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War Could Bring Recession…Navy Jet Crashes During Maneuvers…Albright To Visit Island…Army Salutes Deceased Green Beret…Senate OK’s Resolutions To Investigate BPPR…Reservists Prepare For Possible Deployment…High Court Upholds Juror English Fluency Requirement…Soldier Injured In Land Mine Explosion Dies

Economist Foresees Economic Recession Due To War In Iraq

January 29, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Economist Fernando Zalacain said based on the experience of the past 30 years, Puerto Rico could go into a recession if President George W. Bush declares war on Iraq.

"All recession on the island in the past 30 years have been related to oil and the Middle East. This time wouldn’t be an exception," he said in published reports.

He added that the war’s impact wouldn’t be for a lack of gasoline but rather a hike in oil prices.

Zalacain recalled that during the Middle East conflict in 1991, oil barrel prices climbed to $40. Last year the price was approximately $24.

The economist warned that the situation could be worse than 1991’s because of the political and economic crisis in Venezuela, which is one of the world’s principal oil producers.

Navy Jet Crashes During Maneuvers

January 28, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - A U.S. Navy warplane crashed into the Caribbean Sea as it approached an aircraft carrier for landing, but two servicemen on board safely ejected, a Navy official said in published reports.

The F-14 fighter jet went down Sunday more than 1/2 mile from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, said Lt. Fred Kuebler, spokesman for the Second Fleet in Norfolk, Virginia.

"We don't know what the problem was," Kuebler said. Both the pilot and the flight officer, who was in the rear seat, ejected from the plane and were plucked from the water by a rescue helicopter.

An investigation was underway to determine what went wrong, officials said.

The two servicemen - of Fighter Squadron 213 based out of Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach, Virginia - had no serious injuries, Kuebler said. The two were not identified.

The plane, an F-14D Tomcat, sank about 60 miles east of Puerto Rico. Officials said that model costs more than $40 million.

On Sept. 10, a Navy S-3B Viking jet also crashed into the Caribbean off Puerto Rico, killing three servicemen. The cause of that crash is still under investigation, said Mike Maus, a spokesman for the Atlantic Fleet's Naval Air Force.

The F-14 that crashed this week was participating in training off Vieques, which continued Tuesday with the guided-missile cruiser USS Cape St. George firing inert shells at the island, officials said.

The current round of training, which is the last scheduled on Vieques, began Jan. 13 and could last into early February.

The Navy says it will withdraw from Vieques by May 1, turning over the island's eastern third to the U.S. Department of the Interior and moving training to spots in Florida and elsewhere on the U.S. mainland.

Former U.S. Secretary Of State Albright To Visit Island

January 28, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - Madeline Albright, former U.S. secretary of State, will visit Puerto Rico on Feb. 15. She has been invited to be a speaker at the World Forum’s 25th anniversary.

Albright, who had a leading role in the peace talks between Israel and Palestinians, will give a speech during a gala dinner in San Juan, according to published reports.

The funds raised during the event will go to charity.

The World Forum is a nonprofit organization which has organized visits by former U.S. President Gerald Ford, former USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev, former British Primer Minister Margaret Thatcher, and Queen Noor of Jordan to Puerto Rico.

Memorial Held For Soldier Who Died After Mine Explosion

January 28, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - The U.S. military held a 21-gun salute Monday for a soldier who died following a land mine explosion during training in Puerto Rico, officials said.

Capt. Adam Kocheran, 31, of Columbus, Ohio, died late Sunday after he was taken off life support. The Green Beret suffered a serious head wound in the blast on Thursday, which also injured two other soldiers.

About 350 troops gathered for the private memorial service at Roosevelt Roads Naval Station, said Lt. Col. Nicolas Britto, an Army spokesman.

Kocheran's wife attended the ceremony, and military officers presented her with a folded U.S. flag and flowers, Britto said. The soldier's remains were to be cremated and returned to Ohio.

The other two soldiers injured in the accident - Sgt. 1st Class Amil Alvarez, 32, of Santurce, and Chief Warrant Officer Christopher Brautigam, 35, of Burlingame, California - were treated at hospitals for shrapnel wounds and released.

The three were involved in routine training when the Claymore mine exploded at Camp Santiago. An investigation is underway to determine the accident's cause, Britto said.

All three soldiers involved in the accident were with the U.S. Army Special Operations Command South, based at Roosevelt Roads.

Senate Approves Three Resolutions To Investigate Banco Popular

By Proviana Colon Diaz WOW News

January 27, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

In a move very different from that of last week, the Senate unanimously approved not one but three separate resolutions for investigations into the $21.6 million fine imposed by federal authorities on Banco Popular de Puerto Rico for laundering drug trafficking money.

