Vieques Leaders Announce Events To Mark Navys Exit, Ask Calderon Not To Participate Navy Could Retake Land Govt Appeals Law 54 Ruling Irizarry Fed. Judge Nominee Cruz Wins Cleveland Marathon Judge Denies Anti-Gay Bias Rey Decries Poor Spanish Linguistics Institute Created Vieques U.S. Land Jurisdiction At Issue
Vieques Leaders Announce Events To Mark Navys Exit
By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News
April 29, 2003
As the countdown to the May 1 closing of the U.S. Navys target range in Vieques continues, anti-Navy leaders have announced their schedule to mark the day. They have also acknowledged, however, that there is still much to be done, such as the cleanup of the land and its return to the local government.
Four-day celebrations are scheduled to begin Thursday with a march from the public square at Isabel II to Camp Garcia, where organizations will hang a sign renaming the formerly restricted area "Zona Libre Primero de Mayo" (Free Zone May 1). After the ceremony, people will walk to the barracks and the "perrera," where protesters were detained for engaging in acts of civil disobedience.
On Friday, Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez and Caguas Bishop Ruben Gonzalez Medina will say a mass at the towns church. On Saturday, the Ecumenical Coalition will hold a ceremony at the Chapel of Peace. The organizations have planned an artistic event for that evening. Finally, on Sunday, organizations will honor the locals who participated in the Vieques movement for peace and have since died, and the Alliance of Vieques Women will hold a ceremony to commemorate the eviction events of 2000.
Puerto Ricans and former Gov. Pedro Rossello initiated a movement in 1999 to stop military exercises in Vieques after a bomb accidentally killed civilian officer David Sanes. People engaged in acts of civil disobedience to interrupt military practices. Former President Bill Clinton issued an executive order establishing May 1, 2003, as the date for the end of military practices on the island.
Vieques Leaders Ask Calderon Not To Participate On May 1
BY Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News
April 29, 2003
Vieques leaders urged Gov. Sila Calderon not to participate in the events to celebrate the end of U.S. Navy practices, saying she would only try to take over what belongs to them.
"If shes (Calderon) thinking of going to Vieques to tear down the gate (to Camp Garcia), I ask the governor not to," said Ismael Guadalupe, president of Comite al Rescate de Vieques, during a press conference at the Bar Association in Miramar.
Guadalupe said nongovernment organizations are the ones responsible for the end of military exercises in Vieques and are tired of being left out of the decision-making process.
The anti-Navy activist clarified that Calderon can attend, as can former Gov. Pedro Rossello, because they contributed but the main characters are the people of Vieques.
"This is an offense to us," said Guadalupe while explaining that there is a trend in the government and politicians to take credit for the peoples victory in ousting the Navy from Vieques. The leader recognized the importance of civil disobedience as an effective, nonviolent strategy for peace.
Meanwhile, fisherman Carlos Zenon demanded more participation in the Transition Committee appointed by Calderon. Zenon said the land in Vieques still belongs to the federal government and community leaders are not participating in the process to clean up the land.
The committee will be in charge of developing a plan to manage the land that will be transferred from the Navy to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS).
Zenon mentioned that the end of military exercises is only the first step in retrieving the land that belongs to the people and questioned the "moral" authority of the FWS to protect the land.
"Where were they (the FWS) when the Navy bombed Vieques for so many years?" Guadalupe said.
Guadalupe and Zenon demanded total access to the Transition Committees information, more participation in the working group, and more communication between the committee and the people. Leaders warned that there might be interest in developing big projects on the island southeast of Puerto Rico and Viequenses would oppose any such projects.
Navy Could Retake Land In Vieques
April 29, 2003
SAN JUAN (AP) The administrator of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service refuge in Vieques, Oscar Diaz, said the U.S. Navy could reassume at any moment the jurisdiction over the land that it will give to the U.S. Department of the Interior on Thursday.
Diaz said in published reports that this is possible because of the colonial status of Puerto Rico.
He also rejected the idea that the Department of the Interior could transfer the land to the Puerto Rico government, unless there is a federal legislation to that effect.
He explained that federal legislation gives jurisdiction over the land in eastern Vieques to the Department of the Interior. Accordingly, the Navy would also have to promote legislation to reassume control over the land.
Government Appeals Supreme Court Ruling
By SANDRA IVELISSE VILLERRAEL of Associated Press
April 29, 2003
SAN JUAN (AP) - After considering it a mistaken ruling the Government of Puerto Rico filed a motion for a reconsideration of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court ruling to exclude same-sex couples from benefiting from domestic violence Law 54.
In a 20-page document, the General Advocates Office objected to the analysis made by the court regarding the law text and the application of the legal principle to cases as well as the constitutional implications of the judicial ruling.
"The Court use of legislative intention as a tool to interpret this case is mistaken," said the legal motion, arguing that if the legislative intention was to exclude people from the law it would have said so.
In addition, it says that regardless of the social value ascribed to the law there is an undisputable social reality of thousands of Puerto Ricans who form same-sex couples and as such form a consensual relationship under any reasonable definition.
According to the governments interpretation of Law 54 it should include any victim of domestic violence regardless of the persons sex.
"Law 54 is neutral. In reality, the law has nothing to do with homosexuals, lesbians or heterosexuals, but with the physical and emotional pain suffered when they are subjected to abuse by people with whom they are having an intimate consensual relation," reads the motion.
The government is warning the Supreme Court that in case its ruling is sustained, should make sure that its opinion survives challenges of a constitutional nature.
"It could be argued that the ruling is based on a sex classification," reads the document.
