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Rossello Promises Return Of Tough Hand, Says Acevedo Vila ‘Convicted’ Of Lying…Illegal Weapons Amnesty Announced…Drug Czar Meets With Feds… Calderon Favors Constitutional Assembly…Cubans Use Island To Enter U.S.…Vieques Home Prices Soar…Bills For Veterans Filed…Legislative Allowances To Be Taxed

Rossello Proposes Return Of Tough Hand Against Crime

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

September 9, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

Former Gov. Pedro Rossello intends to go back to his tough measures to fight crime in Puerto Rico–including the use of the National Guard–should he become the official New Progressive Party (NPP) gubernatorial candidate and eventual winner in the 2004 general elections.

On Tuesday, Rossello presented a preliminary anticrime plan that will consist of immediate and aggressive intervention of local and federal authorities in the island’s prone to violence and crime, and educational efforts to prevent criminal activity, especially among Puerto Rican youths.

Rossello said he would include the National Guard in the fight against crime, but as a support to the municipal and state police. He also used the opportunity to reassure the people that his idea was effective back in 1992 when he was in office, and it will be effective now. He added that people should not fear violations to their civil rights.

"Not one case was successful in proving that civil rights had been violated," Rossello said during a press conference at his committee headquarters in Hato Rey on Tuesday.

"At that time, it was a new intervention. Now we have the experience. We know how effective it was. We see a general support of the community, and we know that some people don’t approve of it, like for example, drug dealers," Rossello said.

According to the information presented by the former governor, Type 1 felonies declined from 128,000 in 1992 to 75,379 in 2000 and that murder rate declined by 27% from 1994 to 2000.

Rossello said he was confident that he could bring back safety to the streets by–among other things–increasing police agents from around 18,000 to 21,000, creating a DNA bank of convicted criminals, and requiring domestic violence aggressors with restraining order to wear electronic shackles.

The anticrime plan would also reinstate drug-testing in government agency personnel and special police bicycle and skate units to reinforce patrols in commercial and tourist areas, as well as aerial and maritime patrols.

Rossello: Resident Commissioner ‘Convicted’ Of Lying

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

September 9, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

Former Gov. Pedro Rossello lashed out at Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila, who he called a liar for filing a complaint before the Federal Elections Commission against former New Progressive Party (NPP) Gov. Carlos Romero Barcelo based on an unreliable witness who he knew had perjured himself.

"There is a saying that goes lies are woven with half truths. That’s what he has done. I think it has been patently demonstrated that Acevedo Vila is willing to lie to push forward his political position," Rossello said during a press conference at his campaign committee headquarters in Hato Rey on Tuesday.

Rossello’s statements followed a decision of six U.S. District Court judges to reprimand Acevedo Vila, whom they said didn’t act according to the code of ethics of his profession as an attorney.

The case to which the federal judges referred to was one in which Acevedo Vila filed a complaint against then NPP political contender. The resident commissioner based his complaint on a testimony that placed Romero Barcelo in the middle of an alleged bribery scheme.

However, the testimony of Andres Sanchez Delgado later proved to be invalid as he acknowledged that he had perjured himself. Romero Barcelo then filed a complaint against Acevedo Vila for pursuing the case against him even after learning that the testimony of his witness was invalid.

Acevedo Vila dismissed the federal reprimand as something of little effect on his political career. The resident commissioner is running for governor in 2004 for the governing Popular Democratic Party.

But Rossello said the public reprimand was no small thing and criticized the resident commissioner for playing it down.

"Acevedo Vila knowingly pushed forward a lie. . .If he is trying to minimize that, just imagine what other things he may try to minimize!" Rossello stated.

Amnesty Proposed For Owners Of Illegal Weapons

September 9, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

GUAYANILLA (AP) — As part of her plan aimed at fighting crime, Gov. Sila Calderon announced Tuesday that her administration is prepared to grant amnesty for those who illegally posses weapons to hand them in.

In addition, she said her administration will propose legislation to have higher and stricter qualifications in the possession, transportation, and use of weapons.

"This is important because there is a great number of weapons and there is a great laxity in the law. I want stricter and more rigorous laws in terms of weapons," Calderon said.

Antidrug Czar Meets With Federal Authorities

September 9, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Drug Control Office Director Luis Zambrana met Monday with the chiefs of six federal agencies to discuss possible collaborative work in the fight against drugs.

Zambrana indicated that the officials, led by U.S. District Attorney Humberto Garcia, displayed a spirit of collaboration with local authorities.

"Before such a powerful enemy such as drugs, it is necessary to integrate all the local and federal resources available in a common cause," the antidrug czar said in a press release.

However, he did not specify the topics discussed with the federal authorities, including Customs Director Roberto Medina, U.S. Antidrug Agency Director Jerome Harris, and Coast Guard Cmdr. Karl Gabrielson.

"It is necessary to surpass the limelight to achieve results that benefit Puerto Rico. If necessary, we will take steps through Gov. Sila Calderon and Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila for those federal agencies that need resources to knock on the doors of whoever is necessary in Washington," Zambrana said.

Calderon Favors Constitutional Assembly

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

September 8, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

Gov. Sila M. Calderon praised, for the first time on Monday, the constitutional assembly as a way to solve the island’s status.

She said she and leaders of her party, are discussing how to end the political limbo Puerto Rico has experienced for more than a century.

"I believe a constitutional assembly is very important, and maybe that is what we are going to end up doing, because I think is what the majority of Puerto Ricans want," Calderon said.

