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Rossello Lobbies For Transfer Of RR, Unveils Master Maritime Plan…Congress To Request Dismissal Of Status Lawsuit…Reservists’ Return Unknown…Women Underrepresented On Supreme Court…133 Kilos Of Cocaine Seized…Government Wants Harsher Penalties For Drunk Drivers

Rossello Lobbies For Transfer Of Roosevelt Roads To P.R.

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

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

Former Gov. Pedro Rossello said Tuesday that he is lobbying to ensure that Congress includes the U.S. Roosevelt Roads Naval Station, located in Ceiba, under the provisions of the Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC).

"I cannot tell you I have a written commitment, but I believe there is a possibility for the government to own that land," Rossello said.

Rossello explained that he and some lobbyists have talked to senators and congressmen related to the decision-making process on base closures to let them know the need Puerto Rico has to own the Roosevelt Road land in Ceiba to revamp its damaged economy and to create new jobs, now that the base closure seems imminent.

"We are looking forward to eliminating the sale of the land to the best bidder from the federal law," Rossello said.

He acknowledged that if Congress passes the law approving the sale of Roosevelt Roads, the federal government and the U.S. Navy will benefit from the transaction.

He explained that if Roosevelt Roads is included under BRAC dispositions, the base will go through a shutting down process, and the island will have access to federal funds provided by Congress to counteract the adverse economic impact of a base closure.

In fact, he proposed the development of a world-scale transshipment port in the eastern municipality if he wins the 2004 general elections.

Through BRAC, military bases go on a structured closure process. Once closed, base facilities are transferred to the federal government or the state governments upon their request, or they could be sold to private interests as the last option.

But unlike other military bases, which have been closed previously, The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a bill endorsing the shutting down of Roosevelt Roads and the sale of the land to the best bidder. The U.S. Senate is currently evaluating the bill.

A few days ago, Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila changed his position on the matter saying his priority is to ensure that the Puerto Rico government is going to be considered in the further development of the land valued at $3 billion, if Congress approves to sell the land to the best bidder.

Initially, he said the Calderon administration was focused on gaining the transfer of the land to the government.

Rossello Unveils Master Maritime Plan For Puerto Rico

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

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

Former Gov. Pedro Rossello unveiled Tuesday a ports master plan integrating eight maritime facilities throughout the island, seeking to improve the economy, and inserting the island into the transshipment world market.

Rossello also committed to continue the development of the Port of the Americas in Ponce and to make viable the transfer of the Mayaguez Port to the municipal government.

The former governor’s plan includes a world-scale transshipment port in Ceiba, once the U.S. Roosevelt Roads Naval Station closes operations, and to specialize the island’s regional ports according to port features and characteristics.

As a result, Rossello expects to transform the Port of San Juan into a tourism port and to relocate the operations of current cargo and shipping companies, which have operations in the Cataño area to other regional ports, including the Port of the Americas in Ponce.

The former governor, who is challenging NPP President Carlos Pesquera for the gubernatorial candidacy, explained that the specialization of the Port of San Juan into a tourism port, as well as the permanence of the Isla Grande Airport, will complement the operations of the expected Golden Triangle master project.

"The government will have to show cargo operators why it is important to relocate operations," he said, while noting that in most cases, operation costs in San Juan area are really high for cargo companies.

In addition to San Juan, Ponce, and Mayaguez port facilities, Rossello plans to specialize Guayanilla, Peñuelas, and Guayama’s port facilities to manage petroleum and natural gas products, while Arecibo and Yabucoa port facilities will be specialized on aggregates and scrap products.

He also proposed the creation of a new government agency to be named Mass Transportation Authority, which will integrate the operations of the Metropolitan Bus Authority and the ferry services for Vieques, Culebra, and Cataño residents.

In the case of Vieques and Culebra, residents from those islands will have free transportation services to Puerto Rico.

Congress To Request Dismissal Of Lawsuit

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – Congress proposes asking to dismiss a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Puerto Rico demanding that the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives resolve the island’s political status.

"We hope to present a motion for the case’s dismissal, and the Senate Legal Adviser’s Office is thinking of doing the same," indicated attorney David Plotinsky, an official of the House Legal Adviser’s Office, in a memo that has circulated through the U.S. Capitol.

