Mercado: Vieques Policy Flexible
Navy To Intensify War Games
Wreckage Of Military Plane Found
PIP Trespassers Get Years Probation
Congress Warned About Urban Trains High Cost
Puerto Rico Remembers 9/11
Head Start Receives $1.85M In Federal Funds
Government Could Relax Public Policy On Vieques
September 12, 2002
SAN JUAN (AP) In view of the possibility that the United States declares war on Iraq, the Puerto Rico government left the door open Thursday for a relaxation of its public policy that requests the immediate cessation of U.S. Navy military exercises in Vieques.
That was confirmed by Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado, who insisted that the government could not close its mind to any request that the U.S. government makes regarding national security when Puerto Rico has a responsibility in the common defense.
"If the United States takes the decision to go to war, then we need to reevaluate all situations, not only in Puerto Rico, but in the United States and all allied countries, in terms of what actions to take," he told The Associated Press.
Mercados statements confirm the complaints of anti-Navy protestors who have accused the government during the past few months of revoking the public policy on Vieques.
Gov. Sila Calderon denied the allegations in several occasions.
"We want the Navy to leave Vieques, and we want the bombings to stop, but I cant anticipate if this, in any way, will define whether the Navy leaves in 2003 as we want and as the president has promised," the official said.
He asserted that the government has absolute trust in the word of the president, who endorsed the Navys exit date agreed by former Gov. Pedro Rossello and former President Bill Clinton.
"However, I cant determine whether the president will vary his position at any point depending on the circumstances of national security that he is going through," he admitted.
Navy To Intensify War Games On Vieques
September 12, 2002
Vieques , Puerto Rico , Sep 12 (EFE) - The U.S. Navy announced Thursday that it will intensify its training exercises here.
The war games continued for a 10th straight day Thursday at Camp Garcia, Navy spokeswoman Ligia Cohen told EFE.
She said Thursday's round of maneuvers would involve the cruiser USS San Jacinto and two destroyers as well as F-14 and F-18 fighter jets.
Navy Finds Wreckage Of Military Plane
September 12, 2002
SAN JUAN (AP) - U.S. Navy search teams found the wreckage of a military plane that crashed into the Caribbean Sea off Puerto Rico, and all three servicemen on board were believed dead, the Navy said Thursday.
Searchers spotted the wreckage at dusk Wednesday floating some 25 miles southeast of Puerto Rico, said Cmdr. Ernest Duplessis, a spokesman for the U.S. Second Fleet in Norfolk, Virginia.
Human remains were found amid the wreckage, but Navy ships and helicopters continued to search on Thursday for additional remains and pieces of wreckage.
The military lost radio contact with the Navy S-3B Viking jet about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday during an in-flight refueling exercise off the outlying island of Vieques.
The 53-foot plane, used for in-flight refueling and sea surveillance, had taken off from the USS Harry Truman aircraft carrier off Puerto Ricos east coast.
It was in the air for about an hour before it disappeared, Duplessis said. When its fuel tank is full, the S-3B Viking can fly for more than two hours, he said.
The cause of the crash was under investigation, the Navy said. No severe weather was reported in the area, the U.S. National Weather Service said.
The servicemen on the plane were identified as pilot Lt. J.G. Thomas McCombie, 25, of State College, Pennsylvania; Lt. Cmdr. Jeffrey Gray, 40, of Mound, Minnesota; and Lt. Cmdr. Michael Chalfant, 36, of Jacksonville, Florida. They all were stationed in Jacksonville.
The plane went down during training exercises at the Navy's bombing range on Vieques. The exercises continued Thursday, even as some ships and helicopters participated in recovery work.
The training, which began Sept. 3 and was scheduled to last about three weeks, involves 10 ships, two attack submarines, and some 80 planes.
The jet that crashed was one of eight such planes participating in the exercises, Duplessis said. The S-3B Viking is valued at $27 million.
On Aug. 7, a U.S. Air Force MC-130H transport plane crashed during a training mission in Puerto Rico, slamming into a mountainside amid rain and fog. All 10 U.S. military personnel on board were killed.
Magistrate Sets Free PIP Activists Accused Of Trespassing
September 12, 2002
SAN JUAN (AP) The group of five Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) members who were arrested last week on U.S. Navy land in Vieques were freed Thursday and received a year of probation from U.S. Magistrate Gustavo Gelpi.
