Ruling On NPPs Dismissal Petition Set For Dec. 10th Legislators Upset With Vizcarrando Anti-Navy Protesters Set Up Camp PRTC Offers Travel Kiosks MLB Expects $10M From Expos SJ Games, Reds Welcome Shift To Island More Aggressive AIDS Fight Urged PIP Recommends Vieques Cleanup Steps Govt. To Draft 2025 Water Plan
Superior Judge To Rule On NPPs Dismissal Petition Dec. 10
By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News
December 2, 2002
After hearing the arguments of the defense attorneys of each New Progressive Party (NPP) member accused of rioting on June 20 at the Womens Advocate Office, San Juan Superior Judge Heriberto Sepulveda said he would issue his decision on whether to dismiss the charges against them on Dec. 10.
Actually, Mondays hearing should have been held on that date. However, it was moved forward when a published report cited police Lt. Melquiades Alvarez Alicea saying that the prosecution failed to include his sworn statement in the list of witnesses who had been interview for the case.
Alvarez Alicea allegedly said he never saw NPP President Carlos Pesquera, NPP former Rep. Leo Diaz Urbina, NPP Rep. Edwin Mundo, and NPP Electoral Commissioner Thomas Rivera Schatz commit any crime or incite a riot.
"It is very strange that this information was not made available to us. Here we have a high-ranking police officer who has said in a sworn testimony what weve been saying all the time: that we havent committed any crime," said Pesquera on his arrival at the San Juan Superior Court Monday.
"I think the people of Puerto Rico should take note of this matter," Pesquera added.
During Mondays hearing each of the defense attorneys argued that the rioting charges should be dismissed because the prosecution has failed to prove that there was a criminal intent to cause a riot.
If the Superior judge rules against the defense, the four NPP leaders will have to face trial on Feb. 3.
However, prosecutors Jose Capo and Gabriel Redondo argued that the prosecution only need to prove negligence and not criminal intent, as initially stated in the indictment.
The defense attorneys said the prosecution was contradicting itself by changing their argument now. However, this didnt seem to bother them or the four NPP leaders facing the charges.
"They can do whatever they want with the consequences that their actions may bring with them. To first allege that there were criminal intentions only to retract later, denotes weakness, ambivalence, and doubt," said Rivera Schatz following the hearing.
Meanwhile, Roberto Alonso, who is Rivera Schatzs attorney, said what happened on June 20 was only a case of individuals exerting their constitutional right of freedom of speech.
"History shows that every right, especially under the U.S. Constitution, has been achieved through protesting. Rights have never been achieved by praying," Alonso said.
The four NPP leaders have been accused of rioting after they forced themselves into the Womens Advocate Office to place a U.S. flag in the agencys lobby.
Since then, Pesquera and every NPP leader have insisted that the government has been trying to set up a case against them, as part of Gov. Sila Calderons alleged effort to destroy the pro statehood political party.
Legislators Upset With House Speaker
December 2, 2002
PONCE (AP) - New Progressive Party (NPP) House minority leader Anibal Vega Borges lambasted House Speaker Carlos Vizcarrondo for not acknowledging the rights of the NPP delegation.
Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Rep. Roberto Cruz Rodriguez, who had supported former PDP legislator Jorge De Castro Font for House speaker, also expressed himself against Vizcarrondo.
"The House speaker is not acknowledging the rights of the minorities, contrary to his predecessors, who had that consideration and respect when the PDP delegation was a minority," said Vega Borges.
In that sense, he said Vizcarrondo hasn't emulated former speakers Zaida Hernandez and Edison Misla Aldarondo.
"They always gave the PDP minority a chance to participate, something Carlos Vizcarrondo hasn't done," said Vega Borges.
He added that Vizcarrondo has misinterpreted the rights of minorities in the Legislative Assembly.
Meanwhile, Cruz Rodriguez criticized the alliances Vizcarrondo has established with those who supported him for House speaker.
