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More Puerto Rican Soldiers Might Be Sent To Iraq…Rossello Campaigns In So. FL, His Candidacy Challenged…Calderon Satisfied With Washington Meetings…Vieques Protesters’ Trial Set…Soldier Killed In Iraq…Rosey Roads Development Council Sought…CRB Declares Again For Res. Comm

More Puerto Rican Soldiers Might Be Sent To Iraq

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

July 17, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

While it is still unknown if more Puerto Rican reservists will be deployed to Iraq in the coming months, the 65th Army Regional Support Command stationed in Fort Buchanan regretted the death of Spc. Ramon Reyes Torres, who was killed in action on Wednesday.

Gen. Brigadier Jose M. Rosado, commander of the military unit, said that Puerto Rican soldiers were trained adequately before departing to Iraq, including specific training to deal with ambushes.

When asked about the possibility that new troops might be sent to Iraq, Rosado said that Iraq’s situation is under control, but quoted President George W. Bush’s words that Operation Iraqi Freedom could be a long war.

At the same time, he said that although he is not certain that more troops will be activated it is possible that other Puerto Rican units will.

"The secretary of Defense has said that we (military forces) will be in Iraq for a few more years, and it is possible that more units from Puerto Rico, from the National Guard and the U.S. 65th Army Reserve will rotate. As we rotate units out of Iraq, it would be possible that other units from here will be sent over," said Rosado.

This reality, according to Rosado, minimizes the possibility that Puerto Rican troops might return to the island. He noted that the time of return is a decision of the Department of Defense, and that he has not received any request asking for the return of the Puerto Rican soldiers.

The island’s latest casualty, Reyes Torres (29), who was in the 432 Transportation Unit was killed instantly in an ambush when a rocket-propelled grenade hit the vehicle he was driving west of Baghdad. Reyes Torres’s unit was deployed to Iraq in May to assist the 346 battalion; both headquartered in Roosevelt Roads, Ceiba.

During the attack, reservists Gregory D’Angelo, David Torres and Diego Baez were wounded in action. Torres and Baez returned to duty, while D’Angelo is stable but still receiving medical treatment for the injuries.

"This is a very sad moment for all of us," said Rosado during a press conference held on Thursday at Fort Buchanan.

Rosado said he spoke on Wednesday with Reyes Torres’s widow Cynthia Cintron to express his sympathy for her and her family on behalf of all the soldiers under his command.

"Reyes Torres’ remains are expected to arrive to Puerto Rico between Wednesday and Thursday next week at the (Luis Muñoz Marin) airport where we will honor him as a hero in this cause," said Rosado.

The commander explained that the 432 Unit is responsible for transporting cargo, including provisions and refrigerated containers, to assist the troops and special military bases established in Iraq.

Rosado insisted that soldiers were properly trained and recalled the almost three months of training reservists took in Salinas before leaving the island.

The brigadier general said soldiers are working in a "very difficult and dangerous environment," and acknowledged that moving units like the one of which Reyes Torres was part, are ideal targets for the Iraqi resistance.

At present, there are between 800 and 900 reservists in Iraq, and it is possible that new units could be activated in August or September, since some units need to return to Puerto Rico. Reservists could stay on the war front between one and two years.

Rosado added that most of Iraq is under the U.S. Armed Forces control, but there are still a few resistance sites. He also said that the Iraqi people are happy with the end of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

He added that the troops’ morale is high, something he concludes from the letters soldiers send by fax, and added that there is communication between soldiers and their relatives, but not as often as relatives would like to because of the circumstances.

Rosado urged the soldiers’ relatives to participate in the family support groups established by the Army to keep in contact with their loved ones.

Reyes, a salesman while in civilian life, is the sixth Puerto Rican soldier killed in action. The other two died in separate accidents in Iraq. There have been 186 war casualties during the Afghanistan conflict and the Gulf War II.

Rossello Brings His Campaign To South Florida


July 17, 2003
Copyright © 2003
THE MIAMI HERALD. All rights reserved. 

Pedro Rosselló, Puerto Rico's controversial ex-governor, will be working to gather support for his political comeback today, not on the island but in South Florida.

As the front-runner for the New Progressive Party's nomination, Rosselló is one of three candidates expected to appear in the area in the coming months as the race to succeed Gov. Sila Calderón in 2004 gathers momentum. The candidate series is sponsored by PROFESA, the Puerto Rican Professional Association, and the Latin Chamber of Commerce of Broward County.

Today's stops in Broward and Miami-Dade could be pivotal: In the past 10 years, census figures show, Puerto Ricans have doubled their presence in the state and Broward, where they are the largest Hispanic group.

''It's one of the hidden secrets of Puerto Rican politicians of the island -- you tap into the Puerto Ricans who are in the United States,'' said Félix Matos-Rodríguez, director of Puerto Rican studies at Hunter College in New York. ``There is money and interest here.''

