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SIP Convictions Decline…Gov’t Prepares For War…Shelling Is Vieques' Last, Anti-Navy Demonstrators Celebrate…Rossello’s Comeback Supported…Cost Of Living Up 8.1% …Officials: No FY Budget Deficit…D.R. Wins Caribbean Series…Anti-Terrorism Plan Set…Martin Decries War…Spicy Latina, Tempestuous Diva

SIP Convictions Decrease In The Last 10 Years

February 10, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — In the last 10 years, the Special Independent Prosecutor panel (SIP) won 18 cases, despite the fact that during the first three years of its operation, the same agency achieved 13 convictions of public officials.

Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez said she did not know the statistics but said there is an indication that the (SIP) office "was not that effective".

"I have to say this is a statistic that worries us," Rodriguez said in published reports.

Current SIP President Crisanta Gonzalez defended the panel efforts and said their effectiveness should not be measured by the number of convictions.

Government Prepares For A Possible War

February 10, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Economic Development and Commerce Secretary Milton Segarra acknowledged on Sunday that in the event of a war between the U.S. and Iraq the local economy will be affected, but promised that government’s contingency plan will mitigate the economic consequences.

According to published reports, Segarra said that the commercial activity and tourism would be the most affected areas.

Among the contingency measures are establishing price controls; the investment of $4.5 million in the purchasing of new insurances to face the high prices of petroleum; increasing petroleum inventory available to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) and continuing to promote the island as a tourism destination.

For the commercial sector, a moratorium could be imposed on the payment of government loans and help given in the payment of personal loans. The granting of emergency loans for affected businesses is also being considered.

Shelling Is Vieques' Last

By Sandra Ivelisse Villerrael | The Associated Press

February 9, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

VIEQUES, Puerto Rico -- The U.S. Navy has concluded its last scheduled round of targeting exercises on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques with a ship firing inert shells at the bombing range, the Navy said Sunday.

The guided-missile cruiser USS Ticonderoga stopped firing 5-inch shells at the island Saturday afternoon, said Lt. Cmdr. Kim Dixon, a Navy spokeswoman. She said Navy ships would continue training at sea.

"The training overall went very smoothly," Dixon said. "They accomplished all their missions."

Meanwhile, a 100-vehicle caravan drove across civilian areas of Vieques on Sunday to mark the end of training.

"The Navy is not leaving because it wants to, but because the people have forced them out," protest leader Nilda Medina said.

The caravan passed about 30 pro-Navy demonstrators holding U.S. flags, and the two sides briefly exchanged insults.

About 80 police officers were posted in the area, and no violence was reported.

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 locations in Florida and elsewhere on the U.S. mainland.

But some protesters have expressed skepticism that the Navy will leave as planned. Activists say the bombing exercises, which began in 1947, have harmed the environment and the health of the island's 9,100 residents.

The Navy denies the claims.

The training has been criticized by Puerto Rican leaders since off-target bombs killed a civilian guard on the firing range in 1999.

Since then, the Navy has turned to inert ammunition, while more than 1,000 protesters have been arrested for trespassing on Navy lands.

Nineteen demonstrators were detained for trespassing during the latest 27 days of training, while one man was detained for cutting a Navy fence, Dixon said.

Anti-Navy Demonstrators Celebrate Peace On Vieques

February 9, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

Anti-Navy demonstrators celebrate peace on Vieques

VIEQUES (AP) - On Sunday, a group of anti-U.S. Navy protesters gathered on the streets of Vieques to celebrate peace.

Event organizers said demonstrators wanted to reiterate their fight for the demilitarization of Vieques.

Although the Navy has said these were the last military practices before the closing of the firing range in May, community leader Nilda Medina said Viequenses should remain wary regarding that information.

"The Navy is not leaving because it wants to, but because the people have kicked it out," she said.

She said even after the Navy withdraws from Vieques, Viequenses will insist that the local government include community members in the transition process.

Medina added that the Vieques residents want the Navy to decontaminate and return the land to the local government to boost the economic development of the island municipality.

