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Puerto Rican Soldier Killed In Iraq Is Buried…July 25th Expenses Assailed…Bush’s Recognition Of Clemente PraisedBayamon Cancels Barbosa Honors…Above The Law?…Cordero & Calderon On the ‘Outs’…CC Opposes Breastfeeding Bill… CRB Makes It Official, Fortuno In Wings… NPP Lawmakers Seek Primaries Over Ideas…Festival Raises Flag Over Cities

Puerto Rican Soldier Killed In Iraq Is Buried

By Sandra Ivelisse Villerrael

July 24, 2003
Copyright © 2003 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

Dozens of people, including military personnel in uniform, said their good-byes Thursday afternoon to the body of soldier Ramón Reyes Torres who died last week when a grenade exploded as he drove a transport truck west of Baghdad.

The relatives of the fallen soldier arrived calmly at Mount Calvary cemetery here, but the somber melody of mourning which rang from two trumpets finally brought them to tears.

As part of the burial ritual, three shots rang out from the guns of seven soldiers in a salute to Reyes Torres, who received posthumously a Purple Heart and a Bronze Metal.

Resident Commissioner Aníbal Acevedo Vilá and the mayor of Caguas, William Miranda Marín, led the ceremony in which United States flags were presented to the soldier's widow and mother.

Acevedo Vilá expressed his "solidarity and admiration" to the soldier's relatives, saying that Reyes Torres "fulfilled his mission to the utmost".

In attendance at the funeral, where the soldier's remains were viewed, were people who, though they did not know Reyes Torres, wished to offer their condolences to the family.

Mercedes Rondón, 69 years of age and resident of Guayanabo, said that she only knew Reyes Torres by sight, as he had been in the same military unit and was a roommate of her 37 year-old son, Oscar Rosario Rondón, still stationed in Iraq.

"Their pain is also my pain. I cried out as if it had been my own son," said Rondón, accompanied by her husband Juan Pablo Rosario, veteran of the Korean War.

Rondón said that her son described the fallen soldier as "a very good comrade".

"He's very proud of him [Reyes Torres], because he was a hero and a good Puerto Rican," she added as two soldiers guarded each end of Reyes Torrres' coffin, which was covered by an American flag.

A Puerto Rican flag was also placed behind the coffin along with a crucifix. On two little tables on either side of the coffin, photos of the soldier in military uniform, in his graduation gown and in his sports uniform were on display.

During the morning a military and religious ceremony honored Reyes Torres posthumously with the presentation of the Bronze Medal to his widow, and recognition with a Purple Heart and a wooden bust of the soldier.

For her part, Miranda Marín presented a medal to the family recognizing service to the armed forces.

The soldier's widow, Cynthia Cintrón, who was not available to speak with the press, appeared calm and clung to her two children ages nine and four.

One of the soldier's three brothers, Carlos Ramón Reyes Torres, 25 years of age, expressed his appreciation for the support the family had received from the armed forces and from those who had attended the funeral on Thursday.

The young man described his brother as "a tremendous person, a humble and hardworking man, very dedicated to his job".

July 25th Expenses Assailed

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

July 24, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

While the central government and the municipality of Carolina continue with the coordination of the Constitution’s 51st anniversary, leaders from the opposition lambasted the government’s expenditures on the event.

The government will spend nearly $450,000 on the event, which will be held at the Roberto Clemente Stadium in Carolina on Friday.

According to Senate New Progressive Party (NPP) Minority Leader Kenneth McClintock, the government’s expenses will exceed the amount claimed by Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado.

In addition, the leader sent a letter to the Commonwealth Comptroller’s Office requesting an investigation into a contract signed between the government and producer Gilberto Rivera Gutierrez—who was allegedly convicted for tax evasion—to produce the July 25th event.

McClintock also recalled that his delegation at the Capitol proposed an initial allocation of $50,000 for the event and another $50,000 for the 4th of July—when the U.S. Independence Day is observed—but their proposal was rejected.

