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Vieques Activists Outraged Over Bioweapons Test Revelation, Calderon Promises To Punish Those Who Stole, Martin: Feds Should Explain Dismissals, TV Stations Hand Over Women’s Advocate Videos, Housing Wont Reimpose "Tough Hand Against Crime"

Vieques Activists Outraged Over Pentagon Revelation

October 10, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - A revelation that the U.S. military subjected Marines to a simulated chemical weapons attack on Vieques stirred anger among anti-Navy activists on Thursday.

The Pentagon acknowledged Wednesday that some soldiers engaged in chemical and biological weapons testing in the 1960s in Vieques, and several states, including Alaska, Florida, and Hawaii.

During a training mission on Vieques in May of 1969, Marine jets sprayed a chemical called trioctyl phosphate, or TOF, on Marine units, simulating an amphibious assault on Vieques and on a base ship.

The chemical, used over land and water, was meant to simulate the nerve agent VX, and the tests were designed to assess how Marines operated in chemical protective gear and how effective chemical weapons would be.

TOF can cause cancer in some animal species but that link has not been demonstrated in humans, the Pentagon said.

"It's not a surprise but at the same time it fills us with anger that the U.S. government wants to wage war in Iraq for its alleged use of chemical weapons," said activist Robert Rabin.

The U.S. Navy, which now owns about one-third of the island, has used the bombing range for about 60 years. Anti-Navy activists claim the continued exercises pose a health threat to Vieques' 9,100 residents, which the Navy denies.

"There's a great feeling of anger and worry about what the Navy's activities represent," said the Boston-born Rabin, who was released from federal prison in San Juan on Monday after serving six months for trespassing on a Navy bombing range in April.

At the news conference Wednesday, the Pentagon released declassified summaries of 28 of the tests, showing for the first time the scope of open-air testing of chemical and biological agents on American soil. About 5,500 service members participated in the tests.

The government says there is no evidence that anyone died as a result of the tests.

"This bolsters what we've said that the health of Vieques' residents have been threatened by the Navy," said activist Ismael Guadalupe.

Navy spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Kim Dixson refused to comment and referred questions to the Pentagon.

President George W. Bush has assured residents that the Navy will leave Vieques by May 2003. Gov. Sila Calderon and dozens of congressional representatives have urged Bush to put his promise in writing.

"The Navy has been a bad neighbor to the people of Vieques and these findings are another reason why we need a strict and firm timetable for the full withdrawal of the U.S. military," said Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a Chicago Democrat arrested last year for trespassing on Vieques.

Calderon Promises To Punish Those Who Stole In Education

October 10, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

CAYEY (AP) — Gov. Sila Calderon promised Thursday that her administration will take care of processing the people who stole from and participated in other corrupt acts in the Education Department.

"This governor is telling the people of Puerto Rico that the Justice Department will proceed with full rigor against those who robbed from the Puerto Rican children in the Education Department," she said in a press conference in Brisas del Caribe in Cayey.

"The crimes will not go unpunished. Period. It will not go unpunished," she added.

The governor believes that the U.S. District Court in San Juan exonerated the former executive aide in the Education Department, attorney Roberto Bonano, and contractor Norman Olson because of legal technicalities.

"But, as the U.S. district attorney said, the evidence is strong and conclusive," Calderon said.

The three accused were exonerated after the prosecution’s main witness, former Education Secretary Victor Fajardo, who pleaded guilty of corruption acts, perjured himself during his cross examination.

According to the governor, there is strong evidence against the ones who robbed the funds assigned to the Education Department, and she insisted that they should be punished.

In related matters, she described New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera’s statements that the party has nothing to do with Fajardo’s corruption as "embarrassing."

"Those comments are embarrassing, considering what we all know in Puerto Rico and the strong evidence that the media has revealed," Calderon added.

The governor emphasized that the investigation to be performed by the Legislature on this matter is independent from the one to be done by the Justice Department and affirmed that no agreement has been reached between the Legislature and the Justice Department.

She also denied meeting with Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora to reach an agreement about the investigations.

"The Justice Department is going to work and act to make sure that Puerto Rico has a clean government," Calderon concluded.

Martin: Federal Authorities Should Explain Dismissals

October 10, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Alleging that there might have been an ulterior motive for federal authorities to dismiss the charges against the accused in the Education case, Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) Sen. Fernando Martin said Thursday that federal authorities should explain what exactly prompted the dismissal of the charges.

"Something smells rotten in the U.S. District Court in Puerto Rico," the legislator said in a press conference convoked to repudiate the way the federal authorities managed the case.

"We have to presume that this is a confabulation for the purpose of covering up the accused’s actions and all those who might have been affected when all this information would be made public," Martin added.

The senator said the perjury of the main witness in the case only required that the district attorney notify the accused and the court.

"U.S. District Attorney in Puerto Rico Humbert Garcia said, to my surprise, that that there was no doubt about the evidence. Meaning that aside from Fajardo’s testimony, there was enough evidence to obtain convictions in the case," Martin said.

The PIP executive director also stated that the U.S. District Attorney’s Office has the moral obligation to provide the evidence gathered by their office to the local Justice Department.

TV Stations Hand Over Women’s Advocate Office Videos

October 10, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — The three main local television channels handed over Thursday the videos of the incident that took place June 20 at the Women’s Advocate’s Office and for which four New Progressive Party (NPP) leaders have been accused of riot.

WAPA-TV News Director Enrique Cruz, Telemundo News Director Ruben Roman, and Univision News Director Jose Morales personally delivered the unedited footage at the Hato Rey Judicial Center.

The action responded to an order from the Superior Court and the Appeals Court.

After they handed over the unedited footage, the news directors explained that they opted not to go to the Supreme Court because they fear that a failure could establish a precedent compromising the freedom of the press.

"We understand that the use of legal resources to obligate us to hand over this footage is probably one of the most atrocious attacks on the free press that has ever been committed," reads a declaration by the directors.

The accused of riot at the Women’s Advocate Office are NPP President Carlos Pesquera, NPP Electoral Commissioner Thomas Rivera Schatz, NPP Rep. Edwin Mundo, and former legislator Leo Diaz.

Housing Won’t Reimpose Rossello’s "Tough Hand Against Crime" Policy

October 9, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Housing Secretary Ileana Echegoyen denied Wednesday that her agency will reintroduce the plan to occupy of public housing that was established under the past administration.

According to Echegoyen, the government is working on alternative to improve the quality of life in the island’s poor communities.

The official explained that her department is focused on educating people on how to manage conflicts and other stressful situations, which she said lead to child abuse and violence in general.

"We want to give people the tools, which will result in a decrease in the violence we are experiencing," she said.

Echegoyen distanced herself from Police Superintendent Miguel Pereira’s decision to maintain a police presence in La Perla and Jardines de Berwind housing projects.

This action has been compared to the past administration’s security plan, dubbed "Tough Hand Against Crime."

"The Police decides what type of presence it will have in each housing project. We believe in prevention, although there are short-term situations that are addressed with Police intervention," the official told journalists.

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