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Berrios Urges Calderon To Deal With Status Issue, Taboada: Wants The Military In Housing Projects, Municipalities To Fight Crime, Governor Calls For Prudence In Vieques Clean Up Demands, Acevedo Vila Campaigns With Rendell, White House: Navy Confirmed Vieques Departure, Bar Association Asks Governor To Go To UN Over Vieques

Berrios Urges Calderon To Deal With Status Issue

October 21, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) Emeritus President Ruben Berrios urged Gov. Sila Calderon and pro-statehood leader Carlos Pesquera to use this "historic moment" in which a confirmation for a halt in military practices in Vieques has been confirmed, to "take a step forward" in defining the political status of the island.

Declining to release any particular names, Berrios claimed "personal knowledge" of prominent members of both the Democratic and Republican Party in the United States who are now willing to discuss a change of status.

"I know that there are more people in the United States who want to re-evaluate the problem of the political status between the United States and Puerto Rico than those who wanted to re-evaluate the presence of the Navy," Berrios said.

The former senator added that island leaders should take advantage of such "positive attitude" in the United States, and urged Calderon to comply with her promise to form a working party to solve the status issue.

Calderon’s proposed committee has been rejected by leaders of the New Progressive Party, but she has argued that the party will be represented on the committee by prominent pro-statehood leaders who have accepted her proposal. However, she has yet to identify them.

Berrios said he is confident that once his ideas are presented and accepted, the NPP will feel at ease with the working group and will be willing to take part in it. However, he was quick to point out that the absence of the collectivity in the working group did not necessarily mean that pro-statehood followers would not be properly represented.

The PIP president said that for example the PIP as a party did not take part in the process that ended up in the drafting of the Commonwealth constitution but representatives were indeed present and some of their ideas were accepted.

Meanwhile, in matters related to Vieques, Berrios, who engaged in civil disobedience for over a year before demonstrators were removed from the restricted areas in May 2000, declined to comment on Calderon’s failure to recognize him or the thousands of trespassers who contributed in the confirmation of the end of the practices.

He said that first and foremost, the victory belonged to the people of Vieques and then to many other participants in the effort.

Unlike Calderon, the lifetime independence advocate did acknowledge former Gov. Pedro Rossello and Sen. Norma Burgos’ participation in the process.

"Obviously, in its given time, Gov. Rossello along with Sen. Norma Burgos did their part….that they later took another path is another story," Berrios said.

At a time when the Navy has declined to say what the transition process will consist of, or if the lands will be transferred and cleaned, Berrios said the party’s position will be that of the people of Vieques.

"We can’t lower our guard and obviously our struggle is that of the people of Vieques and that includes the complete transfer and cleaning of the land, among many other issues. But we won’t release our official position, regarding those aspects until we have had a chance to meet with the people of Vieques," Berrios said.

Taboada Asks To Reactivate The Military In Housing Projects

October 20, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

PONCE (AP) - Police Association President Jose Juan Taboada recommended that the administration of Gov. Sila Calderon mobilize the National Guard or the Police to occupy three Rio Piedras sectors that are being terrorized by criminals.

The former police lieutenant criticized what he believes it is the incompetence of the state, which allows criminals to prance around public housing projects of Monte Hatillo, Monte Park, and Berwind carrying machine guns.

"These violent incidents have caused schools to suspend classes during three days. Meanwhile, the state remains motionless in this situation," Taboada said.

Taboada: Municipalities Should Also Fight Organized Crime

October 21, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

PONCE (AP) — Police Association President Jose Juan Taboada on Monday advised Gov. Sila M. Calderon to grant the municipalities the powers to manage the fight against crime.

"I believe, that eventually all the police force’s responsibility to fight crime should be invested in the municipalities," Taboada said.

"That’s the way it is run in the states. County police deal with everything concerning crime," the police organization chief said.

Taboada believes that eventually legislation should be presented to grant the municipalities the main role in the fight against organized crime.

The association leader explained he is not suggesting that the state police should be eliminated; rather that the municipalities and the mayors would have the duty role to fight drug traffic and organized crime in their cities.

He said that each mayor knows his municipality’s needs and problems, which is why it would make sense to let them lead the fight against crime.

"In that sense, the municipal police agents would have to strengthen their academic and training skills," Taboada said in a radio interview.

Governor Calls For Prudence In Demands To Clean Vieques Land

October 20, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - Gov. Sila Calderon called on the people of Puerto Rico to trust the fact that the U.S. Navy will leave Vieques by May 2003.