The Legislature, controlled by the Popular Democratic Party (PDP), approved a joint resolution of $500,000 to celebrate both holidays.

On Tuesday, Mercado revealed that his department spent $180,000 on the July 4th celebration and will spend between $439,000 and $450,000, exceeding the Legislature’s allocation. He plans to cover the difference with "other funds from other accounts of the State Department."

The law establishes that the State Department will celebrate various activities throughout the year to celebrate or observe Puerto Rican and U.S. holidays, which in total exceed 19. Of those, the government only celebrates the 4th and 25th of July.

Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) Rep. Victor Garcia San Inocencio said in a radio program that the celebration of the Constitution is a celebration of a colonial document, since the U.S. Congress has full authority over the local government.

"It is a celebration of a Constitution that belongs to the PDP, and not of the people of Puerto Rico," he added.

Governor Highlights Bush’s Recognition Of Clemente

July 24, 2003
Copyright © 2003 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Gov. Sila Calderon praised President George W. Bush for conferring the Presidential Medal of Freedom on deceased baseball player Roberto Clemente.

"On behalf of all Puerto Ricans, I join in the tribute paid by the United States [to Clemente]," she said in a written statement.

"The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest distinction conferred by the United States on a citizen in recognition of his contributions to society and the outstanding social service he gave his country," she added.

Bayamon Mayor Cancels Activity Honoring Barbosa

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

July 24, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Bayamon Mayor Ramon Luis Rivera Jr. cancelled Wednesday the commemoration Sunday of the birth date of statehooder, Dr. Jose Celso Barbosa.

Unlike other years, Rivera cancelled the traditional political festivities because the New Progressive Party (NPP) will have a primary for the gubernatorial candidacy between Rossello and NPP President Carlos Pesquera. Rivera said his decision will prevent the celebration from becoming a clash of forces between the followers of the two leaders.

The Bayamon mayor had scheduled a solemn event to honor Barbosa for Sunday afternoon.

Meanwhile, NPP Sen. Orlando Parga invited his party members on Wednesday to honor statehood’s 20th Century advocate, Jose Celso Barbosa, in a march to his tomb Sunday.

Parga explained that the march will start at 9 a.m. from Plaza Colon in Old San Juan and continue through the streets of the historic area up to the old city’s cemetery.

There, statehooders will place bouquets on Barbosa’s tomb. Former Gov. Pedro Rossello and San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini will be the main speakers.

During the march, trova singers Mariano Cotto, Angel Carrasquillo, and Victor Ocasio will sing "decimas" honoring Barbosa’s legacy.

Parga added that the event repeats a tradition of his youth, when statehooders gathered at Barbosa’s tomb every year to learn about the leader’s life and beliefs.

"During the festivities held at Bayamon in previous years, a struggle for support was developing, and this year there is a primary at the NPP for governor. I believe that Ramon Luis made the right decision in canceling the political event," Parga said.

Finally, the statehood senator explained that the event has not required any funds, and that he plans to attend the events sponsored by Rivera in Bayamon.

Above The Law?

July 24, 2003
Copyright © 2003 THE NEW YORK TIMES. All rights reserved. 

To the Editor:

Re "Puerto Ricans Angry That U.S. Overrode Death Penalty Ban" (front page, July 17):

When will our government cease to override laws, both domestic and international?

Our intention to seek the death penalty in a federal kidnapping and murder trial in Puerto Rico, where capital punishment is outlawed, is just the latest instance.

If we are leading the newly democratic countries by example, what message are we sending them? The direction we are heading seems neither safe nor secure.

Richmond, Calif., July 18, 2003

Cordero Confirms Animosity With Calderon

July 23, 2003
Copyright © 2003 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Differences concerning the development of the Port of the Americas, the Ponce en Marcha plan, and the location for this year’s commemoration of the Commonwealth’s 51st anniversary have resulted in a deterioration in the relationship between Ponce Mayor Rafael Cordero Santiago and Gov. Sila Calderon.

