrano in his case to halt the resumption of the Navy’s military practices scheduled for April 1.

Meanwhile, Navy spokeswoman Katherine Goode assured that she had no knowledge of a dialogue.

The aforementioned judicial case was transferred to the federal court following Fajardo Superior Judge Ismael Colon Perez’s decision to accept the arguments of the U.S. District Attorney’s Office, which stated that the Puerto Rico courts don’t have jurisdiction to see a controversy in which the defendant is a federal agency such as the Navy.

Serrano: Only Civil Disobedience Will Halt Naval Exercises

March 27, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

FAJARDO (AP) – Faced with the Fajardo Superior Court’s decision of transferring to the U.S. District Court the lawsuit presented to halt the U.S. Navy military maneuvers, Vieques Mayor Damaso Serrano affirmed Wednesday that civil disobedience is the only tool left for the people of Vieques to halt the exercises.

"We are not going to give in, not for a second, while exercising our right to engage in civil disobedience acts, which has been the only tool that has been successful in this fight and we intend to do that until the end," Serrano stated.

The Vieques mayor described the U.S. Navy as a "delinquent" for violating the environmental local laws.

"The important thing here is that the Navy thinks it is above the local laws and those who violate the laws of a determined country are delinquents. At this moment, the Navy is another delinquent for the Puerto Rican people," Serrano said.

The naval forces have said they do not need the certificate of compliance with the Coastal Zone Management Program or the Planning Board’s authorization.

However, the mayor summoned the Planning Board to enforce its regulations in court.

Serrano said he was satisfied with the commitment of Police Superintendent Miguel Pereira of not intercepting those activists who try to enter the restricted zone.

"The Superintendent manifested that the Special Forces Group (FURA by its Spanish acronym) will no intervene with the civil disobedience activists who could be in the Vieques waters and I think that is an achievement we have obtained," Serrano affirmed.

Vieques Military Maneuvers Case Transferred To Federal Court

By WOW News Staff

March 27, 2002
Copyright © 2002
WOW News. All rights reserved.  

The Fajardo Superior Court Judge Ismael Colon accepted the petition presented by the U.S. District Attorney’s Office to transfer the case presented by the Vieques municipality and a group of anti-U.S. Navy activists to halt the next round of military maneuvers to the federal court.

The plaintiffs informed they intend to request the U.S. District Court to return the case to the local jurisdiction. However, it is not expected that the district court can see the case before April 1, thus turning the initiative academic.

"The U.S. District Attorney’s Office has used the U.S. District Court as a strategy because they know the court is going to rule in their favor," said Vieques municipal attorney Arnaldo Baez Genoval on his exit from the Fajardo Superior Court.

"Certainly this is the trench to where we have to return," said anti-Navy activist Edgardo Perez Viera in a radio interview referring to the civil disobedience acts as the only way to halt the military exercises. "What we have demonstrated to the people is that the courts have their hands tied in this matter," the attorney added.

The activists affirmed to have obtained a moral victory, since the judge said for the record that the Navy does not have the permits requested by the local Planning Board to go ahead with the exercises.

The group, lead by Vieques Mayor Damaso Serrano alleges the Navy is violating federal and local laws, which obliges them to obtain a compatibility certificate under the Coastal Zone Management Program which is issued by the local Planning Board.

The plaintiffs’ request is to prohibit the new round of military maneuvers, which will have an approximate duration of 22 days, beginning in April 1.

Bush Nominates Carmona Surgeon General

March 26, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush picked a made-for-Hollywood trauma surgeon to be the nation's top doctor Tuesday after more than a year of searching.

Bush nominated Dr. Richard Carmona, 52, the Arizona surgeon and SWAT team cop, as surgeon general.

Carmona, whose expertise also includes terrorism preparedness, once dropped from a helicopter to save someone stranded on a cliff. ``I worried that maybe he wasn't the best guy to educate our Americans about reducing health risks,'' Bush joked at a White House ceremony highlighting the colorful life stories of his nominee.

Carmona's voice shook with emotion as he told Bush the nomination was fulfillment of the American dream for ``a high-school dropout, a poor Hispanic kid.''

Carmona, whose family came from Puerto Rico, grew up in Harlem and quit school to help raise his siblings. He joined the Army, was a Green Beret in Vietnam, put himself through college on the G.I. Bill, became a nurse -- then a doctor then a surgeon -- and still serves on the Pima County Sheriff's Department SWAT team.

He grabbed headlines in 1992 by rappelling from a helicopter in a rescue mission. In 1999, Carmona tried to help at the scene of a Tucson car accident and instead got his scalp grazed by a bullet in a shootout with a driver who had been assaulting a woman.

Governor Reacts To Corruption Arrests

By WOW News Staff

March 26, 2002
Copyright © 2002
WOW News. All rights reserved.  

Gov. Sila Calderon expressed her indignation for the corruption acts for which two former La Fortaleza officials were indicted.

"Once again the people of Puerto Rico have found themselves struck by the violation of their trust from the part of officials of the executive branch," Calderon said in a prepared statement Monday.

Calderon, who is visiting her son in the states, said the acts denounced by the U.S. District Attorney’s Office and the arrests of two former assistants of former Gov. Pedro Rossello "represent the painful betrayal to our people and to our institutions."

"Using an important public post at La Fortaleza to peddle influences and to extort contractors cannot be permitted by any governor," Calderon stated.

The federal authorities arrested Monday Rossello’s former aide Maria de los Angeles Rivera Rangel and Angel Luis Ocasio Ramos, president of Global Management and former deputy chief-of-staff.

Acting U.S. District Attorney Guillermo Gil said the former governor is not implicated in the extortion scheme.

Calderon Keeps Close Watch On Clean Money Bill

March 26, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN (AP) – Gov. Sila Calderon said Monday that she will follow closely the legislative process regarding the bill proposing to finance political campaigns with public funds.

The governor, who is in the states visiting her son, said in published reports that she urged legislators from all parties to give priority to her proposal.

"The bill for the financing of electoral campaigns that I sent to the Legislature is one of the main efforts of my government to counteract and attack upfront the evil of corruption that involved the past administration," the governor said.

If the bill is approved, more than $50 million in taxpayers’ money would be used to pay for the electoral campaigns of political candidates, including $7 million for each gubernatorial candidate.

Although the bill has been welcomed at the Legislature, representatives of the civil society, including experts in electoral matters, reject the idea, as they believe it won’t solve government corruption and because they consider it to be "a robbery" to the public coffers.

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