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Zaya Seijo Asks Hernandez Mayoral To Run For SJ Mayor, Ostolaza Wants Bhatia…NGO Highlights Puerto Rican Plight…Radcliffe Breaks 10K World Record… Legislators Ready To Balance The Budget…P.R. Soldiers Guard Guantanamo Detainees…Governor: Tax Relief Will Stimulate Economy…Puerto Rico Allocated $4.73B In Federal Budget… Lawsuit Filed Against BPPR Board

Zaya Seijo Asks Hernandez Mayoral To Run For San Juan Mayor Post

February 24, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

PONCE (AP) – House Treasury Committee Chairman Francisco Zayas Seijo on Monday asked attorney Jose Alfredo Hernandez Mayoral to run for the San Juan mayor post for the Popular Democratic Party (PDP).

Zayas Seijo suggested to Hernandez Mayoral not running for a post in the Legislature in 2004 and to run for San Juan mayor instead.

"José Alfredo is the best option the PDP has. I have no doubt that he will defeat Santini," Zayas Seijo said.

He said Hernandez Mayoral would also have the support from La Fortaleza.

"I think he should not run run for a post in the Legislature", Zayas Seijo said. "He would have La Fortaleza’s support."

Ostolaza Endorses Bhatia For San Juan Mayor

February 23, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

PONCE (AP) - Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Sen. Margarita Ostolaza proposed that Eduardo Bhatia run again for San Juan mayor in 2004 as she believes he can defeat New Progressive Party San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini.

"Bhatia lost by a few votes. Now there are hundreds of thousands of San Juan residents who regret not voting for him," she said.

Bhatia, who is a former senator, has said he would like to run again for San Juan mayor and to chair the PDP municipal committee of the capitol.

In 2000, Bhatia lost to Santini by 3,629 votes. Santini has said he will seek reelection in 2004.

Until now, PDP Sen. Roberto Vigoreaux is the only one bidding for the candidacy, although Bhatia and PDP Sen. Roberto Prats are expected to do the same.

Ostolaza said she believes the party should reach a consensus as to who the preferred candidate is.

NGO Highlights Puerto Rican Plight

February 23, 2003
Copyright © 2003 THE NEW STRAITS TIMES. All rights reserved.

A PUERTO Rican non-governmental organisation has denounced the mobilisation of the colony's soldiers by the United States in the impending war against Iraq.

The New Independence Movement of Puerto Rico, which is attending the 13th Summit as an observer, said it wanted to bring to the attention of NAM the problem plaguing the people of the US colony.

In a statement issued yesterday, NIMPR said NAM had traditionally supported the struggle of the Puerto Ricans for self - determination and independence.

It said the people of Puerto Rico wanted peace and friendship, thus, NIMPR's stand on the mobilisation of the soldiers to Iraq.

"That is why we are here (in Kuala Lumpur) because Puerto Rico has become an international military problem ... our people and soil are used to make aggression upon others," said the statement, quoting the NGO's president Julio Muriente Perez.

"The Government of the United States has mobilised more than 5,000 Puerto Ricans as US soldiers ... in the announced aggression against Iraq."

NIMPR also called for Puerto Rico's decolonisation.

Radcliffe Breaks 10K World Record At Puerto Rico Road Race


February 23, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - British distance runner Paula Radcliffe broke the world record for 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) Sunday, finishing in 30 minutes, 21 seconds to win the World's Best 10K road race.

Radcliffe beat the previous record of 30:29, set by Moroccan Asmae Leghzaoui at the New York Road Runner's Club Mini Marathon in June.

The men's 10-kilometer world record is 27:02, held by Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie.

"I knew from halfway that I was well under the time (to beat the record)," Radcliffe said.

Leghzaoui came in a distant second at 31:35. Kenya's Esther Kiplagat, America's Lyubov Kremleva and Kenya's Jane Kiptoo rounded out the top five.

Radcliffe will receive a US$100,000 bonus for breaking the world record, organizers said. She also gets US$12,000 fro winning.

