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Calderon Calls War Against Iraq Justified, She Visits Soldiers’ Families…Police Surveillance Increased…NPP Sues Gov’t Over Image Ads…Gas Profit Margin Controlled… Wash Day In Kuwait... Pesquera: I’m The Only Alternative For Change…Churches Oppose War…Most Soldiers Headed For Kuwait

Calderon Calls War Against Iraq Justified

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

March 20, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Gov. Sila Calderon said the U.S. war against Iraq is a "tragedy of great dimensions" but justified it by arguing that Saddam Hussein’s government poses a great threat for the rest of the world.

"We would have wanted for this not to occur, but it is happening," said Calderon, adding that she would have wanted a peaceful solution instead.

Calderon said like citizens all over the world, she was overcome with sadness when watching the TV images of the attack on Iraq.

"They were images that profoundly affected me; they made me sad," Calderon said.

The governor made her statements during a joint press conference with Education Secretary Cesar Rey at the Eugenio Maria de Hostos Elementary School in Puerto Nuevo, where an educational model on how to discuss the war with children was presented.

The department did the same following the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001, which proved to be beneficial in helping children understand the issue.

Calderon listened to the concerns and feelings of some 20 students from the fourth to the sixth grade.

One child, 10-year-old Jesus Hernandez, with tears in his eyes, said he loved his father very much and misses him as he has been deployed for the war.

Just as she had done all morning while visiting support centers for relatives of military personnel mobilized for the war, Calderon had words of encouragement for the young boy.

"Your father is a brave man, and we are very proud of him," Calderon said.

Soldiers’ Families Meet To Cope With Onset Of War

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

March 20, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Just hours after the United States launched its military campaign against Iraq started, dozens of families of those mobilized for the conflict met Thursday at the National Guard Headquarters in Puerta de Tierra to attend workshops from the Family Department and receive a visit from Gov. Sila Calderon, among other things.

Relatives exchanged stories about their families and about how they are coping with the reality that the war has begun and there is no return date for their loved ones.

Nydia Lebron of Hato Rey is the leader of a support group for 138 families. Her husband, Jose A. Lebron, has been stationed in Italy for the past two months. She has since been in charge of her household and of the couple’s nine-year-old son, Jan Andres Lebron.

A full-time employee who said her boss has been very supportive of her new found reality, Lebron confessed that contrary to other families she knows, money has not been one of her biggest concerns. She acknowledged, however, that it has been most difficult dealing with her son, whose grades are slipping because he is constantly worried about his father.

"The hardest part has been explaining to him that his father is fine; it’s been very hard on him," Lebron said.

Calderon sat across the table from the boy and told him not to worry and that he should be very proud of his father.

Jan Andres gave the governor a wonderful smile and lowered his head; his big brown eyes had minutes ago been shedding tears.

"He tells me his job is to check the planes as they launch, and as they come back, he also checks that everyone has identification," said Jan Andres when asked about his father’s duties.

Calderon then lowered her voice and spoke to Nydia, who like her son, smiled though tears shown in her eyes.

Across the room, First Sgt. Jose A. Feliciano stood proudly in uniform, awaiting for Calderon, who approached and shook his hand.

Feliciano now faces the reality of being a single father to his daughters, ages two and three, as his wife, First Lt. Vilma Oquendo, awaits deployment orders at Camp Santiago in Salinas.

Oquendo’s engineering unit was activated Feb. 14.

The military couple is ready for combat, Feliciano said, and his wife is prepared and believes she will be fine.

After watching the initial attack on TV, Feliciano predicted that the war would be over soon and that his wife would return home soon.

"I got the feeling this is going to be a short war," Feliciano said.

Police Increase Surveillance After Attack On Iraq

March 20, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Hours after the war between the U.S. and Iraq had began, the local police increased its surveillance in strategic parts of the island, said Police Superintendent Victor Rivera Gonzalez.

Meanwhile, the terror alert at the Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport in Isla Verde remains at its second highest level, orange. Ports Authority spokeswoman Minerva Guadalupe said nothing new has been reported, so she doesn’t foresee changes in contingency plans.

"More than anything, we are patrolling national sites, public buildings, and everything related to the island’s infrastructure that may be important in case of a terrorist attack," the superintendent said. "As of night now, everything is normal."

Although he reiterated that the island is not in imminent danger of an attack, he emphasized that state, municipal, and federal authorities are communicating closely and are on the alert.

