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Alomar Passes Clemente…Gov. Lauds Anti-Drug Efforts…Expos To Play Postseason In Montreal, They Open In SJ Beating Mets 10-1…Calderon: OK’s Soldiers’ Incentive Bill, Defends Position On Vieques, Assesses RR Alternatives & Affirms Re-Election Bid…Pesquera Urges Gov. To Retain RR…Ceiba Mayor Cites Steps To Avoid Base Closing

Alomar Passes Clemente


April 13, 2003
Copyright © 2003
REUTERS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (Reuters) - Michael Barrett homered and Livan Hernandez pitched six solid innings to steer the Montreal Expos to their second win in a row at their newpart-time home, a 5-4 National League victory over the New York Mets Saturday.

Reliever Ron Calloway hit an RBI double in the sixth inning to help the Expos beat the Mets for the second successive day in front of a sell-out crowd of 18,264 at Hiram Bithorn Stadium, where Montreal was playing the second of 22 home games this season.

Montreal has won three straight and leads the NL East with a 7-4 record. The Mets have dropped four of five and are 4-7.

Hernandez (1-0) picked up his first win as an Expo after holding the Mets to two runs and eight hits in 5 2/3 innings. Rocky Biddle earned his third save of the season with a scoreless ninth.

Jae Seo dropped his first major league decision after surrendering five runs and nine hits in 5 2/3 innings. Mo Vaughn had his first hit in six games for the Mets.

Local hero Roberto Alomar had two hits for the Mets and scored his 1,417th run. That took him past Roberto Clemente into first place on the runs-scored list among Puerto Rican-born players.

Alomar received a huge ovation from the crowd when the announcement was made.

Governor Emphasizes Administration’s Anti-Drug Efforts

April 13, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Gov. Sila Calderon claimed Saturday the dismantling of some 400 drug selling points and the confiscation of the biggest narcotics shipment in the past few years as achievements of her government’s anti-drug efforts.

During her Saturday radio program, the governor reiterated her administration’s intention of directing "an overwhelming offensive to attack drug supply and demand, consumption, and trafficking."

"The Police. . .have already dismantled 400 drug points throughout the island," said Calderon as she recounted the confiscation of a shipment of more than 1,000 kilograms of cocaine with a value of $360 million.

She added that they "are also designing prevention programs to help avoid our young people from falling victims to drugs."

In other matters, the governor attributed her government’s strategic plan to the first allocation for Puerto Rico of $9 million to prevent drug use, especially young people from 12 to 17 years old.

She said the money will develop programs aimed "at the physical and mental health and the strengthening of the family."

Expos Set To Play Postseason In Montreal

April 13, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- If the Montreal Expos make the playoffs, they would be Les Expos, not Los Expos.

Montreal, which began Saturday leading the NL East, is on a 10-game homestand in San Juan, the first part of its 22-game Puerto Rican schedule. The Expos, who have been away from home since spring training began Feb. 13, finally reach Montreal on April 22.

Their lead led some to ask Saturday about their potential playoff base.

``If the Expos are in the postseason, they would play their postseason games in Montreal,'' said Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer. ``They are the Montreal Expos. It wouldn't be fair to the fans of Montreal who have supported the Expos, though limited in numbers, to deprive them of postseason baseball.''

Expos Start 22 Games In SJ

By Ronald Blum of Associated Press

April 12, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

Fans were so excited to get close to major leaguers, one of them actually tumbled onto the field during batting practice before Montreal played the first of its 22 home games at Hiram Bithorn Stadium.

The boy, who appeared to be about 10, was wearing a black Mets T-shirt with Roberto Alomar's name on the back and was clutching a baseball. Alomar and Rey Sanchez, among the three dozen Puerto Rican players in the big leagues, were signing autographs Friday near the New York Mets' bench, and fans scampered onto the dugout roof. The boy didn't appear to be injured.

Alomar, the biggest star for the locals, was given the biggest ovation during pregame introductions and had to bow twice to the fans before the Mets' 10-0 loss to the Expos.

"It's such an honor to be able to play in my country," Alomar had said a few minutes earlier. "To have my mom come to the game today and watch me play, that's a dream come true."