Cordero said this during a Wednesday morning radio interview, in which he noted that the controversy over the Puerto Rico Electrical Power Authority (Prepa) debt to the municipalities has also contributed to the current situation between the two top Popular Democratic Party (PDP) figures.

"In the beginning, Sila and I had very good communication. The deterioration began with the Port of the Americas issue and later with the case in court against Prepa. And now it is deteriorating with the Ponce en Marcha plan," Cordero said.

"The governor has doubted my word. The governor has doubted my verticality," Cordero said.

Preoa owes a $358 million debt to the municipalities. The agency reached an agreement with 30 municipalities to partially pay the debt, although Cordero Santiago has insisted it is all a "lie."

Meanwhile, Cordero added that the Calderon administration has only completed 43 projects of the Ponce en Marcha plan.

Cordero Santiago has also criticized the fact that the Port of the Americas has not received enough attention from the governor and said the fact that the celebration of the Commonwealth Constitution won’t take place in the municipality, as originally proposed, has worsened the situation.

Chamber Of Commerce Opposes Bill On Breastfeeding

July 23, 2003
Copyright © 2003 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The Chamber of Commerce opposed a bill that prohibits discriminating against breastfeeding mothers because it is not "necessary nor recommendable."

Chamber of Commerce President Hector Mayol said in public hearings of the House of Representatives that most of the island’s commercial establishments "do not intervene with a breastfeeding mother nor have they assumed positions against breast feeding."

He also asked for an education process on breastfeeding before imposing penalties, according to published reports.

The bill comes after a Brookstone manager allegedly prohibited a woman from breastfeeding her son inside the store.

Plaza las Americas Brookstone Manager Millie Rivera denied Tuesday in a press conference that they had attempted to remove the woman from the store when she prepared to breastfeed and that it was all a misunderstanding.

"I have never asked or forced a breastfeeding mother to abandon the store. In fact, numerous mothers have chosen to breastfeed in the comfort of our store," she said.

Robert Padget, the store’s public relations director, said in public hearings of the Legislature that they support breast feeding because it is "a natural and beautiful process."

Romero Barcelo Files Candidacy For Resident Commissioner

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

July 23, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Carlos Romero Barcelo and his wife, former first lady Kate Donnelly.

After last week’s announcement of his intention to run again for resident commissioner, former Gov. and Resident Commissioner Carlos Romero Barcelo officially filed his candidacy for the resident commissioner’s post at the New Progressive Party (NPP) headquarters in Santurce on Wednesday.

In a room mostly filled with his own campaign team members, Romero Barcelo said he believed that even when he would appear not to have great support from NPP voters, the Nov. 9 primary will decide if he still enjoys the favor of the people.

"We will see about that. That’s why we are in a campaign. That’s what the primary is for," the NPP leader said

Romero Barcelo showed up at party headquarters with his wife, former first lady Kate Donnelly, and Juan Carlos Romero, one of his sons. He said that, although daughter NPP Rep. Melinda Romero has publicly expressed her reservations regarding her father’s comeback, he has her vote.

"She has already said that she will vote for me. She didn’t want me to run because she wanted me to spend more time with my grandchildren, which I love doing, but there are some situations in Puerto Rico that need attention. As long as I’m healthy and capable, I will continue to fight to achieve equality," Romero Barcelo said.

So far, Romero Barcelo will have to compete with NPP Sen. Miriam Ramirez de Ferrer and former Senate President Charlie Rodriguez to become the official NPP resident commissioner candidate for the general elections of 2004. A fourth candidate, former Tourism Co. President and current campaign director of San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini, Luis Fortuño, is expected to officially enter the race next week.

Faced with this reality, Romero Barcelo urged the people to choose experience over a rookies. He insisted that his comment was made in reaction to those who have considered deemed him an old face in politics and was not directed at anyone in particular.

Fortuño is also the national committeeman for the Republican Party in Puerto Rico and has come into the political arena with a promise of having more support from the Republican-dominated U.S. Congress than any of his contenders.