Gelpi also imposed a $700 fine on the five accused, making clear that if they refused to pay it, the consequence could not be to send them to jail.
PIP Vice President Maria de Lourdes Santiago said the magistrates decision "recognizes that imposing long prison sentences as punishment would not halt civil disobedience."
"This is an acceptance of civil disobedience, and it represents a big triumph," the PIP leader said.
Gelpi had ordered last month the imprisonment of Hector Gonzalez Pereira, Angel Rafael Figueroa, Angel Fermin Candelario, Silfredo Velez, and Jaime Lopez after they stated that they would not acknowledge the jurisdiction of the federal court to judge them.
The five PIP members trespassed on Navy land the same day the military corps resumed its exercises in Vieques.
Congress Warned About High Costs Of Urban Train
September 12, 2002
SAN JUAN (AP) A report from the Inspector Generals Office (IGO) of the U.S. Transportation Department to Congress warns that the Urban Train project should be overseen because of its high costs and management problems.
Chief Inspector Kenneth Mead said in an introductory letter in the report, which was submitted Tuesday, that serious problems had been identified and that better supervision from the federal and state authorities is necessary.
"We issued audit reports for the most expensive and biggest project on the nation, the Central Artery Tunnel in Boston at a cost of $14 billion, and the most expensive transit project in the nation, the Urban Train at a cost of more than $2 billion. . .We recommend that the Federal Transit Administration deny the final financial plan until the cost estimates, programming, and other problems are corrected," reads the report published in a local daily.
The Urban Trains 16 stations should be ready in January 2003, although federal authorities estimated that the project wont be inaugurated until 2004.
Calderon & Key Government Officials Honor Victims Of 9-11
September 11, 2002
SAN JUAN (AP) - One year after the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania, key government officials and religious leaders joined Gov. Sila Calderon in a ceremony held at La Fortaleza to honor the memory of those who perished on Sept. 11, 2001.
"A year has passed. We bear the scar of that tragedy, but we have emerged stronger, more united and determined that ever to become instruments of peace," the governor said during a closing speech on Wednesday.
The ceremony began at 6:30 a.m. with a special performance of the University of Puerto Rico Choir of Bells and the hymn of Puerto Rico and the national anthem.
Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado gave the welcome message.
Religious leaders like San Juan Catholic Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez Nieves, Pentecostal Community President Dr. Angel Marcial, representative of the Hebrew Community in Puerto Rico, Rabby Gabriel Fryedman, representative of the Arab Muslim Community Iman Muhammad Salem, and Daniel Santos, representative of the Evangelical Council president also offered a brief message during the event.
Also, Juan Agosto Alicea, president of the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority; Melba Acosta, executive director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Ramon Cantero Frau, secretary of Economic Development and Commerce each gave their testimonials of what happened on 9-11. The three government chiefs were in New York two blocks away from the World Trade Center. They were preparing for a business presentation when tragedy stroke.
"At times like that, we realize what little value material things have and how fast they can disappear. This forces us to reflect about what are our priorities. It is obvious that materialism shouldn't be one of them," Agosto Alicea said.
In what may have marked the most poignant moment of the ceremony, the three agency heads narrated the horror of Sept. 11 from their eyes. Having survived the attack, Agosto Alicea, Acosta, and Cantero Frau talked about the helplessness they never thought could feel when in a split second they were separated and were unable to contact each other for several hours.
"I saw people jump from the towers. . . I tried calling the cell phones of my colleagues over and over with no answer. You can image all the things that went through my mind," Acosta said.
Cantero Frau added that the experience of 9-11 paradoxically made him believe in the goodness of people, as it was then, in the middle of a hellish scenario orchestrated by hate, that he was able to see how strangers can come together as one.
"During the days that followed the tragedy, we shared what little we had. God, in the midst of tragedy, had turned us into a great family," Cantero Frau said.
The governor thanked everyone there for their solidarity on that special morning. She also thanked the rescue team of Puerto Rican firefighters who helped in the recovery efforts at the sites of the attacks.
Calderon closed her speech with a moment of silence observed by those present at La Fortaleza.
A breakfast followed the ceremony, which would be one of many to be held throughout the day at different government buildings in Puerto Rico to mark the one-year anniversary of 9-11.
"We shared the suffering and pain of the American people and of the families of those who perished. . . We pray to God All Mighty to always light our path toward peace. We also ask him to bless the United States, Puerto Rico, and the whole world," the governor said.