He said Vizcarrondo has refused to discuss the matter with him and with other legislators.
Cruz Rodriguez also criticized that his colleague Francisco Zayas Seijo has received the best share in funds just because he supported Vizcarrondo.
"There is no consensus, he doesn't want to listen. Vizcarrondo only says what Zayas Seijo says," added Cruz Rodriguez.
The PDP legislator said he understands Vizcarrondo's position, as this is a matter of loyalty. Nevertheless, he said this must stop.
Cruz Rodriguez said Vizcarrondo will have to listen to him in the next legislative session.
Anti-Navy Protesters Set Up Camp On Island Off Vieques
December 1, 2002
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - About 20 anti-Navy activists set up a protest camp on a barren key off Vieques island's east-coast bombing range, where the U.S. military carries out training exercises, the protesters' spokesman said Sunday.
The group vowed to keep activists on Key la Yayi constantly through December to protest any future Navy exercises planned on Vieques, said Hector Olivieri, spokesman for the Key La Yayi Collective.
"Once the bombings begin, people who are here will be acting in disobedience, and we will see what happens," he said.
Key la Yayi, about 45 minutes by powerboat from Vieques, is open to the public year-round, except when the Navy is conducting exercises and the area falls under Navy-designated "danger zone."
The Navy, however, is unable to interfere with the protesters since a May court decision confirmed the land was under Puerto Rican government jurisdiction, and not U.S. Navy.
On Saturday, the group finished building a large wooden house with an electrical generator to accommodate the camping protesters, he said.
"Some will be here during the week days and other during the weekends," he said. On Saturday night, a group of seven - two couples and their children - spent the night.
Military guards "lit up the beaches, but they did not say anything to us ... they just held watch over the coasts" near the bombing range, Olivieri said. No new exercises have been announced.
"We are going to stay here until May 2003," he said, referring to President George W. Bush's verbal promise to end Navy exercises on Vieques by that date.
The Navy controls one-third of Vieques, and for almost six decades has used its bombing range there to prepare for international conflicts.
Protests against the bombing exercises surged in the U.S. territory in 1999, when a civilian security guard was killed by off-target bombs on the firing range. Since then, only inert bombs have been used.
Hundreds of opponents have been arrested and jailed for trespassing on Navy lands while protesting.
The Key la Yayi Collective set up its first camp in May 1999, but abandoned the key after the Navy arrested hundreds in 2000. Earlier this year, an appeals court ruled that the key was under Puerto Rican jurisdiction and Navy arrests there were illegal.
Puerto Rico Sets Up Travel Kiosks
December 1, 2002
Computer kiosks are being set up at eight convenience stores around Puerto Rico to aid travelers 24 hours a day, according to tourism officials.
The new one-stop travel spots will offer maps, guides, and information on local attractions, accommodations and beaches. The kiosks will be located in selected Esso On The Run stores.
The Puerto Rico Tourism Company also provides various booklets that give detailed information about festivals, transportation and the location of paradores.
Paradores, all located outside of metropolitan San Juan, are inns designated by tourism officials as having a special flavor of the island.
"One of our ongoing goals at the PRTC is to educate travelers about the wide array of activities available in Puerto Rico, and make the entire island as accessible as possible," says Milton Segarra, executive director of the PRTC. He says the installation of all eight kiosks should be completed before the end of the year.
For more information call (800) 866-7827 or visit www.gotopuertorico.com.
MLB Expects $10M From Expos SJ Games
December 1, 2002
At the Nov. 20 owners' meeting, the owners were told that baseball's economic plan for the Expos was to have them break even next season. Last season the Expos lost $8.5 to $10 million. Baseball expects to make $10 million from the games the Expos play in Puerto Rico next season.
Owners concluded the only way the Expos could break even would be for their payroll to remain the same as it was last season, and the only way to keep the payroll the same would be to shed some of their higher-priced players.
