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’03 PR Day Parade Plans Detailed…Irizarry Questions Troops Readiness…PDP Opposes Gov’t Ads Ban…Expos Welcome Readied…Island To Tax Offshore Banks…NPP Surveys Favor Rossello…Pesquera Claims Public Employees Support, Legislators Back Him…Marine Of Puerto Rican Descent Wounded In Iraq…Viequenses Demand Transition Role…15,000 Latinos Fighting In Gulf

Puerto Rican Day Parade Organizers Give Details For 2003

March 30, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - The 2003 National Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York will be dedicated to the southwestern city of San German and the principal theme will the Caribbean island's music, organizers said.

Golfer Juan "Chi Chi" Rodriguez will be the grand marshal at the parade, scheduled for June 8 along Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, organizing committee president Ralph Morales said Saturday.

The parade in New York City dates back to 1958, but the event in its current form is in its eight consecutive year. Security this year is a high priority for parade organizers, who will begin making safety plans in coming weeks, Morales said.

The parade attracts about two million people, including 100,000 marchers, he said. This U.S. Caribbean territory has a wide variety of music, including salsa, plena and bomba.

San German, about 80 miles southwest of the capital, San Juan, was the second city founded by Spaniards in Puerto Rico. The city, officially founded in 1573, was named for Germain de Foix, King Ferdinand of Spain's second wife.

More than one million Puerto Ricans live in New York State, with about 800,000 in New York City, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures. In the 1940s, many Puerto Ricans left for New York in search of better economic opportunities.

A U.S. invasion in 1898 wrested Puerto Rico from Spain and in 1952 the island became a U.S. commonwealth. Puerto Ricans became American citizens in 1917 and many fought and died in the U.S. military. Islanders can't vote for president, however, and have no vote in Congress. They pay no U.S. income tax, but the commonwealth receives more than $13 billion in federal funds each year. About 4 million Puerto Ricans live on the island and another 3.4 million on the U.S. mainland.

PDP Senator Questions Readiness Of Puerto Rican Troops

March 30, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

MAYAGÜEZ (AP) - Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Sen. Rafael Irizarry announced that in the next few weeks the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee will conduct a hearing to see if Puerto Rican troops are prepared for war in Iraq.

Irizarry, who is a former lieutenant colonel of the U.S. Army with 25 years of military experience, believes that the conditions of Puerto Rican troops are not the best ones.

"The time between activating and sending them to the battle field is too short," he said. "This makes it impossible for them to have the adequate training to face such a hostile scenario."

Irizarry's statements followed those made recently by Caguas Mayor William Miranda Marin, who expressed concern with the type of training that National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve soldiers were receiving.

However, National Guard Assistant General Francisco Marquez guaranteed that Puerto Rican troops are well trained and well equipped for war.

PDP Opposed To Prohibiting Government Ads

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – Considering that it "could constitute a gagging of the state," the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Electoral Commissioner Carlos Lopez Feliciano opposed a proposal to prohibit the government from placing advertising throughout the four-year term unless it has the support of the State Elections Commission (SEC).

Lopez Feliciano explained in published reports that the of Puerto Rican Independence Party Electoral Commissioner Juan Dalmau is based on two drafts of of bills that the SEC’s Legal Affairs Office prepared aimed at revising the current text of the Electoral Law about the electoral ban.

Dalmau urged Lopez Feliciano and New Progressive Party Electoral Commissioner Thomas Rivera Schatz to come to a consensus about one of the drafts that would extend the electoral ban to ads throughout the four-year term unless approved by the SEC.

The PDP electoral commissioner said he favors the other draft that proposes maintaining the electoral ban for the election year and extend it to referendums and plebiscites with the exception of ads whose publication is required by law and the when the ads display a public interest that justifies the placement.

He said the permanent ban would "unreasonably limit the obligation the state has to maintain the citizens informed of their actions. This could constitute a gagging of the state."

Puerto Rico Ready To Welcome Expos Games

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – Puerto Rico, land of Roberto Clemente and other great baseball players, is preparing to starting April 11 to host 22 Montreal Expos games in an experiment that will try out the island as a possible permanent venue of a Major League team.

The Expos will play against seven teams in the Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, starting with the New York Mets from April 11 to 13, and closing with the Chicago Cubs from Sept. 8 to 11.

There will also be games with the Atlanta Braves (April 15-17), the Cincinnati Reds (April 18-20), the champion Anaheim Angels (June 3-5), the Texas Rangers (June 6-8), and the Florida Marlins (Sept. 5-7).