According to the lawsuit, the Treaty of Paris obligates the United States to "permanently" decide Puerto Rico’s political future, according to published reports.

No Word On Return Of Puerto Rican Soldiers

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – The notice that the Department of Defense was supposed to have received Friday on the return of the Puerto Rican soldiers from the war was never received, Fort Buchanan spokesman Jose Pagan said.

In its place, military authorities were notified that the information on the return will be released directly from Washington, according to published reports.

Pedro Silva, spokesman for the reserve, said the units that are in Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia will be affected by President George W. Bush’s recently approved extension to the time that soldiers can be activated.

This means that instead of returning home one year after their activation, they will have to remain on duty for several more months.

In total, the Puerto Rico National Guard has some 800 soldiers and 600 members of the reserve on duty.

Little Representation Of Women In Island’s Supreme Court

By Leonardo Aldridge of Associated Press

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

Thirty seven percent of the island’s attorneys are women.

But in half a century of history in the Puerto Rico Supreme Court, only one woman has been appointed associate judge.

"It is deplorable, unfair, and contrary to the numbers revealed by statistics in the legal field," said Women Advocate Maria Dolores Fernos said Tuesday.

Fernos’ statements are issued one day after Gov. Sila Calderon said she had already decided whom she will nominate for the Chief Justice post, which will be left vacant by Chief Judge Jose Andreu come Sept. 30.

"We consider that the contributions and substantial presence of women in the legal field should be recognized by appointing two female associate judges to the upcoming vacant positions within the Puerto Rico Supreme Court," Fernos said.

Before her term in office is over, the first female governor will have to appoint two new judges to the top court.

Calderon will have to replace Andreu and Associate Judge Miriam Naveira, the only woman who is part of the seven-member panel.

Naveira will turn 70, the maximum age, as drafted in the Constitution, in which a judge can retire.

Last week, Naveira said she hoped to be replaced by a woman.

"We have come a long way. In 1985 when I got here, there were no women, but now here I am. I hope more women are appointed. More than one vacant position have surfaced, and they should have been filed with women," Naveira said.

Fernos said "although in Puerto Rico, women are the majority: studying law, 37% of in the profession and 40% in the judiciary, the representation of women in the Puerto Rico Supreme Court at 14% is one of the lowest when compared with all the states."

Puerto Rican Authorities Seize 133 Kilos Of Cocaine

September 16, 2003
Copyright © 2003
EFE NEWS. All rights reserved. 

San Juan, Sep 15 (EFE) - Puerto Rican police on Monday seized 133 kilograms of cocaine valued by authorities at $10 million on the street.

The drug was hidden in five black pillowcases and a sack and stashed under a tree in Playa Escondida on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques.

Police found the drug when they were searching around a boat that was found near the water's edge on the beach.

One person was arrested.

Government Seeks Harsher Penalties For Drunk Drivers

September 15, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Gov. Sila Calderon filed a bill at the Legislature to amend the Transit & Vehicle Law to assess harsher penalties for people driving under the influence of alcohol.

La Fortaleza officials announced that the bill would reduce the legal blood alcohol level from .08 to .03 for drivers between the ages of 18 and 21 as well as for truck drivers, school bus drivers, public vehicle drivers, and heavy vehicle drivers.

The bill proposes zero alcohol tolerance for drivers under 18.

"Statistics for deaths and severe injuries resulting from drunk driving are really astonishing. The Transit and Vehicle Law should enable a process to eradicate this anti-social conduct that is threatening the lives and property of all citizens," the governor said in a prepared statement.

The law also authorizes government authorities to decide drunk tests should be performed on a driver to determine the blood alcohol level.

The governor said in a prepared statement that it has been proven that the biggest deterrent for drunk drivers is an effective process with real consequences.

The measure also establishes that every person driving on public highways is already consenting to chemical or physical tests of blood, breath, or any other body substance, as well as an initial breath check at the site of detention.

"If the initial breath test indicates possible illegal concentration of alcohol in the blood, an agent will be authorized to require the driver to undergo further analysis," the governor said.

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