However, she made clear that her call for a people’s assembly last July 25th is not a constitutional assembly itself, but an initial request to the people to decide how they want to reroute the discussion of status.

"A people’s assembly does not require the approval of two thirds of the legislature. It is a way of asking the people directly, beyond political parties, and through a public consultation or referendum, which mechanism they want to use to put on wheels the status process," she said.

The governor exemplified her proposal saying that if the people in that assembly decide for a constitutional assembly, which she also believes ‘is one of the best options,’ then the legislature will vote (on that method) but with a clear expression made by the people of Puerto Rico," Calderon said.

On Sunday, Popular Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial candidate Anibal Acevedo Vila said the constitutional assembly is a good option to deal with the status. However he said it is tied to political parties because it has to be approved by two thirds of the legislature, something that won’t happen because the New Progressive Party delegation in the Legislature does not endorse the proposal.

A day earlier, former Gov. Rafael Hernandez Colon discussed the advantages of a constitutional assembly to solve the island’s status at the Bar Association.

"My proposal is to go to the people in the first place for the people to speak before political parties enter into the process," Calderon said.

The governor made her remarks during a press conference held in Rio Piedras, in which she announced an investment of $1.3 billion in federal funds to renovate public housing complexes throughout the island.

Two Dozen Cubans Use Puerto Rico To Enter U.S.

September 8, 2003
Copyright © 2003 REUTERS LIMITED. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN - Twenty-four Cuban migrants landed on a Puerto Rican island on Monday in what authorities say is a new route for Cubans trying to get into the United States.

The Cubans landed on rugged Mona Island, more than 40 miles off Puerto Rico's west coast, about halfway between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, where the group started its voyage.

"They were aiming for Mona Island. This is a new technique," said Lt. Saul Padilla, of the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources Rangers Corps, which runs a station on the otherwise uninhabited island.

Padilla said one of the Cubans identified himself to rangers as Gunter Rodriguez Osorio, a 23-year-old member of the Cuban swimming team that last month went to the Dominican Republic to participate in the Pan American Games.

Under U.S. immigration policy, Cubans who manage to set foot on U.S. soil are usually allowed to stay and eventually become residents, while those intercepted at sea are routinely taken back to the communist-ruled island.

Puerto Rico, because of its status as a U.S. territory and its proximity, has long been a favored target of Dominican migrants. Each year, thousands risk their lives in rickety boats to cross the rough, shark-infested waters of the Mona Passage.

More recently, a rising number of those migrants have been Cubans.

On Aug. 8, six Cubans were among a larger group that included 19 Dominicans, who arrived on Desecheo Island, 14 miles off Puerto Rico's west coast.

Five days later, 12 Cuban immigrants reached land in the west coast town of Rincon.

Some Cuban exiles in Puerto Rico say the increase is due to the realization that it is easier to sneak into Puerto Rico than into Florida, the usual destination.

Monday's group consisted of 15 men, six women and three children. All were in good health, officials said.

Home Prices In Vieques Skyrocket

September 8, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) —Despite the fact that 60.2% of Viequenses live in poverty, the value of the housing o that island municipality has skyrocket since the U.S. Navy withdrew from there on May 1.

According to published reports, since the military halted practices there, an acre of land cost $135,000 to $250,000 which, according to a real-estate agent, is exceptional.

Meanwhile, the cheapest price for a three-bedroom home in such sectors as Villa Borinquen is $85,000.

Acevedo Vila Presents Bills For Puerto Rican Veterans

September 7, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila presented two bills in Congress for the benefit of Puerto Rican veterans.

One of the bills proposes that $30 million be allocated for structural improvements to the Veterans Hospital, and the other bill seeks to assign funds for a study on the construction of a new hospital for veterans on the island.

Both bills were presented Friday, Acevedo Vila said in a press release.

He reminded that the Veterans Hospital annually provides health services to 140,000 veterans of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

"This facility, at short-term, needs structural improvements to comply with all the requirements demanded by the law, and at a long-term, what Puerto Rico needs is a new veterans hospital to adequately adjust to the great demand of services that it currently has to offer," Acevedo Vila said.

The resident commissioner, who has met with leaders of Congress and Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi, said the Veterans Affairs Department and the Defense Department should choose between two places to build the new hospital and proposed an allocation of $450 million to build it.

The legislation establishes that the two places to be studied are the old naval base of Sabana Seca and Fort Buchanan and that the study should be ready in a six-month period after the bill’s approval.

Legislative Allowances To Be Taxed

September 7, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — The legislative majority will begin the promised legislative reform, including the taxation of allowances, after an agreement reached last week with Popular Democratic Party (PDP) President Anibal Acevedo Vila.

The measure to consult the people about a unicameral legislature will also be approved, indicated the chairman of the House commission for the legislative reform, Rep. Luis Raul Torres.

The referendum about the unicameral legislature is another promise of the PDP that will be left for the next four-year term, but the bill establishing the guidelines for the referendum could become law this year, Torres said in published reports.

The meeting between the legislators of the reform committees and Acevedo Vila was held Tuesday at the PDP headquarters, said Torres and Senate Reform Committee Chairman Jose Luis Dalmau.

It was agreed that the Senate will approve the taxation of the allowances received by the legislators for attending to their jobs, while the House will evaluate the possibility of eliminating them and increasing the salary of the legislators in accordance with the other officials of the executive branch.

According to Torres, the increase would be below what is received by the legislators in allowances, which average $25,000 annually exempt from taxes. "It would be a real reduction," the legislator said.

The House hearings on the legislative reform will restart Tuesday after a prolonged recess after the clash for the announced agreements in March.

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