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Acevedo Vila Opposes Legislating Spanish As Official Language… Serious Damages, Million-Dollar Losses From Rainfall, $3.5m Relief Ok’d… NPP: Disproportionate PR Military Presence In Iraq…Berrios: Calderon Should Demand Soldiers’ Return, Ex LA Presidents To Discuss Island’s Status …No Word On White House Status Committee

Acevedo Vila: No Need To Legislate On Spanish Language

November 13, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Although Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila does not doubt that Spanish is the language of Puerto Ricans, he said he thinks it is not necessary to file legislation to ratify it.

Acevedo Vila, who proposed bilingual education this week, rejected Thursday the measure presented by Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora to name Spanish the official language of the island.

"We have to go beyond ideological fights on language and concentrate on what is really important," Acevedo Vila said in a press release.

"There is no need at the moment to legislate to protect Spanish because there is no threat," he added.

The Popular Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial candidate said his educational plan, called "Your ideal school," reinforces the teaching of Spanish but also focuses on "the importance of English."

Fas Alzamora said the bill he proposed in January 2001 is not contrary to the educational ideas of the president of his party.

"They don’t clash. Making Spanish the official language does not clash with bilingual teaching at all. Moreover, I proposed the creation of the Linguistic Institute to improve the teaching of Spanish and English," Fas Alzamora said in a telephone interview.

The bill was approved in the Senate early Thursday over the opposition of the New Progressive Party, with a vote in favor by Puerto Rican Independence Party Sen. Fernando Martin and an abstention by PDP Sen. Roberto Prats, the party’s candidate for resident commissioner.

If ratified by the House and then by Gov. Sila Calderon, it would revoke a statute implemented during the first term of NPP Gov. Pedro Rossello that established Spanish and English as the island’s official languages.

Senate Approves Spanish As Official Language

November 13, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Against the opposition of the New Progressive Party (NPP) minority, the Senate approved early Thursday morning a bill that establishes Spanish as the official language of Puerto Rico, of greater importance and higher priority than English.

If signed by Gov. Sila Calderon, the bill would revoke a statute implemented during the first term of NPP Gov. Pedro Rossello that established English and Spanish as the island’s official languages.

Sen. Roberto Prats, the resident commissioner candidate of the Popular Democratic Party, abstained from voting on the measure, which was approved 17-8. Puerto Rican Independence Party Sen. Fernando Martin voted in favor of the bill.

The Senate NPP delegation censured Thursday what it called "the rushed manner" in which the majority approved the bill.

Senate Minority Leader Kenneth McClintock said the bill was approved behind people’s backs and allowed very little time for the minority to debate the measure.

"We also questioned why Wednesday night’s debate was not broadcast live on the cable TV system, even though there was [airtime] available," House Alternate Minority Leader Orlando Parga said.

The senators warned that if the bill is approved by the House and signed by the governor, the NPP would repeal it should it return to power in 2004.

"This law as it is. . .legally authorizes abuse against the more-than-80% of Puerto Ricans [who have no command of English] because it legally allows. . .all communication toward the people by the government to be in English," Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora said in a press release from the Legislature in defense of the bill, which he authored.

"I think that error has to be corrected," he added.

Fas Alzamora said what he is proposing in the legislation is not to eliminate English as an official language but to "eliminate the term without distinction."

The governor has said making Spanish the official language of Puerto Rico is not a priority of her administration.

Serious Damages, Million-Dollar Losses From Rainfall

November 13, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Some 354 people remain in shelters and approximately 20 roads and 10 bridges are impassable after two days of intense rain on the island that has caused losses surpassing $15 million, government officials said Thursday.

Rainfall has reached 15 inches in some sectors during the past 48 hours, according to State Emergency Management Agency Executive Director Rafael Guzman.

The southern municipalities of Salinas and Guayama have been the most affected, and along with Maunabo and Santa Isabel were declared emergency zones by Gov. Sila Calderon. They will receive $3.5 million from the Emergencies Fund to ease the situation, according to Guzman.

The National Weather Service extended until 6 p.m. Thursday a flash-flood warning for Puerto Rico.

Transportation Secretary Fernando Fagundo calculated that the estimated cost to repair damaged roads will reach $1.5 million.

Meanwhile, Ondeo, which administers the Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Authority, indicated that mud in the island’s rivers has caused difficulties at treatment plants, and the water supply to several municipalities has been interrupted.

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Francisco Aponte calculated that the losses in the agricultural sector have been "substantial" because of the rain. Approximately 15% of this year’s coffee harvest has been lost to rain, Aponte said.

Governor Allocates $3.5 Million For Flooded Municipalities

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

November 13, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

The heavy rains of the past two days prompted Gov. Sila Calderon on Thursday to sign an executive order allocating $3.5 million to the five municipalities of the island that have sustained the most substantial damage.

The governor said the money will come out of the Government Emergency Fund and be distributed among the municipalities of Salinas, Guayama, Maunabo, Rio Grande, and Santa Isabel based on their individual needs.

"This is the first allocation, but I’m sure there will be more," the governor said during a visit to one of three schools in Salinas that since Tuesday have been established as shelters.

Calderon added that the funds are intended primarily to cover the cost of cleanup and to repair infrastructure damage, but will also be used to help families that have lost their belongings.