The Expos, like the Ruppert Mundys in "The Great American Novel," are a bit of a homeless team this season, forced to play more than a quarter of their 81 "home" games away from Montreal's Olympic Stadium because of poor attendance. The Expos, bought by the other 29 teams before the 2002 season, appear likely to wind up in Washington or Portland, Oregon, for 2004.

For now, they must cope with a schedule that doesn't have them play in Montreal until April 22. Even then, "home" might seem a little cold. With the team wandering North America, most won't have their wives, children and girlfriends along.

"I don't see too many people bringing the families in for just six ballgames," Expos manager Frank Robinson said. "They'll probably wait until a little later."

His team - Les Expos in Montreal, Los Expos in San Juan - is used to dealing with adversity as the ownerless orphan of the major leagues. The order came from the commissioner's office to cut payroll, and 20-game winner Bartolo Colon was dealt to the Chicago White Sox.

While Los Expos had 14 players on their opening roster from outside the 50 states, the most in the majors, it remained to be seen if the Puerto Rican fans would embrace the franchise, or just the Latin American players. Since the days of Roberto Clemente, this island has been home to many major leaguers.

The 22 home games away from home are unprecedented, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, baseball's statistician. The Brooklyn Dodgers played seven games in Newark, New Jersey, in both 1956 and 1957, and the previous high was set by the White Sox, who played nine games in Milwaukee in 1968 and 11 the following year.

The White Sox bridged the gap between the Braves, who had moved to Atlanta, and the Brewers, who arrived in 1970.

"We took the bus back and forth, 90 minutes to Milwaukee," recalled Bill Melton, a star of those Chicago teams. "Back then, we weren't drawing a whole lot at Comiskey Park, so we enjoyed playing in front of bigger crowds that were cheering for us. We didn't mind."

The person who arranged those games was none other than Bud Selig, who led the group that created the Brewers.

"It gave us the chance to keep baseball alive in Milwaukee," said Selig, now the major league commissioner.

Will this move this year lead to a permanent team in San Juan? Tony Tavares, the Expos' president, said the 22 games would be a litmus test, but that a 50,000- to 60,000-seat facility would be needed. Hiram Bithorn Stadium - named after the first Puerto Rican-born player in the major leagues - was spruced up for these games - with 5,000 bleacher seats added to raise capacity to about 20,000.

"If Puerto Rico wants to have a franchise later on, that's why it's so important to sell out these games," Alomar said.

The ballpark appeared full for Friday's opener. And while the Expos' caps had their traditional logo on the front, there was an effort made to localize the team. Above the left ear of the caps, there were small patches with Puerto Rican flags and logos that read "Series de los Expos." And the Puerto Rican anthem was sung between "O Canada" and "The Star-Spangled Banner."

"What I like about it is it continues what we've really set out to do, and that is internationalize the sport," Selig said. "There's nothing like taking your game somewhere else."

The corridors, filled with fans who paid $10 to $85 per ticket, looked like those of any other major league ballpark, filled with concession stands selling food and merchandise. The artificial turf field had more foul territory than any other major league park except for, perhaps, Oakland.

There were signs of the usual commercial sponsors - even a Kentucky Fried Chicken ad above the left-field bleachers with a bulls-eye - if a player hit it, everyone would get free food. And there were police with rifles in the bullpen - the ballpark was secured two days in advance by the security details.

But after all the hoopla and arrangements, it was just a baseball game, one played on a field with short porches, 315 to left, 399 to center and 313 to right.

"I'd be surprised if there aren't a few home runs hit this series," Mets manager Art Howe said.

Calderon Signs Incentive Bill For Puerto Rican Soldiers

By Yennifer Alvarez Jaimes, special for WOW News

April 12, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Gov. Sila Calderon signed Friday two laws to give tax relief for soldiers stationed in Iraq and give mobilized university students a refund of the registration charges.

Calderon signed the bills promoted by the presidents of the House of Representatives and the Senate, legislators Modesto Agosto Alicea, Francisco Zayas, Jose Dalmau, and Jose Ortiz Daliot in the presence of them and dozens of relatives of the Puerto Rican soldiers stationed in the Middle East.

On a rainy day, Calderon welcomed several soldiers’ relatives and made a special mention to Sgt. Hector Dones’ children, who with their bravery and maturity should be an example to us all in this difficult time.

