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Ramirez Files For Res. Comm….Vets Want New Hospital…Police Fail To Reach Crime- Solving Rate Goal… P.R. & Spain To Promote Film Industry…LULAC Supports CRB…Gov’t To File Vieques Cleanup Request…$2.3B UT Only Solution To Heavy Traffic…Economic Anxiety Over Gov’s Decision… What Price Terrorism?

Ramirez Makes Her Run For Resident Commissioner Official

May 27, 2003
Copyright ©2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — New Progressive Party (NPP) Sen. Miriam Ramirez de Ferrer officially announced her candidacy for Resident Commissioner for the NPP on Monday.

Ramirez, who was flanked by possible contender NPP Sen. Kenneth McClintock said she was the best candidate because of her connections with the National Republican Party and because of her years of dealing with the U.S. Congress.

She also assured constituents that she keeps close ties with the White House, especially with the Bush family. Ramirez de Ferrer added that she has dedicated her life to seeking equality for Puerto Ricans.

"That has allowed me to establish relations of 20 years with Congress members. Those who are still around now chair the most important committees," Ramirez de Ferrer noted.

The NPP senator said that should she win the NPP primary and the general elections of 2004, she would become the first Republican to occupy the position.

In an obvious attack on incumbent Anibal Acevedo Vila–who has been criticized for his constant trips to and from Washington D.C.–Ramirez de Ferrer said that if elected, she would live in the U.S. capital on a full-time basis.

Veterans Claim For New Hospital In Memorial Day Ceremony

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

May 27, 2003
Copyright ©2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.


At Monday’s Memorial Day commemoration veteran’s organizations urged the Resident Commissioner and federal authorities to lobby in favor of new medical facilities for veterans living in Puerto Rico.

James Torres, president of Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Puerto Rican chapter asked veteran’s organizations and government officials to join efforts, and obtain the $400 million needed for the construction of a new hospital that will serve nearly 63,000 patients and 1,500 ambulatory patients per day.

"We need to go to Congress, to the Department of Defense and the Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs to get the funds we need. The Veterans’ Hospital, and its personnel are making great efforts to serve us, but the facilities are limited," said Torres.

PVA National vice-president Gene A. Crayton, who visited the island for the ocassion, endorsed the local chapter effort.

During his speech, Crayton recognized the heroic deeds of nearly 2,000 Puerto Rican military soldiers fallen in combat, and another 200,000 who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila, on the other hand, committed with veterans and their relatives to lobby in favor of the initiative.

"If we stay together, and make our claim consistently, the hospital will be reality in the near future," said Acevedo Vila who explained that Veteran Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi ordered a delegation to visit the island this week to evaluate present facilities located next to the Rio Piedras Medical Center, and analyze the Sabana Seca military base in Toa Baja as a possible site for the construction of a new hospital.

In addition, he mentioned that he has gained support from some congressmen to lobby for the hospital, but declined to give names.

The official ceremony at the Veteran’s Cemetery in Bayamon was highlighted with the presence of 18-year-old Marine Peter Gonzalez Rivera, who was severely injured by a suicide bomber in the II Persian Gulf War which ended last April, and the parents of Sgt. Gil Mercado, killed in the same conflict.

"Peter represents those anonymous heroes who are an example of courage and sacrifice to all of us. He’s one of those heroes, whom God allowed us to be with, and he’s here joining us to pay respect to the heroes who won’t come home," Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila said.

Acevedo Vila added that present and future generations won’t be able to pay back what officers like Gil Mercado–who died on duty while deployed in Iraq–have done to preserve peace, democracy and the liberties Americans and Puerto Ricans enjoy.

"Sometimes, our lifestyle, consumerism, intolerance, and political fanaticism dishonor the gift of liberty given by our fallen heroes. We have to honor those men & women who are building a society founded on respect, solidarity and decency," the Popular Democratic Party leader concluded.