The calls were made, but they were premature. No trade discussions ensued.
Not Everybody's Crying About The Shift Of 22 Expos Home Games To Puerto Rico
December 1, 2002
A half-full glass: Not everybody's crying about the shift of 22 Expos home games to Puerto Rico. Cincinnati players think it's a great idea.
"Baseball is a long season, and anything new that breaks up the monotony is accepted by the players," catcher Kelly Stinnett said.
The Reds play a four-game series April 14-17 at Wrigley Field and then will go to San Juan for three games against Montreal, pending union approval.
"We can wear our long-sleeved, high-necked sweatshirts in Chicago, then shorts in Puerto Rico," first baseman Sean Casey said.
Government Urged To Be More Aggressive In Fighting AIDS
December 1, 2002
SAN JUAN (AP) On the day before the World AIDS Alert Day, AIDS Patients Pro Healthy Policy President Jose Colon urged the government to establish a more aggressive public policy to fight this evil.
Colon said as part of that public policy, the state should facilitate the distribution of syringes and condoms to help reduce the risk of transmitting the disease.
"We cannot continue maintaining public policies such as the one that prohibits the sale of syringes in commercial establishments," he said.
He said that situation causes intravenous drug users to continue using infected syringes, which exposes the population to a sharp increase of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C, both dangerous, non-curable diseases.
According to Colon, the experience of other countries that have changed this policy demonstrates a decline of up to 46%, such as the cases of Spain, Argentina, Brazil, and Holland.
The activist said in a press release that "it is the duty of the state and the church to face, over any other consideration, the urgency of this pandemic with methods that to many are unpleasant but are necessary," such as the distribution of condoms.
The organizations president also urged the population to take the HIV test as a way to face the threat of the disease and prevent its propagation.
PIP Presents Plan For Navy To Decontaminate Vieques
November 30, 2002
SAN JUAN (AP) The U.S Navy should clean and return all the land it has occupied during the more than 60 years of military practices in Vieques.
Puerto Rican Independent Party (PIP) leaders presented Friday a six-step plan that should form part of the transition agreement that is signed for the cessation of military practices on that island municipality in May 2003.
PIP Vice President Maria de Lourdes Santiago emphasized that the proposal prohibits the land from being used for military purposes again and demands its inclusion in the priorities list of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
It also requires the Navy to set aside 0.1% of its annual budget over the next 10 years for the investigation, analysis, and cleanup of any environmental damage in Vieques.
The Navy has denied in several occasions that its military practices damage the environment or the health of Viequenses.
The PIPs plan also includes that the federal government adopt an Federal Facilities Agreement for organizing land for cleanup and that the Puerto Rico government demand active participation in the making of decisions on cleanup.
Meanwhile, PIP environmental adviser Jorge Fernandez Porto said the government cannot wait until May 2003 to start negotiating the matters related to the cleanup because it would run the risk that the Navy would wash its hands from that responsibility.
President George W. Bush has said the Navy would stop military practices on the island municipality on May 2003.
Govt. To Draft Water Resources Management Plan
November 29, 2002
Autoridad de Acueductos y Alcantarillados de Puerto RicoOndeo
Puerto Rico's natural resources and environment department (DRNA) has created a public-private committee that will draft a plan for the integral management of the island's water resources, DRNA secretarySalvador Salas.
The committee will not only look at the Acuifero del Sur aqueduct and other aqueducts, but will also analyze above-ground water resources including dams, El Nuevo Dia quoted Salas as saying.
The US$4mn plan will look at Puerto Rico's water supply needs through 2025, he added, commenting that the Electric Energy Authority (AEE) and France's Ondeo will finance 80% of the plan's US$4mn cost.
The other agencies involved, such as the country's environmental quality board (JCA) and water authority AAA, will finance the remainder.
The committee will hold a meeting December 7 that will kick off the study that will take an estimated 18 months, he said.