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American Legion Backs P.R. Self-Determination… U.S. Tops Puerto Rico, 91-65... Governor Invites Public To Discuss Fighting Crime, Santini Accused Of Politicizing Issue…2 Plead Guilty In Vieques Case…Ayuso Signs With Spurs… U.S. Rep. Promises To Ease RR Closure… Calderon: No Anti-American Sentiment On The Island

American Legion Supports Self-Determination for Puerto Rico

By the Puerto Rico Herald

August 29, 2003
Copyright © 2003
THE PUERTO RICO HERALD. All rights reserved. 

ST. LOUIS, MO - The American Legion, the largest veterans organization in the world, with almost 3 million members, passed a resolution on Thursday, supporting self-determination for the US territory of Puerto Rico.

The resolution, which supports a congressionally-mandated plebiscite to resolve Puerto Rico’s political status dilemma, was passed at the American Legion’s Annual Convention, held this year in St. Louis, Missouri, the city where the organization was founded in 1919.

The resolution states, "Resolved, that the American Legion requests that the Congress pass, and the President sign into law, legislation that would define the political status options available to the United States citizens of Puerto Rico and authorize a plebiscite to provide an opportunity for Puerto Ricans to make an informed decision regarding the island’s future political status."

The very influential veterans organization received a visit from President George W. Bush on Tuesday, August 26. The President addressed the convention with a speech in which he defended his policies toward Iraq and asked for support of veterans, and all Americans, in the fight against terrorism.

The more than 3,000 delegates to the convention, representing 55 American Legion Departments in the 50 US states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, France, Mexico and the Philippines, were also addressed by Anthony Principi, Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs; Vice-Admiral James Metzger, Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and five members of the US House of Representatives, Christopher Smith (R-NJ), Jim Marshall (D-GA), Timothy Murphy (R-PA), Robert Simmons (R-CT) and Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX).

U.S. Tops Puerto Rico, 91-65


August 29, 2003
Copyright © 2003
THE NEW YORK TIMES. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN, P.R., Aug. 28 - The United States men’s basketball team, having won all eight games in this qualifying tournament, is now two games away from perfection and an expected trip to Athens. With the 8,500 fans in Roberto Clemente Coliseum shaking maracas and roaring for the home team tonight, the United States blew out Puerto Rico, 91-65.

The United States led by 9 points at halftime after trailing in the first quarter. The United States then overpowered Puerto Rico with a 19-5 run to start the second half.

Puerto Rico and the United States will meet again Saturday in the semifinals. Argentina crushed the Dominican Republic, 102-72, today to earn the No. 2 seeding and will play Canada, which lost to Venezuela, 93-86, in overtime.

The medal rounds are Sunday. The top three teams earn berths in next summer's Olympics.

Governor Invites Public To Discuss How To Fight Crime

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

August 28, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Gov. Sila Calderon issued a public invitation to all island leaders and concerned parents to join her Friday morning for a meeting at the Bar Association in Miramar to discuss "the ways and means" in which her administration and society can fight crime.

"I want to ask the leaders of the professional and labor organizations in Puerto Rico, community leaders, and the associations of neighborhood and condominiums, as well as the civic organizations, to show up Friday morning to discuss the ways and means in which together we can face this reality," Calderon said.

Calderon will be joined by Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado and Police Superintendent Victor Rivera, as well as other cabinet members who will reveal a working plan to fight crime and will explain the ways in which citizens can help.

"If we want a better Puerto Rico for our present and our future we all have to assume our responsibilities," Calderon said.

The governor made her public plea during a six-minute message aired on several television and radio stations on Thursday afternoon.

Calderon’s invitation for a joint effort between society and law enforcement authorities to fight crime was first proposed last week by Nestor Muñiz, father of 16-year-old Nicole Muñiz who was shot and killed while driving by an area where a shooting was going on.

While talking to the press during his daughter’s wake, Muñiz called on society to hold a massive march in order to get the government to react, take action, and end the growing wave of crime.

