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Anti-Drug Operation Nets Over 1K Arrests… Calderon, Mejia Discuss Closer Ties…Gov. Denies Obstructing Justice In U.S. Probe…Audit Reveals Lack Of Controls At Arms Depot… Federal Protection For Coqui Sought…Last Anti-Navy Protester Released… Pope Appoints Felix Lazaro New Ponce Bishop

Anti-Drug Operation Nets Over 1K Arrests

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

SAN JUAN (AP) - Police have arrested more than 1,000 people throughout Puerto Rico at the start of a weekend-long anti-drug operation on Thursday, authorities said.

So far, the raids have netted 1,146 people, including 62 minors, in San Juan, Arecibo, Ponce, Humacao, Mayaguez, Caguas, Bayamon, Carolina, Guayama, Aguadilla, Utuado, and Fajardo, police said.

One man, on Puerto Rico's 10 most-wanted list for escaping from prison, committed suicide, authorities said.

Gabriel Jimenez Ortiz, 29, killed himself with the service pistol of his girlfriend, an active police officer, officials said.

Authorities said they immediately suspended officer Grisela Ortega Vargas, who worked at a police precinct in Bayamon and told a television station during her arrest that she didn't realize Jimenez was a fugitive.

It was not immediately clear why Jimenez was in prison or the details surrounding his escape.

Meanwhile, police recounted the tally of the arrests saying 997 men and 149 women were in custody, in addition to 57 boys and five girls.

Officers confiscated nearly $30,000 in cash and 19 firearms, police said. They also seized 8 pounds of marijuana divided into more than 2,000 packets, 1,500 heroin packets, 1,350 cocaine packets, and 2,200 vials of crack cocaine.

The operation was expected to last through Sunday. Thursday's raids focused on 92 drug-selling points and 41 arrest warrants.

Gov. Sila Calderon has said the police are making a priority of cracking down on drugs. Last month, she announced a new police initiative to break up 350 drug-selling points by the end of the year.

Dominican President Hipolito Mejia Arrives In Puerto Rico

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

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

Dominican President Hipolito Mejia arrived in Puerto Rico on Thursday to participate in a two-day working visit seeking better trade and integration opportunities between the two Caribbean islands.

Upon his arrival at the Muñiz Base in Isla Verde, Mejia said he was pleased to visit the island for second time in an official status, and he said will he looks forward to expanding the fraternity, commercial and cultural relationship between Quisqueya and Puerto Rico.

Mejia was received by Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado, who then escorted him to La Fortaleza. The Dominican president was accompanied by his Army, Chief Carlos Diaz, and Agriculture Secretary Eligio Jaquez.

Other cabinet members are expected to join the Dominican delegation on Friday, when Dominican and Puerto Rican government officials will meet to discuss the progress of a multi-sector cooperation agreement signed by both countries in 2001.

Gov. Sila Calderon and her daughters Sila Marie and Maria Elena Gonzalez received the Dominican head of state, who arrived at La Fortaleza at 3:50 p.m. Mejia had a working session with Calderon for about 90 minutes; no further details were provided.

After his meeting with Calderon, Mejia headed to the Capitol where the Legislature conferred on him a distinction on behalf of the people of Puerto Rico.

In the evening, Mejia is expected to participate in a dinner hosted by Calderon.

On Friday, Mejia will have a meeting with Puerto Rican entrepreneurs and representatives of the Dominican Center for Exports Promotion.

During the past months, the Puerto Rico government has stated its intention to launch a promotion of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic as a joint leisure destination and the establishment of tourism initiatives in the west part of the island.

The Dominican Republic is the fourth trade partner of Puerto Rico. During 2002, Puerto Rico exported $633 million to the Caribbean island, and imported $706 million.

Governor Denies Obstruction Of Justice In Federal Probe

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – Gov. Sila Calderon denied that her administration obstructed justice during a federal investigation of the island’s Mental Health Services as claimed by the federal monitor in the case.

Calderon said her administration would comply with rulings issued by the federal court.

