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Farrow: Vieques Alternatives Approved... Wal-Mart Can Sue Gov’t… Hispanic Caucus To Visit Island… March Called For Vieques Peace…Last Convict Still At Large…OAS Focuses on Caribbean Security Threats…Expedited Wal-Mart Appeal Sought

Farrow: Vieques Alternatives Approved...

January 9, 2003
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — The announcement regarding the certification of the alternate sites to the U.S. Navy target range in Vieques could be official before Friday said on Wednesday former White House Intergovernmental Affairs Office Director Jeffrey Farrow.

The former White House official in charge of the island’s affairs under the Clinton administration affirmed on Wednesday that the naval operations performed in Vieques will be moved to seven different locations.

"It is programmed for Friday, but I think that it could be sooner. The matter has already been decided," Farrow said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

Among the locations chosen he mentioned Camp Lejeune and Cherry Point, in North Carolina, as well as Eglin Air Force Base, Avon Park and Pine Castle, in Florida.

He also said that the command post and computers will be located in Key West, while the aircraft carriers will be stationed in Pensacola, Florida.

According to Farrow, meetings will continue Wednesday among Navy high ranking officers and key members of the Armed Forces Committee and Congress Defense Sub Committees. The final announcement will depend on the results of those meetings.

The public policy advisor said that after the death of a civilian by an errant bomb in 1999 and subsequent protests, U.S. military authorities learned that they could not depend on only one location for their trainings.

"The accident and the occupation of the target range for a year by Ruben [Berrios] served as a learning experience because they were relying on just one location to train and that was not the way to have achieve good training. They understood they needed more firing ranges and more military bases to achieve better training for the troops," he added.

Farrow also criticized the current administration because of "echar por la borda" the presidential directives issued by former President Clinton regarding Vieques.

According to the former public official, the directives guaranteed Puerto Ricans certain benefits which were withdrawn by the approval of a new law regarding the future of the military land in Vieques.

He questioned how it is possible that having a statement regarding the cessation of bombing in Vieques, the Calderon administration refuses to withdraw the lawsuit filed against the U.S. Navy based on the local Anti Noise Law of 2001.

"What she did was to create controversies in Washington and in Puerto Rico and break the Clinton-Rossello agreement without achieving a day before the previously agreed date: May 1, 2003," he said.

He affirmed that Calderon’s actions and those of Vieques Mayor Damaso Serrano had also delayed the disbursement of $40 million destined for infrastructure works in the island-municipality.

"The Vieques residents are the ones who have lost through her actions," he said.

Farrow explained that because of the lawsuit against the U.S. Navy and "breaking the agreement", the congressmen decided to change the law approved by Congress after the Clinton Rossello agreement.

One of those changes is that the 12,000 acres of the east land, where the firing range is located will be transferred to the U.S. Department of the Interior and not to the government of Puerto Rico, Farrow said.

According to the former White House official, the law abolished by Congress after the change of administration in Puerto Rico established that at least 3,000 acres would be transferred to the U.S. Department of the Interior and over 9,000 would be divided between the municipal administration and the Puerto Rico central government.

Wal-Mart Can Sue Puerto Rico Government

January 9, 2003
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — U.S. District Court Judge Juan Perez Gimenez denied a petition by Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Wal-Mart and Supermercados Amigo for alleged violations to their constitutional rights.

The decision opens the door for Wal-Mart to file a lawsuit against the Puerto Rico government, since according to Perez Gimenez, the Justice Department’s opposition to the Wal-Mart/Amigo merger was based on the fact that it is an administrative decision to establish public policy regarding matter of public concern.

The Justice Department alleged that the federal judge should have abstained from hearing the case.

But Perez Gimenez determined that the actions of the Justice Department regarding the Wal-Mart/Amigo merger has nothing to do with the application of the Puerto Rico’s anti monopoly law, but with violations to constitutional rights.

Hispanic Caucus To Visit Island

January 9, 2003
Copyright © 2002 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

Washington D.C. — Members of the Congress Hispanic Caucus will hold in Puerto Rico the annual meeting of the board of directors of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila announced Thursday. The resident commissioner indicated that the institute’s meeting is scheduled for Jan. 22-26.

Acevedo Vila said in addition to the board’s work sessions, the group will visit a school with Education Secretary Cesar Rey and will attend an informative panel on educational advancements sponsored by the institute for university students.