Radcliffe ran the world's fastest marathon for a woman at 2:17:17.7 last year in Chicago and won gold medals in the Commonwealth Games and European Championships at 10,000 and 5,000 meters.

Nearly half of the San Juan road race takes place on a bridge, which runs over a lagoon and is notorious for strong winds and intense tropical heat.

The race is in its sixth year, but international runners have only been able to compete in the past three.

Legislators Ready To Balance The Budget

February 23, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - The House and Senate Treasury committees will begin public hearings on Monday to adjust and correct the proposed budget for fiscal year 2003-04 which Gov. Sila Calderon presented last week.

The chairmen at the House and Senate committees, Francisco Zayas Seijo and Modesto Agosto Alicea, respectively, agreed that the biggest challenge will be the budgets of the Police, Corrections, and Natural & Environmental Resources departments.

Based on the governor's State of the Commonwealth address, these agencies suffered several budget changes.

"I still have many questions because a budget as big as this one has many areas that must be evaluated. I see difficulties in some allocations that were made and some that weren't, but I think the situation is manageable because the projections in general are conservative," Zayas Seijo said.

Agosto Alicea added that the budget is pretty balanced, although he would like to allocate more funds to some agencies whose budgets were cut short.

Meanwhile, the New Progressive Party (NPP) and Puerto Rican Independence Party minorities said they would carefully evaluate the Comptroller's Office and Police Department budgets.

"My priorities in this discussion are the Health Reform card, the Police Department, and the Comptroller's Office. We will focus on increasing the number of police agents and on fulfilling the campaign promise of increasing their monthly base salary to $2,200," said NPP House minority leader Anibal Vega Borges.

Puerto Rican Soldiers Guard Guantanamo Detainees

February 22, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

BASE NAVAL GUANTANAMO, Cuba (AP) – In the middle of a Cuban desert area, the Puerto Rican flag flies as a silent witness to the most recent participation of Puerto Rican troops in a U.S. military conflict.

The flag flies in front of the barracks of Puerto Rico National Guard Company 240, which since the middle of November has been helping guard some 650 detainees in the naval base at Guantanamo, Cuba, whom the United States considers possible collaborators of the terrorist network suspected of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Approximately 130 members of the company, based in Fort Allen in Juana Diaz, will not for the moment accompany their 3,000 colleagues in a possible war in Iraq.

But although they are not participating in the combat, their mission in Guantanamo is perhaps one of the most secret and zealously protected in the battle front of the U.S. war against terrorism.

It is also one of the most criticized by international groups that allege that the human rights of the detainees are being violated because they have not been formally accused of any crime.

"Company 240 of Puerto Rico has done an extraordinary job as part of the mission of Camp Delta," said Col. Adolf McQueen, chief of the detention mission at the naval base at Guantanamo.

As is customary in this military base, where suspected collaborators of the Taliban regime or the al-Qaeda terrorist network are detained in the so-called Camp Delta, questions on the details of the mission were not met with a specific answer.

Camp Delta, the workplace of this Puerto Rican company, is surrounded by several rows of metal bars and barbed wire and is patrolled by dozens of strongly armed soldiers.

To enter, one needs to pass through a rigorous security post, and one’s every movement is zealously watched.

One of the characteristics that helps Company 240 in this mission, according to military officials, is the vast experience of the majority of its members.

"We have many people in the company who work in correctional institutions in Puerto Rico," said Lt. Enrique Russe, a 31-year-old teacher from Morovis.

Russe said approximately 40% of the company had participated in conflicts such as the Persian Gulf War, Kosovo, the invasion of Panama, or the aid mission to the flood victims in Honduras.

Sgt. Rene Torres indicated that almost 40% of the members of the company work in the island’s correctional institutions and another 20% are police officers.

"Since they are units with experience, they are first to be put on the list," was Russe’s explanation for the rapid deployment of 3,145, as of Sunday, of the 8,500 members of the Puerto Rican National Guard.

