Navy To Leave Vieques, Calderón Says, Pledge To End Bombing Welcomed, Hispanic Caucus Asks Bush For Vieques Statement, PDP Endorse, NPP Opposes Campaign Finance Bill, Vizcarrondo Wont Pay Mundos Legal Fees, Calderon: Efforts To Oust Navy Have Not Been Exhausted
Navy To Leave Vieques, Calderón Says
October 18, 2002
SAN JUAN (AP) - An Armed Forces official, whom Gov. Sila Calderon declined to identify, had "verbal communication" with her administration Friday to confirm President George W. Bushs commitment to permanently halt military practices in Vieques by May 2003.
Calderon, however, declined to disclose specific details as to by whom, how, and when the confirmation had been made and if a transition process would be completed by May 2003.
"Today [Friday] the U.S. government has officially communicated with my government, both in writing and through the telephone, to notify us that the process of transition will begin soon, and we will receive additional corroboration of this process," Calderon said.
After being asked repeatedly if any matters concerning a transition process were discussed, Calderon said she would soon be receiving notification regarding the matter.
"There has been an official communication in terms of the transition that would start at some point, soon, and it will be confirmed in writing, with the objective of finalizing the exercises by May 2003," Calderon said.
The governor, however, interpreted the verbal communication as a confirmation of both a halt in military practices and the removal of the U.S. Navy from Vieques.
"Its a confirmation of the end of military practices and therefore, the removal of the Navy. The presence of the Navy is tied to the practices," Calderon said.
Calderon also declined to say if the government would demand the cleaning of the military land that has been bombed for over 60 years.
"Today is a day of celebration; today is a positive day; and I dont want to think of anything negative today. . ." said Calderon before grabbing Vieques Mayor Damaso Serrano by the arm.
Calderons seven-minute message comes three days after Adm. Robert Natter, head of the U.S. Fleet Forces Command and chief of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, announced in Pensacola, Fla. during a lunch with the Rotary Club that the Navy will be moving its military exercises from Vieques to ranges at sea and bases in Florida by spring 2003.
It also comes one day after Calderons meeting with newly appointed U.S. Naval Station Roosevelt Roads Rear Adm. Vinson Smith, after which no comments were made to the press.
In her late afternoon message, Calderon thanked numerous people for their efforts in achieving a promise of the end of military practices, including civic and religious groups who for over two years have spoken in favor of the Navys ousting.
Calderon also thanked politicians, including New York Gov. George Pataki, to whom she will personally express her gratitude by openly supporting his re-election in November.
She, however, declined to recognize as an achievement the previous administrations efforts in the ousting of the Navy.
"I have no comments," she said when asked if Gov. Pedro Rossello should be recognized for this achievement.
Pledge To End Bombing Welcomed
By Leoncio Pineda
October 17, 2002
San Juan -Word from high-ranking U.S. military officials that six decades of bombing target practice on the island of Vieques will end next May as scheduled is being met with satisfaction in Puerto Rico , though grassroots activists say they must remain vigilant.
Figures as divergent as Puerto Rican Gov. Sila Calderon and the fiery spokesman for the Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques (CPRDV), Robert Rabin, were united Thursday in welcoming the statements, though the local activist noted that no executive order had yet been issued to end the bombing.
The U.S. Navy is supposed to leave Vieques , 11 kilometers (7 miles) east of Puerto Rico , in May 2003, according to directives issued by former President Bill Clinton and confirmed - though not in writing - by current chief executive George W. Bush.
Statements Wednesday by the commander of the Navy's Atlantic Fleet, Adm. Robert Natter, reaffirmed the intention of the Bush administration to end the bombing by that date, 60 years after the beginning of live-fire exercises on the island.
Calderon, through Public Affairs Secretary Jorge Colberg, said Wednesday that "we are pleased with statements made by Adm. Robert Natter to the effect that the Navy will move its practice range from Vieques to Florida and other installations in the United States."
"This announcement is an important step in the right direction," Colberg said, " it should promote unity among Puerto Ricans and strengthen the atmosphere of constructive negotiation the government of Puerto Rico has maintained with Washington."
Hispanic Caucus Requests White House Statement On Vieques
October 17, 2002
SAN JUAN (AP) Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila said Thursday that most of the members of the Hispanic Caucus in Congress supported a new request made to President George W. Bush to make official the agenda for the cessation of bombing and military maneuvers by the U.S. Navy in Vieques.
The Congress members also requested in a letter that any information regarding the use of toxic material in the island municipality that may have caused harm to the civilian population be revealed by the Defense Department.
The request was made after the Pentagon revealed last week that tests with chemical and biological weapons took place in the 1960s in Vieques, Hawaii, Alaska, and Florida.
The letter sent to the president Thursday was signed by Acevedo Vila and 12 other members of the Hispanic Caucus, including its president Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) and the Democrat delegation vice president Robert Menendez (D-NJ).
