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Independentistas Demand Return Of Political Dossiers… Tadpoles Of Endangered Toads Arrive…A Warmup For Gloves…Governor OK’s $1K Bonus For Everyone…US Finds Irregularities In SJ AIDS Funds…UT’s Inauguration Delayed…RR Military Hospital Limits Operations…Bail Bill Not A Priority…Local, Fed Officials To Strengthen Anti-Crime Efforts…Bush Names 16 To Status Panel

Independentistas Demand Return Of Political Dossiers

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

SAN JUAN (AP) - Three hundred and forty people who suspect authorities might have created political dossiers for their alleged participation in pro-independence activities have requested that their dossiers be handed over to them.

Courts Administration Office Administrator Mercedes Marrero de Bauermeister said in published reports that the requests would be evaluated to investigate if in fact, political dossiers were created for each of those 340 people.

The Puerto Rico Supreme Court has decided that starting Dec. 31 all dossiers will be handed over to the University of Puerto Rico for investigative and educational purposes.

About 7,000 of the 74,000 political dossiers that were created against people and organizations have yet to be claimed.

Tadpoles Of Endangered Toads In P.R.


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

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- Thousands of tadpoles of an endangered toad species arrived from the United States and were released into artificial ponds in Puerto Rico, officials said Saturday.

About 6,000 Puerto Rican Crested Toad tadpoles came Thursday from St. Louis and were brought to Guanica State Forest on Puerto Rico's south coast, forest director Miguel Canals said. They are only a few days old.

During the first two weeks of their development, Canals and a small staff will feed and monitor the tadpoles, currently about a quarter-inch long, he said. Then officials will release them from the ponds into the forest.

``All of them look very healthy,'' Canals said. The herpetarium of the St. Louis zoo bred the tadpoles and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service delivered them.

The toad species is the only one native to the U.S. Caribbean territory of 4 million residents. Most of the toads' habitat was destroyed as towns were built, leading to dramatic declines in their population.

The toads were believed extinct before six were collected for captive breeding in 1982. At that time, it was estimated that less than 200 crested toads remained.

The reintroduction project, which has been underway for a decade, aims to establish several colonies of the toads in Puerto Rico.

Less than 1 percent of the tadpoles bred in St. Louis will survive and become adults, Canals said. It takes two years for the toads to reach maturity.

Scientists recently saw adult toads breeding for the first time, giving them hope that the reintroduction was succeeding, he said.

The Guanica dry forest, a desert-like preserve, has the only known wild colony of 300-400 toads.

About 15,000 other tadpoles arrived from zoos in Toronto, Texas, Kansas, Louisiana and Nebraska in October. They left the ponds last month.

A Warmup For Gloves

Bill Farrell

New York Daily News

December 6, 2003
Copyright © 2003
Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved. 

A team of Daily News Golden Gloves and Metro champions will tune up for the upcoming Gloves at a tournament in Puerto Rico later this month.

The 12-member team, which includes Luis Pena (119 pounds), Angel Torres (125), Charles Vanderveer (132), Javier Monserrate (141) and super-heavyweight Michael Jakab, will take part in a four-team event.

"The tournament will be held between Dec. 13 and 19," said USA Boxing/Metro president John Woluewich. "We're going with a team from New Jersey and we'll compete against two teams from Puerto Rico."

All of the team members recently won championships in the Metros, which were held last month. Jakab, Monserrate and Pena also are Golden Gloves champions.

"We know these guys are good. This is a chance to for them to gain some international experience," Woluewich said.

With all these top-notch boxers expected to return to the Daily News Golden Gloves, hopes are high for an exciting tournament in 2004.

Governor Makes $1,000 Bonus Official For Everyone

December 6, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The $1,000 increase to the Christmas bonus of the public employees covered by the Syndication Law (Law 45) became official Saturday when Gov. Sila Calderon turned into law the bills that made it viable.

La Fortaleza’s press office announced in a press release that the bonus will also be extended to the public employees who are in active military service in the Armed Forces.

"This administration has established as public policy to do justice to the thousands of public employees who work for the government," said Calderon, specifying that with the increase, her administration doubled the Christmas bonus, which was $500 in 2000.

The governor stamped her signature on the bill after the unions that represent the employees protected by Law 45 objected that the $1,000 increase only applied to non-union public employees, as was Calderon’s original proposal.

The government admitted that the situation "created uncertainty since some unions believed that the Christmas bonus was automatically subjected to any increase granted to public employees, while other unions did not contemplate that situation."

U.S. Health: Irregularities In Funds For AIDS Patients

December 5, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – An audit by the Inspector General’s Office of the U.S. Health & Human Services Department found that Ryder Memorial Hospital in Humacao irregularly managed federal funds allocated to AIDS patients.

