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Fas Alzamora Proposes Committee For Legislative Reform

Pentagon Withholds Vieques Alternative Report

Navy Clashes With Demonstrators

Urban Train Set To Run September ‘03

Puerto Rico, The World’s Surprise 2nd Round Qualifier

Mercado Repudiates Use Of Tear Gas

Anti Navy Groups Cautious Over Governor’s Visit

Fas Alzamora Proposes Committee For Legislative Reform

September 5, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora filed a resolution Thursday to create a committee for the study of the Legislative Reform, a Popular Democratic Party (PDP) campaign promise that has not yet been addressed.

Fas Alzamora’s resolution proposes that during a three-year period an 11-member committee from the Senate will study the viability of a unicameral system vs. the present bicameral system, the convenience of the at-large posts vs. district legislative posts, and the Full Time Legislator Law, among other issues.

"Section 2 of the bill indicates that a committee could contract experts and consult citizens. . . The authorized public hearings will guarantee the participation of the people," Fas Alzamora said in a press conference.

Among other things, the committee will revise all legislative procedures, the creation of an Internal Audit Office, and the need for an office to inform the people on the legislative corps’ use of the assigned funds.

Fas Alzamora’s special committee will be presided over by PDP Majority Leader Sen. Jose Luis Dalmau and include PDP Sens. Roberto Prats, Velda Gonzalez, Bruno Ramos, Rafael Rodriguez, Eudaldo Baez Galib, Julio Rodriguez, Juan Cancel, and New Progressive Party Sens. Kenneth McClintock and Orlando Parga, as well as Puerto Rican Independence Party Sen. Fernando Martin.

Pentagon Withholds Results Of Vieques Alternatives Report

September 5, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Lt. Col. Dawn Cutler, spokeswoman for the U.S. Armed Forces at the Pentagon, said the Naval Analysis Center’s final report on alternate locations for the military exercises that for decades have taken place in Vieques would not be made public for the moment.

The report was supposed to be made public before the fall, but the U.S. Navy prefers not to make it public because it needs further revision, Cutler said in published reports.

"We want to be sure that it has been revised adequately. We, however, continue with our plans to end training in Vieques in May 2003," Cutler said.

The report was handed to Navy Secretary Gordon England, who preferred to describe it as a preliminary document subject to changes from the high ranking military and civil officials at the Pentagon.

Gov. Sila Calderon, on a trip to New Jersey this week, insisted that unofficially, she has been informed that the report includes adequate alternatives for the Navy.

Military officials such as Atlantic Fleet Commander Adm. Robert Natter has recognized that there are bases in southeastern U.S. states, such as Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, that are being considered as the new center of military training for the Navy.

Navy Clashes With Demonstrators

September 5, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

VIEQUES (AP) - U.S. Navy security officers fired tear gas at protesters who hurled rocks over a fence during bombing exercises on Vieques, authorities said Thursday.

Two servicemen were hit by rocks but weren't injured in the confrontation Wednesday night, Navy spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Kim Dixon said.

Navy security officers, assigned to guard a fence between Navy lands and a protesters' camp, fired the tear gas at protesters who were using slingshots to throw rocks, Dixon said. It was unclear how many protesters were in the path of the tear gas.

A third day of military exercises on Vieques began Thursday morning with the destroyer USS Briscoe firing inert 5-inch shells and flare tracers in ship-to-shore training, Dixon said.

The guided missile destroyer USS Mitscher also was to participate, along with a squadron of F-14s and F-18s dropping inert bombs.

Wednesday night's clash didn't affect the training at the bombing range several miles away, Dixon said.

President George W. Bush has promised the Navy will withdraw from Vieques by May 2003, but as the United States moves closer to a conflict with Iraq, there are doubts whether the Navy departure will be stalled.

At least 27 members of the U.S. Congress have urged Bush to issue an executive order guaranteeing the Navy's departure.

The latest exercises in Vieques - the third since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks - involve 10 ships, two attack submarines, and some 80 planes in the USS Harry S. Truman Battle Group.

Protests have weakened since the Sept. 11 attacks, with activists saying they fear stiffer jail sentences and fines.

Five protesters have been detained since the exercises began Tuesday.

Urban Train To Begin Operations In September 2003

September 4, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - The first phase of the Urban Train, from San Juan to Bayamon, will be up and running by September 2003, 15 months earlier than had been scheduled, said Jose Izquierdo, secretary of the Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTOP by its Spanish acronym).

Izquierdo said 16 stations will be completed by February 2003, but that a six-month try-out period will follow to test the system.

The final cost of the train will reach the $2.1 billion mark, an increase of $600 million over the original cost presented during the past administration.

An educational campaign will begin next month to convince citizens of the benefits of using the Urban Train as a means of public transportation.

The engineer also announced the department’s decision to replace the project of expanding the train from Sagrado Corazon University to Minillas Center in Santurce with that of an expansion from Rio Piedras to Carolina.

