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Girl Struck By Stray Bullet On New Year's Eve Dies…Status Issue Off White House Agenda…Two Charged In Helicopter Hijacking…Public Housing Gets $26.6M In Federal Funds…Bush Won’t Answer Governor’s Letter About Navy Practices…Nealy 500 Ft Of Camp Garcia Fence Knocked Down…Puerto Rico Committee 2025 Starts Work

Girl Struck By Apparent Stray Bullet On New Year's Eve Dies In Puerto Rican Hospital


January 6, 2003
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - A girl who was hit by a stray bullet during New Year's celebrations died in a San Juan hospital, police said Monday.

Jennifer Perez Centeno, 12, was celebrating Tuesday night with her family in the San Juan suburb of Canovanas when she was struck by a single bullet. Perez did not have movement in her legs immediately following the shooting, police said.

She died in Rio Piedras Medical Center on Sunday, police spokeswoman Galnilca Pena said. Pena did not know if anybody had been arrested in the case but the girl's death was being treated as a homicide, she said.

At least 23 people were wounded by stray bullets during New Year's celebrations in Puerto Rico this year. Some islanders shoot guns into the air on New Year's Eve about midnight, although police have warned against the practice. Some bystanders are injured every year in the U.S. Caribbean territory.

Status Issue Out Of White House Agenda

January 5, 2003
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – Gov. Sila Calderon will have to make an effort to progress the dialogue on status since the topic seems to be off the agenda of the U.S. government, according to a White House official.

The Bush administration "continues to be available to work with the different sectors" interested in the theme, Mercy Viana, spokeswoman of the White House, said in published reports.

However, for the moment, the White House does not have on agenda concrete actions of the special working group that President George W. Bush established in 2001 and whose work has maintained in the strangest confidentiality, it was indicated.

According to Viana, the officials of the federal agencies that compose the working group are dedicated, after Sept. 11, 2001, to the matters of U.S. internal security.

Meanwhile, Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila affirmed that during his two years in Congress, he has never found a real interest in Washington of moving the status issue forward.

Two Charged In Helicopter Hijacking

January 4, 2003
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- Authorities charged two men Friday with hijacking the helicopter that was used to spirit five convicts out of a Puerto Rican prison.

Angel Rivera Marcano and Jesus Rojas Tapia were cited for armed aircraft piracy and carrying a weapon on an aircraft. Authorities said they pointed guns at the chartered helicopter's pilot and ordered him to fly to the prison in the southern city of Ponce.

Rojas is the brother of one of the convicts, Jose Rojas Tapia. The five were serving lengthy murder sentences when the chopper swooped down Monday and lifted them from a prison rooftop.

Four of the five convicts have been captured. The FBI said in a statement that they also were charged with hijacking the aircraft as well as conspiracy.

Some 80 police officers were searching for a fifth escaped convict, Victor Gonzalez Diaz, believed to be at large in a forest in central Puerto Rico.

The incident mirrored another escape on April 7, 1991, when three prisoners flew out of the Rio Piedras State Penitentiary in a hijacked helicopter. Two were recaptured, while a third reportedly remains at large.

Housing To Invest $26.6 Million In Federal Funds In Public Housing

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

January 4, 2003
Copyright © 2002 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

Housing Secretary Ileana Echegoyen announced Friday a $26.5 million federal fund investment for improvements to 26 public housing projects across the island.

The 26 projects are the first of the 329 projects in which the government plans to invest $1.35 billion during the next two years as part of the Calderon administration’s Modernization Program.

At the end of the two-year period, a total 20,148 housing units will be revamped.

Echegoyen, along with Public Housing Administrator Carlos Laboy Diaz, announced the initial investment during a morning activity at the vacant spot where Las Acacias public housing project used to be. The vacant lot will now be transformed into community areas of the Puerta de Tierra project, where renovations include transforming the space of each unit to meet federal standards.

Laboy Diaz said renovations to the housing units include new electric infrastructure, aqueduct, windows, floors, and interior and exterior painting.

"There are houses that for example, the sizes of bathroom doors have to be changed to fit handicap standards; others don’t have the proper wiring to install smoke detectors; and others don’t have closets; and so on," Laboy Diaz said.

Echegoyen said the key to the modernization program is that the particular needs of each housing project were taken into consideration, as the residents were consulted before any final decision were reached.

"The Modernization Program is not only cement and blocks; we have to provide community facilities for the self-sufficiency of our families," Echegoyen said.

The first 26 housing projects are located in the municipalities of Fajardo, Cataño, San Juan, Carolina, Juncos, Ponce, Aguas Buenas, Cayey, Luquillo, and Humacao, among others.

Echegoyen noted that in those cases were relocations of families have to be made in order for the renovations to be completed, the arraignments for such moves have already been taken care of.

Bush Won’t Answer Governor’s Letter About Navy Practices

January 3, 2003
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – The White House referred the letter sent by Gov. Sila Calderon in repudiation of the announcement made by the U.S. Navy last week regarding a new round of military exercises in Vieques by Jan. 13.

Mercy Viana, White House spokeswoman, said in published reports that President George W. Bush would not be the one who would directly answer the letter in which the governor complains about the delay in officially certifying that the Navy would cease their training in Vieques by May.

Calderon sent a letter Dec. 27 to Bush and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card to protest the announcement made by the Navy.

According to published reports, Navy officials have privately reinstated their determination to remove the military from Vieques, but the Navy secretary has yet to certify to Congress and the White House that they have found alternative training sites similar or superior to the Vieques training zone.

Almost 500 Feet Of Fence From Camp Garcia Knocked Down

January 3, 2003
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – Two weeks before the start of the U.S. Navy’s military exercises in Vieques, military officials reported to the Police that unidentified people had knocked down 500 feet of the Camp Garcia.

The statement published in a local newspaper indicates that between Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, three incidents were reported in which unidentified people knocked down 485 feet of the fence in several areas.

Lt. Jose Belardo is investigating the incidents and said there are no suspects at the moment.

An anti-Navy activist, who did not want to be identified, said the action is in preparation for the actions to be taken against the military maneuvers that are scheduled to begin Jan. 13 and last for 29 days.

Puerto Rico Committee 2025 Starts Work

January 3, 2003
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – The Puerto Rico Committee 2025, which is in charge of developing a long-term economic and social plan for the island has already held three meetings, said Gov. Sila Calderon.

However, the governor said she has yet to decide who will be her aide in that area, since Michael Porter, an expert in third world countries at Harvard University was ruled out because he was too expensive, according to published reports.

The firms Boston Group, McKinsey, and A.T. Kearney are being considered, although Calderon noted that the committee doesn’t depend on the aide.

The committee members are mostly corporate leaders, scholars, and representatives of the community. Their positions are not subjected to changes of administration.

Some of the members are the presidents of the major universities of the island, economists, business owners, and Banco Popular President Richard Carrion, who at the moment is presiding over the group.

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