Several Statehood Groups Support Rossello’s Comeback

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

February 8, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

Former Gov. Pedro Rossello’s possible return to politics received Friday the support of several groups, including Renacer Estadista.

One of the groups called themselves "Friends of Rossello" and publicly endorsed Rossello for governor in 2004.

Arguing that Rossello had said he will obey to the wishes of the people, the group said they were precisely doing that, asking the former governor to come back.

"The time to ask him, from the bottom of our hearts, to come back has come. More than wanting him to return, we need him. That’s why today we invite the people of Puerto Rico, regardless of their political ideologies, to join us in inviting him to return to the government," said Jose Manuel Hernandez of the Statehood Republican Youth.

His group is not the official representation of the Republican Party on the island, and Young Republican Puerto Rico Federation President Ricardo Aponte Parsi immediately disclaimed Hernandez’s statements.

Hernandez made his statements at the Bar Association, where he was joined by Renacer Estadista spokesman Eduardo Berrios and former Rep. Carlos Diaz.

The trio noted that their decision to publicly endorse Rossello should not be interpreted as lack of support with the New Progressive Party official candidate for the post, defeated gubernatorial candidate Carlos Pesquera.

"Pesquera is very good and could win the election, but we know Rossello’s work; he has the experience and should come back," Berrios said.

Meanwhile, at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) Rio Piedras Campus, controversial statehood follower Felix Plau began a campaign to collect signatures in favor of Rossello’s return.

Plau, who has been the key player in numerous confrontations at the UPR, said he met with Rossello during a recent trip to Washington, where the former governor informed him of his decision to come back.

"He is the best governor Puerto Rico has had and, the only one who can save the statehood movement," Plau said.

Cost Of Living In PR Rose 8.1%In 2002

By Ken Oliver-Mendez of Caribbean Business

February 8, 2003
Copyright © 2003 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All rights reserved.

The Puerto Rico Consumer Price Index (CPI) registered an 8.1% increase during 2002.

The local Labor Department’s statistical measure of inflation, the methodology of which is scheduled to be revamped this year, showed that rising food and beverage prices were responsible for most of the year-to-year increase.

The level of 212.5. reached in December 2002 means that it cost $212.5 to purchase the same set of goods and services that cost $196.50 in Puerto Rico in December 2001. The CPI uses 1984 as its base period, when the same basic set goods and services cost $100.

At the end of 2002, the purchasing power of the dollar (with reference to its full value in 1984) stood at 47 cents, compared to 51 cents at the end of 2001.

The year-to-year jump in the island’s inflation rate was more than double the 3.1% rise in the CPI registered for 2001. It was lower, however, than the 9.8% increase registered in 2000, a year of sharp rises in the price of oil. Between 1995 and 1999, the annual increase in the cost of living fluctuated between 4.9% and 6.1%.

During 2002, the food and beverage category saw the biggest price increases overall, climbing by 12.7%. The alcoholic beverages category in particular reflected the imposition of higher excise taxes during 2002, with prices rising by 11.6% in that category.

Transportation costs rose an average of 5.9% year to year, while the cost of medical care rose by 3.7%. Housing and education costs rose by the modest amounts of 1.6% and 1.3%, respectively.

The only category which saw declining prices in 2002 was clothing, the cost of which fell by an average of 1.2%

Officials: Fiscal Year Will Close Without Budget Deficit

February 8, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Gov. Sila Calderon’s administration will close this fiscal year without a budget deficit, assured Treasury Secretary Juan Flores Galarza, Office of Management & Budget Executive Director Melba Acosta, and La Fortaleza Chief of Staff Cesar Miranda.

The officials said measures have already been taken to reduce the budget shortages in the main agencies.

They also indicated that the Treasury Department will increase their income by almost $130 million through "special projects," which represent additional efforts by the agency to recover recurrent tax debts in three main sources, according to published reports.

Those debts are the ones companies have for not paying Treasury the retention of income taxes of their employees, the tax debts challenged in administrative process at the Treasury, and excise tax debts from car dealers.