Irizarry Nominee For Federal Judge
April 28, 2003
Dora Irizarry, a former Republican candidate for New York state attorney general, will be nominated by the White House to a federal judgeship in Brooklyn, Senator Charles E. Schumer said yesterday. Senator Schumer, a Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said he supported the nomination of Ms. Irizarry, a Columbia Law School graduate and former prosecutor, who was born in Puerto Rico. She would be the first Hispanic appointed to a judgeship in the Eastern District of New York. Senator Schumer said Ms. Irizarry is "legally moderate, excellent and, of course, she represents diversity.
Cruz Wins Cleveland Marathon
April 27, 2003
CLEVELAND (AP) -- Lourdes Cruz of Puerto Rico won the Cleveland Marathon on Sunday.
The 38-year-old Cruz snapped a 14-year streak of Russian winners. Cruz finished in 2:48:46, beating runner-up Debi Kilpatrick of Berea by more than two minutes.
Ohio native Richard Roberts won the mens division becoming the first American man to win the race in nine years. Roberts, a 22-year-old college student from Mansfield, finished in a personal best of 2 hours, 28 minutes and 59 seconds for his first marathon victory.
Andreu Garcia Denies Discriminating Against Homosexuals
By Damaris Suarez of The Associated Press
April 27, 2003
Local Supreme Court Chief Justice Jose Andreu Garcia ruled out that the decision to exclude homosexual couples from the domestic violence law, also known as Law 54, may turn them into second-class citizens. He also urged the Legislature to resolve the gaps within that law.
Andreu Garcia defended himself from the criticism of several civil rights groups following the ruling that Law 54 cannot apply to homosexual couples.
"I am very surprised at the fact that they expect the Supreme Court to resolve a legislative problem. The opinion clearly states that the law needs to be amended to include that group of people," Andreu Garcia told The AP.
Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez had asked prosecutors to apply the domestic violence law in cases involving aggression between same-sex couples.
The prosecution followed her instructions and filed charges in an aggression case of a homosexual couple. The accusation was validated by the Circuit Court of Appeals. However, the local Supreme Court later ruled that Law 54 doesnt apply in such cases.
The ruling means that the case would be referred to the Superior Court. However, it cannot continue as a domestic violence case, but as an aggression case.
Education Chief Supports Improvement Of Spanish Teaching
By Luis R. Varela of The Associated Press
April 27, 2003
Cesar Rey called for a better teaching of the Spanish language in local public schools.
"We have abandoned Spanish. We have mistreated English, and now there is a stuttering [among students]," said Rey when referring to students who have poor communication skills in both languages.
Rey said he would emphasize programs to improve Spanish language skills.
However, although he agreed that English should continue to be taught in public schools, he didn't comment on whether Spanish should be Puerto Rico's sole official language.
"I believe the Education secretary's responsibility is to comment on how to improve the teaching of the language. The judicial and legislative aspects of the issue are [other people's responsibility]," Rey said.
Governor Signs Law Creating Linguistics Planning Institute
April 26, 2003
SAN JUAN (AP) Gov. Sila Calderon signed into law a bill that creates the Linguistics Planning Institute to structure the necessary bills for Spanish to be the official language of communication between the government and the people.
Her action comes at the same time the governor has insisted that the language issue was not a priority of her administration.
Published reports informed that the creation of the institute was one of the recommendations of the report of the Senate Education, Science, & Culture Committee, which also proposed making Spanish official and elevating this recognition at a constitutional level to remove it from the swing of partisan politics.
Among the functions of the institute are improving the teaching of Spanish and English and promoting the learning of other languages related to Puerto Ricos Caribbean environment.
Jurisdiction Over Federal Land In Vieques Unknown
By Manuel Ernesto Rivera of Associated Press
April 26, 2003
Six days short of the closing of the U.S. Navys target range in Vieques, Gov. Sila Calderons administration still doesnt know what could happen to trespassers once the land is turned over to the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez said the Department of the Interior had notified her that access to the lands would be public.
"Those are federal lands, and they have to announce if one can go in and what could be considered trespassing, which is a federal crime, and its up to federal authorities to decide what will happen," Rodriguez said following a meeting at La Fortaleza with the Vieques transition team.
While the land belonged to the Navy, thousands of people were taken to court and charged with trespassing. Some were given fines; others were let go; and some got sentenced for as much as six months.
However La Fortaleza Chief of Staff Cesar Miranda said "what we have heard is that the Department of the Interior wont intervene with anyone."
He added that the Department of Interior has already announced that Red Beach and Blue Beach will be open to the public.
However, the local government will ask the federal agency to certify that those beaches are not contaminated and post no health dangers.
Rodriguez and Miranda said no agreement between federal and local authorities has been made for May 1.
The Justice Department has still not concluded the negotiation with the federal agencies on the jurisdiction of east lands of Vieques.
Rodriguez indicated that the contamination levels and the final use to be given to the lands are still unknown, information that is considered vital for identifying what type of services the state government will offer and in what matters it will have jurisdiction.
Miranda said if this type of agreement does not exist, there is no mark of jurisdiction by the Police.
"Our responsibility is with the security of the Puerto Rican people, and we are complying with that role to the fullest, and we have offered integrated security with the guards of Natural Resources, and we will offer patrols in the surrounding waters that is the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth," he said.
However, Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila indicated that this responsibility falls on the Fish & Wildlife Service, an agency of the Department of the Interior, which is in charge of the management of the lands.
Miranda indicated that an orientation campaign will be offered to the residents of Vieques to reveal the risks of entering the lands that are identified as dangerous.
The Navy should hand over all their land, of which the 900 acres that were used as a target range will be prohibited. The other 13,600 acres will be a natural refuge, also under the control of the federal government.