Although authorities insist that there is an overall decline in criminal activity on the island, the chief of police acknowledged that as of Thursday, violent killings have already surpassed the 500 mark, with 15 more than in the same period last year.

Calderon argued that the current violent crime wave is the result of fights between drug dealers and noted that the police have already dismantled over 400 drug sale points.

Superintendent Accuses Santini Of Politicizing Crime Issue

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

August 28, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Police Superintendent Victor Rivera Gonzalez warned San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini and San Juan Security Commissioner Adalberto Mercado that their politicization of the crime issue of the island to undermine his image is only creating a massive panic among the Puerto Rican people and urged them to sit down with him to discuss the situation.

"I call on those who in one way or another create public opinion in Puerto Rico to hold hands and move forward to fight a common enemy: crime. Let’s not try to take political advantage," Rivera Gonzalez said during a press conference at the Police headquarters in Hato Rey on Thursday.

The police chief’s reaction followed the statements that Santini and Mercado made in published reports accusing the state police of not complying with an agreement they had signed in April to increase and ensure police patrolling in high crime areas of San Juan.

Santini and Mercado’s statements respond to the latest shootings and violent incidents that have taken place, not just in San Juan housing projects, but in other metropolitan areas such as public housing projects and pubs in Bayamon.

"We cannot provide police protection to all the pubs in the metropolitan area because there are just too many of them," said the police chief, who insisted that the department is patrolling high-crime areas, including discotheques and commercial areas, especially in the early morning hours.

Rivera Gonzalez also denied that that the Police Department has been reducing the number of police officers in San Juan or that it has closed down the police station at the Luis Llorens Torres Public Housing Project. He said that while he didn’t have the exact number at hand, the reduction of police officers has not reached 900, contrary to Santini’s allegations.

The Police chief acknowledged that there has been a reduction, but that it responded to a normal process in which police officers retire and others are transferred to other areas or government agencies.

As for the Luis Llorens Torres police station, Rivera Gonzalez said it is being remodeled and that it has been temporarily relocated to Maria Isabel and Collores streets in the aforementioned project.

According to the superintendent, the joint effort between the state police and municipal police has resulted in a 21.2% drop in the violent crime rate and of 9.4% in criminal felonies in the San Juan area. However, Rivera Gonzalez was unable to give the actual numbers at the time of the press conference Thursday.

The police superintendent acknowledged that despite the decline, as of today there have been 12 more murders than in the same period last year, for an approximate total of 154 murder cases in the capital. Meanwhile, the number of murders in Puerto Rico has already surpassed the 500 mark, with 15 more than the same period last year.

According to Rivera Gonzalez, the number of crimes reported in 1994 was of 1,039; 941 in 1995; 929 in 1996 and in 1997, 898. He said a more noticeable decline began in 2000, with 733; 748 in 2001, and 775 in 2002. By the end of 2003, Rivera Gonzalez expects the number of murders will reach 791.

Two Plead Guilty In Vieques Violence Case

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

SAN JUAN (AP) — Former Teachers Federation President Jesus Delgado pleaded guilty Wednesday to the charges that he is accused of after his participation in the riot registered after midnight on May 1 in Vieques.

Another accused, William Miro Hodge, also changed his initial plea of not guilty, according to published reports.

Delgado and Miro Hodge are accused of two charges of conspiracy to damage or destroy U.S. property, which could carry sentences of five to 20 years in prison.

In a hearing held Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Jose Fuste urged defense attorneys to negotiate agreements with the prosecution, saying in court, "you know why I’m telling you this."

Fuste also determined Wednesday that another accused, Jorge Andres Santiago, is psychologically able to face a trial, since he knows what he is accused of and the consequences.

As Vieques was celebrating the U.S. Navy’s departure at midnight on May 1, several people tore down a cement building and burned property on the military land that was transferred to the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Regarding these acts, a total of 12 people were accused of different criminal acts, including conspiracy, attempt to damage, damaging federal property, attempt to burn, and burning.

