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Puerto Rico Governor Says Police's Conduct At Vieques To Get Look, Pesquera Again Refuses To Discuss Status, Rullan: Premature To Link Cancer With Navy Exercises, Barceloneta To Get $89.8M For Infrastructure, NPP: Governor’s Letter To Bush Was Counterproductive

Puerto Rico Governor Says Police's Conduct At Vieques To Get Look

September 19, 2002
Copyright © 2002 THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT. All rights reserved.

Puerto Rico 's governor is promising a "thorough inquiry" into Navy complaints that local police on Vieques Island stood by idly last week as demonstrators threw rocks and fired flares at service members along the boundary of a controversial bombing range.

Saying she knows of "no such incidents," Gov. Sila M. Calderon wrote in a letter Tuesday to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that she has asked the territory's police superintendent "to notify me of such derelictions of duty, should they occur."

Calderon said she "will ensure that civil protesters abide by the law."

Rumsfeld said Monday that authorities on Vieques should "operate in a manner consistent with their obligations."

The Navy's 900-acre Vieques training range is scheduled to close next year.

Committee Fails To Persuade Pesquera To Discuss Status

September 19, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — The so-called Conciliation and Consensus Committee announced Thursday that it had failed in its mission to persuade New Progressive Party President Carlos Pesquera to join a dialogue with the leaders of the other parties about the status of Puerto Rico.

Committee spokesman Efren Rivera Ramos said he notified Gov. Sila Calderon, Pesquera, and Puerto Rican Independence Party President Ruben Berrios that the committee gave up its mission Thursday.

"The decision was taken after a letter was received from Pesquera declining the committee’s invitation to meet with its members to talk about the vision of what would be the best way to advance the decision process with regards to this matter," Rivera Ramos said in a press release.

Immediately, the governor, through Public Affairs Secretary Jorge Colberg, criticized Pesquera’s "intransigence" in refusing to meet with the committee and thanked the committee members for their work.

"Sadly, Pesquera did not even have the courtesy to listen to the ideas of the members of the Conciliation and Consensus Committee. . .Dialogue should never be rejected, but sadly, Pesquera is not up with the times," Colberg said.

He added that there has not been any decision on the course of future action about the status issue.

In Pesquera’s letter, dated Sept. 18, the statehood leader reiterated his refusal to join the Puerto Rican Unity and Consensus Committee (CUPCO by its Spanish acronym), a group created by the governor to discuss a mechanism to address the future political relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States.

Pesquera said any initial meeting to discuss the status issue "should be done with the effective participation of the U.S. government."

Calderon had created the Conciliation and Consensus Committee to persuade Pesquera to join CUPCO.

Health Chief: Too Early To Link Navy With Cancer In Vieques

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

September 19, 2002
Copyright © 2002 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

Health Secretary Johnny Rullan said Thursday that it is still too early to establish a link between the cancer incidence in Vieques and the effect that the U.S. Navy bombing might have had on the population over the past 60 years.

Rullan said that now that 90% of the Cancer Registry in Vieques has been confirmed, the important thing is to perform a descriptive study of the people living with cancer in Vieques. He said until this study is completed, there is no way to establish the cause of the cancer incidence in Vieques.

"We already have data of the mortality rate due to cancer that prove that the mortality rate in Vieques is significantly higher than the average rate in Puerto Rico. We also know that the number of confirmed cases of cancer in Vieques continues a climbing tendency. This is why we have to responsibly investigate deeper," Rullan said.

He said he would send a team of doctors to live in Vieques for as long as necessary to perform the study. The team will go door to door to interview cancer patients to find out the date of their diagnosis, their geographical location, and their personal information: if they are male, female, elderly, children, as well as their type of cancer.

The group of doctors will also perform a careful study of their family background, their occupational history, lifestyle, environmental contamination of the area they live in, and access to healthcare services.

Rullan said this information will enable the department to determine if there is a possibility that the incidence of cancer in Vieques has to do with inbreeding. He said there is a possibility that if a population doesn’t breed with outsiders, some of the weaker genes that make people more susceptible to cancer could become more prevalent.

In Vieques, nine people die of cancer every year, while in Puerto Rico approximately 4,000 die every year.

Rullan said the lack of easy access to healthcare services might be a factor in the mortality rate in Vieques. Most people living there have to travel to Puerto Rico to receive medical attention.

According to the Health chief, there are approximately 3.8 million people living in Puerto Rico and about 9,000 living in Vieques.

Rullan said there are approximately 200 people living with cancer in Vieques and about 60,000 in Puerto Rico. He added that from 1990 to 2000, 30 to 40 new cases of cancer were reported in Vieques every year, and that approximately 10,000 new cases are reported in Puerto Rico every year.

Barceloneta To Receive $89.8 Million For Infrastructure

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

September 19, 2002
Copyright © 2002 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

Gov. Sila Calderon visited the town of Barceloneta on Thursday to announce the investment of $89.8 million for the construction of a housing development and three schools, among other projects.

"These infrastructure projects contribute to revitalizing the commerce and economy of Barceloneta. This is part of the effort we are making together with the mayor to achieve the well being of the Puerto Rican family. I am convinced that this will result in the economic development and prosperity of all the good families of Barceloneta," she said.

The governor noted that Barceloneta residents will also benefit from the jobs that these projects will create. She said potentially 1,261 jobs would be created.

The housing development will cost $21 million. The first phase of the project will consist of 301 houses and should be finished in June 2004. The second phase will increase that number to 461 and should be ready by the end of 2006, the governor said.

The first of three schools to be constructed will be the Rafael Balseiro Maceira Middle School at a cost of $17.5 million. The construction should begin in November and has been scheduled to end in January 2005.

The second school will be the Jesus M. Rivera Elementary School. Its cost has been estimated at $17 million. The bidding process should begin this month. The construction has been scheduled to begin in January 2003 and should end by February 2005.

The third school will be an elementary school in Magueyes at a cost of $11 million.

Calderon also noted a $20 million investment that the local government made in February 2001 to begin the construction of a levee that will surround Barceloneta. The project is intended to protect town residents from being flooded by the Manati River during the rainy season.

The levee is 30% completed, and it should be finished by April 2004. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has commissioned the project, which will provide flood protection for 100 years.

NPP: Governor’s Letter To Bush Was Counter-Productive

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

September 18, 2002
Copyright © 2002 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera said Gov. Sila Calderon had received confirmation of the withdrawal of the U.S. Navy from Vieques by May 2003 before she sent the letter asking U.S. President George W. Bush to put his promise in writing.

"It is important to note how she demonstrated yesterday [Tuesday] that all her political and publicity stunts regarding this issue have driven her to write a letter that she should have written a long time ago," the NPP leader said.

Pesquera said he was sure the Navy would leave Vieques on the date agreed to by former President Bill Clinton and former Gov. Pedro Rossello in 2000 and which was later confirmed by Bush.

"The information that has been available to me–and I imagine to Gov. Calderon as well–is that the Navy has determined that Vieques is no longer necessary, that it has alternate sites, and that it will comply with the Clinton-Rossello agreement," Pesquera said on Wednesday.

He said he believed Calderon’s letter was sent at the wrong moment. He said letters such as the governor’s don’t project an image of solidarity with the federal government in a time of war against terrorism.

"[The letter] may change the image Washington has of Puerto Ricans," Pesquera said.

Calderon’s letter to Bush noted that the deadline for the Navy’s withdrawal from Vieques was fast approaching and that some action on his part would help stop rumors that he might not honor his word.

Calderon’s letter followed bitter criticism from opposition parties, as well as religious and civil organizations, which have accused her administration of betraying the cause of Vieques.

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