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2 Puerto Ricans Killed In Iraqi Helicopter Attack… Municipal Party Nears Certification…P.R. Soldiers Guard The Pentagon…Rights Comm. Worried About Bail Changes…Vieques The Next Big Thing….Acevedo Vila: Navy Supports RR Agreements…VA Treating War Related Mental Conditions…10 Puerto Rican Soldiers Return On Leave…Powell: U.S. Represents All Citizens

Two Puerto Ricans Among 16 Soldiers Killed

November 3, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN, (AP) - Two of the 16 soldiers killed when a missile downed a U.S. Army Chinook helicopter in Iraq were Puerto Rican, a military official said Monday.

The military identified them as Spc. Frances M. Vega, 20, and Spc. Joel Perez, Army spokesman Jose Pagan said.

Vega was assigned to the 151st Adjutant General Postal Detachment 3 at Fort Hood, Texas, and was born at Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico, the Pentagon said. Her father is a retired U.S. soldier, Pagan said.

Perez belonged to an artillery battalion, but Pagan could not provide further details.

Both were active service members of the U.S. Army and did not belong to the Puerto Rico National Guard or Reserve units, Pagan said.

At least 16 soldiers died and 20 were wounded Sunday just south of Fallujah, Iraq. The missile attack on the helicopter, carrying dozens of soldiers on their way home for leave, was the deadliest single strike against U.S. forces since the war began March 20.

It was unclear if any of the injured were Puerto Ricans.

Municipal Party Achieves First Step Towards Certification

November 3, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The State Elections Commission (SEC) confirmed that the civic group known as Alternativa Ciudadana preliminarily has been certified as a political party after meeting basic requirements.

However, the SEC said it has yet to verify that the party’s colors, symbol, and name don’t constitute a conflict with those of other organizations. Therefore, the commission has set a deadline of Nov. 17 for anyone who wishes to object in writing.

According to a published ad, SEC Secretary Ramon Jimenez said the party’s colors would be black, white, and gray. The symbol will be four intertwined hands.

The party is an option headed by college professor Angel Quintero, who seeks a position at the House of Representatives from San Juan’s first precinct.

Quintero said he was hopeful that the people’s lack of satisfaction with the partisan system and the current political candidates would help him become elected in 2004.

Puerto Rican Soldiers Provide Security At The Pentagon

November 2, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - More than a hundred Puerto Rico National Guard soldiers are participating in a mission to protect the Pentagon as part of the U.S. war against terrorism.

According to published reports, some of these Puerto Rican troops of the 65th Infantry have already been in the Persian Gulf.

"I am proud to be in this mission," said First Class Sergeant Harry Martinez, one of the soldiers who was in Kuwait last spring as part of the mobilization of Puerto Rico National Guard troops.

A group of Puerto Rican soldiers are in charge of watching the premises of the Pentagon, next to Fort Myers and the Washington D.C. border.

The majority of Puerto Rican soldiers were mobilized in February.

Civil Rights Commission Worried About Bail Changes

November 2, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The Civil Rights Commission opposed Saturday that as a response to the delinquency problem, the government limit the right to bail that those accused of a crime have.

To support its opposition to the proposals presented Thursday by Gov. Sila Calderon to make the bail process more strict, the commission said that during the past seven years, only 1.45% of the people free on bail have been revoked that right for committing another crime.

The commission also reminded in a press release that Section 11 of the Commonwealth Constitution’ Rights Letter establishes that "every accused person has the right to be free on bail. . .the bail and the fines will not be excessive."

Before dozens of prosecutors gathered Thursday at the Annual Conference of Public Ministry, the governor announced four measures to make the bail process more demanding.

Statistics of the Office of Services Before Trial cited by the Civil Rights Commission reveal that of 99,148 cases evaluated between May 1996 and June 2003, 1,439 people were revoked their right to bail for not complying with the conditions imposed by the agency.

In her speech Thursday, the governor reminded that the suspects in the murders of the young people Nicole Muñiz and Ricardo Morales were free on bail when the incidents occurred.

Although the governor clarified that she is not opposed to the right to bail established in the Constitution, she said "this constitutional parameter cannot give room for a loose criminal to commit more crimes against innocents."

Vieques, The Next Big Thing In The Caribbean
Caribbean Bound: The Hot 5 Destinations

November 2, 2003
Copyright © 2003
The Ottawa Citizen. All rights reserved. 

The November/December issue of National Geographic Traveler says these are the Top 5 Caribbean destinations with buzz:

1. Cuba: "The appeal stems from the country's odd mix of exquisite colonial architecture and faded Commie icons."

2. Vieques: "After 62 years of using much of the island for bombing exercises, the U.S. navy moved out last spring, leaving tiny Vieques, 11 kilometres off the coast of Puerto Rico, on the verge of becoming the next big thing in the Caribbean."