Dominican Republic Wins Caribbean Series

February 8, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

CAROLINA, Puerto Rico (AP) -- AL MVP Miguel Tejada tripled, doubled twice and singled to lead the Dominican Republic's Cibao Eagles to the Caribbean Series championship with a 7-3 win over Puerto Rico's Mayaguez Indians on Saturday night.

Tejada also scored three runs and David Ortiz drove in two. Ortiz, who recently signed with the Boston Red Sox, was picked as MVP of the tournament after leading in batting average (.480), RBIs (11), runs scored (8) and doubles (5).

The Dominican Republic got another stellar performance from their starting pitching for the second night in a row. Winner Claudio Vargas allowed two hits in six scoreless innings.

On Friday, the Eagles got seven shutout innings and 12 strikeouts from Jose Acevedo to defeat the Indians 6-0 and force a tiebreaker.

This was the Eagles' fourth Caribbean Series title, and the 14th for the Dominican Republic. The win sparked a wild celebration by thousands of flag-waving Dominican fans, who took to the field of the Roberto Clemente Stadium.

The champions finished with a 6-1 record and the Indians were 5-2. The Caguas Creoles, also from Puerto Rico, were 2-4 and Mexico's Caneros of Los Mochis were 0-6.

The Dominicans scored four times in the first inning. Tejada singled home Rafael Furcal, Tony Batista added an RBI single, Ortiz scored on a wild pitch and Raul Mondesi had a sacrifice fly.

Tejada doubled in the third, stole second and scored on a single by Ortiz.

The Dominicans made it 7-0 in the ninth on doubles by Tejada and Batista and a triple by Ortiz.

In the bottom half, Julio Matos hit a two-run triple and Javier Valentin had a sacrifice fly.

At Risk Of Terrorism, Special Security Plan Implemented

February 8, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Gov. Sila Calderon put in effect Friday a special security plan in reaction to the alert issued by the U.S. government, which examines the possibility of a terrorist attack and the eventuality of a war against Iraq.

Calderon delegated the coordination of the security measures to several government agencies, including the State Emergency Management Agency and the Justice Department, according to La Fortaleza Chief of Staff Cesar Miranda.

La Fortaleza also said along with the recently created Homeland Security Department, Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez established the parameters of security that will be implemented on the island.

Meanwhile, Asst. Gen. Francisco Marquez of the Puerto Rico National Guard issued a Bravo Alert for the installations that the military organization controls.

The Bravo Alert is equivalent to the Orange Alert issued in the United States.

Martin Urges Legislature To Decry War Against Iraq

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

February 7, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

Puerto Rican Independence Party Sen. Fernando Martin filed Friday a resolution to express the Legislature’s opposition to a possible war against Iraq by the United Sates.

Martin noted that he filed the resolution in the hope of clearing the name of the Legislature, which is the only one on record to have approved a motion in favor of the war against Vietnam back in the 1960s.

The senator acknowledged that while the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is subject to U.S. foreign policy, the least the Legislature can do is to express by way of a resolution their opposition to the war.

Martin added that the United States has failed to obtain the world backup it wanted because it has been unable to prove that Saddam Hussein poses the threat it alleged.

"So far, they have yet to prove what they claim," Martin said.

The resolution was filed two days after Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation to the U.N. Security Council describing Iraq as a secret weapons builder.

It also comes on the very same day that President George W. Bush insisted that Hussein will be disarmed.

The Spicy Latina, The Tempestuous Diva

Compiled from wire reports

February 6, 2003
Copyright © 2003. All rights reserved.

Ben Affleck says he and Jennifer Lopez probably will get married next summer. And he hypothesizes in Vanity Fair about the fascination with their courtship.

"I think it has to do with race and class, the fact that I am white and she is Puerto Rican," he says. "That's what's underneath, although nobody says it, because it's not politically correct." Race factors, he says, in publicity about Lopez's love life. "There's a kind of language that's used about her -- the spicy Latina, the tempestuous diva," he says. "She's characterized as oversexed. I mean, the woman's had five boyfriends in her whole life."

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