10 Dead In US Military Plane Crash In Caguas
Mayors Propose Decentralizing Government
Calderon Calls Pesqueras Bush Initiative Worthless
No Municipal Reform For Now
New Tourism Plan Unveiled
No Official Word But Navy Could Resume Exercises Next Month
Solved Crimes Decline
U.S. Military C-130 Cargo Plane Crashes In Caguas
AUGUST 8, 2002
SAN JUAN (AP) - A U.S. Air Force cargo plane smashed into a Caguas mountaintop with at least 10 military personnel on board, and the island's top emergency official said all are feared dead.
The plane struck a heavily wooded area near the town of Caguas, while flying in rain and fog Wednesday night.
Rescuers continued to be hampered by fog and intermittent rain Thursday morning. Despite the treacherous conditions, three helicopters were seen circling the crash site at Monte Perucho. It was unclear if they would be able to land.
Nearby residents told radio stations that the low-flying plane smashed into the mountain, broke in two and erupted in flames. They said body parts and bits of plane were scattered in a depression on top of the mountain.
The force of the impact ripped apart the plane's fuselage, and parts of the debris caught fire, said Rafael Guzman, executive director of the State Emergency Management Agency.
The plane was a Hercules C-130 of the Air Force Special Operations and was doing routine landing and takeoff exercises from Roosevelt Roads Naval Station, said Lt. Col. Nicolas Britto, a spokesman for Special Forces Command-South, which has headquarters at the station and coordinates Special Forces activity in Latin America and the Caribbean.
He said the plane was carrying about 10 military personnel but declined to say which branch they represented.
"With the destruction of the fuselage that we were able to observe, we do not believe we will be able to find any survivors," Guzman told The Associated Press.
Rescuers tried to hack their way to the site through the night and early Thursday. The nearest homes were a two-hour hike from the crash site.
Guzman said crews recovered one body Wednesday night and that the search for others was continuing. Most of the plane's fuselage had come to rest in a depression at the top of the mountain.
"The people who live in the area actually saw the plane when it came in low and hit several trees before actually going down," Guzman said.
Mayors Propose Decentralizing Government
AUGUST 8, 2002
SAN JUAN (AP) - Jose Aponte, Carolina mayor and president of the Mayors Association, presented the recommendations of the islands 78 mayors for municipal reform on Thursday. He also urged the governor to submit the reform bill during the next legislative session that begins Aug. 19.
"We are still on time for Gov. Sila Calderon to include this campaign promise among the administration bills that will be considered in the next legislative session," said Aponte.
The mayors recommendations highlighted the need to decentralize government services to give municipalities more autonomy to meet the needs of their constituents.
Aponte proposed that the government agencies be divided into eight regions based on the eight senatorial districts. Each region would have a board of mayors, as well as a district regional director appointed by the governor.
The Popular Democratic Party (PDP) mayor explained that the board would be in charge of promoting and exchanging goods and services among the municipalities in the region, while the district regional director would be responsible for coordinating the duties and responsibilities of all government agencies.
Another key element in the municipal reform proposed by island mayors is to give the municipal autonomy constitutional power, thus avoiding amendments to the Autonomous Municipalities Law whenever there is a change in administration. Aponte said the law has been amended 75 times since it was approved in 1991. However, if given constitutional status, any changes to the law would have to be approved by the people through a referendum.
The mayors also proposed several alternatives to improve the fiscal health of the islands 78 municipalities. For example, they proposed that the central government set a fixed fee for municipal governments to pay for the health reform, which should be lower or equal to the one established in fiscal year 1999-2000.
They also proposed that the central government pay up to 25% of whatever the municipal government spends whenever it cleans up after public corporations perform repairs to the infrastructure.
"This is the case whenever the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (Prasa) or the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) come to do some underground repairs and we end up having to pay for fixing or repaving the roads," Aponte explained.
He also proposed charging a fee to consumers who buy motor vehicles, television sets, computers or any other articles that may turn into hard-to-dispose-of junk. The money would go to a special fund to aid the municipal government with the disposal of such articles once they become useless.
Another recommendation is to charge a room fee at hotels, motels, condos, and guest houses. Aponte explained that the largest tourism complex of the islandIsla Verdeis within his municipality but doesnt contribute a cent to the municipal coffers. Thus, he proposes this situation be changed to give municipalities an alternate source of income.
He also called for the right of municipal governments to regulate the installation of advertising signs and billboards, as well as to change the formula that Prepa uses to pay for using municipal property to operate its electric system.
Calderon Shuns Pesqueras Initiative To Meet With Bush
August 7, 2002
TOA BAJA (AP) - Gov. Sila Calderon said she doesnt believe New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesqueras initiative to send a letter to President George W. Bush requesting that he meet with the islands three party presidents to discuss the status issue will be successful.
Calderon went so far at to call the initiative a "worthless" exercise.
"It seems worthless to go without reaching an agreement in fundamental aspects of the process," the governor said.
Pesquera has declined to take part in Calderon's proposed Unity and Consensus Committee, known as CUPCO, by its Spanish acronym, since it was first proposed.
He has insisted that Bushs commitment should be secured prior to meeting with the committee, which is why he sent a letter to the U.S. president on Wednesday.
However, Calderon has said that prior to meeting with the president a consensus must be reached on "at least the basic concepts" of the process that islanders would want to use to resolve the status issue.
Pesquera has also presented a six-point plan to resolve the islands political status, but has refused to meet with Calderon and Puerto Rican Independence Party President Ruben Berrios to discuss it.
Berrios has spoken in favor of at least three of the proposals and in favor of accepting a free association status as a closer step towards independence.
