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Calderon Opposes War But Would Support Bush…Albright Calls Saddam A 'Bully'…Islanders Join Anti-War Protests…Gov. Postpones Status Efforts…PIP: Most Parents Refused To Give Data To Military…Guns Bought In FL Sent To P.R.…Justice Won’t Charge Electoral Law Violators…Santini Visits Rossello…Civilian Use Of RR Beneficial…Pozzi To Pay $3.7M In Money Laundering Case

Calderon Opposes War But Would Support Bush

February 16, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SALINAS (AP) - Gov. Sila Calderon said on Sunday that she doesn't favor a military conflict between the U.S. and Iraq because she prefers to reach agreements through peaceful means.

However, the governor noted that should a conflict take place, she would firmly support U.S. President George W. Bush.

"The government of Puerto Rico and I, as governor, don't want war. I don't want a conflict just as I believe no one does," Calderon said during a press conference at the National Guard's Camp Santiago in Salinas.

"I don't believe there is a person who really wants a conflict with all its consequences. Therefore, we reject war and we support all efforts that contribute to solve this conflict in a peaceful way," she said.

However, the governor reminded Puerto Ricans that they are U.S. citizens, that they have a permanent alliance to the U.S., a common defense, and that she will support the U.S. if war is declared.

Calderon promised Puerto Rican soldiers that their families would be looked after while they are gone to make sure that they receive adequate healthcare services and communicate with the soldiers.

Albright Calls Iraqi Leader A 'Bully' But Stresses Talks Instead Of War During Speech In Puerto Rico


February 15, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on Saturday called Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein a "serial liar and bully" but stepped short of supporting a war.

Albright said she supported U.S. President George W. Bush's policy on Iraq, but questioned whether the military was prepared for chemical attacks or if Bush had enough international support to wage an attack.

"The Bush administration's policy toward Iraq is undeniable," Albright said. "Saddam Hussein is a serial liar, a bully and a threat to the peace. His goal is to become a hero in the Arab world."

Albright was speaking at the The World Forum of Puerto Rico.

While Americans might not agree on how Hussein must disarm, they agree that he must, she said. She said, however, Hussein "is not an imminent threat to the United States. North Korea is more dangerous."

Puerto Ricans Join International Clamor For Peace

February 15, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Almost a thousand people, including Muslims and Viequenses, joined Saturday the international demonstrations against a possible U.S. war against Iraq.

Convened by some 32 organizations of different sectors, the demonstrators criticized the United States’ intention of unleashing a military conflict in Iraq with slogans, speeches, and banners.

"War for oil" and "The most terrorist country, the United States" read some of the banners.

Another activist flew the U.S. flag, which substituted the stars with caravels.

Shek Abu Majer, a Palestine who leads a mosque in Arecibo, said an attack against Iraq also threatens Islam and all religions.

"The war affects all world religions, but affects us the most," he told AP in Arab through an interpreter.

"Islam is a religion of peace and does not support killing civilians at any moment," said the religious leader, who estimated that some 3,500 Muslims live on the island.

Abu Majer and a dozen Muslims who accompanied him, dressed in traditional Arab clothing, received insults from about 30 activists who promoted statehood for the island.

"Dirty Arabs," "Return to your countries," and "Talibans," shouted the statehooders who called a counterprotest to support Washington’s military intentions.

Both groups were kept separated by almost 50 police agents.

Ismael Guadalupe, spokesman of the Vieques Pro Rescue and Development Committee, said he participated in the activity because the Viequenses know by experience the effects of militarism.

"For more than 60 years, we have lived the war. Who better than us to talk about war and reject it?" he commented.

Meanwhile, Margarita Colon, employee of a food store, said the peaceful demonstration will be effective to raise awareness on the threat of a war.

"I came to the activity because I want to arouse interest in the people who have not [decided] on whether to let their kids go to war," she said.

More than 3,000 Puerto Ricans of the Puerto Rico National Guard (39%) were mobilized in the last few weeks for the possibility of war.

Calderon Postpones Status Efforts

February 15, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — After two years of incumbency, Gov. Sila Calderon decided to postpone her efforts to take to Washington the status issue, according to published reports.

Calderon said the postponement is due to the lack of consensus among the island’s political leaders, meaning the New Progressive Party’s (NPP) refusal for dialogue to agree on a mechanism to be used to resolve the hundred-year-old debate.

The governor also blamed the factors of the Iraq conflict, economy problems, and the internal fight of the NPP, which to her judgment did not favor the necessary environment to propel the issue.

"At this moment, without consensus, the U.S. Congress does not have the environment for an issue of this nature," Calderon said.

PIP: Most Parents Refused To Give Information To Military

February 15, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) Executive President Sen. Fernando Martin said most of the parents who responded to the questionnaire on military recruitment, distributed in the island’s high schools, refused to have their children’s information given to the U.S. Armed Forces.

In a press conference at his office in the Capitol, Martin said Puerto Rican parents rejected the "invasive attitude" of the military recruiters and refused to put their children at the disposition of the army, according to published reports.