In addition to Puerto Rican Independence Party Sen. Fernando Martin’s and New Progressive Party Sen. Orlando Parga’s resolutions, a third filed by Popular Democratic Party Sen. Roberto Vigoreaux and Jose Luis Dalmau was added on Monday.

But while Martin’s and Parga’s resolutions were aimed at investigating terms of the transaction that led to the million-dollar fine and to the role played by the Financial Institutions Commissioner’s Office in it. The resolution filed by the PDP senators, however, is intended to determine what kind of controls could be established to prevent any similar fines within island financial institutions in the future.

Parga and Martin agreed to consolidate their resolutions so long as an investigation is held.

"We have no objection to their consolidation; what matters here is that an extraordinary event such as this be investigated," Parga said.

He noted that his motives go beyond any political agenda but to the core of his patriotism and the honor that he felt when BPPR was recognized as one of the most important banks for Hispanics.

"It is to save that image, the prestige of this industry among the people of Puerto Rico that this investigation was filed," Parga said.

Martin, who according to the record filed the resolution some seven hours earlier, said he also had no problem with consolidating them.

"I congratulate the majority for approving my resolution and the one by Parga and for approving today a third resolution aimed at reviewing the current law and what effect this could have in future similar situations," Martin said.

The PIP senator noted that the key challenge now was to hold a serious investigation.

But independent Senator Sergio Pena Clos disagreed, arguing that only one of the two resolutions should be approved. His objection was noted and overruled.

PPD Majority Leader Dalmau noted that the process for Parga’s and Martin’s resolutions to reach the floor was ordinary, as all measures have to reach the internal affairs committee before reaching the floor.

Dalmau said he would vote in favor of the two resolutions.

"We are evaluating the bills not only for the interest of the minority but also of the majority, who wishes to investigate this matter," Dalmau said.

Vigoreaux Bank and Consumer Affairs Committee will conduct the investigation.

Reservists Prepare For Possible Deployment To Middle East

January 27, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SALINAS (AP) - U.S. servicemen donned gas masks and protective suits Monday during drills to prepare for a possible Middle East deployment as the United States considers war against Iraq.

They were among more than 100 members of the Puerto Rico National Guard's 755th Military Police Company who have been called up for possible duty.

"We're ready to serve when ordered," Lt. Hector Prieto, 36, said during drills at Camp Santiago in southern Puerto Rico. "At any moment they could call us up to leave Puerto Rico, but it still hasn't been said where we will go."

Part of the training involved putting on gas masks and green protective suits as a measure against an attack with biological or chemical weapons.

Many members of the National Guard were leaving behind jobs and school for possible duty. Spc. Gabriel Gonzalez, 19, said he had left behind college courses in civil engineering.

Officials said an additional group of nearly 100 soldiers was training at Camp Santiago.

High Court Upholds English Fluency Requirement For Jurors

January 27, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

WASHINGTON (AP)-- The Supreme Court refused to consider whether it's unconstitutional to require jurors in federal trials in Puerto Rico to speak English. The court turned down appeals by two men convicted of conspiring to steal U.S. funds meant for AIDS patients.

The two were tried in federal court in Puerto Rico, which requires jurors to read, write, speak and understand English.

U.S. Soldier Injured In Land Mine Explosion Dies

January 27, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - A U.S. soldier who suffered a head injury in a land mine explosion died after being taken off of life support, a military official said.

Capt. Adam Kocheran, 31, of Columbus, Ohio, was one of three special forces troops injured by the mine blast Thursday during routine training exercises. Doctors on Sunday said the serious head wound had rendered him brain dead, prompting his family to remove him from life support Sunday night, said Lt. Col. Nicolas Britto, an Army spokesman.

The other two soldiers - Sgt. 1st Class Amil Alvarez, 32, of Santurce, and Chief Warrant Officer Christopher Brautigam, 35, of Burlingame, California - were treated at hospitals for shrapnel wounds and released on Thursday.

The three were involved in "routine training" when the Claymore mine exploded at Camp Santiago, officials have said. An investigation is continuing to determine the accident's cause, Britto said.

Claymore mines are small, brick-shaped devices that can be placed on the ground or mounted on a wall. When remotely detonated, they explode in one direction, hurling hundreds of metal pieces in an arc.

The three are from the U.S. Army Special Operations Command South, which is based at nearby Roosevelt Roads Naval Station.

Camp Santiago is located on the southern side of the Caribbean island near Salinas. The training camp is administered by the National Guard but is used by various U.S. armed forces.

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