And drama. Observers say the race could be up for grabs. The Popular Democratic Party supports the island's current commonwealth status, the New Progressive Party favors statehood and the Puerto Rican Independence Party wants full sovereignty.

''That's how politics are divided up in Puerto Rico,'' said Raúl Duany, chairman of PROFESA. ``It's not about crime, schools or abortion.''

For Duany, the biggest victory would be in inspiring passion for the process in Puerto Ricans who live here. Only residents of the island can vote.

''There is a certain sense of indifference,'' he said. ``We are trying to improve that.''

Herald researcher Tim Henderson contributed to this report.

Pedro Rossello’s Candidacy Challenged

July 17, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – A member of the Civil Action Party (PAC, by its Spanish acronym) urged the Justice Secretary and the State Elections Commission to oppose the gubernatorial candidacy of Pedro Rossello.

According to Jose Perez Guzman, Rossello does not fulfill the residency requirement established by the Constitution for those seeking to lead the government.

"During 2000 and 2001, he did not even fulfill the requirement established by law about electoral residency, since through his own statements he said he did not have anything to do with what happened in the country," Perez Guzman said.

Perez Guzman noted that as soon as Rossello finished his term, he left Puerto Rico, bought a house on the mainland, and served as a medical professor.

Sen. Sergio Peña Clos has said he will contest Rossello’s candidacy for governor.

Calderon Satisfied With Meeting Results In Washington

July 17, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – "Positive and productive" were the words used by Gov. Sila M. Calderon to describe her meetings with U.S. senators and congressmen from both parties in Washington, D.C., with whom she discussed the possible closure of Roosevelt Roads in Ceiba.

In a telephone conference, Calderon said she is categorically opposed to the base’s closure.

"The government of Puerto Rico definitely does not want the base to close. We do not want it and we are lobbying against it. But if the base closes, now or in the future, the government of Puerto Rico should be prepared with an economic development alternative plan, and seek conditions for closure which will be beneficial to Puerto Rico," she said.

She insisted that her priority is avoiding the closure, but if it is official, it should generate economic benefits for the country.

"If the base closes, we prefer the transfer of the land to the government of Puerto Rico, unless there is a priority related with national security. We will have to evaluate that aspect then," Calderon said.

The government acknowledged on Wednesday that they do not have a plan for the base’s land development, and that three consulting firms with experience in the proper use of closed military installations will be hired.

In the meantime, resident commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila said that if Congress opts for keeping Roosevelt Roads open, the new Department of Homeland Security might locate some of its installations there.

"If Congress decides to close the base, our interest is to receive the land, and we would also like some measures allowing us to transform the base into a center of economic development. That’s what I said on the House floor, and have proposed to some senators and congressmen in private," said Acevedo Vila.

On the other hand, the governor said she is optimistic the U.S. Congress will amend Section 956 to confer more economic incentives on Puerto Rico.

"Our efforts have been positive, and our meetings have been productive. . . I am not in a position to [give information], and I do not want to do it now. I can say that I am confident that this (Section 956) is a good proposal for Puerto Rico, and it is part of an integral strategy for economic development, something we hope to achieve," she said.

During her meetings, Calderon was accompanied by lobbyists, attorneys, and government representatives, including Acevedo Vila, also the Popular Democratic Party’s candidate for governor.

On Tuesday the U.S. Senate approved a bill for the Department of Defense’s budget for the next fiscal year, in which the closure of Roosevelt Roads proposed by the House was excluded.

The bill will be under the consideration of a conference committee in September to reconcile the measures of both legislative bodies, said Acevedo Vila.

Vieques Demonstrators’ Trial Scheduled For Sept. 8

July 17, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The trial against 12 people accused of conspiracy to destroy federal property in Vieques was scheduled for Sept. 8 by federal judge Jose A. Fuste.

The judge also agreed to hold visual inspections of Camp Garcia, where violent incidents occurred on May 1. The inspections were scheduled for August 1 and August 8.

The accusations are related to violent incidents which occurred in last May, when hundreds of people were celebrating the end of armed forces military maneuvers on the island.

The riot resulted in damage to a concrete structure used as the entrance and exit gate, a boat, and a military vehicle.

The defense also requested the prosecution submit a list of witnesses, which the judge accepted, and setting July 31 as the deadline for submitting the information.

Puerto Rican Soldier Killed In Iraq

July 16, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - A Puerto Rican soldier was killed Wednesday in a rocket-propelled grenade attack on a convoy traveling near Baghdad, the island's government said. He was the fourth Puerto Rican killed in the U.S. war in Iraq.

The Army reservist identified as Ramon Reyes Diaz was a native of the San Juan suburb of Caguas, Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado said.

Reyes Diaz was a member of the 432nd Transportation Company based at Puerto Rico's Roosevelt Roads Naval Station, Mercado said.

