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Acevedo Vila Backs Charges Against Anti-Navy Leaders…Morel Retains WBA Title…Puerto Rican Soldier Killed In Iraq…$50k Bail For 2 Vieques Accused…Medicare Reform Covers Island…Hernandez Mayoral To Decide Candidacy Soon…Death Penalty Trial Set For July 7th…Pesquera Criticized For Criticizing Santini…Citric Acid A Powerful Coqui Pesticide…Latinos To Mike: No mas

Acevedo Vila Favors Accusations Against Anti-Navy Leaders

June 29, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

PONCE (AP) - Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila on Sunday voiced his support for the federal authorities who have filed accusations against 12 people who allegedly participated in the violent acts that marked the withdrawal of the U.S. Navy from Vieques on May 1.

Acevedo Vila applauded the federal authorities by saying that "those who violate the law are exposed to prosecution."

"No one can have immunity. What happened that night was something regrettable, but premeditated. The Puerto Rican people condemned those acts because celebrating peace with violence cannot be justified," Acevedo Vila said during a radio interview.

The federal authorities filed accusations against 12 people, including Vieques leader Nilda Medina and Teachers Federation outgoing President Jesus Delgado Burgos.

Delgado and Medina were accused after television cameras caught them hammering down a security tent at the entrance of the former military Camp Garcia in Vieques.

However, Acevedo Vila said he was surprised to learn of the accusations against Medina, who he described as a conciliator in the fight against the Navy.

Morel Retains WBA Title

June 29, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

BAYAMON, Puerto Rico (AP) -- Puerto Rico's Eric Morel unanimously outpointed Mexico's Isidro Garcia on Saturday night to retain the WBA flyweight championship.

Morel, unbeaten in 33 fights, attacked from the opening bell and outclassed the overmatched Garcia, who lost points in the fourth and eighth rounds for low blows. There were no knockdowns.

Two judges scored the fight 115-111, and the third had it 116-110. Garcia dropped to 22-3-2.

Also, Puerto Rico's Miguel Cotto stopped Rocky Martinez of Chicago to retain the Americas Intercontinental super lightweight title.

Death Of Puerto Rican Soldier In Iraq Confirmed

June 28, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Pentagon confirmed the death of a Puerto Rican soldier stationed in Iraq.

The Defense Department said Richard P. Orengo, 32, died of several bullet wounds on Thursday in An Najif, Iraq.

Orengo, resident of Toa Alta, was assigned to Military Police Company 755, based in Arecibo.

Police Superintendent Victor Rivera Gonzalez said he will consult with Gov. Sila Calderon on whether the flags should be flown at half-mast and if funeral honors will be granted to him "since he died in service."

The soldier’s wife, Carmen Berrios Rodriguez asked for "solidarity in this moment of profound pain for me and every one of the members of my family," according to published reports.

Orengo joined the police force on April 18, 1996 and was assigned to the Motorized Unit of Bayamon.

He has three children of two, seven, and eight years of age.

The agent, born in New Jersey, was mobilized in February to Camp Santiago in Salinas and was sent on a mission to Iraq a month ago.

Diaz Saldaña Warned About His Limits As Comptroller

June 28, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Two former legislators bitterly censured Commonwealth Comptroller Manuel Diaz Saldaña for using his official position to preach on his religious preferences.

Former Puerto Rican Independence Party Rep. David Noriega warned Diaz Saldaña, a conservative Catholic who takes communion daily, that he can’t move forward his religious beliefs from a public post because that violates the Constitution and the laws of Puerto Rico.

"It seems to me that the comptroller’s call to observe his beliefs should be said in a private forum but not as the Commonwealth comptroller. That is very wrong," Noriega said Saturday in a radio program.

Standing at the podium that has the seal of the Comptroller’s Office, Diaz Saldaña asked legislators Friday to not change the definition of marriage in Article 68 of the Civil Code, which defines marriage as "a civil institution by virtue of which a man and a woman are mutually bound as husband and wife."

Former Popular Democratic Party Sen. Celeste Benitez said the statements show that Diaz Saldaña does not have his powers and limitations of a public official clear.

"As the comptroller, I am Catholic, apostolic, and roman, but I perfectly understand that my religious beliefs belong in a private forum and there is no need to try to impose them on the rest of the island and much less use government resources to do it," Benitez said.

She said hay Diaz Saldaña needs to be reminded that the Constitution of Puerto Rico expresses the separation of church and state and accused him of "misusing the comptroller’s post."