Romero Barcelo, a Democrat, said that it would be a mistake to go into that issue, as he believes it could cause division within the party.

"We should leave that issue for when we become a state," Romero Barcelo said.

The former resident commissioner also noted that it was former U.S. Rep. Don Young (a Republican from Alaska who presented the bill to solve the status issue of Puerto Rico. He added that although a Democrat, he has always had good relations with Republican members of Congress.

NPP Lawmakers Request Respect In Primary Campaigns

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

July 23, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

New Progressive Party (NPP) Sen. Kenneth McClintock and Rep. Anibal Vega Borges called upon party members interested in the resident commissioner’s post to act with good sense and respect during the political campaign prior to the party’s primaries scheduled for Nov. 9.

McClintock said Wednesday that "the party demands a good political campaign with the discussion of ideas and not personal attacks." He added that the campaign must be against the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) and not against leaders of the NPP.

Although McClintock and Vega Borges refused to explain the reasons for their request, former Sen. and NPP resident commissioner pre-candidate Charlie Rodriguez said Monday that "the candidacy of Luis Fortuño (for the federal post) responds to great economic interests behind his political aspiration."

Both praised the aspirants seeking the congressional seat and invited them to follow the example made by former Gov. Pedro Rossello and NPP President Carlos Pesquera, who have said that any person interested in an elective position should run.

At present, Sen. Myriam Ramirez de Ferrer, Rodriguez, former Resident Commissioner Carlos Romero Barcelo, and former Tourism Co. Executive Director Luis Fortuño have expressed their interest in the race. Of those, Ramirez de Ferrer and Rodriguez have made their candidacies official.

Romero Barcelo will make his candidacy official Wednesday afternoon, and it is expected that Fortuño will do the same Monday.

Both lawmakers praised the aspirants’ qualifications for the post, although McClintock is the National Committeeman of the Democrat Party in Puerto Rico, and Vega Borges is a member of the Republican Party on the island. They also agreed that the resident commissioner must have a special capacity to establish networks and beneficial relations to the island and must have empathy with members of both U.S. political parties.

The resident commissioner’s post is the only representation Puerto Rico has in the Congress to lobby for measures that might favor or affect the island. The post in the federal Capital possesses the right to speak but not to vote.

When asked if their call for good sense among candidates could suppress valuable information for NPP followers about an aspirant’s weaknesses, the Senate minority leader said "if you cannot say something good about your opponent, then focus on your ideas and proposals."

Finally, Vega Borges said any NPP candidate is better than current Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila, "who is the worst delegate Puerto Rico has had in history."

Festival Raises Flag Over County's Cities


July 22, 2003, 2003
Copyright © 2003 THE DAILY JOURNAL, VINELAND. All rights reserved.

MILLVILLE - The flag of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico will fly over the city through Friday in recognition of the annual Puerto Rican Festival.

City Commissioner Tim Shannon, schools Superintendent G. Larry Miller and former Cumberland County freeholder Robert Smith, a Quinn Broadcasting Channel host, helped haul the banner up the flagpole outside City Hall on Monday afternoon.

"We want to say thanks to you all," said Francisco Torres, public relations director for the festival.

At the end of the ceremony, Torres asked Shannon to hang on to the flag until next year. "I'll keep it in my office," the commissioner said.

The festival is based in Vineland, but an opening-day tradition is to raise the red-white-and-blue flag in the county's three cities.

A noontime ceremony at the Vineland post office on Landis Avenue ran into an unexpected problem. The post office opened in January 2002 as a replacement for one next door but doesn't have a flagpole like its predecessor.

Judy Perez, festival secretary, said she ended up waving a handheld flag instead.

Vineland City Hall is displaying the commonwealth flag, which was raised Sunday.

Torres said festival organizers probably will decide to raise the flag over Vineland City Hall next year and forget about the post office.

The commonwealth flag, which is based on the U.S. flag's design, was raised later Monday afternoon at the county courthouse in Bridgeton.

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