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Former President George Bush Support For Statehood, He Eulogizes Ferre At Memorial Mass… Calderon Claims Reduction In Crime…Gov’t Expects To Obtain RR Land…Bush Names 3 More Municipalities’ Disaster Areas…Rossello, Acevedo Vila Debate Off… Some 960 Reservists To Be Mobilized In Iraq War

Former President Bush: I Will Continue Supporting Statehood

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

December 3, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Former U.S. President George Bush expressed his support for Puerto Rico statehood during his brief visit to the island on Wednesday.

"I have been a pro-statehood believer and I remain one," Bush told reporters on his way out of the Mass that was held Wednesday at the church at Sagrado Corazon University in memory of former Gov. Luis A. Ferre.

Bush made his statement after he noted that his personal admiration for Ferre extended to the political arena.

"I was a big supporter of his when he was a member of the National Republican Committee and a great admirer of his. So this is from the heart," Bush said.

On another note, the former president responded to questions from the local press regarding his opinion about the performance of his son, U.S. President George W. Bush, whom he said is doing a great job.

"You are asking the right man. I think he is doing great," Bush said with a smile.

"Tough times. He is conducting himself with honor and the Thanksgiving thing was to send a message to the troops that he cares deeply and that we have a lot to be thankful for and I think that came through loud and clear," Bush said regarding his son’s unexpected visit to U.S. troops in Iraq on Thanksgiving Day.

The former president also said he is convinced that the U.S. will prevail in its mission in Iraq, where more than 400 troops have perished since the beginning of the war in March.

"Iraq will be democratic for the Iraqis. That’s exactly what’s going to happen," said Bush, who conducted a 1991 military incursion against Iraq called Operation Desert Storm.

It was during the senior Bush’s administration that the Young Project, which sought a solution to the political status of the island with the U.S., was proposed. However, the issue never progressed during his four-year term in office.

Former U.S. President George Bush Attends Mass In Ferre’s Memory

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

December 3, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Former U.S. President George Bush arrived on the island on Tuesday to make good on a promise he made to the Ferre family in October, when he was unable to attend former Gov. Luis A. Ferre’s funeral.

At 10 a.m., the former president arrived at Sagrado Corazon University church in Santurce to attend a memorial ceremony honoring Ferre, whom he called a friend.

During the ceremony, Bush expressed his gratitude for being invited to the mass and to reminisce about the man he said taught him the definition of being a true leader.

"Politics can be very ugly and controversial. For me, don Luis had this civility about him, his way of getting along with people, setting an example I would call real leadership. There aren’t many leaders I have encountered. There are many big shots, but they didn’t necessarily possess the human quality that don Luis Ferre possessed," Bush said.

The former president also praised Ferre for his activism in the arts, education, politics, and public service.

"Don Luis is what I call a shining example that there can be no definition of a successful life that does not include service to others," he said.

"He always retained a certain humility that endeared him to me and Barbara. So, my greeting here is to simply say that we loved the man and I am very proud to join all of you, not in mourning, but in celebration of a wonderful life," Bush added.

Following Bush’s statements, Antonio Luis Ferre, the former governor’s son, thanked the president for what he called a gesture of friendship, traveling to the island to specifically attend a mass in memory of his father.

The mass was conducted by Father Alfonso Guzman, representing San Juan Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez Nieves, who unable to appear because of previous engagements.

Members of the federal and local judicial branch also attended the private ceremony. Among them were U.S. District Court Chief Justice Hector Laffitte, Puerto Rico Supreme Court Associate Justice Baltasar Corrada Del Rio, and former Puerto Rico Supreme Court Chief Justice Jose Andreu Garcia.

Former governors Rafael Hernandez Colon, Carlos Romero Barcelo, and Pedro Rossello also participated in the mass.

Among the politicians present were Popular Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial candidate Anibal Acevedo Vila, Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora, House Speaker Carlos Vizcarrondo, Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado, Chief of Staff Cesar Miranda, and the director of the Office of the First Lady, Maria Elena Gonzalez, daughter of Gov. Sila Calderon, who excused herself from the ceremony.

San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini, Caguas Mayor William Miranda Marin, and former NPP gubernatorial candidate Carlos Pesquera also paid their respects.

Calderon Claims Reduction In Crime

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – Gov. Sila Calderon on Wednesday claimed that crime continues to decrease in Puerto Rico, citing the fact that 19 fewer killings had occurred as of Tuesday compared with the same time period last year.

In addition, Calderon praised the sense of duty and sacrifice of the police force, which she congratulated during a ceremony to hand over 309 patrol cars.

The Calderon administration has purchased 4,386 patrol cars in three years, 1,864 of which have already been handed over to the Police Department.

She also signed a law aimed at paying the home mortgages of police killed in the line of duty.

Government Expects To Obtain Roosevelt Roads Land

By Ricardo Zuñiga of Associated Press

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

SAN JUAN (AP) - Federal agencies have yet to officially request use of Department of Defense land or structures at Roosevelt Roads Naval Base, despite a deadline that expires this month, said Milton Segarra, secretary of Puerto Rico’s Economic Development & Commerce Department.

