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Puerto Rico Wins 1ST Miami Cup…EPA Asked To Prioritize Vieques & Culebra…LMM Passes Federal Evaluation…Calderon Touts Special Communities, Apologizes To Mejia For Press Behavior…New Health Reform Contracting System To Begin…P.R., D.R. Strengthen Ties…Medicare Prescription Benefit To Include Island

Puerto Rico Wins First Miami Cup


June 15, 2003
Copyright © 2003
THE MIAMI HERALD. All rights reserved. 

A busy calendar of events, through tournaments or dual meets, often results in rematches for many amateur boxers, and Puerto Ricos Juan López certainly was familiar with his opponent in the inaugural Miami Cup.

López had a second opportunity at Colombias Yonnhy Pérez after Pérez won the first bout between the 119-pound boxers two years ago in the Dominican Republic. This time, López didnt waste his chance, rallying to a 28-25 decision over the 2000 Olympian on Saturday afternoon in the Waterfront Theatre at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Lópezs victory helped lead Puerto Rico past Colombia 5-3 in total bouts for the Miami Cup title. Each team won a walkover bout, including Puerto Rico 112-pound representative Carlos Varcacel, who also boxed in the 2000 Sydney Games. Varcacels opponent, Ramiro Rojas, remained in Colombia.

Puerto Rico’s victory was not assured until the card's final bout, when Miguel Almonte came from behind to defeat Alexander Monsalve 15-11 in the 165-pound division.

''We were concerned because our team had just competed in two international tournaments in Puerto Rico which consisted of 11 countries,'' Puerto Rico coach Jim Pagan said. ``But our boxers displayed a desire to compete against an experienced team.''

EPA Asked To Include Vieques & Culebra As Priorities

June 15, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - Gov. Sila Calderon has asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to include the lands of Vieques and Culebra in its National Priorities List.

La Fortaleza Press Director Luis Torres Negron said the governor officially issued the petition on Friday in a letter addressed to EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman.

In the letter, Calderon specifically requested to include the lands that for decades had been used for U.S. Navy practices.

Torres Negron said in a prepared statement on Sunday that if the petition is accepted, Vieques wouldn't have to go through a long environmental evaluation process.

Puerto Rico, just as the states of the United States have the authority to designate a site as one that poses a health risk to the public and the environment so that it can be immediately included in the list, Torres Negron said.

Isla Verde Airport Passes Federal Evaluation

June 14, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport obtained a perfect scoring in the evaluation that is conducted annually by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and that is a requirement to receive the certification for commercial operations.

This is the second consecutive year in which the international airport obtains this mark, according to published reports.

Ports Authority Executive Director Miguel Soto Lacourt said the inspection was conducted June 5 and 6 by FAA Inspector Linda Berkowitz.

Among the criteria evaluated were the emergency plan, the index of protection against fires in airplanes, the qualification of personnel, the manual of certification, and the control of wildlife, officials said.

Calderon Highlights Importance Of Special Communities

June 14, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Gov. Sila Calderon insisted Saturday in the importance of boosting the development of poor sectors, in which her administration promotes the creation of self-management companies.

"The empowerment and self-management of the residents is the axis of the special communities project," the governor said.

In her Saturday radio program, Calderon broke down the efforts her government has concentrated on in the special communities project, which has been the spearhead of her social program.

"This has to do with an effort without precedent that we have started in the fight against poverty. . .to channel our island to a future of social justice and fairness. It is not fair for some to have so little," she said.

It is expected that as a result of this work, 40 cooperatives and 60 micro companies integrated by residents of these communities be established by December 2004, she said.

Calderon Apologizes To Mejia For Journalists’ Questions

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

June 14, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Gov. Sila Calderon abruptly terminated a press conference Friday when Puerto Rican journalists questioned Dominican President Hipolito Mejia about corruption scandals in his country.

Before leaving the Government Reception Center where a working session had been conducted between Dominican and Puerto Rican officials, WOW News heard Calderon apologizing to Mejia for the "questions made by Puerto Rican reporters."

In a defensive tone of voice, Mejias contradicted himself when questioned about a request made by the Puerto Rican government a few years ago for the extradition of Dominican entrepreneur Rafael Cabral, who was charged with crimes related to a fraudulent scheme at the local Ports Authority.

First, Mejia said he did not know about the request, but then he mentioned that the petition "is under evaluation."

Mejia defended his honesty and claimed transparency when he was questioned about the government’s decision to close a daily paper in the Dominican Republic.

"In the past, I was a victim of an offensive, virulent campaign headed by some reporters, but I learned to appreciate them as part of the democracy. But there are some (reporters) who pass the line and believe that having a pencil and the power to write give them the right to say whatever they want, and I do not accept that," said Mejia.

In addition, Mejia explained the decision to shut down the Dominican Republic’s largest newspaper "Listin Diario" and five other media outlets was a decision made by the country’s Central Bank due to the bankruptcy of Intercontinental Bank, which occurred in the middle of the $2.2 billion fraud scandal on the Caribbean island. The newspaper was one of the strongest critics of Mejia’s performance as head of state.