The supply convoy was attacked in one of a series of violent incidents Wednesday near Baghdad by pro-Saddam Hussein insurgents, according to U.S. Central Command. Three other soldiers were injured in the attack on the convoy as it passed near Abu Ghuraib prison.

Reyes Diaz died when he was blown out of a truck that was hit by the grenade. Sgt. Diego Baez said he was in the vehicle that was most badly damaged, but managed to escape injury. He wept as he described the dead soldier.

"We slept next to each other just last night. He was my best friend." Baez said.

Soldiers said the victim had just arrived in Iraq after spending some time in Kuwait.

Though islanders serve in the U.S. military, they cannot vote for president and have no vote in Congress.

The military has deployed more than 5,400 Puerto Ricans in its campaigns abroad _ the largest deployment from the U.S. Caribbean territory of 4 million since the Korean War.

There are more than 53,000 Puerto Ricans in the U.S. armed forces, almost half of whom are on active duty, according to the Pentagon.

Advisory Council Needed To Develop Roosevelt Roads

July 16, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — A day after the U.S. Senate left the future of the Roosevelt Roads Naval Station in Ceiba, Puerto Rico in suspense, Sen. Juan Cancel Alegria insisted Wednesday on the creation of an advisory committee to ensure the development of the military property.

Cancel Alegria said since it is unknown whether the base closure can be halted the committee is necessary to avoid delays in the planning and development process for the base’s land should it be transferred to local jurisdiction.

"We are almost certain that–with the endorsement of the Congress–the base’s land will be transferred and it will be developed, in case the closure is inevitable," said Cancel Alegria in a written statement.

According to the legislator, Puerto Rico has an exceptional opportunity to achieve the transfer of the land and to develop it fully, which will benefit the island’s eastern region.

"Such an important project requires us to identify resources to work full time as it has been done in other jurisdictions in which closed military facilities have been redeveloped successfully," he said.

"We cannot limit ourselves to say what we will plan. We should create a committee to begin that planning process now," he added.

The advisory committee, whose creation was included in a bill proposed by Cancel Alegria, would include the resident commissioner, the secretary of State, the Planning Board’s president, the secretary of Economic Development & Commerce, and the executive director of the Tourism Co.

Other committee members would be the mayor of Ceiba, lawmakers from the Carolina district (which includes Ceiba), the director of the University of Puerto Rico’s Planning School, and three representatives of the private sector.

Romero Barcelo To Run Again For Resident Commissioner

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

July 16, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Former Gov. Carlos Romero Barcelo announced on Wednesday his decision to seek the resident commissioner’s post for the New Progressive Party (NPP) one more time.

Romero Barcelo, who lost to Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila in the 2000 general elections, said he made his decision last week after an extensive discussion with his family, but declined to say if he had the support of all his children.

"Several people have asked me why don’t I retire if I have had to fight so much and have sacrificed my family and tranquility, and they are right. I should retire, but I cannot," said Romero Barcelo, who showed up with his wife, Kate Donnelly, and one of his sons. His daughter, NPP Rep. Melinda Romero–who has repeatedly said her father should not run–was not present.

With Romero Barcelo’s announcement, the NPP now has four people interested in running for resident commissioner and will have to compete in a primary scheduled for Nov. 9. So far, the only two who have been certified are NPP Sen. Miriam Ramirez de Ferrer and former Senate President Charlie Rodriguez. American Airlines Local Manager Enrique Cruz is the fourth to express.

Despite the competition, Romero Barcelo said he is confident of his chances to win, mentioning his eight years’ experience as resident commissioner during the Rossello NPP administration as his strongest asset.

"My ambition has never been to occupy a political position, but to achieve equality for my people. Of all the candidates of all the parties, I am the voice that Washington listens to, I am the face that Washington knows and respects," he said, noting that he has also discussed that possibility with former Gov. Pedro Rossello, who will challenge NPP President Carlos Pesquera for the gubernatorial candidacy in the Nov. 9 primary. Rossello, however, has declined to endorse a resident commissioner candidate.

Romero Barcelo also underlined his good relations with both the Democratic and Republican parties in Washington and said that his preference for the Democratic Party is not a liability as he seeks equal rights for the U.S. residents of Puerto Rico.

Although Romero Barcelo said he wouldn’t pass judgment on his competitors, he did admit surprise regarding Cruz’s aspirations, because he said he always thought Cruz was a member of the Popular Democratic Party. He pointed out Cruz is represented by attorney Hector Rivera Cruz, former Justice secretary and prosecutor in the Cerro Maravilla case during the PDP administration.

Rivera Cruz was never able to prove that Romero Barcelo had anything to do with the two pro-independence activists who were killed by police officers at Cerro Maravilla when Romero Barcelo was governor of Puerto Rico.

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