"Anywhere the police presence may be needed, we will be there," he said, although he declined to specify the places for security reasons.

U.S. forces began an attack against selected targets of military importance in Iraq on Wednesday.

The attacks began with Tomahawk cruise missiles and precision bombs dropped by Nighthawks F-117, which are silent combat planes of the Armed Forces.

Iraq President Saddam Hussein accused the U.S. of committing a shameful crime in attacking Iraq and asked his people to draw their swords against the enemy.

Pesquera Files Lawsuit Against Gov. Sila Calderon

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

March 20, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera filed a lawsuit at the San Juan Superior Court on Thursday against Gov. Sila Calderon, who he claims has been taking advantage of her position to promote her image through government paid advertising.

The legal action that Pesquera, together with NPP Electoral Commissioner Thomas Rivera Schatz and NPP Secretary General William Rosales initiated against the governor requests the local court to declare the use of such funds unconstitutional. It also asks the court to issue an injunction to stop the defendants from continuing to use public funds to design, produce, and publish these ads, and to order the governor to replace the money spent so far in government advertising favoring her image and that of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP.)

"I hope that the court rules in a way that serves justice to the people and that will finally stop this spending of public funds," the NPP leader said.

Pesquera reminded people that Calderon criticized former Gov. Pedro Rossello’s administration whenever it would publish government ads to let people know of the campaign promises that were being fulfilled. He said the NPP wouldn’t sit back and watch the Calderon administration do the same thing it had criticized so much in the past.

"It is incredible that an administration led by someone who criticized the ads of ‘Fulfilled Promise’ [during Rossello’s government] now uses public funds to push forward its political cause," the NPP president said. "It is time that they practiced what they preach."

Pesquera also urged the PDP administration to file legislation to extend the electoral ban on government ads to the entire four-year term, and to forbid the government to use the same advertising agency which is handling the political campaign ads of the ruling party.

Some of the examples of the ads condemned by the NPP are the government ads stating that Puerto Rico is on the right track, using the color red in its letters. Red is the official color of the governor’s political party, the PDP.

In a sworn testimony, Rosales said ads don’t educate or provide any service to the citizens other than strengthening the image of the defendant. He added that such conduct puts the NPP at a disadvantage, which can only be fought through legal means.

Order Issued To Control Profit Margin Of Gas Wholesalers

March 20, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Only hours from the U.S. attack against petroleum country Iraq, the Puerto Rico government issued an order to control the gross profit margin for the sale of wholesale gasoline.

The Consumer Affairs Department (DACO by its Spanish acronym) said the "order of fixation of gross profit margin for the sale of wholesale gasoline" seeks to maintain as stable as possible the actual price of the product, considered one of first necessity.

"The goal is for the price not to vary at the consumer level," DACO Secretary Javier Echevarria said in a press conference in which he explained that the maximum gross profit margin for the sale of wholesale gasoline is now 14 cents a gallon.

The official clarified that there could be fluctuations in the product price at the consumer level, but they should more or less be maintained at the current level. However, he refused to refer to a maximum price that the product should be sold at gas stations.

He indicated that DACO sent some 46 inspectors, who added to another 16 on loan from the Agriculture Department, will be watching the fluctuations of the consumer price in gas stations.

According to Echevarria, the inspectors will also be aware of the quality of the fuel, which in some case "has been adulterated."

Wash Day

By Hilda M. Perez | Sentinel Staff Writer

March 19, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ORLANDO SENTINEL. All rights reserved. 

KUWAIT DESERT -- Spc. Sandy Rivera, 26, is the Army's 3rd Military Police Company’s resident philosopher.

Rivera of Canóvanas, Puerto Rico, has learned not to sweat the small things.

Using a brush, he was hard at work doing his laundry in a medium-sized cooler watched by two of his friends, who were giving plenty of advice.

"Hard to do it like that?" interpreter Mike Jijika, 40, of Detroit remarked sympathetically.

"Sir, not a big deal," Rivera replied. "I'm from Puerto Rico and we have these things, sir, called hurricanes, and when one of those come we have no water and electricity for some time. So you get used to inconveniences.

"Yes. You've got to do things for yourselves. Never make yourself comfortable in the Army. You've got to be ready to move. But laugh every day and make life easy."