At 11:30 a.m. Calderon was also expected to participate in a commemorative act to be held at the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority building to honor the government employees who were killed in the line of duty one year ago.
Puerto Rico Pays Tribute To Local Heroes
September 11, 2002
SAN JUAN (AP) - On the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, the government of Puerto Rico paid tribute to its employees who have died in the line of duty.
Gov. Sila Calderon signed an executive order to create a special fund to help the families of government employees who have been killed.
"The purpose of this special fund is to provide economic aid to the immediate family of public officers who lose their lives while fulfilling their duties. The economic aid may be used, among other things, to pay tuition fees, mortgages, medical expenses, support of disabled family members, and job training," Calderon said.
The permanent fund will receive an initial allocation of $1 million, which will be released by the Treasury Department. The Office of Management and Budget will be in charge of handling the fund.
The executive order became effective immediately and it will also be retroactive.
Calderon named an administrative board of seven members who will be in charge of drafting the requirements for eligibility of the applicants.
The board will be comprised of the Police Superintendence, the Fire Department, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa), the Family Department, the Human Resources and Labor Advising Office, the Office of Management and Budget, as well as a representative of the public interest.
The governor expressed gratitude to the 22 police officers, 19 Prepa employees, three firefighters, and two correctional officers who have been killed while performing their duties in recent years.
"The debt of gratitude that the we Puerto Ricans have with these employees and their families is eternal," the governor said.
During the event, U.S. Postal Service Caribbean Manager Roberto Perez De Leon announced the introduction of a 45-cent stamp in honor of the government employees who gave their lives in the rescue efforts of Sept. 11.
Perez De Leon said 8 cents of each stamp will go to a special fund to help relatives of emergency personnel who died in the line of duty on Sept. 11, 2001.
"We also pay tribute to our Puerto Rican brothers and sisters who participated in the rescue efforts at ground zero," Perez De Leon said.
The stamps will be available to the public starting Thursday, he said.
The commemoration event was held around 11:45 a.m. Wednesday at the central square of the Prepa building in Santurce.
Several agency heads were present, including Prepa Executive Director Hector Rosario, Police Superintendent Miguel Pereira, Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez, and Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado.
Pesquera Participates In New York Ceremony
September 11, 2002
SAN JUAN (AP) New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera went to Ground Zero on Wednesday, where the New York Twin Towers used to be, in solidarity with the victims of the terrorist attack of Sept. 11 of last year.
The NPP leader said he went as the representative of those Puerto Ricans who support statehood and refused to give his opinion on the lack of representation from the local government in the ceremony where there were many Hispanic families who had lost their relatives.
"I dont want to see this from that perspective; I see it as part of my responsibility of representing the majority of Puerto Ricans who defend their American citizenship and want to be in solidarity with the nation in a moment of such importance," Pesquera said in a radio interview on which he was asked if he was the only political leader to attend the ceremony.
He also said his presence at Ground Zero has intended to defend our permanent union with the nation and to strengthen democracy.
Pesqueras agenda in New York also includes a meeting with Ruben Diaz, who last Tuesday won the primary to run for the Senate for the Democratic Party.
On Thursday, the NPP leader will meet with members of the party and will appear before a group of Hispanic leaders that was not identified.
"We want to strengthen our bond with the Puerto Rican community here in New York. We want them to feel the support they have always had from our party," Pesquera said.
Miranda Announces Federal Allocation For Head Start
September 11, 2002
La Fortaleza Chief of Staff Cesar Miranda announced Tuesday the allocation of $1.85 million in federal funds for the Early Head Start Program, which will help 180 families in San German, Caguas, Guaynabo, and Guayama.
Miranda said Gov. Sila Calderon received a letter from Mary Ann Higgins, director of Region 2 of the U.S. Children and Family Administration, notifying her of the allocation.
"This money will benefit 180 poor families in Puerto Rico through the Early Head Start Program, which offers development services for families of low economic resources and their children," Miranda said in a press release.
The Foundation for the Development of Home Possession of Caguas and Guayama will receive $610,000 to distribute among 60 families.
Meanwhile, the Seasonal Head Start of the diocese of Mayagüez, whose headquarters is in San German, will receive $570,000 that will benefit another group of 60 children.
Moreover, the Centro de Fortalecimiento Familiar Escape will obtain $672,412 for the families of 60 children in Guaynabo.