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Archbishop Accuses Israel Of Oppressing Christians, Possible Move Of Vieques Range To Bahamas Raises Concerns, Hundreds Protest Against Navy & Iraq, Calderon In NY: Talks Up Special Communities, Endorses Pataki, Fas Alzamora: French Trip’s Aim To Internationalize Island

Archbishop Accuses Israel Of Oppressing Christians And Prompting A Mass Exodus


October 26, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - About 60 percent of Christians living in Israel have left the country because they feel marginalized by the Israeli government, San Juan's archbishop said after visiting the country.

Roman Catholic Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez Nieves said on Friday there had been a decline in Christianity in the region.

Religious prejudice and Israel's political situation were to blame for the "extirpation of the Christian presence in the Holy Land," he said.

During his trip, the archbishop said he observed "a lot of fear, an enormous desolation, an urgent need, profound pain over a war without a pretext for peace in the short term."

Two years ago, statistics showed that about 130,000 Christians lived in Israel, making up 2.1 percent of the total population. An additional 50,000 Christians live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Only a minority of Holy Land Christians are Roman Catholic, however - an estimated 60,000 Catholics total live in Israel, the Palestinian areas, Jordan and Cyprus.

While the total number of Christians in the Holy Land has increased slightly from 143,000 in 1947, their percentage of the total population has dropped from 7 percent then to just over 2 percent about two years ago. Emigration and low birth rates have contributed to the decline.

Possible Move Of USA's Vieques Firing-Range To Bahamas Raises Concerns

October 26, 2002
Copyright © 2002 BBC MONITORING. All rights reserved. 

Source: Caribbean Media Corporation news agency, BrIdgetown

Text of report by Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) news agency on 25 October

Nassau, The Bahamas: The possibility of the US navy transferring its controversial military exercises from the Puerto Rican island of Vieques to the Bahamas concerns local authorities, Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell has confirmed.

"This is a situation we do not like," Mitchell to reporters.

However, he made it clear that the government of Prime Minister Perry Christie had not received a formal request from Washington.

Pentagon officials recently announced that the Bahaman Island of Andros and Eglin Air Base in Florida would be used by the US Navy, after US President George W. Bush promised to close the Vieques training camp, where there is a strong popular movement against the manoeuvres.

Protests against the US military presence on Vieques increased in 1999, after a bomb thrown from a plane missed the target and killed a civilian worker on the island.

Vieques inhabitants also raised health and environmental concerns. Now Bahamians are afraid of similar risks associated with the war games.

A report in the Nassau Tribune recalled that in August, Washington promised not to continue using naval sonar technology in the country, since it is considered harmful to human health.

Hundreds Protest Against Vieques, Iraq

October 26, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - Several hundred protesters chanted and marched in a circle in front of a U.S. National Guard base in Puerto Rico on Saturday to protest plans for war against Iraq and the U.S. Navy's presence in Vieques.

The protest coincided with other anti-war protests in Washington; San Francisco; Berlin; Copenhagen, Denmark; Rome; Tokyo; and Mexico City. Organizers say they expected the combined participation of hundreds of thousands of people.

Some of the protesters marching in front of the military base in San Juan were waving Puerto Rican, Iraqi, Palestinian, and Vieques flags. One person held a sign with a photograph of President George W. Bush with a swastika drawn on his forehead. The words "The biggest terrorist" were written underneath.

Protesters chanted "The imperialist Navy is the biggest terrorist."

Police blocked off two lanes of traffic in front of the base to provide space for the protesters. There was a counterprotest of about 50 people waving U.S. flags and some of them stood in from of a large banner which said "Navy, stay."

The two groups were separated from each other by police barricades.

Despite Bush's pledge that the training will end by May, Puerto Rico's government and opponents are concerned the Navy will stay as the United States considers war with Iraq.

Calderon Centers N.Y. Message On Special Communities

October 26, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – With a message on her government’s efforts in favor of poor communities, Gov. Sila Calderon participated in a gala of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Funds.

In her speech Friday, the governor also talked about the U.S. Navy’s confirmation that it will soon start the process to move its military practices from and the Puerto Rico government’s campaign to increase the participation of Puerto Rican residents in the United States in the country’s elections.

Calderon highlighted her administration’s project to create the Perpetual Trust for Special Communities, which will have a $1 billion fund to rehabilitate the marginalized communities.

"We are embarking on the greatest investment project in housing and infrastructure ever conducted in Puerto Rico for the benefit of our most needy citizens," the governor said in her message, which was distributed to the press by La Fortaleza.

