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Garcia Promises To Prosecute Vieques Vandals…160 Schools Fail Federal Test… NPP Reps. Demand Vieques Violence Data… Incriminating Video Heads To U.S. Atty…Calderon Promoting FTAA…CRB Considers LULAC Presidency…Mari Bras Decries Violence…Rossello Won’t Negotiate Candidacies…Pesquera Not Running For Res. Comm.

Garcia Promises To Prosecute Vieques Vandals

By Manuel Ernesto Rivera of Associated Press

May 7, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico Humberto Garcia said Wednesday that he will act with all the force of the law against those who might have committed a crime in Vieques on May 1.

Garcia made his statements after Police Superintendent Victor Rivera handed in copies of videos of the May 1 melee to the federal prosecution.

"Yes, we have a mutual interest in sending out a message about what occurred in Vieques, the Puerto Rico police, as well as the prosecution," Garcia said following a nearly one-hour meeting with Rivera.

Garcia acknowledged that the jurisdiction to legally process anyone for the violence that occurred in Vieques is strictly federal because it occurred on land that now belongs to the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Earlier Wednesday, Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez had admitted the same. Still, she said she would cooperate with the federal investigation.

"The events occurred on federal land. It is up to the federal agencies to do the investigation. We are at their disposition to help them in anything they need," Rodriguez said.

Rivera’s cooperation with federal authorities, on the other hand, included handing them video footage of the May 1 events.

"I met with the prosecution to discuss issues related to investigations. . .including that of Vieques," said Rivera.

Both Rivera and Bird acknowledged that this would be the first of many meetings to discuss investigations with common interests.

Garcia refused to say if the charges would be filed based only on the video handed in by Rivera.

160 Public Schools Are Poor Academic Performers

May 6, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The results of the Puerto Rican School Competency Exams revealed that in the 2001-2002 school year, 160 public schools with 80,000 students did not meet the Partial Index of School Competency required by the federal government.

According to published reports, these results demonstrate that 40% or more of the students do not master the subjects of mathematics, English, and Spanish.

The Education Department said in November that there were 48 schools with poor academic performance, but a memorandum of the Education Department’s Federal Affairs Office dated April 24, 2003, indicates that there are 112 schools that scored less than 40%.

The federal No Child Left Behind Law grants these schools a maximum of five years to address their failures.

Education Planning and Educational Development Assistant Secretary Blanca Villamil, along with Evaluation Director Angel Canales, said these 112 schools are already on a preventive plan as an educational strategy to monitor their academic process.

Representatives Demand Information On Vieques Violent Acts

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

May 6, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

New Progressive Party (NPP) representatives Jose Aponte, Albita Rivera, Antonio Silva and Epifanio Jimenez demanded law enforcement authorities reveal the status of their investigations regarding the violent incidents which occurred in Vieques during government events to celebrate the transfer of the former 3,100 acre-military facility to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

The legislators also condemned the use of public funds in the activity that turned into chaos on May 1st.

"Images of people with hammers, destroying vehicles that were set on fire are a shame and caused consternation to the Puerto Ricans," said Aponte during the press conference, at which lawmakers presented pictures and newspaper clippings portraying the violent events.

The group filed a resolution to investigate the events and said that the images, widely spread in local and national media, project the wrong image of Puerto Ricans to the world.

They also pointed out that violent acts occurred in front of the Governor Sila M. Calderon and Police Superintendent Victor Rivera, "who didn’t do anything to stop this regretful incident."

Jimenez additionally, questioned the use of more than $250,000 in public funds assigned by the Legislature to broadcast events on Vieques, and the laxity of the Family Department to proceed against those adults who had minors with them and participated in the disturbances. He described the incidents as "previously planned" and as an anti-American message that was send to the mainland.

"In the same manner they (referring to Calderon’s administration) go to Washington to discredit the good name of Puerto Rico, they have to clarify and defend that the majority of Puerto Ricans don’t support these violent incidents," concluded Jimenez.

Incriminating Video Heads To U.S. District Attorney’s Office

May 6, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Police Superintendent Victor Rivera Gonzalez said Tuesday that he will hand over the video in which Teachers Federation President Jesus Delgado is seen hitting federal facilities in Vieques with a sledgehammer to the U.S. District Attorney’s Office.

However, Rivera Gonzalez said it depends on U.S. District Attorney Bert Garcia to determine if criminal charges will be filed against the magisterial leader.

"That responsibility belongs to Garcia. We have the video and will be giving it to the U.S. District Attorney’s Office," he said in a radio interview.

However, the superintendent then added that "Delgado has already publicly admitted that he is the person identified in the video and that he was exercising a symbolic act."