"I do not have anything to do with that decision, and I will not interfere ever," said Mejia. "I thought that (the embargoing of Dominican media companies) was totally clarified, but it seems there is still some misinformation here," added Mejia.

With that statement, and claiming that he is a democracy advocate, Mejia denied he has interfered with the editorial policy adopted by the Dominican media regarding his actions as head of state.

"They criticize me more now than before," Mejia said about the Listin Diario and added that the Dominican government owns a radio station and that he has not visited the station and doesn’t ever intend to do so.

Calderon seemed upset when a Puerto Rican reporter asked about conferring the Medal of Merit to Mejia and the possible scandals surrounding the Dominican president.

Mejia has recently been accused of allegedly using public funds to build a summer home for his personal enjoyment.

Calderon replied that the medal, which is the highest distinction conferred by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, was presented to Mejia "with honor, with the understanding that he is a capable, honest man and an impeccable public servant who serves his country with total commitment."

Calderon’s Press Secretary Luis Torres Negron then immediately ended the press conference, which had lasted less than 10 minutes.

New Contracting System For Health Reform To Begin July 1

By Sandra Ivelisse Villerrael of Associated Press

June 14, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

Starting July 1, five municipalities of the southeast region will begin to experiment with the new model of direct contracting with service providers for the beneficiaries of the public health plan, officials said Friday.

Health Insurance Administration (ASES by its Spanish acronym) Executive Director Orlando Gonzalez said some 22,334 people will benefit from the new system and will not experience any change in services.

The Cooperativa de Seguros de Vida (COSVI) will administrate the network of services in charge of the medical group AMSE in Guayama, Maunabo, Arroyo, Patillas, and Salinas, which should help expedite the services by centralizing referrals and authorizations, Gonzalez said.

An educational campaign will begin in these municipalities next week and will end with the delivery of the new card the beneficiaries will use, he said.

Gonzalez said insurance company Humana, which has been administering the services of this region, began notifying its clients of the change of provider, while COSVI is in the process of sending orientation letters for the collection of the new card.

The new system is designed to eliminate the mediation of an insurance company, which should facilitate the coordination of services and generate savings for the government, Gonzalez said.

Puerto Rico And Dominican Republic Strengthen Relationship

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

June 13, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

In his second official visit to the island, Dominican President Hipolito Mejia and Puerto Rican Gov. Sila Calderon met Friday with local government officials to review the progress of a multi-sector agreement signed between the Caribbean islands in 2001.

During the working session held at the Government’s Reception Center in Old San Juan, Commerce & Economic Development Secretary Milton Segarra highlighted Puerto Rico’s active role in promoting exports within the Caribbean and emphasized the island’s trade relationship with the Dominican Republic (D.R.).

According to Segarra, Puerto Rico exports electric machinery, textiles, optical, and petroleum derivates to D.R. and imports shoes and clothing, among other goods. The trade between the countries surpassed $1.3 billion in 2002.

Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado added that as part of the agreement, the government organized lectures, art exhibits, theater presentations, and concerts to promote Puerto Rican and Dominican cultures.

Puerto Rican officials also trained and provided support to various Dominican agencies, including the Corp. of Electric Power, the Ministry of Environment, the Firefighters Corps, and the Dominican Comptroller’s Office.

In addition, Puerto Rico donated 150 heads of cattle to support Dominican dairies’ operations and two hydroelectric generators valued at over $3 million to alleviate D.R. power generation limitations.

Mejia and Calderon agreed that the countries have broadened their cultural, political, and economic relationships and expressed satisfaction with the reduction of illegal trips of Dominican immigrants to Puerto Rico.

According to Mercado, the countries have developed a joint strategy with the federal Homeland Security Bureau of Citizenship & Immigration Services (BCIS) —formerly known as the Immigration & Naturalization Service–which regulates the entrance of foreigners to Puerto Rico.

In Puerto Rico, there are nearly 200,300 Dominicans, while nearly 5,000 Puerto Ricans reside in the D.R.

According to BCIS Ramey Border Patrol Assistant Chief Victor Colon, since Oct. 1, 2002), federal enforcement authorities have arrested 1,184 illegal Dominicans who have landed on Puerto Rican shores and have detained another 1,269 at sea. Illegal immigrants are deported to their country of origin, in accordance with federal statutes.

Island To Be Included In Medicare Prescription Benefit

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

SAN JUAN (AP) — Over half a million Puerto Rican senior citizens in the federal Medicare program will soon have the benefit of a new subsidized plan for prescription purchase.

Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila made the announcement after the U.S. Senate Finance Committee included the island on the list of beneficiaries.

The bill also includes a disposition to increase to 100% the reimbursement of hospital services payments.

Acevedo Vila noted that Puerto Ricans who pay Social Security contribute the same amount as any American citizen to Medicare and it is therefore only fair that they receive the same benefits.

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