Government Acknowledges Deficiencies In Solving Crimes

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

May 27, 2003
Copyright ©2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

Although Gov. Sila Calderon promised to step up efforts to fight crime, Police Superintendent Victor Rivera Gonzalez acknowledged not having been able to raise the crime-solving rate to 45%, as had been intended by the end of 2002.

"In that sense, we must adjust our objectives given the resources and equipment we have, and the reality is that what is viable for the remainder of this year is a crime-solving rate of 40%," said Rivera Gonzalez. To achieve this, he said 150 vehicles would be assigned to the Criminal Investigation Corp.

"It is not easy to increase two percentage points," Rivera Gonzalez said in explaining the efforts of the police force.

The superintendent made his statement during a joint press conference Tuesday to announce the government’s achievements in the fight against crime. Calderon announced that in the past five months, the crime-solving rate has increase from 34% to 38%.

The governor also said the rate of Type I felonies against people has dropped by 21.5% during the first five months of 2003 compared with the same period in 2002. She added that a reduction of 9.8% was registered in the rate of Type I felonies against property during that period.

"I tell the people of Puerto Rico that there have been 3,600 felonies fewer during the first five months of 2003 compared with 2002," the governor said.

Calderon announced that she intends to end this year with 6,000 felonies fewer than in 2002. She also said 500 of the 1,600 drug-dealing spots on the island have been eliminated. She expects to eliminate 350 more by year’s end.

The governor added that some 1,200 new police officers would join the force in 2004. She also announced the recruitment of 1,000 auxiliary police officers to help out in shopping centers, suburbs, and poor neighborhoods.

"The police presence is vital to the citizens. I want the officers on the street," Calderon said.

She added that 2,250 vehicles would be added to the 1,234 already purchased this year, bringing the number of vehicles in the fleet to more than 6,600.

P.R. And Spain Sign Agreement To Promote Film Industry

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

May 27, 2003
Copyright ©2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

The governments of Puerto Rico and Spain signed a cooperation agreement on Tuesday to promote films in foreign markets and to develop the local film industry through the co-production of movies.

The agreement was endorsed by Laura Velez, executive director of the Filmmaking Industry Development Corp. (FIDC), and Jose Maria Otero Timon, general director of the Institute of Cinema and Audiovisual Arts (ICAA by its Spanish acronym) of Spain.

Velez said the initiative allows local producers to work in joint projects with their Spanish counterparts using the incentives provided by the FIDC.

"We have one of the most attractive incentive packages for filmmaking in the world," said Velez, who mentioned that the most recent movie filmed on the island "Habana Nights" contributed $8 million to local economy.

The Puerto Rican official explained that through the FIDC fund, producers may borrow a loan with no interest or collateral to develop a film project. At present, the fund nears $6.1 million, and after the agreement, local producers can take advantage of the incentive to invest in movie productions with Spain.

Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado–who heads Puerto Rico relations with foreign countries–served as a witness of the agreement and said Puerto Rico "joins the list of countries, including France, Germany, Russia, Cuba and Argentina, that have signed filmmaking agreements with Spain."

Spain officials and FIDC personnel met with nearly 50 leaders of the local film industry to inform them about the agreement, its possibilities, and the opportunities it gives for film promotion in both markets.

Known local artists and producers like Miguel Angel Suarez, Elia Enid Cadilla, Amneris Morales, and Mexican actor Fernando Allende, who has been developing a series of artistic productions on the island, attended the ceremony to support the initiative.

According to Mercado, Spain’s expertise, international projection in the movie industry, as well as its relationship with other countries, will benefit Puerto Rican producers, artists, and technicians.

The agreement promotes active participation of producers, directors, technicians, artists, and scriptwriters of both countries and the use of their respective markets as filming location and movie promotion.

Otero Timon of ICAA said on the other hand, that the institute he heads–attached to the Culture Ministry of Spain–is interested in Puerto Rico because of cultural similarities and the island’s potential as a center for film promotion.

"Film is the greatest entertainment for the people, the industry with the most content impact in an audiovisual era, and we believe that in addition to developing good productions, we will contribute to the economy by creating jobs," Otero Timon assured.