Nearly 5,000 reservists and National Guard members were mobilized, and nine additional units are waiting for mobilization orders.

The first law is an amendment to the Internal Revenue Code that establishes a six-month extension to paying taxes, a tax exemption of their military salary, and the exemption of interests on the delayed payments.

After signing the bill, Calderon said she was not aware of its fiscal impact, but these details are available at the Treasury Department.

The second law grants a refund of the registration fee to public and private university students who are mobilized during the semester. She said almost 15% of the Puerto Rican soldiers are university students. The law also guarantees reserved space in the courses of the next two academic semesters or trimesters, depending on the university system.

"With these laws, we recognize and support the service of those who risk their lives to protect justice and democracy," said Calderon at La Fortaleza in the company of National Guard Adj. Gen. Francisco Marquez.

On the other hand, Calderon said she will soon sign the bill that gives income parity to the soldiers who are earning less on the salary given by the military than their regular earnings.

After several questions from journalists regarding the bill’s validity for public and private employees activated in the war, Calderon confessed her lack of knowledge and following this, she clarified that the law only applies to public employees.

"Only a minute ago, I found out that the measure is only valid for public employees. Nevertheless, we will study this alternative. I’m establishing a government policy at this specific moment. We’ll conduct an investigation on whether private companies could provide half with the state," the governor said.

After insistence from the press, Calderon admitted that she also didn’t know about the project’s fiscal impact if the private employees are engineers, doctors, or pharmacists.

In related news, Marquez spoke about the recent complaint of two soldiers stationed in Camp Santiago after protesting about their situation there.

"I think that two is not an indicative number of all the soldiers’ feelings," said Marquez after the soldiers’ relatives applauded him enthusiastically.

At the end of the ceremony, Calderon exhorted the soldiers’ relatives to visit the six aid centers throughout the island to support them.

Governor Defends Administration’s Position On Vieques

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

April 12, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Eighteen days away from the official date for the U.S. Navy’s departure from Vieques, Gov. Sila Calderon defended her administration’s position in favor of the permanent halt of military practices and refused to see any relation between the closing of that municipality’s target range and the considerable downsizing of operations in Ceiba’s Roosevelt Roads Naval Base.

In addition, the governor dismissed the possibility of negative economic consequences for the municipality once the target range is closed as the Navy has not contributed to the development of the town in the 60 years that it has been there.

"The Navy has not contributed financially to the municipality of Vieques in 60 years," Calderon said.

Earlier this week, Vieques Mayor Damaso Serrano said the municipality faces a growing deficit and is in bad financial state.

Calderon noted, however, that the administration has assigned $50 million for the municipality and will continue to address its needs.

"Any economic problem that exists in Vieques will be attended to," Calderon said.

The governor defended her administration’s position in regard to Vieques, arguing that it is what the people want.

"I know the people of Puerto Rico want peace for Vieques, and I know President George W. Bush made a fair decision," Calderon said.

Government Evaluating Alternative For Roosevelt Roads

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

April 12, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Avoiding the closing of the Roosevelt Roads Naval Base in Ceiba is the Commonwealth’s priority, but the government is evaluating an alternate plan for use of the area in the event that the base is shut down and the land is returned to the local jurisdiction, Gov. Sila Calderon said Friday.

In a somewhat contradictory statement, Calderon said her administration will do whatever possible to prevent the closing of the base since she believes it is in accordance with the Commonwealth’s postulate of "common defense."

Still, she ordered Economic Development Secretary Milton Segarra to conduct a study on the potential development of the area. The preliminary results of which reveal that 95% of jurisdictions where military bases once were show tremendous economic growth following the shutting down of a facility.

"I want it to be said that the public policy of the government is to keep the military base open; if the base was to be shut down. . .I order a study on the potential development of the area," Calderon said.

The base, Calderon said, could very well be used as the island’s second international airport, a cruise ship pier, or a cargo dock. In addition, the tourism potential of the area is also being evaluated.

Calderon said she has not given Segarra a deadline for the study, arguing that if a shut down occurs, it is scheduled to take place 18 months from now, for which there is time to do a complete and thorough study.