In the acts that occurred May 1 in Vieques, demonstrators destroyed and burned vehicles and federal government facilities that until that day was Camp Garcia.

Gov. Sila Calderon issued instructions to Rivera Gonzalez to identify and criminally prosecute the people involved in the disturbance.

Governor Lobbying In Washington

By JOHN COLLINS of Caribbean Business

May 5, 2003
Copyright © 2003
CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All rights reserved. 

The current visit of Gov. Sila Calderon to the nation’s capital, while concentrating on the broad spectrum of issues involved in the relationship between Puerto Rico and the U.S. Government, is expected to focus particularly on expanding the role of Puerto Rico in the evolving Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), announced Michael K. Deaver, a principal in Edelman Worldwide, which serves the Government of Puerto Rico.

On Monday evening the Governor is to be the guest of honor at a reception and dinner at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington hosted by Deaver and attended by scholars from a number of think tanks in Washington that follow the involving FTAA. There will be no U.S. government representatives at the affair, according to Jere Sullivan, an assistant to Deaver.

"Gov. Calderon is one of the leading voices on Hispanic issues in the country and will be in the U.S. top focus on a variety of topics, including trade and economic development," said Deaver. "The governor will address Puerto Rico’s significant role in the U.S. economy."

Citing the recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study, Deaver said that "275,000 U.S. jobs are attributable to the production and distribution of U.S. goods to Puerto Rico. With more than $55 billion in total exports and imports, Puerto Rico is the eighth largest trading partner of the U.S. in the world — while ranking among the top five per capita consumers of U.S. products in the world."

Recalling the recent visit of U.S. Undersecretary for International Trade Grant Aldonas to Puerto Rico, Deaver said Aldonas met with the governor "to discuss the possibility of her acting as an "ambassador" to the region on trade issues of importance to the U.S. and Puerto Rico." Deaver indicated that Puerto Rico "is being considered as a host site for future meetings leading up to the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and/or the FTAA."

Also on the Governor’s agenda in Washington are meetings on Capitol Hill with members of Congress whose names have not been announced, according to Ana Carrion of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration.

Tentatively scheduled on Wednesday is a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Don Evans and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick which Edelman’s Sullivan inidicated is being coordinated by Winston & Strawn, one of the Washington law firms retained by the governor.

The governor’s more aggressive thrust in Washington, hoping to carve out a more defined role for Puerto Rico in the evolving hemispheric trade area, resulted in different reactions from a number of business people contacted on the new initiative. "This is welcome news," said one, cautiously. "But, coming in the third year of her term, it is going to be viewed by some as politically expedient and an effort to counteract the perception in Washington as well as in some circles on the island that her administration is viewed as anti-American." She denies the charge.

Regional observers view the strategy to expand the role for Puerto Rico in hemispheric trade negotiations as a move by the Bush administration to reinvigorate the slowly moving talks on the FTAA and a number of regional trade pacts like the Cafta. Some in the region openly question whether the FTAA will become functional by 2005 as originally projected. Zoellick has consistently indicated that the FTAA timetable is on schedule.

Others point to the less than enthusiastic support by the hemisphere for the Iraq War by the coalition of 49 nations. President Bush cancelled his visit to Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien and the White House observance of the Cinco de Mayo. While the nations of Central America supported the coalition, only Colombia in South America and the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean did so.

The governor’s current visit to Washington marks the direct involvement of Deaver, an official in the White House under President Ronald Reagan, who worked closely with Gov. Rafael Hernandez Colon (1985-93) in implementing the strategy under which Puerto Rico supported the Caribbean Basin Initiative in exchange for strengthening Section 936 of the Internal Revenue Code, then a cornerstone of Puerto Rico’s investment policy.

Some Washington insiders see Deaver’s reemergence as part of an effort by Calderon to change her image there. One says "her problems at the White House stem from the fact that she is not trusted by Bush aides, they disagree with her on Puerto Rico policy and they and the President have ties to Republicans in Puerto Rico and favor statehood for the island." Top Republican lobbyist Charlie Black, who is reportedly being paid $100,000 a month, is said not to be able to overcome Calderon’s problems in the White House. Black it is said has been successful in restraining the White House from doing more that Republican statehooders would like and, conversely, what Calderon would dislike.

Romero Barcelo Considers LULAC Presidency

May 5, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Former Gov. Carlos Romero Barcelo defended Sunday the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and said he is seriously considering running for the presidency of the organization, which has been under the scrutiny of a legislative investigation during this four-year term.