Finally, Otero Timon added that Spain identified an emerging resourceful group of artists and production possibilities on the island, which could benefit both countries through the integration of technical knowledge, talent, and ideas in a time where globalization hs taken the lead. ?

LULAC President Supports Romero Barcelo

May 26, 2003
Copyright ©2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Hector Flores, national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), expressed his support for former Gov. Carlos Romero Barcelo to preside over the organization’s chapter in Puerto Rico.

Flores said that following the controversy linked to LULAC in Puerto Rico, Romero Barcelo is the best candidate to occupy the position.

"After all those vicious attacks in Puerto Rico, we need an experienced president who can work to boost the Puerto Rican fight for equality within the nation," Flores said during a press conference on Monday.

Flores was referring to an investigation conducted by a House committee to evaluate LULAC’s alleged participation in a scheme to funnel Education Department funds to the coffers of the New Progressive Party during the past administration.

Romero Barcelo said that if he were elected president of the organization in Puerto Rico, he would push for statehood for the island.

Government To File Vieques Cleanup Request By Mid June

May 26, 2003
Copyright ©2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — The local government is hurrying to file the request for cleanup of the former U.S. Navy land in Vieques in the National Priority List by mid-June, said Environmental Quality Board Chairman Esteban Mujica.

Mujica maintained in published reports that the request will arrive before Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Chief Christie Todd Whitman’s resignation takes effect.

Whitman announced her resignation but will remain in her post until June 27.

Gov. Sila Calderon has stated that Whitman’s resignation won’t affect the cleanup process for the lands transferred to the U.S. Department of the Interior on May 1, following the withdrawal of the Navy troops from Vieques.

$2.3 Billion Urban Train Only Solution To Heavy Traffic

May 26, 2003
Copyright ©2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — The cement columns rising above the heavy traffic on the main avenues of the metropolitan area are the base of a transport system that has been cited as the only viable solution to Puerto Ricans’ dependency on automobiles.

The Urban Train–the first of its kind in the Caribbean–could alleviate highway traffic and provide fast and economical transportation to the more than one million residents of the metropolitan area.

However, some skeptical citizens believe the train is a waste of money on an island where there are 1.7 cars for each licensed driver.

The Urban Train’s toll will be $1.50, and will allow passengers to also use the Metropolitan Bus system. The new form of transportation is expected to begin operations in September.

Businessmen Express Concern Over Governor’s Decision

May 25, 2003
Copyright ©2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — The leaders of the business unions expressed concern about the future of Gov. Sila Calderon’s economic development agenda after her announcement that she will not seek re-election in 2004.

Industrials Association President Manuel Cidre mentioned the lack of support the governor had from the Legislature to promote the economic development.

"Since the governor went to La Fortaleza, we felt a genuine commitment and desire to promote the island’s economic development, using manufacturing as one of its most important components. But we also saw a lack of common vision between the Legislature and the executive branch," Cidre said in published reports.

His greatest concern is that "the legislative system now starts to think individually and not as a work team," he said.

Puerto Rico Hotels & Tourism Association President Rick Newman said the sector expects "the projects to continue, no change of administrations, and no work stoppage, but work with much aggression and enthusiasm because we need continuity."

Meanwhile, Puerto Rico Products Association President Felipe Hernandez said he is confident that the changes to happen in the cabinet because of Calderon’s announcement will be minimum and the governor will conclude all the projects she proposed at the start of her term.

What Price Terrorism?

The Morning Call

May 25, 2003
Copyright ©2003 THE ALLENTOWN MORNING CALL. All rights reserved.

You've heard that it costs New York City $5 million a week when Uncle Sam puts the nation on high-alert terror status.

But what about smaller places?

A recent survey by the U.S. Conference of Mayors found these price tags:

Pittsburgh: $280,000

Orlando, Fla.: $112,000

San Juan, Puerto Rico: $52,000

Harrisburg: $18,500

Allentown: $10,000

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