"The mayors and the Puerto Ricans living in these municipalities should know that our administration is with them in this moment of great need," Calderon added.

Salinas Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Mayor Abraham Lopez, who was present at the press conference, said that at the moment there are around 6,000 families that cannot be reached by land following the collapse of a bridge at PR-1.

"A lot of people have been affected, but we are hopeful that we will be able to pull through now that the governor has declared Salinas an emergency area," Lopez said, adding that the National Guard has been helping with rescue efforts.

The mayor said this is the first time that the municipality has had severe flooding. Salinas is located in the southern area, which is considered one of the driest parts of the island.

Lopez said the sectors that were mostly affected in Salinas were the special communities of Playa, Playita, Coqui, San Felipe, and Sabana Llana.

Josefina Gonzalez, 71, was one of more than 200 people evacuated from Playita.

"In the 30 years that I’ve lived here, I’ve never seen a flood like this," said Gonzalez.

Eva Sanchez, a 42-year-old teacher from Guayama living in Playita, told the press that flood waters had risen up to six feet before she was evacuated and taken to safety at the Luis Muñoz Rivera School on Wednesday.

Families affected may receive $500, $700, or $1,000. The monies should be available within 48 hours from the filing of the request, said Family Department Secretary Yolanda Zayas, who accompanied the governor on a helicopter tour of the affected areas.

Zayas said Family Department personnel would be assessing the damage sustained by families in those municipalities starting immediately, and that the monies would be made available to them through the Unica Card.

Those who do not yet have a card must visit one of the agency’s offices, she said.

NPP: Disproportionate Number Of PR Soldiers In Iraq

November 13, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The House New Progressive Party (NPP) minority complained Thursday that the number of Puerto Rican soldiers who are on active duty in the war in Iraq is disproportionate when compared with the number of soldiers mobilized from other U.S. jurisdictions.

House Minority Leader Anibal Vega Borges said that the present administration should make the situation of the Puerto Rican soldiers in the military conflict a priority.

The NPP delegation filed a resolution to conduct a "comprehensive study on the representation" of Puerto Rican soldiers active in the zone and present its findings and recommendations in a period of 30 days.

"There are approximately 350 Puerto Rican soldiers in Iraq. This number unfavorably compares with the average of 259 soldiers from each state of the United States. This situation has become a matter of greater concern because 13 Puerto Rican soldiers have been killed," said NPP Rep. Oscar Ramos.

These numbers appear to contradict the numbers of the spokesman of the U.S. Army in Puerto Rico, Jose Pagan, who recently said that 825 of the 18,000 members of the National Guard and Reserve mobilized in Iraq and Kuwait are Puerto Rican, which represents "less than one percent."

Berrios: Calderon Should Be Demanding Soldiers’ Return

By Proviana Colon Diaz — WOW News Editor

November 12, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Comparing the ongoing war in Iraq with the Vietnam War, Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) President Ruben Berrios urged both Popular Democratic Party (PDP) and New Progressive Party leaders to demand the return of Puerto Rican soldiers from the war.

Berrios said because 13 Puerto Rican soldiers have been killed in Iraq, Gov. Sila Calderon should be demanding that all troops be returned to the island.

"Why can’t the governor of Puerto Rico ask and demand that no more Puerto Ricans be taken to Iraq?" Berrios said.

In addition, he criticized PDP President Anibal Acevedo Vila for his announced intention to go to Iraq to visit Puerto Rican soldiers.

"It is incredible and terrible that at this given moment Acevedo Vila wants to go to Iraq, which means he is supporting the U.S. government in what is going on there. He should instead be protesting and demanding from the president of the United States the return of the Puerto Rican soldiers," Berrios said.

Acevedo Vila told The Associated Press that the soldiers and their mothers and relatives should be upset with Berrios.

Berrios said PIP is ready to provide legal aid to any soldiers who wish to defect.

"No soldier has yet to seek our help, but the PIP is ready to so," Berrios said.

Berrios: Ex Latin American Presidents To Discuss Island’s Status

November 12, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Three former Latin American presidents have been appointed part of a special committee created by the International Socialist Organization (ISO) to discuss Puerto Rico’s status issue, said Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) President Ruben Berrios.

Berrios, who is also the ISO’s honorary president, said the committee will be comprised of Argentina’s former president, Raul Alfonsin; former Bolivian President Rodrigo Borja; and former Ecuador President Marin Torrijos, among other political leaders of the continent.

"Up until now, ISO had been limited to issuing statements on what to do with regard to Puerto Rico, but at this moment, a committee composed of the highest leadership in Latin America has been formed to carry out effective measures and help in the process of solving the status issue," Berrios said.

The committee’s formation was authorized at the recent ISO assembly in Sao Paulo, Brazil and its members named three days ago.

No Word On White House Status Committee

November 11, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Although it has been three weeks since the White House announced it would reactivate the interagency group to resolve the issue of the island’s status, the names of the group’s members still haven’t been revealed.

New Progressive Party Sen. Miriam Ramirez, who was defeated on Sunday in her bid to be the party’s candidate for resident commissioner, said she had asked her contacts in the White House to delay the announcement until after the primary so as not to affect its outcome.

"I had asked them to wait until after the primary. Now I can’t say if that was the reason," she said in published reports.

Some believe the delay shows President George W. Bush’s true intentions to discuss the matter.

The interagency group’s main task is to define the island’s status options.

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