Romero Barcelo reminded in a press release that during his second term as governor in the beginning of the 1980s, he organized the first councils of LULAC on the island to provide better economic opportunities and greater political participation to Puerto Ricans.

"LULAC is a very important instrument to reach what we so yearn for, equality, and that is why the Popular Democratic Party is trying to criminalize the organization," Romero Barcelo said.

He was referring to an investigation of the House Education & Culture Committee that is ascertaining the acts of LULAC and the way that it allegedly served to divert funds from the Education Department to the New Progressive Party and convicted former Education Secretary Victor Fajardo.

Romero Barcelo said the next internal elections of LULAC will be June 8 and he is "seriously considering accepting the request of LULAC to assume the presidency in Puerto Rico."

Independence Sector Distances From Vieques Violence

By Damaris Suarez of Associated Press

May 4, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

Non-affiliated pro-independence leaders denied Sunday that independence groups had caused the violent disturbance in the early hours of Thursday during the celebration of the exit of the U.S. Navy from Vieques.

Attorney Juan Mari Bras and university Prof. Julio Muriente emphasized that from the beginning, the left-wing sectors complied with the pacifist character undertaken by the Vieques organizations.

Mari Bras affirmed that a pro-independence sector "has invoked the right to the armed fight," but he emphasized that there was also a commitment that the Vieques fight would be pacifist.

"There was a commitment to act according to the strategy planned by the Vieques leaders, based on pacifist, not violent, civil disobedience," said the spokesman of the Congreso Nacional Hostosiano.

Muriente, president of the New Independence Movement, said the suffering of the Viequenses during 68 years of military exercises could cause in some enough rage to burn trucks and destroy everything that reminds them of the injustices attributed to the Navy during that period.

However, he said besides those feelings, a sense of responsibility for the fight has always prevailed, which is why he questioned the ulterior motives of those, he said, who damaged the image of what represents the Navy’s exit from Vieques and Puerto Rico.

"Why on the last day when we were gathered to celebrate?. . .Are we that stupid and dumb to create, after four years, a distortional image of this process? No," he argued.

Muriente insisted that what happened in the midst of the closing of the military base were "calculated actions to sabotage the fight."

Rossello Won’t Negotiate Candidacies At The NPP

May 4, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - Former Gov. Pedro Rossello won’t negotiate to have New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera run for resident commissioner in the upcoming general elections in exchange for letting Rossello run for governor in 2004, said San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini, who is one of Rossello’s allies.

Santini said in published reports that Rossello has reiterated on numerous occasions that he wouldn’t intervene in the race for resident commissioner’s candidacy.

The San Juan mayor added that he had recently been in a meeting with Rossello and several mayors, including Bayamon Mayor Ramon Luis Rivera, Jr. and Guaynabo Mayor Hector O’Neill, in which several options had been presented. However, Rossello didn’t support any of the ideas, especially the idea of supporting Pesquera for resident commissioner.

"He said those who want the candidacy to an elective post must earn it," Santini said.

Pesquera Insists On Not Running For Resident Commissioner

By Damaris Suarez of Associated Press

May 4, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera’s primary campaign director, Edwin Mundo, recommended Sunday to the NPP leadership to let things inside the party flow and allow each one to run for the position wanted without impositions.

"I think prudence dictates to the people to not prepare the candidates," he said.

Mundo reacted to statements that place powerful NPP mayors gathering support for a resolution to support Pesquera for the resident commissioner if he falls back and lets former Gov. Pedro Rossello the gubernatorial candidacy.

"No one officially has talked to us," Mundo said. "Some are claiming powers greater than the authority they have to make arrangements," he added on the alleged steps led by Guaynabo Mayor Hector O'Neill and Bayamon Mayor Ramon Luis Rivera Jr.

Internal sources affirmed that both NPP mayors are who traditionally decide on the candidates, especially the problematic ones, to avoid possible divisions in the NPP due to a primary process.

"Neither Pesquera nor Rossello are traditional politicians," Mundo said. "Both want the gubernatorial candidacy."

Mundo reiterated that Pesquera will not accept running for resident commissioner and questioned how the internal battle for the resident commissioner candidacy will be resolved.

"What’s going to happen with the rest of the candidates. . .Miriam (Ramirez), Charlie Rodriguez, Kenneth McClintock? They’re going to take them out of the way too?" Mundo asked in a telephone interview from Orlando, Florida.

However, he said if Rossello opts for the resident commissioner and leaves the path free for Pesquera, the NPP president’s group could help him.

"Pesquera’s campaign committee would have no problems and would even give him our support. If not, we will see each other at the polls Nov. 9," Mundo said.

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