According to Izquierdo, the decision was based on the cost and benefit of both options.

Expanding the project in Santurce would have meant an investment of $500 million to serve the needs of 20,000 users.

Whereas to do it from Rio Piedras to Carolina would cost $800 million, half of which will come from federal funds, and will serve 85,000 users.

The 20,000 users en route from Sagrado Corazon to Minillas will benefit from other improvements in public transportation as a public bus traffic light system will be established on the route. The system switches the traffic light to green on sensing that the bus is nearby, thus avoiding a delay in traffic for public transportation users, Izquierdo noted.

The secretary denied allegations that the decision was based on politics, stating that, at present, the department is working "hand in hand" with the municipal administrations of both Bayamon and San Juan, both run by New Progressive Party mayors.

In San Juan, the DTOP will fund a shuttle system to and from the Rio Piedras Medical Center, while in Bayamon the shuttle will operate from the urban center and the San Pablo hospital center to the station.

Izquierdo made his statements during an afternoon ceremony to inaugurate the Urban Train’s first completed station in Bayamon’s Jardines de Caparra neighborhood.

There Izquierdo welcomed half a dozen members of the New Progressive Party who arrived, with banners in hand, stating that the station and the train itself were another "development of former Gov. Pedro Rossello and Carlos Pesquera." Another banner had the logo of Superman but said "Super Pesquera."

Kindly, Izquierdo gave the group a warm welcome and recognized the labor of his predecessor.

Puerto Rico, The World's Surprise Second-Round Qualifier


September 4, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

RIESA, Germany (AP) - Tiny Puerto Rico shook up the pecking order in women's international volleyball, upsetting some of the planets' top teams in order to advance to the second round of the World Championships.

The outsider infiltrated the world's top-12, delivering surprising performances during five days of action-packed preliminary round action.

Puerto Rico pulled off a shocker, vaulting into the second round over two other South American opponents in Pool C, Argentina and the Dominican Republic, who were considered more likely second round candidates.

Puerto Rico, which measures just 160 kilometers by 58 (100 miles by 35) with a population of four million, has 12,000 volleyball players in 70 clubs spread across the tiny Caribbean island country.

The team's success has further boosted the interest in a country where women's matches can attract as many as 6,000 spectators.

"In the past we only practiced and practiced and then traveled abroad to participate in the season's highlights. We lacked the financial means to test our strength with international teams," said David Aleman, Puerto Rico's coach since 1999. "But now, all this has changed. Because the popularity of volleyball is constantly increasing. With results like this it will chance even more."

South Korea, Bulgaria, China and Puerto Rico moved to Stuttgart for Group F competition in the second round.

Play was scheduled to resume Friday.

Mercado Repudiates Use Of Tear Gas In Vieques

September 4, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Deputy Governor Ferdinand Mercado repudiated on Tuesday the use by military police of tear gases that affected several journalists working on breaking news while the police arrested five anti-Navy activists in Vieques.

Although he did not rule out that the incident might have been an error, Mercado affirmed he requested the La Fortaleza’s Chief of Staff Cesar Miranda to request Vieques Commissioner Juan Fernandez to get the message to the military authority.

"Certainly, this is despicable, it is an act that should not be supported by anyone... and I’m sure that the Vieques Commissioner would take the necessary action to make sure this would not happen again," Mercado said.

The Secretary of State also described as "regrettable" the resumption of military maneuvers in Vieques.

Anti Navy Groups Cautious Over Governor’s Visit

September 3, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

VIEQUES (AP) — Organizations opposed to the U.S. Navy presence on Vieques will be cautious with Gov. Sila M. Calderon’s visit to the island municipality on Friday.

The anti Navy activists Ismael Guadalupe indicated that different organizations representatives will meet to discuss the plan they will follow during the governor’s visit.

Meanwhile, La Fortaleza’s Public Affairs Secretary Jorge Colberg Toro said the current administration respects the Vieques leaders and called on the organizations not to concentrate on their differences but concentrate on the development of Vieques.

Colberg Toro said that people should be prudent because there are only a few months left until May 2003, the date agreed on by the Clinton-Rossello administrations for ousting of the Navy.

"We are months away from achieving the Vieques people’s dream. This time calls for unity, and dialog," Colberg said.

The official said that "every government action regarding Vieques is public knowledge" so he sees no reason for these Vieques organizations to go to court to request that the government make available the negotiations between the local government and the U.S. Navy officials.

Guadalupe for his part, said his responsibility is overseeing the movement in favor of the Navy ousting unity.

"Politics is a very dangerous arena. Any incorrect move could break the unity and we certainly have to go much further than the governor," the Vieques fisherman said.

Guadalupe added that does not mean the governor does not deserve a protest for failing to comply with her promise to oust the Navy from Vieques.

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