House Drops Sodomy Ban From New Penal Code After U.S. Supreme Court Declares Texas Law Unconstitutional Gays Declare Victory Prepa Builds Biggest Underground Circuit In U.S .Feds Begin Arrests For Violent Vieques Incidents, Police Play Role Trias Monge Dead At 83 Ricky: Baby? What Baby?
House To Not Include Sodomy Crime In New Penal Code
By Istra Pacheco of Associated Press
June 26, 2003
The new Puerto Rican Penal Code will not be able to condemn consensual relations between people of the same sex following the recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that declared state laws on that matter unconstitutional, the chairmen of the Senate and House Judiciary committees, Eudaldo Baez Galib and Charlie Hernandez, respectively, said Thursday.
Hernandez also confirmed that the issue will not be discussed in public hearings that his committee will hold regarding the revision of the Penal Code, which the Senate approved Sunday.
"This decision makes it unnecessary for the House to debate the issue of sodomy. The religious sector will now have to continue its fight in the Supreme Court [to keep the laws that criminalize relations between people of the same sex] because the Legislature does not have any jurisdiction over this now," Baez Galib said.
Hernandez said "it would be a judicial aberration for the House of Representatives to incorporate an unconstitutional statute in its new Penal Code."
The U.S. Supreme Court announced Thursday its decision that laws prohibiting consensual relations between partners of the same sex are unconstitutional because they interfere with the right to privacy guaranteed by the Constitution.
"This is now the state of rights in Puerto Rico. . ., like it or not, this is the new judicial reality of the island, which means that the Senate made the right decision, judicially speaking," Hernandez said.
Some religious groups and fundamentalist leaders announced this week the formation of a coalition and several demonstrations against the elimination of the sodomy article in the new Penal Code.
"Legally speaking, this [religious] sector cannot do anything on the matter. As with the abortion issue after the 'Roe vs. Wade' decision, I expect that they will only do something on the matter from a religious perspective," Baez Galib said.
Supreme Court Strikes Down Texas Law Banning Sodomy
June 26, 2003
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court struck down a ban on gay sex Thursday, ruling that the law was an unconstitutional violation of privacy.
The 6-3 ruling reverses course from a ruling 17 years ago that states could punish homosexuals for what such laws historically called deviant sex.
Laws forbidding homosexual sex, once universal, now are rare. Those on the books are rarely enforced but underpin other kinds of discrimination, lawyers for two Texas men had argued to the court.
The men ``are entitled to respect for their private lives,'' Kennedy wrote.
``The state cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime,'' he said.
Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer agreed with Kennedy in full. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor agreed with the outcome of the case but not all of Kennedy's rationale.
Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.
As recently as 1960, every state had an anti-sodomy law. In 37 states, the statutes have been repealed by lawmakers or blocked by state courts.
Of the 13 states with sodomy laws, four -- Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri -- prohibit oral and anal sex between same-sex couples. The other nine ban consensual sodomy for everyone: Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia.
Thursday's ruling apparently invalidates those laws as well.
A long list of legal and medical groups joined gay rights and human rights supporters in backing the Texas men. Many friend-of-the-court briefs argued that times have changed since 1986, and that the court should catch up.
The case is Lawrence v. Texas, 02-102.
Gays Declare Victory After U.S. Supreme Court Decision
June 26, 2003
SAN JUAN (AP) Leaders of the gay community in Puerto Rico cried victory Thursday after the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to declare the sodomy law of Texas unconstitutional because it violates the right to privacy.
"It is a triumph, not only for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities, but a triumph for all people who believe in citizens rights without distinction," said lesbian activist Olga Orraca.
Orraca said the U.S. Supreme Court decision "applies to Puerto Rico because of our political relationship with the United States" and nullifies the discussion in the Legislative Assembly on Article 103 of the Puerto Rican Penal Code, which criminalizes sexual relations between people of the same sex and atypical relations between heterosexuals.
However, Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez has said the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Texas case does not necessarily apply here because the statutes are different.
According to Rodriguez, the Texas law prohibited only relations between partners of the same sex, while the Puerto Rico law also applies to heterosexual couples.
"What happens is that since the two statutes, the two laws, the two crimes are different, one has to interpret what the court says in relation to the crime or conduct that it is describing; it is not necessarily applicable when the crime is different," she had explained.
Gay and human rights groups are expected to meet Thursday afternoon in front of the Capitol to celebrate the Supreme Court decision, which would also apply to the other 13 states that still have sodomy laws.
Prepa Builds Biggest Underground Circuit In U.S.
June 26, 2003
The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) began Thursday construction, at an eventual cost of $135 million, of the biggest underground circuit in the United States.
Prepa Executive Director Hector Rosario placed Thursday the first stone for the construction of the first two phases of the 115 kV circuit in the metropolitan area.
According to Rosario, this project, the first of its nature in Puerto Rico, should be completed in July 2005.
"It is an historic project, and unique in its class. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has contributed 75% of the cost from its mitigation program," he said in a press release.
He added that the project consists of 30 miles of electrical lines interconnected to form a circuit, "which will help us ensure that the blackouts caused by atmospheric disturbances in the metropolitan area become a thing of the past."
The line that will be built in these first two phases, at a combined cost of $44 million, runs from Monacillos to Central San Juan, passing through Hato Rey, Viaducto, and Isla Grande, he said.
Rosario explained that the metropolitan area consumes 40% of the electricity produced on the island and is the heart of the islands economy.
The project will be developed under a design and construction contract granted through public bidding, he said.
Bermudez y Longo is in charge of the construction of the first phase at a cost of $22.9 million, and Lord Electric is in charge of the second phase at a cost of $21.5 million, according to Rosario.
"Once these two phases are completed, we will begin with the third phase, which will connect Central San Juan with Central Palo Seco, and Palo Seco with the Bayamon Transmission Center. The last phase will connect Bayamon with Monacillos, which will close the circuit," he added.
Feds Begin Arrests For Violent Vieques Incidents
By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News
June 25, 2003
Federal authorities arrested Wednesday morning a group of eight people who allegedly participated in the violent incidents on May 1, when Viequenses were celebrating the ousting of the U.S. Navy from the island.
A grand jury pressed charges against seven Vieques residents and another five non residents. The group includes Jose Montañez Sanes (nephew of David Sanes who died accidentally due to military maneuvers), Andres Santiago, Heriberto Hernandez Carmona, Manuel Perez Santiago, Nilda Medina (wife of Vieques activist Robert Rabin), William Miro Hodge, Nestor de Jesus Guishard, Osvaldo Skerrett Cecilio, Jesus Delgado, Jorge Cruz Hernandez, Jose Velez Acosta, and an unidentified Hispanic white male.
The grand jury issued an indictment on June 19 with six counts of conspiracy to destroy or damage federal property, including the of use of chairs, sledge hammers, and fire to destroy a Whaler Boat, a 1996 HUMV vehicle, and a concrete structure used as an entrance and exit gate at the former military facility, which was transferred to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
The violent incidents occurred May 1 when civic organizations and demonstrators celebrated the end of six decades of military maneuvers on the island. Federal authorities estimated the damages at $1 million.
Magistrate Judge Gustavo Gelpi imposed bails of $5,000 to $10,000 on three of the accused, while issuing a temporary detention of Montañez Sanes 27, since he was accused of the six counts. A bail hearing was scheduled for Friday afternoon to determine Montañez Sanes future until trial.
Gelpi also imposed a $5,000 bail on Medina.
All the accused will have 10 working days to present their respective bail, which could be secured with properties or cash.
One of the accused was already on probation for illegally trespassing on federal property in 2001 during the civil disobedience demonstrations to stop the military practices and another will be under evaluation by the Pre-Trial Office due to mental illness.