Calderon has declined to accept Berrios proposal of free association.
Calderon Will Not Sign Amendments To Municipal Reform For Now
By Proviana Colon Diaz
August 7, 2002
TOA BAJA Although it is a project of her authorship, Gov. Sila Calderon will not sign the amendments proposed to the municipal reform by the island mayors, until pressure through the media stops and the right circumstances occur.
"There has been a series of pressures through the media; there has been a series of conclusions that have nothing to do with reality. Once those pressures end and the right circumstances occur, I will implement the reform," Calderon said.
This week, New Progressive Party (NPP) Mayors Federation President Hector ONeill and Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Association President Jose Aponte have denounced the lack of action on the bill, despite a nine-month work session that included recommendations from all island mayors. They had submitted a draft of the bill to the governor in April.
On Tuesday ONeill said differences regarding the amendment to the law that will raise the autonomy of the municipalities to a constitutional level do exist.
On Wednesday, Calderon declined to specify what were the differences but said she would be willing to work on them outside a political scope.
"That report has many recommendations that can and should be implemented, there are others that need additional evaluation. Im confident that we will be able to sit down and work on these differences outside a political scope and without pressures," Calderon said.
Tourism Co. Presents 2002-2003 Marketing Plan
August 7, 2002
SAN JUAN (AP) By the end of 2003, Puerto Rico should have 24 new hotel projects that will create 3,500 new jobs in construction and another 2,600 jobs in the hotel operations, announced Tourism Co. Executive Director Milton Segarra on Wednesday.
These projects will add 2,452 new hotel rooms, which will increase room inventory by 18% for a total of 15,292 rooms.
According to the Tourism Co., another 42 projectsmost of them in the northeast regionare in the planning phase and will add 5,807 rooms, 7,500 jobs in the construction phase and 4,300 jobs in the operational phase.
Segarra made the announcement before hundreds of travel and tourism industry professionals, as part of the presentation of its 2002-2003 marketing plan, which includes the establishment of several programs analyzing the local industry and for improving the services offered to tourists.
Segarra also announced a project through which several natural reserves will be turned into eco-tourism parks suitable for cultural, recreational, and sports activities.
The tourism official added that the marketing campaigns in U.S. cities such as Los Angeles, Dallas, and Chicago, as well as in countries such as Spain, Germany, Britain, Venezuela, Brasil, Mexico and Panama, will continue.
"We feel very excited that all these initiatives that will result in a vigorous industry which can contribute like never before to the islands economic development," Segarra said.
U.S. Navy Could Resume Maneuvers In Sept
August 6, 2002
SAN JUAN (AP) The U.S. Navy could begin a new round of military exercises during the first week of Sept. and has scheduled new practices for the months of Jan. and April 2003, according to published reports.
According to published reports, in Aug., Police agents will be mobilized to Vieques to secure the perimeter along Camp Garcia, which contradicts the version offered by Police Superintendent Miguel Pereira, who said not to have any information regarding the maneuvers.
The naval group assigned to this round of exercises will be the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Harry S. Truman.
The Vieques Commissioner Juan R. Fernandez said he has yet to receive and official notice, but affirmed he has heard rumors that there will be maneuvers on Sept., although other people has said that it will be in August.
U.S. Navy spokespersons were not available to react to the information, although in the past, have said they are not authorized to inform the date when the maneuvers will resume, for security reasons.
Opposing groups has said they will engage in civil disobedience acts among other protests.
Miranda: No Official Notice That Navy Exercises Will Resume
August 6, 2002
SAN JUAN (AP) - The government of Puerto Rico government has not received official notice that U.S. Navy military maneuvers will resume in Vieques in September, La Fortaleza Chief of Staff Cesar Miranda said Tuesday.
In making the announcement, Miranda dismissed published reports that a new round of exercises are scheduled to begin the first week of September.
The naval group conducting this round of maneuvers will include the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, according to published reports.
Those same reports indicated that the Navy has plans to carry out maneuvers in January and April 2003, one month short of its scheduled departure from Vieques. President George W. Bush had said the Navy would leave by May 2003.
As expected, opposing groups have said they will engage in civil disobedience and conduct other protests if the military practices resume.
One of those groups, Todo Puerto Rico con Vieques, led by Jose Paraliticci, has denounced the governments laxness in making sure the Navy complies with local environmental laws in Vieques.
They specifically condemned the Planning Board for its failure to deny the Navy certifications to continue the military exercises.
Paraliticci also denounced Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez for her decision not to make public the governments efforts regarding Vieques.
On Tuesday, however, Miranda fully endorsed Rodriguezs performance and declined to comment on the anti-Navy leaders statements.
"She (Rodriguez) has another opinion on the matter, and I would prefer that she respond to the allegations," Miranda said.
Police Solved Crime Rate Decreases
August 6, 2002
SAN JUAN (AP) Criminal Investigations Deputy Superintendent Jose L. Caldero Lopez said the murders clearing-up rate fell in July from 45% to 41%, while the total crime clearing up rate remained at 34%.
The colonel said 171 of the 421 murders reported during the first seven months of the year have been cleared up, according to published reports.
The areas with the lowest crime clearing up rate is Aguadilla, with 22%, followed by Bayamon and Ponce, with 25%, Carolina and Humacao, with 28%, then San Juan and Mayagüez, with 29% respectively.
The area with the highest clearing-up rate is Utuado, with 49%, followed by Guayama, with 40%, Vega Baja, with 37%, and Fajardo, with 35%.
Crimes against persons include murder, rape, robbery, illegal appropriation, and carjacking.