The institute is the educational arm of the Congress Hispanic Caucus that was created in 1978 as a non-profit institution to develop Hispanic leaders in the United States and encourage their education.

The resident commissioner said more than a dozen members of the caucus will travel to the island, including incoming President Ciro Rodriguez, as well as outgoing President Silvestre Reyes, both Democrats from Texas.

"The support of the Hispanic members of Congress for Puerto Rico has been fundamental during the past two years. Their support was very important for Puerto Rico to receive a just and equal deal in the distribution of federal funds for elementary schools under the Title I Program, which is the most important federal education program in the United States," Acevedo Vila said.

March Called For Peace In Vieques

January 9, 2003
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Representatives from several civic, social, and labor organizations on Thursday called on the people to participate in the "Caminata por la Paz y la Vida," to take place during the weekend to insist on the U.S. Navy leaving Vieques.

The activity is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday as a protest against the announced resuming of military training on Monday, which will last for 29 days. Vieques Mayor Damaso Serrano said the march is the preamble of the ousting.

The protesters, who will begin the event in Vieques and will head to Fajardo by sea at 7 a.m. on Saturday, will march to Carolina on Saturday, where they will stay overnight to head to the Third Millennium Park in Puerta de Tierra on Sunday.

The Last Of Five Escaped Convicts Still Alive, At Large In Puerto Rico

January 9, 2003
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

PONCE, Puerto Rico (AP) - The last of five convicted murderers who escaped from prison in a hijacked helicopter last month is still alive and at large, police said Thursday, discounting rumors he may have died.

Dozens of police officers were still searching for Victor Gonzalez Diaz, 31, said Lt. Col. Elvin Toro, who is heading the U.S. territory's manhunt. Police have recaptured the four other fugitives.

One of the four recaptured had told police the others had killed Gonzalez after the escape, a police officer said on condition of anonymity.

"We canvassed (a wide area) and have found no cadaver," Toro said. "From my understanding, this person is not dead and, according to information we have, he's in the city of Ponce."

Authorities charged two other men with aircraft piracy last week for allegedly hijacking a helicopter and ordering the pilot to pick up five inmates from the maximum security compound in south-coast Ponce, according to the FBI.

To meet the helicopter on a prison rooftop, the inmates had cut a hole in the chain-link fence covering the prison's basketball court.

The four recaptured convicts were also charged with aircraft piracy and conspiracy, the FBI said.

Authorities, meanwhile, were still investigating why guards didn't shoot at the helicopter when it picked up the five inmates. One of them, unable to squeeze into the five-seat chopper, clung to the skids as it flew away.

OAS Meeting Focuses on Caribbean Security Threats

January 9, 2003
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent (AP) -- Officials from throughout the Americas are holding a meeting to discuss concerns that terrorists could use remote islands as stop-off points on their way to carry out attacks.

In a three-day Organization of American States meeting that began Wednesday night, officials were considering ways to cooperate in preventing terrorists from operating in the Caribbean or using it as a way-station for attacks on the United States.

``We are on the threshold of the reevaluation of the entire regional security system,'' OAS Assistant Secretary-General Luigi Einaudi said.

Officials say they are concerned terrorists could pass through small airports or step off boats on poorly patrolled coastlines as they head for their targets. They warn that if terrorists slip into U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands, the United States is a short plane ride away.

Others argue that the October bombing of a nightclub on the Indonesian island of Bali that killed 192 people suggests Caribbean tourist resorts could be targeted by terrorists.

``The vulnerability for most Caribbean states is in the tourist area,'' said Anthony Bryan, professor of international relations at the University of Miami's North-South Center.

There are few, if any, terrorist groups based in the Caribbean, experts say. But the threat of outsiders taking advantage of what some see as ``relaxed'' security is of greater concern, said Paul Wilkinson, a professor at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland who studies terrorism.

Justice To Request Wal-Mart Appeal Be Sped Up

January 8, 2003
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez announced that she will file a request to the Boston First Circuit of Appeals regarding the terms to consider the appeal against the Wal-Mart/Amigo merger.

"We are going to request that the appeal be addressed expeditiously," Rodriguez said in published reports.

Rodriguez hopes that the Boston Appeals Court revokes U.S. District Court Judge Juan Perez Jimenez’s decision impeding Justice to intervene in the transaction.

The Puerto Rico government tried to halt the merger after deciding that it violates the local anti monopoly law.

"This is a grave situation, since the Justice secretary is required to comply with the law," the secretary said.

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