Businessman Antonio Muñoz, the games’ organizer, admitted that the island’s future as a possible home for a Major League team or at least as host city for more games of the Expos or another franchise will depend on the favorable acceptance of this series.

"This series is crucial for identifying Puerto Rico as a possible host," Muñoz said in a recent interview with AP.

He said "the ideal" would be to hold 81 games on the island, which equals a complete local season.

To achieve this proposal, they would have to make an arrangement similar to the one that brought the Expos this season or, as an alternative, bring together investors who are willing to acquire the team, said Muñoz, owner of the Ponce Lions of the local baseball league.

"We let the Major League know. . .that with a series of conditions in which everybody takes part, Puerto Rico could be the city to host 81 Major League games, without any problem," he affirmed.

Mari Elena Batista, San Juan Recreation & Sports Department director, agreed with Muñoz in that Puerto Rico has the capacity to attract more games and said the capital is willing to serve as a "facilitator."

Batista said the improvement works are progressing at Hiram Bithorn, a facility constructed in 1962 with capacity for about 15,000 people, which will be increased to some 19,000 by adding seats in the outfield.

She acknowledged that the electronic board has still not been installed, but she said that is the responsibility of the Major League management. She said other details of the park, such as improvements to the bullpen area, are still not done.

The government official estimated the cost of these improvements at approximately $2 million, although she said this money comes from a budget of $26 million that the municipality had reserved to revamp the stadium.

Puerto Rico To Tax Offshore Banks

Stephen Temple

March 28, 2003
Copyright © 2003
World Markets Research Centre Limited. All rights reserved. 

Representatives of the Popular Democratic Party have proposed legislation that would impose a 10% profit tax on offshore banks operating on the island. The move would amend the 1989 law that regulates international banking entities operating in Puerto Rico and would also require offshore banks to deposit 3% of their income in a special trust fund aimed at funding emergency medical services operations. At present offshore banks are tax exempt, as the 1989 law had originally sought to make Puerto Rico an international banking haven. This new bill would impact some 33 banks that currently do not pay tax.

Edwin Mundo Admits Surveys Favor Rossello

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

PONCE (AP) – Rep. Edwin Mundo, a strong defender of New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera’s gubernatorial candidacy, admitted Saturday that former Gov. Pedro Rossello is in the lead in the opinion polls in the race for the NPP candidacy.

Mundo said NPP internal surveys place Rossello as the favorite over Pesquera.

However, he emphatically refused that these surveys favor the former governor at an 80-20 proportion.

"We don’t have a reason, at this moment, to lie, and I admit that the surveys place Rossello in front," Mundo said in a radio interview. "It is not by a lot but the difference in the surveys is small, and each day you see how the gap closes even more. I won’t give out numbers, but they are pretty close to each other."

Mundo’s version coincides with radio surveys that affirm that Rossello would win a primary election against Pesquera.

If a primary is held, the loser would be out of any NPP electoral ballot because, according to the Electoral Law, a person cannot run for two positions.

Mundo attributed Rossello’s advantage to his return to the island to campaign but alleged that once he returned to Virginia, where he lives, "no one talks about Rossello anymore."

The former governor will return to the island June 1 to live in San Juan and dedicate himself to the primary campaign.

Pesquera Says He Has Support Of Most Public Employees

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera said Saturday that the displeasure provoked by the privatization politics of former Gov. Pedro Rossello among public employees favors his gubernatorial candidacy in the primary.

He highlighted the commitment that public employees have made to his political campaign.

"There was displeasure, not only because of the privatization but because of the way it was done, and doubts emerged over whether other agencies should be privatized. What is important is for that not to happen again," Pesquera said in a telephone interview.

A committee that groups NPP pubic employees in 70 government agencies announced Saturday its support for Pesquera in the NPP primary for gubernatorial candidate.

"Pesquera is committed to offering public employees the tools to serve with excellence what our people deserve. This does not have to do just with privatizing," said Angel Melendez, who presides over "Friends of the Public Service with Pesquera."

Melendez calculated that there are 30,000 public employees committed to Pesquera, who will face Rossello in November in a gubernatorial primary.

The most violent moments that Puerto Rico lived in the decade of the 90s was a consequence of the sale in 1998 of Telefonica de Puerto Rico, one of the public corporations that contributed the most income to the treasury.

Rossello assured in a recent interview that the controversial privatization policy that characterized his eight years in government is a thing of the past and will not be repeated if he retakes power in 2004.