"Last week, in an informative session regarding the chemical and biological tests performed during the Cold War, officials from the Defense Department admitted the use of chemical and biological agents in Vieques and accepted that civilians were exposed to the tests performed on the island," reads the letter, which was also signed by Puerto Rican-born Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), and Jose Serrano (D-NY).
The letter also makes reference to the information offered by local Health Secretary Johnny Rullan, who said the cancer rate in Vieques is greater than in the rest of Puerto Rico.
"The new facts gathered by the department, along with the information revealed by the Pentagon, has increased the tension and the concern about the Vieques issue," the Congress members stated.
"Considering the seriousness of the new information, we agree with Gov. Sila Calderon regarding the opinion she gave in her Sept. 17 letter, that your administration should issue an official statement regarding the Navys agenda and its transition plan to finally end its military activities in Vieques by May 1, 2003," the letter adds.
PDP Reaffirms Endorsement Of Public Finance Campaign Bill
By Proviana Colon Diaz
October 17, 2002
Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Secretary General Fernando Torres reaffirmed Thursday the partys decision to endorse Gov. Sila Calderons proposed public finance campaign bill but acknowledged that amendments to it will be accepted.
One of the amendments that will "certainly" be accepted concerns public funds for the financing of campaigns.
Torres added that "there seems to be a consensus" to eliminate the financing of primaries and the dates for them, which the party will be willing to accept.
In addition, amendments to the mechanism that will be created to ensure compliance with the law are also welcomed.
Torres noted that he was confident that the study and final approval of the bills by the legislators would include amendments, which will save the "values" of the proposed law.
"Im confident that the legislators will study and evaluate these bills, accepting any possible amendment without altering its main values," Torres said.
He reaffirmed the partys decision to endorse as drafted the increase in penalties to violators of the Electoral Law, and the due dates to file charges for possible violations.
Torres made his statements during a press conference at the Puerta de Tierra party headquarters aimed at criticizing the New Progressive Partys (NPP) opposition to the bill during Tuesdays hearing at the House of Representatives.
NPP Secretary General William Rosales said among other things that the bill was drafted without the oppositions participation.
Torres denied the allegations and accused the NPP of delivering a "poor, lazy, contradictory, and irresponsible" 7-page statement.
Like numerous government figures, including State Elections Commission President Aurelio Gracia, Rosales also criticized the amount of public funds that will be used to finance the political aspirations of others.
Although he admitted that the proposed money figure could indeed change, Torres did not waste an opportunity to accuse Rosales of opposing the public financing when the NPP has "tolerated, sponsored, and benefited from illegal donations."
Vizcarrondo Will Not Pay Edwin Mundos Lawyer Fees
October 17, 2002
PONCE (AP) House Speaker Carlos Vizcarrondo said Thursday that he will not pay a single cent of the legal fees of Rep. Edwin Mundo, who won a special election in the New Progressive Party.
Vizcarrondo said he would appeal if U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Dominguez orders the House of Representatives to pay the fees.
Mundo turned to the U.S. District Court in San Juan after the House of Representatives refused to swear him in after he won the election to occupy the post vacated by Angel Cintron.
Mundos lawyer, Charlie Rodriguez, filed a motion before Dominguez asking him to obligate Vizcarrondo to pay from his pocket Rodriguezs fees of $17,562, plus $381 in expenses.
Vizcarrondo told a radio station that he does not have to pay that money as Mundo and his attorney allege.
Moreover, in view of criticism on how he handled this case, Vizcarrondo insisted that Mundo was sworn in because the House of Representatives determined it appropriate after a study and not because of the decision of Dominguez, who asked the legislative body to show why the statehood leader should not be accepted in the House.
Calderon: Not All Efforts To Oust Navy Have Been Made
October 16, 2002
SAN JUAN (AP) - Gov. Sila Calderon disagreed with Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vilas statements regarding the efforts her administration has been making on the Vieques issue and affirmed that contrary to his opinion, not all efforts to achieve the removal of the U.S. Navy have been made.
"This government will stop at nothing to ensure that the bombing is halted," Calderon said.
The governor disagreed with Acevedo Vila but said he had probably been "misinterpreted" as he must have said the government has "done everything humanly possible" to oust the Navy, but that did not necessarily mean that the government had given up.
"When a cause is worthy, there is always something else that could be done, and I wont give in to anything to ensure that the bombing is halted, which is what the people of Puerto Rico want," Calderon said.
One of the further efforts that could be made on was to publicly endorse the candidacy of Republican Gov. Jeb Bushs re-election in hopes that he might lobby in favor of Vieques with his brother, President George W. Bush.
Calderon has repeatedly said that she believes in President Bushs word, but she has failed to obtain a written commitment regarding the removal of the Navy from Vieques by May 2003.
Almost a month ago Calderon sent President Bush a letter requesting a written commitment regarding the Navy ousting. The White House has yet to issue an official statement on the matter.