In addition, she blamed the economic recession for the reduction in funds assigned by her administration to the Psychiatric Hospital.

The court’s appointed monitor, David Helfeld, noted that there is a crisis in the Psychiatric Hospital and the Mental Health Service’s San Patricio Center and added that the P.R. Department of Justice obstructed the investigation when it instructed employees not to talk to investigators unless the employee was accompanied by an attorney.

Audit Reveals Lack Of Controls At Arms Depot

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – An internal audit revealed that during the past four years there was a total lack of control of weapons and munitions that should be in the custody of the Police Arms Depot.

The findings were referred to the Criminal Investigations Corps of San Juan for its immediate evaluation, while a criminal investigation is moving forward, Police Superintendent Victor Rivera Gonzalez said in published reports.

Among the report’s findings is the theft of at least 300,000 bullets of different calibers between the last year of the administration of former Police Superintendent Pedro Toledo Davila and the beginning of 2003.

The complaint indicated that the munitions were removed from the depot because they had expired or were to be used at firing ranges but instead they were reaching the underground market at a cost of $5 to $15 per bullet.

Rivera Gonzalez said he established adequate new controls for the management of the weapons. This included the dismissal of Lt. Edwin Rivera Fernandez, who was in charge of the depot.

Suit Presented In Federal Court To Protect Coqui Guajon

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – The Centro for Biological Diversity and the Maunabo Development Committee presented a legal action in federal court to protect the "coqui guajon," also known as "Puerto Rico’s demon."

Maunabo Development Committee Chairman Pedro Torres Morales explained Wednesday that the suit demands that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service designate a critical habitat and recovery plan for this species of coqui, which lives in the Pandura Mountains, in the southeast of Puerto Rico.

"The efforts to declare a critical habitat for the coqui guajon in the Pandura Mountains are essential to ensure the continued survival of the species," he said in a press release.

According to Torres Morales, the legal action was filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

"The coqui guajon was included on the endangered species list by the Fish & Wildlife Service on June 11, 1997, but it did not designate a critical habitat for the guajon, in violation of ESA," he said.

He also emphasized that the federal agency also failed by not preparing a recovery plan for this species of coqui, also in violation of ESA.

Torres Morales explained that the guajon is a rare frog species that is only found in southeastern Puerto Rico in the municipalities of Maunabo, Yabucoa, San Lorenzo, Las Piedras, and Humacao.

Last Anti-Navy Protester Leaves Prison

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – Ismael Guadalupe Torres was released from prison Tuesday morning after serving a 140-day sentence for trespassing military land in Vieques.

Guadalupe Torres, 27, was the last protester remaining at the Federal Detention Center in Guaynabo for trespassing the military grounds in an attempt to halt military practices in Vieques.

The young man is the son of Vieques resident and lifetime anti-Navy activist Ismael Guadalupe Sr. He, like many other residents of the municipality, argue that the closing of the target range in Vieques is but one of a series of steps that need be taken by the Navy as the cleaning of that land, which was bombarded for over 60 years.

"The struggle is defined by steps, we have reached an important step," said Gualaupe Torres.

Upon his release, Guadalupe Torres was received by relatives and friends who awaited outside the detention center since the early evening hours of Monday.

Pope Appoints Felix Lazaro New Bishop Of Ponce

June 11, 2003
Copyright © 2003
EFE NEWS SERVICE. All rights reserved. 

Vatican City - Pope John Paul II has appointed Felix Lazaro, currently the auxiliary bishop of the diocese of Ponce, Puerto Rico, as the new bishop of that diocese, the Holy See said Wednesday.

The 67-year-old Lazaro will replace Monsignor Antonio Surinach Carreras, who, according to Canon Law, must retire at the age of 75.

Born in Logrono, Spain, in March 1936, Lazaro entered the Esculapian order at an early age, and earned a degree in philosophy and a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, where he was ordained in 1961.

He has lived in Puerto Rico since 1970, has taught theology at the Pontifical Catholic University and is a member of the Commission on Culture and Faith of the Puerto Rican Bishops Conference.

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