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January Exercises: "These Will Be The Last Bombings" …Farrow: Calderon Contradicts Herself Over Navy…Pesquera Noncommittal On Rossello…4 Of 5 Fugitives Apprehended… Prats: OK To Request Money From Contractors…Pentagon Continues With Vieques Withdrawal Plan, Land’s Fate Unknown

Exercises On Vieques To Be Last Before Navy Withdrawal

January 2, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - This month's military exercises in Vieques will be the last before the U.S. Navy's planned withdrawal in May, the local government said Thursday.

The Navy last week informed local officials that it could begin a month of bombing exercises as soon as Jan. 13.

"These will be the last bombings," La Fortaleza Public Affairs Secretary Jorge Colberg Toro said, but did not explain how the government would know the exercises would be the last.

The U.S. military does not disclose details on future exercises, Navy spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Kim Dixon said, adding that she did not know on what information the government was basing Thursday's statement.

Gov. Sila Calderon, who opposes the training, sent a letter to President George W. Bush on Dec. 27 calling the planned training exercises "patently offensive."

Bush has pledged the Navy would leave Vieques by May 2003. Calderon and several U.S. congressional representatives have urged Bush to put his promise in writing, as concerns mount that the United States could need the island to prepare for a possible war with Iraq.

The last round of training was held in September.

Farrow: Calderon Contradicts Herself Regarding Navy

January 2, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - Jeffrey Farrow, who was the aide of former President Bill Clinton for Puerto Rico affairs, said Gov. Sila Calderon’s statements opposing the U.S. Navy military practices on Vieques in January are contradictory to the Commonwealth system she defends.

On Friday, the governor sent a letter to President George W. Bush stating her indignation at the new round of military exercises scheduled to begin Jan. 13.

"It is one thing to have Ruben Berrios [president of the Puerto Rican Independence Party] opposing the military training, but it is another thing to have Calderon, who defends the Commonwealth, opposing them after she had accepted their presence until May 2003," Farrow said.

"One of the four pillars of the Commonwealth is the common defense and she is opposing the training. That is contradictory," Farrow said.

Pesquera Won't Say If He Wants Rossello On The Ballot

January 2, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera on Thursday again praised his mentor former Gov. Pedro Rossello and invited him to continue to contribute with the party, but avoided to categorically affirming whether he would like to have him as his ballot partner.

"I would like to see a lot of people to state their availability for a candidacy. In the end, it will be the NPP followers who will decide," he said when asked about published reports of a possible Rossello candidacy for Resident Commissioner in Washington.

Rossello, denied the reports, and said he would not run for resident commissioner.

"Pedro Rossello has told me that he wants to work for the good of the island and its residents as well as our party, and that he is going to announce at the right time how he is going to contribute," Pesquera said.

Once again he was asked if he would feel comfortable with Rossello as his ballot partner and he responded: "He was an excellent governor, he made great and transcendent changes for Puerto Rico and it is he who will decide how he is going to contribute. When he decides, then we will comment."

Police Arrest Four Of Five Fugitives; Still Looking For Last One

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

January 2, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

Local and federal authorities announced that they have already captured four of the five inmates who escaped from Las Cucharas maximum security prison in Ponce aboard a helicopter on Monday.

The two who were captured on Thursday were Jose Rojas Tapia, also known as Gordy, and Orlando Valdes Cartagena. The other two were Jose Perez Rodriguez, better known as Toni Gatillo, and Hector Marrero Diaz.

"They were spotted by U.S. Customs and FBI agents, who notified the Tactics Operations Unit of the Police, and the fugitives were detained in a joint effort," said Police Superintendent Victor Rivera.

The police also arrested a second man believed to have participated in the hijacking of the helicopter that were used to pick up the five inmates from the prison roof. He was identified as Florentino Rojas Tapia, brother of one of the fugitives. The first man who was arrested Wednesday was identified as Angel Rivera Marcano.

The authorities are still looking for Victor Gonzalez Diaz, who remains at large. The police chief said there were rumors that Gonzalez could have been dead. However, he said the hunt wouldn’t be called off until he is found.

Meanwhile, the two accomplices of the escape, Florentino and Rivera Marcano, would be lined up so that the pilot of the hijacked helicopter could identify them.

Jose Figueroa Sancha, interim FBI director in the Caribbean, said that for now, they would concentrate on finding the last fugitive.

"All participating agencies have to sit down, study the evidence and study what we have. Then the two prosecutions [both local and federal] must decide where the charges would be filed. At the moment, it is still an ongoing investigation," Figueroa Sancha said.

Ponce Police Lt. Jose De Jesus said more than 150 officers from several local and federal agencies participated in the search. He noted that the capture was made easier by the fact that the inmates were unable to reach their destination. According to other police officials, the fugitives had planned to land in Aguadilla where they would be helped, but had to land on a dense forest area between Adjuntas and Jayuya instead because the helicopter was carrying too many people.

The aircraft was carrying eight people, the pilot, the two accomplices, and the five inmates. One of them had to cling to the bottom of the helicopter.

De Jesus said the change of location was what ruined the fugitives’ plan, thus giving the authorities the upper hand.

"You must take into consideration that these people had been enduring the inclemency of the weather and hunger, thus their poor resistance. I wouldn’t doubt that they were about to surrender," said Rivera.

None of them were shot.

Prats: Nothing Wrong In Requesting Money From Contractors

January 1, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Sen. Roberto Prats sees no problem with the government requesting money from contractors for the traditional Three Kings Day festivities at la Fortaleza.

Prats said he does not know about the information published by a local newspaper regarding the request for money from Milestone Communications to government contractors to buy gifts for the event.

"Companies have a corporate responsibility for society. I think there would be no problem," said the senator in a radio interview.

According to the legislator, this is not the first time that the administration has asked for help from the private sector for the celebration.

In published reports it was revealed that the communications agency, owned by Eduardo Rivero, former Calderon aide in San Juan, sent letters to government contractors requesting $10,000 to $20,000 donations.

Pentagon Continues With Withdrawal Plan From Vieques

January 1, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Pentagon reaffirmed that the possible war with Iraq and the resuming of military practices in Vieques would not affect the plans for the U.S. Navy to cease operations in Vieques by May 2003.

"Nothing has changed, we continue with our plan to cease our maneuvers by May 1," said Lt. Comm. Dawn Cutler, Pentagon Navy spokesman in published reports.

Regarding the fear that the war with Iraq might provoke a delay in the date scheduled for the departure, Cutler affirmed that he has no information regarding the matter.

The Navy notified the Puerto Rico government that it will resume its military maneuvers in Vieques on Jan. 13, which will allow the Theodore Roosevelt battle group to obtain its certification for combat.

Government Does Not Know Future Of Vieques Military Land

January 1, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Four months from the date that the U.S. Navy should leave Vieques, the Puerto Rico government does not know what will be the future of the Navy land.

According to published reports, it is also not known whether the government will participate in the transition process.

That possibility is still the subject of discussion between Chief of Staff Cesar Miranda and military officials whom the governor failed to identify.

The U.S. Department of the Interior will be in charge of almost all the land, except for the target zone, that will remain under the Navy’s jurisdiction.

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