On the Navy’s announcement, Calderon thanked the Hispanic, African American, and minority leaders of the United States that support the cessation of the military exercises in Vieques.

Calderon Endorses Pataki


October 25, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

NEW YORK (AP) - Puerto Rico Gov. Sila Calderon on Friday endorsed New York Gov. George Pataki in his re-election campaign, saying it was the first time she has backed a Republican.

Pataki "is a true and loyal friend of Puerto Rico and our people," the governor of the U.S. territory in the Caribbean said after a midtown Manhattan rally attended by hundreds of members of a coalition of Hispanic leaders and other Pataki supporters.

Calderon said she was endorsing the New York governor because he has fought to end U.S. Navy bombing exercises on the island of Vieques , just off Puerto Rico .

Pataki has visited the island, urging the U.S. government to stop six decades of military training there. Opponents say the exercises harm the environment and the health of the island's 9,100 residents. The Navy denies the accusations.

Since she took office in 2001, Calderon said, "I have witnessed the sincerity of his (Pataki's) concern for their suffering and his consistent efforts to intercede in Washington on the side of our people."

Despite President Bush's pledge that the training will end by May, Puerto Rico 's government is concerned the Navy will stay as the United States considers war with Iraq.

Calderon is a member of the Popular Democratic Party, which has had longtime links to the Democratic Party. The party supports the current relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico , which allows the Caribbean island to be self-governed while under the jurisdiction of U.S. laws.

Puerto Ricans do not pay federal taxes and do not vote in U.S. presidential elections.

The rally was held at the Manhattan headquarters of the Service Employees International Union Local 1199, whose president, Dennis Rivera, is one of the state's most visible Hispanic leaders.

Rivera and his union have endorsed Pataki in a rare backing by labor of a Republican.

Pataki told Calderon on Friday: "I am honored and proud to have the support of Sila Calderon, my good friend and respected colleague. New Yorkers and the people of Puerto Rico are closely tied together. ... Together, we fought to end the bombing on the island of Vieques ."

Protests against the exercises on the eastern tip of Vieques surged when a civilian security guard was killed by off-target bombs on the firing range in 1999.

The military has used only inert ammunition since. Hundreds of opponents have been arrested and jailed for trespassing on Navy lands to protest the training.

Calderon said she planned to campaign on Saturday for Frank Lautenberg, a Democrat who retired from the Senate but has emerged as an emergency fill-in for Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., who was dropping in the polls due to questions about his ethics.

Some 3.4 million people of Puerto Rican descent live in the United States, 1 million of them in New York.

Fas Alzamora: French Trip’s Aim To Internationalize Island

By Proviana Colon Diaz

October 25, 2002
Copyright © 2002 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora, along with two fellow legislators who made a $9,000 official visit to France, vehemently defended Friday their trip as part of the Legislature’s efforts to internationalize the island.

"To be recognized by the French parliament and the French senate, as well as UNESCO, is something that had never been achieved by the Puerto Rico government," Fas Alzamora said.

Although the direct results of their efforts will not be seen until official documents are drafted, Fas Alzamora described as an achievement a promise for exchange in legislative action between the French parliament and Puerto Rico Senate.

The president also described as an achievement the possible entrance of Puerto Rico into UNESCO as an associate member. Such admittance, however, will be conditional on the United States, who could be re-entering the organization soon.

The three-member delegation also visited the European Parliament and was recognized by it, an action that in Fas Alzamora’s opinion, is of a historic nature.

"For the first time in the history of that parliament, Puerto Rico was officially recognized for its agenda on exterior policy," Fas Alzamora said.

Senate Vice President Velda Gonzalez said their efforts are part of the Senate’s agenda to bring Puerto Rico to prominence on an international basis, something that in her opinion, the previous administration failed to achieve.

"The previous administration limited the opportunities of the commonwealth, and what we are doing is maximizing its potential," Gonzalez said.

The veteran senator who is a former actress added that efforts were begun to send Puerto Rican music, poetry, and books to France for a weekly radio program that will expose the French people to the island’s culture.

Although student exchange programs do exist within the state public university system, Fas Alzamora said an official communication within the systems was also discussed.

This will enable the Legislature to assign funds for students who wish to study abroad but must pay for their studies, since funds are only for universities within the United States.

Sen. Jose Ortiz Dalliot noted that the French Chamber of Commerce would be visiting the island next year on a commercial mission, for which he also took the opportunity to meet with some business people interested in establishing themselves in Puerto Rico.

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