Pesquera: I’m The Only Alternative For Change

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

March 19, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera insisted Wednesday that he is a better candidate than former Gov. Pedro Rossello. He said he has his performance as former secretary of the Department of Transportation & Public Works to prove it, as well as his intention to bring a new generation of talented professionals into the local politics.

"My opponent deserves all the respect. But at the end of this journey, it will be the people who will decide [. . .] who has the best chance to win in 2004, who has the means to motivate young people, to pull Puerto Rico out of its economic rut, and to govern without controversy," Pesquera said.

So far, the former governor has refused to compare himself with Pesquera, focusing only on talking about his desire to satisfy the needs of the people who have been calling for his return. However, Pesquera has adopted a more forceful approach by repeatedly touting himself as a better candidate than Rossello.

When asked if this strategy could backfire, Pesquera said he didn’t think so and that he was only trying to show the people that he was the best candidate.

"We will be working hard to prove to statehooders and the Puerto Rican people that Pesquera is the only alternative for change and that the victory of the 2004 general elections will be for the NPP," he concluded.

Mundo To Lead Pesquera’s Campaign Strategy Committee

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

March 19, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera announced Wednesday that NPP Rep. Edwin Mundo will chair the campaign strategy committee for the primary in which NPP voters would choose their next gubernatorial candidate for 2004. However, he appointed Dr. Angel Toledo Lopez to head the campaign.

"We have established the Carlos Pesquera committee following the norms of the State Elections Commission. Our committee is made up of several of our party leaders who have shown a serious commitment to my gubernatorial candidacy and to Puerto Rico," Pesquera said.

He added that this would be the first political campaign for Toledo Lopez. However, he said he trusted the capacity of his campaign manager, whom he presented as an expert in political science. Former Bayamon Mayor Ramon Luis Rivera will be the political coordinator for Pesquera.

"I have no doubt that Mundo, Toledo Lopez, and Rivera are the right trio to tune us up from this moment on," Pesquera said.

The NPP president added that former Government Development Bank Vice President Carlos de Armas, Yauco Mayor Abel Nazario, and Pesquera’s wife, Irasema, will comprise his platform committee.

Meanwhile, the former NPP municipal committee chairman in Ponce, Javier Bustillo, and NPP Sen. Lucy Arce would be the spokespeople of Pesquera’s committee.

Frances Ramirez will be in charge of the advance committee and will work with Pedro Morales and Heriberto Perez, who will be in charge of field operations.

The NPP president also announced that certified public accountant Pablo Torres will coordinate the finance committee, while architect Mai Vizcarrondo will coordinate the committee of volunteers.

Pesquera’s campaign committee will be located at the former Light Center store on Ponce de Leon Avenue in Santurce.

Puerto Rican Churches Express Opposition To War

March 19, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Only hours away from President George W. Bush’s deadline for Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq, the Catholic and Adventist churches in Puerto Rico expressed opposition to the imminent military conflict on Wednesday.

With a call for prayer, San Juan Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez Nieves said the U.S. attack against Iraq "is not justified."

"We know that these moments are of great uncertainty and anxiety for all humanity. . .before a U.S. war against Iraq, mainly because it is a war that is not justified by Catholic morals and international rights," Gonzalez Nieves said.

Meanwhile, Rev. Hector Matias, spokesman of the Adventist Church, made a call for world "communication, peace, and harmony" and said "wars have never been the best option to resolve conflicts."

"We make our rejection to war clear. It is not the first time we do it. Since World War II, the Adventists who have entered into military service have done it as conscientious objectors," he said in a press conference.

On Monday, Bush gave Hussein a 48-hour deadline to abandon Iraq, along with his family, or face a war. The Iraqi leadership refused the U.S. ultimatum Tuesday.

Most Puerto Rican Soldiers Headed For Kuwait

March 19, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The Fort Buchanan Mobilization Station chief, Col. Edward Short, revealed that most of the 4,000 Puerto Rican soldiers activated by the U.S. Army Reserve and Puerto Rico National Guard will be deployed to Kuwait in the next few days.

The colonel said the first units to deploy, with over 500 soldiers, will be National Guard Military Police Unit 755, Combustible Unit 699, and Army Reserve Engineering Unit 941.

Another 100 soldiers of Reserve Unit 456 will leave for Kuwait on Sunday, Short said in published reports.

Meanwhile, approximately 1,500 soldiers who were mobilized through other U.S. stations could provide security services in European and U.S. bases.

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