NPP Legislators Voice Their Support For Pesquera

March 28, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Several New Progressive Party (NPP) legislators met at the Capitol on Friday to express their support for NPP President Carlos Pesquera as gubernatorial candidate.

" We support our party president because he is the potential agent for change for us and all Puerto Ricans," said Sen. Lucy Arce, spokeswoman of the legislator group that supports Pesquera’s candidacy.

Among the legislators who support Pesquera are Arce, House NPP Minority Leader Anibal Vega Borges; Reps. Edwin Mundo, Toñito Silva, Iris Myriam Ruiz, Junior Perez, Pedro Lopez, and Jose Luis Rivera Guerra; and Sen. Pablo Lafontaine.

" We not only want to win the 2004 elections, we also want to give to all Puerto Ricans a new Puerto Rico, with a leader who brings a new vision, new ideas, and a real commitment to change and progress," Arce said.

Marine Of Puerto Rican Descent Among Wounded In Iraq

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

SAN JUAN (AP) - A 26-year-old U.S. Marine of Puerto Rican descent was wounded in Iraq when his armored personnel carrier convoy was ambushed, his mother said.

Sgt. Jose Torres suffered multiple gunshot wounds to his pelvis, his mother Karen Torres said Thursday in Lorain, Ohio. He was the first Puerto Rican reported wounded in the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Torres, who was wounded Sunday, was born in Ohio, but his father, Freddie Torres, and his grandmother, Teresa Torres, are from Lares.

"The people of Lares share the sadness of this soldier. . .and also of Puerto Rico," the town's mayor, Luis Oliver, said Friday. "We regret that someone from Lares is one of the first wounded in this war that affects the Puerto Rican family." He said the news reached the town of 40,000 people in reports on Friday.

There are more than 53,000 Puerto Ricans in the U.S. armed forces, including 22,680 on active duty and 30,940 reservists on the island, according to the Pentagon.

Torres' mother said earlier reports that he suffered shrapnel wounds were incorrect.

"The nurse told us to be thankful because somebody was looking out for him," Karen Torres told The Chronicle Telegram of Elyria, Ohio.

Relatives said Torres talked to his wife Thursday by phone and said he was headed back to the United States from a hospital in Germany. Torres' wife, Gennifer Williams-Torres, reached at the family's quarters at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, declined to comment. They have a 2-year-old son.

Torres, who was sent to the Persian Gulf in January, recently re-enlisted for four more years.

Karen Torres said her son will be on medical leave until his injuries heal, but "knowing him, he'll probably want to go back" overseas.

Viequenses Insist On Participation In Transition Committee

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – Several organizations opposed to the U.S. Navy presence in Vieques sent a letter to Gov. Sila Calderon asking for greater participation in the Transition Committee designated by the governor, officials said Thursday.

The anti-Navy leaders expressed in the letter that the "Transition Committee should demand from the Navy a deep and complete environmental cleanup, appropriate to the social uses included in the guides for the sustainable development of Vieques."

The letter also includes a series of demands concerning the present negotiations between the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Navy, according to a press release by the Vieques Pro Rescue and Development Committee, one of the organizations that signed the letter.

The document was also signed by the leaders of Camps Milivy and Luisa Guadalupe, as well as organizations Veterans for Peace and Technical Revision Committee.

The Transition Committee is in charge of representing the Puerto Rico government in the process of transferring the Vieques lands controlled by the Navy.

Some 15,000 Latinos Among The US Troops Fighting In Iraq

Laura Bonilla

March 28, 2003
Copyright © 2003
Agence France-Presse. All rights reserved. 

WASHINGTON - Soldiers of Latin American descent, make up six percent of total US troops, and Colonel Cynthia Scott-Johnson, a Pentagon spokeswoman says the percentage is believed to be the same in the Gulf, where 15,000 Latinos in the US forces are deployed.

Last year, US troops included a total of 129,254 Hispanic soldiers, of which 55,380 were of Mexican origin, 22,881 from Puerto Rico and 1,740 of Cuban descent, according to the Pentagon.

The 37 million Hispanics in the United States make up 13 percent of the total population, the largest ethnic minority.

Many enlist in the armed forces to get a job, a chance to learn a profession, or simply to escape from poverty.

Others join the forces in a bid to speed up their citizenship process, under a recently adopted program.

President George W. Bush last year approved a decree under which foreign residents who enroll in the armed forces can get citizenship in less than the five years required before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

But in the guidelines for enlistment, the Pentagon stresses it does not get involved in any nationalization process or sponsor citizenship or immigration request.

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