According to Maj. Millie Rosa, spokeswoman of the Puerto Rican National Guard, this is the biggest deployment in the history of this military body, which has participated in U.S. military conflicts since World War II.

Rosa said not all those deployed will go to the Middle East but stressed that "all are part of the global war against terrorism."

Under the attentive eye of one of the public relations officials of the U.S. Army, who monitors all interviews in this military base, Russe stated that the detainees are treated humanely, "as in any jail," and said their rights are not being violated.

"I understand that they are not being treated badly nor are their human rights violated at any time," indicated the young soldier, who married just three months ago.

Without going into details, she said her job consists of making sure the detainees get their three daily meals and that they are treated in accordance with the standards established by the Geneva Convention.

Governor: Tax Relief Will Stimulate Economy

February 22, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – The tax relief to the middle class proposed this week to the Legislative Assembly will stimulate the economy by leaving more than $700 million in the pockets of citizens in five years, Gov. Sila Calderon said Saturday.

"This tax relief. . .greatly helps to stimulate the island’s economy, leaving more money in the pockets of citizens so they can circulate it in our economy. That way we give a strong impulse to our economic development," the governor said in her Saturday weekly radio program.

Calderon affirmed that the Puerto Rican middle class carries "the greatest weight of paying taxes."

She said the benefits she proposed Tuesday to the Legislature will allow this tax group "to invest, acquire assets, services, develop internal tourism, buy products of the island, open or increase their savings accounts for their own businesses, and support our small and medium businesses, among others."

Among other measures, Calderon proposed increasing 10 times the deduction for a marriage when both work, from $300 to $3,000, and increase 50% the deduction for child care when both parents work, from $800 to $1,200 when its one child, and $1,600 to $2,400 when there are two or more children.

She proposed a deduction of $500 for the purchase of a computer for families with children.

She also recommended the implementation of three new tax reliefs, which are an increase in the exemption for non-university, disabled, blind, or older than 65 years old dependents from $1,300 to $1,600; an increase in the fixed deduction of 5% for all taxpayers; and a tax credit of $50 to $250 for those who file a short income tax form.

Acevedo Vila Reports Island’s Allocations In Federal Budget

February 21, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

Puerto Rico will benefit in the fields of education, security, transportation, health, environmental conservation, and infrastructure with the allocations that President George W. Bush will sign as part of the federal budget, according to Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila.

The official indicated that the money assigned to the island in Title I education funds increased to $67 million, representing an additional $35 million to the current allocation.

"For the Education Department, we had expected an increase in the Title I Program, which is the main federal assistance program for education that in Puerto Rico benefits almost all the public schools," Acevedo Vila said in a press release.

He also said the allocation that Puerto Rico will receive for special education will be more than the original estimate because Congress approved an amount that exceeds by $400 million the recommendation he had made.

"As a result, Puerto Rico will receive almost $90 million for special education. This is $2.5 million more than my office had estimated and previously announced," Acevedo Vila said.

The resident commissioner added that the federal budget provides $3 million for the security sector, which will be distributed among the police and several municipalities in the metropolitan area.

According to official figures of the consolidated budget announced Tuesday by Gov. Sila Calderon for fiscal year 2003-2004, some $4.73 billion come from federal funds.

Lawsuit Filed Against Popular Inc. Board Of Directors

February 21, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - Stoneridge Investments Partners, owner of shares in Banco Popular de Puerto Rico (BPPR), filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court against the board of directors of Popular Inc. for failing to comply with its duties of protecting the institution.

The legal action comes after the negotiation made by BPPR with the federal government to pay $21.6 million in exchange for not having to face criminal charges for admitting to laundering millions of dollars from drug money without reporting the suspicious activity to the federal government, according to published reports.

Stoneridge objects that they had to pay the fine and alleged the institution’s image has been affected.

The plaintiff requests that the bank’s executives should pay for the damages suffered by the parent company and that they reimburse all salaries received during the period in which they failed to comply with their duties with Popular Inc., among other claims.

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