According to statistics of the Education Department, 47,744 students responded to the questionnaire, of which 118,425 were high school students. Of the 47,144 that answered, 36,662 refused to give their personal information to military recruiters, while 11,082 authorized giving the information.

This figure is equivalent to almost 75% of those against giving information to the military of the total of documents filled, against a 25% of those who authorized giving the information. Forty-eight percent of students, however, did not answer, which means, according to law, that authorization is assumed for the army to contact them.

Officials Say 73 Guns Bought In Central Florida Sent To Puerto Rico

By Henry Pierson Curtis | Sentinel Staff Writer

February 15, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ORLANDO SENTINEL. All rights reserved.

Charges of buying guns almost six years ago for drug gangs in Puerto Rico have led to nine arrests in Orlando and the island.

More than 70 pistols and assault rifles bought in Central Florida gun shops were shipped illegally to Puerto Rico from May 1997 to January 1998, according to federal court records in Orlando.

The nine defendants were identified in court records as "straw purchasers." Those are people who buy guns for someone prohibited by law from owning a gun. Orlando has a long history as a source of guns later used in crimes in Puerto Rico, which has much stricter gun laws than Florida.

Most of the guns were semi-automatic 9 mm pistols that were shipped to the island inside stereo equipment and radios, agents charged.

Justice Will Not Charge Those Who Violated Electoral Law

February 14, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Justice Department will not file criminal charges against 16 legislators who were referred by the State Elections Commission (SEC), since most of the alleged crimes constituted misdemeanors prescribed, said Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez.

The SEC referred to Justice the income and expense reports of the legislators, and after their evaluation, Rodriguez said the legislators’ violations were misdemeanors with a one-year statute of limitation.

"Any misdemeanor that was committed in 2000, which was election year, and we received the audit in 2002, it has already prescribed," Rodriguez said in published reports. "I cannot file a case that has prescribed because the law prevents me from doing so."

The official indicated that the prescription was discussed with General Solicitor Pedro Geronimo Goyco Amador, SEC President Aurelio Gracia Morales, and SEC auditors.

Rodriguez said she had requested "urgency" in the investigation of those violations that could constitute a crime.

Santini Visits Rossello

February 14, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini paid a visit to former Gov. Pedro Rossello in Washington to exchange ideas.

According to published reports, Santini traveled to Washington on Thursday to meet with Rossello and is expected to arrive back on the island Friday.

The New Progressive Party (NPP) vice president, who has been cautious in his public statements regarding the possible primary between Rossello and NPP President Carlos Pesquera, is expected to support Rossello’s candidacy, according to WOW News sources.

However, the mayor has not made public which candidate he will support.

On Wednesday, Rossello met with former Gov. Carlos Romero Barcelo, who was his ballot partner in 1996 and 1992.

Santini’s visit will not be the last, since it is expected that NPP Sen. Orlando Parga, as well as Sens. Kenneth McClintock and Miriam Ramirez de Ferrer, will also visit Rossello.

Civilian Use Of Roosevelt Roads Beneficial To Economy

February 14, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Roosevelt Roads Naval Base in Ceiba has installations that would be of great economic benefit to Puerto Rico if they were for civilian instead of the present military use, said Puerto Rico Economists Association President Lerroy Lopez.

According to Lopez, if the Defense Department decides to close the base, Puerto Rico would gain a valuable asset for the enjoyment of the civilian population.

"The civilian use of these installations could be of greater benefit for the economy of the region and of Puerto Rico than the present military use. This area has an enormous tourist potential. The few jobs created there now could multiply by thousands under civilian use," Lopez said in published reports.

However, Milton Segarra, designated secretary of the Economic Development & Commerce Department, said "we are going to use all our resources to ensure the permanence of this [military] operation in Puerto Rico."

Italian Businessman Ordered To Pay $3.7M In Puerto Rico Money Laundering Case

February 14, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Italian businessman Roberto Ferrario Pozzi was ordered to pay $3.7 million to the U.S. government Thursday in a major money-laundering case that involved Puerto Rico's largest bank.

Ferrario Pozzi, indicted in 1998 for alleged money laundering, pleaded guilty in December to conspiring to launder money for the Colombian Jesus Ivan Saenz who was charged with importing heroin and money laundering.

Ferrario Pozzi deposited some $20 million in cash in a Banco Popular account in Puerto Rico, officials said. They said Ferrario Pozzi and employees of Phone Home, a phone card company, often made cash deposits.

Shortly after the Pozzi indictment and an investigation, Banco Popular admitted to violating federal anti-money-laundering rules that require banks to notify authorities of suspicious transactions. They also agreed to pay a $21.6 millon fine.

Between June 1995 and June 2000, several suspicious transactions were made by customers of the bank, which filed late or inaccurate reports of the questionable activities, the federal government said.

By agreeing to pay the amount - one of the largest civil penalties ever in a drug money-laundering case - Banco Popular is to avoid criminal prosecution.

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