$50,000 Bail Imposed On 2 Accused Of Vieques Incidents

By Manuel Ernesto Rivera of Associated Press

June 28, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

U.S. Magistrate Gustavo Gelpi imposed Friday $50,000 bail for Jose Montañez Sanes, who has been jailed since his Wednesday arrest by FBI agents.

Gelpi also imposed $50,000 bail for another Viequense accused of the same charges, Jorge Cruz Hernandez, represented by attorney Jorge Luis Armenteros.

Both pleaded not guilty at the hearing at which the charges were read. Bail must be paid in cash or through a property.

Montañez Sanes and Cruz Hernandez were arrested Wednesday, along with 10 other people accused by a federal grand jury, for six charges of conspiracy and destruction of U.S. property for their alleged participation in the violent incidents that occurred in Vieques on May 1 when the U.S. Navy officially transferred its land to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which belongs to the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Armenteros criticized the bail amount and described it as unjust.

"This is one more injustice of the colonial system," he said.

Montañez Sanes is the nephew of David Sanes, a security guard who was killed in April 1999 by an errant Navy bomb on Vieques.

Federal prosecutor Edwin Vazquez said he has evidence on videotape that shows the accused destroying federal property — a motorboat, a military vehicle, and a cement hut in front of what was Camp Garcia — with a sledgehammer.

Damage to federal property totaled $250,000, U.S. District Attorney Humberto Garcia said on the day of the arrests. Garcia acknowledged that the videos submitted by the police were "very important" in charging the accused.

Congress Approves Medicare Reform With Puerto Rico

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

The U.S. House and Senate approved Thursday night their respective bills to create a medicine coverage under the Medicare program that includes Puerto Rico with equal conditions. Two amendments approved in the Senate increase from $27 million to $45 million the allocation to strengthen the medicine access plan that already exists in Puerto Rico for indigent people with government health insurance and raise the reimbursement for rural hospitals, officials said Friday.

"The increase to the allocation that was included in the amendment in the Senate’s version was incorporated Thursday night at my request with the support of New York Sen. Charles Schumer and Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy," Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila said in a press release.

He indicated that the action makes significant progress toward giving older people in the United States and Puerto Rico easier access to their prescribed medications.

The resident commissioner explained that the two versions of this legislation will now be discussed in a conference committee with members of both legislative bodies, after which it will be sent to President George W. Bush for his signature. Acevedo Vila said he will concentrate his efforts to ensure that the bill includes the best language possible to benefit the more than 500,000 people on the island who have Medicare.

He said the two bills include Puerto Rico in the subsidy plan for medicines beginning in 2006; the Senate increased from 50% to 100% the reimbursement to hospitals, while the House increased it to 75%; the Senate proposed $45 million to reinforce the medicine coverage under the health reform, while the House proposed $23 million. Additionally, the Senate’s bill also includes an increase in reimbursements to doctors who offer services to Medicare patients; such doctors in Puerto Rico currently receive the lowest amount in all the United States.

Hernandez Mayoral To Decide Candidacy In 1, 2 Weeks

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

PONCE (AP) — Attorney Jose Alfredo Hernandez Mayoral believes that in one or two weeks he will be able to decide whether to file his gubernatorial candidacy for the Popular Democratic Party (PDP).

"We could say that I could be in a position to say something definite about my candidacy next week, or in two weeks," Hernandez Mayoral said in a radio interview.

The son of former Gov. Rafael Hernandez Colon said before making a final decision, he would have to talk with the doctor who is caring for his 12-year-old son, Pablo, to know if he has healed after undergoing two operations in Boston.

"If the doctor says, look, I think everything appears fine and the boy will have relief soon, everyone knows what I would say," Hernandez Mayoral said. "If the doctor says it looks like this didn’t work, then we have discuss with the doctor the suggested plan of action, and based on that, I will make a decision."

He said if he decides not to run because of the poor health of his son, he will tell the PDP so it has enough time to act.

The young Ponce lawyer said he has always been conscious that there is an open window for the filing of candidacies until Aug. 1.

"This does not mean that if I had to leave after Aug. 1, there are no mechanisms to choose replacements," he said.

Death Penalty Trial Set For July 7

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

SAN JUAN (AP) — U.S. District Court Chief Judge Hector Laffitte set July 7 for the beginning of the trial against two Puerto Rican men who, if convicted, may face the death penalty.

Laffitte set the date after completing the jury selection process that lasted almost a month. More than 250 people were interviewed in the process, according to published reports.