3. Belize: A new crop of properties (is) luring tourists to the former British colony in record numbers."

4. Grand Bahama: With new luxury resorts "the action is shifting back to the big Bahama. And a new high-speed ferry will whisk passengers from Fort Lauderdale in two hours."

5. Panama: The place is getting ready to explode."

Acevedo Vila: Navy Supports Agreements On Base

October 31, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila said Friday that the U.S. Navy allegedly favors the current agreements for the closure of U.S. Naval Station Roosevelt Roads and opposes an alternate proposal for the military to retain control of the facility.

Acevedo Vila said Navy Assistant Secretary Hansford T. Johnson told him Thursday that the Navy opposes the proposal of U.S. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) to change the statute that specifies the details about the closing, which is expected to take place in April 2004.

"Johnson not only assured me that he favored the current law, but told me that the Navy is pleased with the way the Puerto Rico government, in coordination with the Pentagon, is planning the reuse of these lands to promote economic development in the region and obtain the maximum benefit possible after the cessation of operations at the base," he said in a press release.

Acevedo Vila complained Tuesday that Inhofe is allegedly trying to stop the local government’s plans to convert the base into an economic development center after its closing.

For this reason, he said he sent a letter to President George W. Bush to intercede with Inhofe, who is allegedly trying to limit the participation of the Puerto Rican government in the development of the lands in Ceiba.

Bush has signed the law that orders the closing of the base in 2004.

Veterans Hospital Treating Soldiers With Mental Conditions

By Laura Rivera Melendez of Associated Press

October 31, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

The U.S. Veterans Hospital in Puerto Rico has begun to treat soldiers with mental conditions stemming from the war in Iraq, an official said.

In the past month and a half, the hospital has treated seven soldiers with mental problems upon their return from Iraq, including four diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, Dr. Luis Rios said in an interview.

Rios, the hospital's director of mental health, said the patients include one soldier who was admitted after attempting suicide.

While some of the patients have been hospitalized, others have undergone treatment while living with their families, he said. The soldiers are being treated through counseling and with drugs as necessary.

"Veterans from Iraq have No. 1 priority," Rios said. He said the hospital is equipped to deal with increasing numbers of cases as soldiers return from combat over the next couple of years.

Post-traumatic stress, which is particularly common, can carry disabling symptoms of depression and anxiety for those who have been in combat.

A total of 117 U.S. soldiers have been killed in combat in Iraq since May 1 - when President George W. Bush declared an end to major fighting - or slightly more than the 114 soldiers who died in the invasion that began March 20.

Pentagon officials said they don't have information about the number of Puerto Rican soldiers in the area of Iraq. But published reports recently estimated the number at 1,400.

About 400 members of the Puerto Rico National Guard are on duty in the Persian Gulf area, spokeswoman Maj. Millie Rosa said.

It's unclear how many Puerto Ricans may be receiving treatment for mental conditions in military hospitals.

Soldiers from the island have served in large numbers in the U.S. military in conflicts from Vietnam to Bosnia.

The Veterans Hospital in Puerto Rico has 348 beds and already treats thousands of veterans for mental conditions, Rios said.

Traditionally the military hospital at Roosevelt Roads Naval Station has provided treatment for active-duty soldiers and military retirees. But with the base scheduled to close next year, the Veterans Hospital in San Juan is due to take on additional patients.

Soldiers returning from Iraq or Afghanistan are to receive free care for two years, Rios said.

10 Puerto Rican Soldiers Return On Leave

October 31, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – After eight months of active service, 10 soldiers of Unit 456 of the U.S. Army Reserve, which was the first Puerto Rican unit to leave for the U.S.-led war against Iraq, returned Thursday.

However, the return is temporary and the soldiers must return to their mission in 15 days, according to published reports.

This is the second group of Puerto Ricans to arrive on the island as part of the rest program offered to military personnel in Iraq who have been worn out by the long duration of the conflict.

Powell: U.S. Represents The Interest Of All Of The Citizens Of The U.S.

Interview On Telemundo With Pablo Gato

State Department Press Releases And Documents

Secretary Colin L. Powell

October 30, 2003
Copyright © 2003
Federal Information & News Dispatch, Inc. All rights reserved. 

MR. GATO: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. Thank you very much.

MR. GATO: Mr. Secretary, one last question. Some people in Puerto Rico would like to see some kind of delegation going to Latin American Summits and international meetings. Would you favor that or not?

SECRETARY POWELL: Some Puerto Ricans going to them?

MR. GATO: Yes, like a delegation -- like a representative delegation.

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, there can only be one delegation representing the United States. I'm not sure what particular summit or meeting they had in mind or what, what the basis of their comment or concern is. But when you talk about international meetings or summit meetings that are attended by governments, then the United States represents the interest of all of the citizens of the United States.

MR. GATO: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.


MR. GATO: Thank you very much.

Office of State Department Public Communication Division, 202-647-6575

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