Segarra said the local government plan to develop the base includes about 11,000 acres within the base.

Only the U.S. Army Reserve has expressed an interest in retaining 150 acres for its use, but hasn’t presented an official request.

"I feel optimistic a great part of the land will be developed," Segarra said upon exiting a meeting Tuesday with Gov. Sila Calderon at La Fortaleza.

He added he has been approached by private investors interested in developing projects at the military base, which is expected to shut down in March.

Bush Names Three More Municipalities’ Disaster Areas

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – U.S. President George W. Bush on Wednesday added three municipalities - Luquillo, Lajas and Cabo Rojo - to the list of disaster areas in Puerto Rico following the rains that lashed the island in November. The number of municipalities on the list now stands at 19.

With this three municipalities the list of towns included in the disaster area now stands at 19.

On Nov. 26, Gov. Sila Calderon requested of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that the three municipalities be declared in state of emergency.

As of Dec. 1, FEMA had received 15,865 petitions for relief and had distributed nearly $10.5 million in aid, local coordinator Justo Hernandez said.

Five FEMA relief centers remain open; these are Guanica, Salinas, Juana Diaz, Maunabo, and Patillas.

Meanwhile, Office of Management & Budget Director Melba Acosta said that as of Monday, the Family Department had distributed $3,4 million in cash to 5,427 families.

The local government has also provided those in need with food, basic necessities and in some cases furniture or appliances.

Rossello, Acevedo Vila Debate Won’t Take Place

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

December 2, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Following a 45-minute private meeting, representatives of the gubernatorial candidates of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) and New Progressive Party (NPP) announced the debate between Anibal Acevedo Vila and former Gov. Pedro Rossello has been called off.

The decision puts a halt to the controversy raised when Rossello challenged Acevedo Vila to defend allegations the PDP candidate made against the former governor regarding corruption in the Education Department during the past administration. The debate was cancelled since neither party was able to come to an agreement about the subject of the debate.

"I believe there has been a change of position. Maybe, they didn’t expect we would accept the challenge, and I suppose his advisers have told [Rossello] not to debate," said former Senate President Hernandez Agosto, who was negotiating on behalf of Acevedo Vila. The other team members are attorney Lisa Ortiz and campaign manager Gabriel Alonso.

Hernandez Agosto said he was willing to discuss any concerns Rossello may have about the campaign advertisement or Acevedo Vila’s statements as long as they involved education.

Rossello’s campaign director, Frances Rodriguez, said her team was only interested in discussing the accusations Acevedo Vila made against the moral integrity of the NPP gubernatorial candidate.

She said the resident commissioner’s insistence on limiting debate to the topic of education was a gimmick to give him an opportunity to present his platform on the subject and to consolidate his weak position within the PDP.

"This wasn’t a challenge to resolve his leadership problem in a party where he apparently isn’t wanted," said Rodriguez, referring to Acevedo Vila’s selection as a gubernatorial candidate after everyone else chosen before him declined the position.

While Hernandez Agosto said his team would remain open to further discussion, Rodriguez said Acevedo Vila has lost his chance to prove he speaks with truth.

Some 960 Reservists To Be Mobilized In Iraq War

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

December 2, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

U.S. Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Jose Rosado announced on Tuesday that 968 reservists will be mobilized to support the military units serving in Iraq.

Rosado said that on Dec. 6, the soldiers will be transferred to Camp Santiago in Salinas, where they will receive special training for up to 45 days. After that, they will be sent to several areas, including the U.S. mainland; most, however, will go to Iraq.

Soldiers in the mobilized units will work in the areas of engineering and construction, postal services, ordnance, mortuary effects and communications, according to Rosado.

The brigadier general added that morale among the soldiers is high and that he has yet to learn of any soldier, whether here on the island or in Iraq, who doesn’t want to participate in the war.

"Anyone who has been away from the family and from the island will want to come back, especially during the holiday season; that is typical," said Rosado. He added that the Army Reserve is evaluating whether the units who will be in Camp Santiago can spend Christmas and New Year’s Day with their families.

Rosado was responding to civic groups who last week said they know of and are willing to support soldiers who decide they don’t want to go to Iraq.

The general added that the only complaints he has received from soldiers in the theater of war are related to paychecks or to the date of their return to the island.

Several of the reservists who will be mobilized said they are mentally prepared to enter a hostile environment as that is what they volunteered to do when they joined the U.S. Army Reserve. Their families and relatives, however, are a different story.

"My wife is very worried, but she knew when she married me that this was part of the package," said Capt. Teodoro Rovira, 33, a chemical engineer who has been a reservist for 14 years and who is celebrating his two-year wedding anniversary.

Capt. Edwin Martinez, 35, a reservist for 13 years, said it is hard to leave during the holidays, but it is something he is willing to do.

"I have told [my parents and siblings] that we are going on a mission for which we will be well trained and from which we will be back," Martinez said.

According to Rosado, there are more than 4,000 Puerto Rican National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve soldiers mobilized around the world; of those, 1,200 are serving in the Middle East. He was unable to specify, however, how many are in Iraq.

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