The jury will consist of five women and seven men. Another four people were selected as alternate jurors.

Hector Acosta Martinez and Joel Rivera Alejandro are accused of murdering businessman Jorge Hernandez Perez in February 1998.

Pesquera Criticized For Criticizing Santini

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

SAN JUAN (AP) — The selection of former Gov. Pedro Rossello as the main speaker at the July 4 activity sponsored by the municipality of San Juan has drawn angry criticism from New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera.

According to Pesquera, the selection of Rossello, who is challenging him in the NPP gubernatorial primary, turns this activity into a partisan event, which is illegal.

"He [San Juan Mayor Santini] is using municipal funds for his political preferences, and that style is what the people reject," Pesquera said.

Pesquera said by inviting Rossello to be the main speaker, Santini, who backs Rossello for governor, has turned this event into a partisan political activity.

Santini immediately denied Pesquera’s charges and challenged him to file a complaint in the appropriate forum.

House NPP Minority Leader Anibal Vega Borges, who backs Pesquera’s candidacy, said he regretted the NPP president’s statements and said he will attend the July 4 activity in San Juan with NPP members from Toa Baja.

He reminded that Pesquera was the main speaker at the commemorative acts of the U.S. Independence Day sponsored by the municipality of San Juan and that then-NPP President Leo Diaz did not protest.

"Santini’s decision is in accordance with the law and is correct, and we will be in San Juan commemorating this anniversary," Vega Borges said.

Former NPP President Leo Diaz also criticized Pesquera for his statements against Santini and said the disagreement is not in the best interest of the NPP.

"Pesquera’s wish to be the gubernatorial candidate is making him commit serious errors, and he should not confuse the appreciation and gratitude that the NPP people have with political support," Diaz said.

Citric Acid Proves Powerful Coqui Frog Pesticide

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

HONOLULU (AP) - Citric acid is giving government officials renewed hope that the noisy coqui frogs may not become permanent island residents after all.

A recent spraying of citric acid on Kauai is believed to have wiped out that island's coqui frog population, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In 1999, there were just three known locations of the quarter-size frogs from Puerto Rico on Maui and five on the Big Island but today the annoying frogs have colonies at more than 200 spots on the Big Island, 40 or more on Maui, five on Oahu and one on Kauai.

"The Big Island is lost because the state didn't act soon enough," said biologist Fred Kraus, who works for the Bishop Museum's science program. "But there's still hope, probably, on every other island that we can get rid of the populations that are there."

The populations on Kauai and Oahu "are much like those that were on the Big Island five or six years ago," Kraus said.

Coqui frogs are native to Puerto Rico, where they are beloved as a symbol of the island, and likely ended up in Hawaii in shipments of tropical plants. Since about 1990, they have been shattering quiet nights with their shrieking mating call.

Latinos to Mike: No mas

Cuts, taxes leave 58% dissatisfied, poll finds


June 27, 2003
Copyright © 2003
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Eight of every 10 Latino New Yorkers are unhappy with the way Mayor Bloomberg is running the city, and only 15% rate his performance as good or excellent, a new survey shows.

Bloomberg's approval rating among Hispanics plummeted from last year's 52%. It was the steepest decline in mayoral approval since the Hispanic Federation began conducting its annual survey 11 years ago.

The news was not quite as bad for Gov. Pataki, whose approval rating among Latino voters plummeted 24 points to 49% favorable and 44% unfavorable. Last year, 73% said they liked the job the governor was doing.

"Bloomberg hasn't made a connection with the Latino community and that is undermining all his efforts," Hispanic Federation President Lorraine Cortes-Vazquez said yesterday at the National Association of Hispanic Journalists' annual conference at the Marriott Marquis hotel.

Service cuts, tax increases and transit fare hikes are behind Latinos' discontent with the mayor, the survey found. The same reasons were cited for the drop in Bloomberg's citywide approval rating to a meager 24%, according to a recent New York Times poll.

The decline came even as the mayor is touting a $3 billion plan to create and preserve affordable housing and pledging to pump $20 million into programs to help immigrant students learn English faster, both issues of high interest to Hispanics.

The Hispanic Federation polled 1,000 Latino New Yorkers on quality-of-life issues between May 30 and June 22. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

"We don't spend a lot of time worrying about polls when the mayor is making tough decisions during difficult times," Bloomberg spokesman Ed Skyler said yesterday. "Leadership is about doing what's right, not what's popular."

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