"I am not focusing on the quantity but on the quality of the study," said Calderon, adding that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) studies area being used and the possibility of hiring an armed forces expert on transition processes has not been ruled out.

The expert would advise the governor on how the transition should proceed.

"We want to collect information regarding infrastructure and study the structures, installations, and lands," Calderon said.

Meanwhile, the governor stated that La Fortaleza Chief of Staff Cesar Miranda had received notification from the Armed Forces regarding the relocation of the 300 civilian employees in the base who will be left unemployed once the downsizing of the base takes place.

She added that most of the 2,300 jobs that will be lost with the considerable downsizing are military personnel who will be moved to new locations.

Calderon Affirms She Will Run For Re-Election

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

April 11, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Gov. Sila Calderon affirmed, once again, on Friday afternoon, that she will run for re-election in 2004.

"The Popular Democratic Party has one candidate for governor, and it’s me," Calderon said.

Calderon’s brief statement was accompanied by a big smile and the cheers and applause of those present at La Fortaleza.

Her affirmation puts an end to the new round of rumors that got headlines Thursday when it was said that Calderon will quit her aspirations for re-election and Jose Alfredo Hernandez Mayoral would replace her.

The son of former Gov. Rafael Hernandez Colon has never occupied an electoral post since he was defeated in his attempt to run for resident commissioner in the 1999 primaries against Anibal Acevedo Vila.

Meanwhile, Calderon, still smiling, told reporters that she would miss the march being organized by New Progressive Party President Carlos Pesquera on May 4 to object to her administration.

"I will miss it because I won’t be in Puerto Rico," said Calderon, adding that she will be on an official trip in Washington D.C.

Pesquera Urges Calderon To Avoid Naval Base Closing

April 11, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera urged Gov. Sila Calderon to begin steps before the federal authorities to avoid the possible closing of the Roosevelt Roads Naval Base in Ceiba.

The U.S. Navy announced Thursday night that it will drastically reduce the number of employees at Roosevelt Roads after it leaves Vieques.

However, Atlantic Fleet spokesman Lt. Scott McIlnay explained that the base will not close operations for now.

"It is essential to take all the steps necessary to avoid this from happening," Pesquera said Friday in a radio interview.

The NPP leader criticized Calderon and Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila for not foreseeing the consequences to pressuring the Navy to abandon Vieques.

Meanwhile, Senate NPP Minority Leader Kenneth McClintock predicted "an economic catastrophe" in the northeast zone because of the announced partial closing of the base.

"The current depressed Puerto Rican economy does not have the capacity to replace the jobs of the 837 civilian employees and contractors who will be laid off," he said in a press conference at the Capitol.

He also indicated that the treasury will stop receiving between $30 million and $60 million a year in taxes and excise taxes, "which would worsen the future budget deficit."

On the other hand, he said he will soon announce a series of proposals to try to postpone the disappearance of some operational units in the base, assist those unemployed who have children in private schools to avoid an interruption in their studies, and provide tax relief for the workers who are left on the street.

Ceiba Mayor: Steps To Avoid Base Closing ‘Against Clock’

April 11, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Ceiba Mayor Gerardo Cruz said Friday that some steps can still be taken to avoid the possible closing of the Roosevelt Roads Naval Base, but he said he thinks "we are against the clock."

Without identifying them, he said he has internal information from the base that there are units that can continue to work at the base, better than at any other place.

"We have to take advantage of this information from the Navy to convince the higher-ups that they are committing a mistake," he said in a radio interview.

He added that this effort could be joined by other federal agencies that operate inside the base.

The mayor, whose municipality receives some $1.5 million a year in patent payments and excise taxes on construction from companies that work in the base, indicated that he has been saying since January that there was a possibility that the base would close.

"We continue to state that the naval base is still very useful for various commands of the Navy," the mayor said.

He added that in the case of the base closings in Panama, a grace period of 25 years was given, unlike at Roosevelt Roads where personnel reduction will be done in less than a year and a half.

Cruz said besides the 380 civilians who will be left unemployed, the possible closing of the base will have a great economic impact on neighboring businesses.

"This is going to create economic, social, and even political chaos," he said.

The Labor Department announced Friday that 349 people will be officially without jobs, since 1,935 of the affected are soldiers who will be transferred to other U.S. installations.

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