She acknowledged that the demands of Vieques leaders requesting that the Navy clean the lands which have been contaminated during six decades of bombing are valid. However, she noted that protesters such as Vieques Mayor Damaso Serrano, should be careful with their actions. Serrano has said he would demand an apology from the federal government.

"Their point of view regarding the lands is valid and it will be taken care of in due time. It will be dealt with in the same way that my government has dealt with everything related to Vieques: with firmness, but with prudence and serenity as well as in a collaborative spirit because we are allies of the U.S.," she said.

The governor has been strongly criticized by pro-statehood leaders for not thanking former Gov. Pedro Rossello, who had worked with former U.S. President Bill Clinton to set May 2003 as the deadline for the withdrawal of the military in Vieques.

Serrano said he would request a multimillion-dollar compensation for the damages that the Navy bombings have allegedly caused to the health, ecology, and economy of Vieques.

The Vieques mayor declined to say a specific sum of money, but noted that the $40 million that the Navy has been investing in Vieques during the past two years will be "peanuts" compared to what he would probably request in a class action lawsuit.

The mayor also said he would ask Calderon to create a permanent fund to help pay for medical expenses of cancer patients in Vieques.

Acevedo Vila Campaigns With Rendell

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

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Democratic gubernatorial candidate Edward Rendell, joined by Puerto Rico's nonvoting delegate to Congress, appealed to Latinos for support Saturday.

Anibal Acevedo-Vila accompanied Rendell on stops in Philadelphia, Reading, Lancaster and other areas with sizable Latino populations.

[In Philadelphia, Rendell was at the head of the city's annual Puerto Rican Day parade. As he carved figure eights in the air with a small Puerto Rican flag, he tried to coax a cheer out of the crowd.

"I'll say 'Viva;' you say 'Puerto Rico,' " he instructed.


"Puerto Rico!"

"Viva Ed Rendell," one parade-goer shouted.]

The two men know each other from Rendell's tenure as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Rendell spokesman Dan Fee said.

"The Latino population in Pennsylvania is predominantly Puerto Rican," Fee said.

Rendell, who faces Republican Attorney General Mike Fisher in the Nov. 5 election, was recently endorsed by El Hispano, a bilingual newspaper distributed in central and eastern Pennsylvania.

Acevedo-Vila became a delegate to Congress following his November 2000 defeat of incumbent Carlos Romero Barcelo, who had held the post since 1992.

White House: Navy Confirmed Its Vieques Exit To Governor

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

SAN JUAN (AP) — A White House spokeswoman revealed that the U.S. Navy Department was entrusted to confirm to Gov. Sila Calderon that the decision to terminate military practices in Vieques on or before May 2003 is final, according to published reports.

The newspaper cites White House spokeswoman Mercy Viana saying that the communication "was sent through the Navy Department."

Anonymous sources said the transition plan should be announced no later than during November.

Before closing the firing range, according to federal law, Navy Secretary Gordon England has to certify to the president and Congress that it has alternative training sites that are better or equivalent to the firing range in Vieques.

Calderon talked Friday with a Navy official who confirmed that the plan has been ordered and the transition process will be detailed by writing soon. Kevin Wensing, spokesman of the Navy secretary, said Friday night that he does not know who talked with Calderon but indicated that England was not in Washington Friday.

Bar Association Asks Governor To Go To United Nations

October 18, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Special Commission to Attend to the Vieques Situation, attached to the Bar Association, asked Gov. Sila Calderon on Friday to go to the United Nations in March to demand that the U.S. Navy be answerable for the practices with non-conventional weapons that it conducted on the island municipality between 1962 and 1973.

Fermin Arraiza, commission chairman, said the recent admission from the Pentagon that it conducted practices with chemical and biological weapons in Vieques and other states, obligates the Navy to assume responsibility for possible health and environmental damage in Vieques.

"By this stage, the participation of the Puerto Rico government [in the next session of the U.N. Human Rights Commission] is imperative to continue with a campaign to claim our rights," Arraiza said in a letter to Calderon.

The U.N.’s next session will be held in March.

The Pentagon recently revealed before Congress details of these practices to determine how many people could have been affected by them.

Arraiza also complained that the Navy has refused to divulge details about other possible practices with non-conventional weapons by other countries in Vieques.

"Our people anxiously wait for their just claims to be vindicated, which have been ignored by the military body, and responsibility assigned for all these incidents," Arraiza indicated.

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