Ayuso Signs With Spurs


August 28, 2003
Copyright © 2003 T
HE NEW YORK TIMES. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN, P.R., Aug. 27 - Larry Ayuso, the star shooting guard for Puerto Rico, will remember the Olympic qualifying tournament here for the moment when he finally made it to the N.B.A. The San Antonio Spurs signed the 26-year-old Ayuso today to a nonguaranteed one-year contract.

Ayuso has been trying to break into the N.B.A. since he started for three years at the University of Southern California. He played in the Los Angeles Lakers' summer league after he graduated, then played professionally in Europe and Puerto Rico. "I couldn't sleep last night; I was very excited that I was finally able to get the opportunity," he said. "Now it's showtime. I just want to go there and start working hard and make it happen."

Ayuso was born in Puerto Rico, moved to the South Bronx, then was sent to Roswell, N.M., in a program that rescued him from a drug-plagued neighborhood. He came to live with his guardians, Diane and Dick Taylor. Diane Taylor had been aggressively advertising Ayuso, sending videotapes to every N.B.A. team.

Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich, an assistant coach with the United States team, said today he would have Ayuso in camp as a candidate for a backup point guard spot. Ayuso led Puerto Rico tonight with19 points in a 72-70 victory over Brazil.

Congressman Promises To Cushion Naval Base Shutdown

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – U.S. Congressman Jerry Lewis (R-CA) promised in writing to cushion any blow to the island’s economy resulting from the possible shut-down of the Roosevelt Roads naval base in Ceiba, according to published reports.

Lewis, who chairs the House Defense Appropriations Sub Committee, is in charge of a bill aimed at closing the base in 2004. He has confirmed his promise in a letter to Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila.

"I am completely aware of the significant role the base has on the economy of the region and also of its potential for future developments and economic prosperity," Lewis said in his letter to Acevedo Vila.

"I agree that if we propose to shut down the facility, it is imperative that we work together with congressman Jack Murtha, the U.S. Navy, and the local community to ensure that the closing be done in a way that could maximize the positive impact on the region’s economy," Lewis said.

The bill that proposes the closing of the naval base in Ceiba has already been approved at the U.S. House of Representatives, and it is pending approval at the U.S. Congress Conference Committee.

Calderon: No Anti-American Sentiment On The Island

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

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

Contrary to what Buchanan U.S. Army Cmdr. Col. Edward Short stated, on Wednesday Gov. Sila Calderon said she doesn’t believe that the U.S. Congress has a bad perception of island residents or that that could affect the base’s chance of remaining open after 2005.

"That is not my perception. Yesterday, [the colonel] was accompanied by people who may have put that idea in his mind because they live in that kind of fear," the governor said.

Short—who was accompanied by New Progressive Party Sen. Miriam Ramirez de Ferrer during a Rotary Club luncheon on Tuesday—had urged business leaders and Puerto Rican professionals who want the U.S. military to stay on the island to be more vocal about it.

Short said that while they are doing everything in their power to convince the Department of Defense and the U.S. Congress of the value of keeping Buchanan open, it would help if pro-military leaders in Puerto Rico voiced their support to counteract the perception that people back on the U.S. mainland may have because of an anti-military and pro-independence minority in Puerto Rico.

"I haven’t perceived that in the United States. On the contrary, and I move a lot in the U.S., in Congress, in universities, in all places," the governor said when asked if she was concerned by Short’s statements.

As to whether her administration planned to do something to ensure that Puerto Ricans are not perceived on the U.S. mainland as anti-American, Calderon insisted on her stance that she is sure that it isn’t true.

"I have never received during my tenure as governor any information that in Puerto Rico there is anti-U.S. feeling," Calderon said.

"This is an idea that some people want to spread, we all know who those people are who have those feelings toward the United States. It isn’t correct. Most Puerto Ricans have relatives who have served in the U.S. armed forces and there are no feelings in Puerto Rico against the U.S. armed forces," the governor said.

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