Attorneys Juan Matos Bonet, Linda Beckiel, Maria Sandoval, and Harry Anduze make up the defense team, while district attorneys Edwin Vazquez and Sonia Torres are the prosecutors.
Authorities are still executing arrest orders against the remaining four accused, including former Teachers Federation President Jesus Delgado [he turned himself in at 2:45 p.m. Wednesday, saying that with this act, federal authorities hope to divert public attention from the "real issues affecting the island."]
Jose D. Cruz-Hernandez was arrested on Wednesday afternoon and brought to the federal building after 4:00 p.m.
Judge Salvador Casellas will be hearing the trial. Convictions for the charges could result in sentences between 5 to 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.
Feds Acknowledge State Police Role In Vieques Arrests
By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News
June 25, 2003
U.S. District Attorney Humberto Garcia said on Wednesday that Puerto Rico Police Department participation was "very important" to the indictment of 12 people charged on Wednesday with conspiring to destroy federal property in Vieques on May 1.
Garcia thanked the local police department for its assistance during a press conference held at the federal building in Hato Rey. He was accompanied by Police Superintendent Victor Rivera, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) special agent in charge Thomas E. Riley, Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Associated Director in Puerto Rico, Samuel Santana and prosecutor Edwin Vazquez.
"The Puerto Rico Police role was very important to press charges against the accused, and we thank them," said Garcia. According to Garcia, the police also submitted videos of the incident to the federal authorities.
Police Department Superintendent Victor Rivera met with federal authorities after the incidents, which resulted in a joint custody agreement of the former military facility transferred to the Department of Interior FWS.
Riley said that the FWS deplored the incident and that the alleged offenders negatively affected the people of Vieques and Puerto Rico.
"We had special agents and other people, but when the action started, instead of injuring and arresting people in that kind of environment, we decided to back away, and get back later, and it took until now to bring people to justice."
Garcia said the investigation is continuing and did not rule out further arrests.
Chief Justice Who Helped Draft Puerto Rico's Constitution Dead At 83
June 25, 2003
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Former Chief Justice Jose Trias Monge, who helped draft Puerto Rico's commonwealth constitution and was considered a pioneer in judicial reform, has died. He was 83.
Trias died in a Boston hospital on Tuesday after a long illness, according to Jose Montalvo Trias, a distant relative.
"Puerto Rico and its judiciary are in mourning over the death of Jose Trias Monge," said Gov. Sila Calderon, who ordered that the U.S. and Puerto Rican flags fly at half-staff to honor Trias.
Trias was named undersecretary of Justice by Gov. Luis Munoz Marin in 1949 and served as secretary from 1953 to 1957. It was during this time he helped draft the U.S. territory's commonwealth constitution.
Gov. Rafael Hernandez Colon in 1974 appointed him as a justice to the Supreme Court where he served 11 years. An advocate of reform, he sought changes in Puerto Rico's penal code system to tackle rising crime.
He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Puerto Rico, his masters and law degree from Harvard, and a doctoral degree at Yale University where he concentrated on Puerto Rican judicial reform.
Memorial services will be held for him over the weekend at the Puerto Rican Bar Association. He is to be buried Monday in Bayamon.
Ricky: Baby? What baby?
June 25, 2003
Ricky Martin criticized recent speculation about his relationship with Mexican television personality Rebecca de Alba and dismissed rumors that the two planned to have a baby together, Mexican newspapers reported Wednesday.
''Whether Rebecca and I decide to be parents is something that's nobody's business,'' the Puerto Rican pop star said, addressing reports that Alba was pregnant. Martin, 31, also criticized recent rumors he planned to propose to Alba, and refused to say whether the two were more than just friends.
''I will continue defending the relationship I have had for many years with Rebecca,'' Martin said. ``I insist that she is a marvelous woman, and I want to have her in my life forever, and that will be.''
The singer made the comments Tuesday at a news conference in the northern city of Monterrey, where he met with some 600 fans. He was kicking off a three-day schedule to promote his latest album, Almas del Silencio.