The municipality of San Juan, which distributes federal funds to various institutions such as Ryder hospital, has already returned the money, Kevin Ropp, spokesman for the Health Resources Administration, the agency of the U.S. Health & Human Services Department that grants the funds, said in published reports.

In view of this and other alleged irregularities being investigated, the Health Resources Administration warned that the program could be placed in a type of syndication and that they could freeze the $15 million that the municipality of San Juan receives annually.

"We grant the funds to the municipality of San Juan and consider its executive chief [Mayor Jorge Santini] responsible for its use. If there is a problem in the course of the operations, it is the responsibility of the municipality of San Juan," said Douglas Morgan, the official of the Health Resources Administration who supervises the programs with Ryan White funds.

Ryan White funds are granted by Congress so that metropolitan areas such as San Juan can fight the AIDS epidemic.

U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley also gave a severe warning to the municipality: "For years, we have seen incidents in which federal funds for HIV/AIDS patients have been squandered through overcharges in medicine and laboratories, in embezzlement of funds to support luxurious lifestyles, and the diversion of funds to finance political campaigns. . . I will not allow this to happen."

Urban Train’s Inauguration Delayed Two Months

December 5, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The inauguration of the Urban Train will be in February, not this month as planned, according to Transportation & Public Works Secretary Fernando Fagundo.

Fagundo said the two-month delay is because the company in charge of administering the construction, Siemens, did some "extremely inadequate" work that will have to be repaired at a cost of $40 million.

"This work has to be repaired before the train begins to function," he said in published reports.

Among the inadequate work, Fagundo mentioned flaws in the tracks, specifically on some curves and in stretches where the train could cross from one track to another.

Transportation & Roads Authority Executive Director Jack Allison explained that the rails are held by screws, and some of these are required to be replaced for security considerations.

Siemens’ contract with the government states that the project will be handed over Dec. 29. If the company cannot meet the deadline, it will be subject to fines of $100,000 a day, retroactive to Sept. 29.

Roosevelt Roads Military Hospital Limits Operations

December 5, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The medical services offered in the hospital at the Roosevelt Roads base in Ceiba will be limited to active soldiers beginning today, according to base spokesman Oscar Seara.

Armed forces retirees and employees of the federal government will no longer have access to the hospital, the official said in published reports.

The hospital is expected to close completely on Jan. 31 as part of the dismantling of the base.

Starting in February, soldiers who remain at Roosevelt Roads will have access to a clinic that will function until March 31, which is the date of the definitive closure of the naval base, but hospital services will have to be sought at Veterans Hospital or private institutions.

Fort Buchanan, which is now the main U.S. military installation in Puerto Rico, only has one clinic.

As of Nov. 26, there are still 1,082 soldiers and 1,163 civilians at Roosevelt Roads, not quite half of the population in February 2003.

Charlie Hernandez: Bail Bill Not A Priority

By Ricardo Zuñiga of Associated Press

December 5, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

The administration bill to limit the right to bail in some criminal cases isn’t a priority for Charlie Hernandez, chairman of the House Judicial Committee.

Gov. Sila Calderon proposed the legislation at the end of the past ordinary session to help fight crime in Puerto Rico.

Calderon has expressed hope that the bill be worked on as soon as possible, but several sectors on the island have doubted its constitutionality.

"It isn’t on my priorities list," Hernandez said. "It has constitutional conflicts that worry me."

Hernandez has said he intends to hold public hearings so that all sectors can express their concerns regarding the bill.

The Popular Democratic Party representative said his priorities in the next ordinary session, beginning in January, will be revising the Weapons Law and concluding the work to reform the Civil and Penal codes.

Local, Federal Officials To Strengthen Efforts Against Crime

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

December 5, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Three years into her administration, Gov. Sila Calderon met Friday with federal law enforcement authorities to discuss cooperation agreements.

The fight against crime has been described by Calderon as one of her administration’s priorities, yet the governor admitted Friday that she has met with the federal law enforcement task force only three times since taking office.

When questioned, however, if she felt satisfied with the number of meetings, Calderon quickly noted it should not be misinterpreted as a sign of distance between local and federal authorities because the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) task force, comprised of federal and local law enforcement authorities, meets on a regular basis.

"The motive and the purpose of my participation is to personally get involved. . .but HIDTA meets on a regular basis, and the job is being done," Calderon said.

In fact, she noted that the local HIDTA group has been awarded the Outstanding Interdiction Effort Award for the money laundering raid dubbed "Grand Slam."

The HIDTA will meet again in January, and Calderon is expected to participate.

She added that now that she has "more time," she will join them more often.

"Now that I have more time - you know that I have dedicated much more time to the administration in the past six months now that I am no longer active in politics - I will be much more involved in this process," Calderon said.

In the morning-long meeting, Calderon was joined by Assistant U.S. District Attorney Humberto Garcia, Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez, Police Superintendent Victor Rivera, and Drug Control Office Director Luis Guillermo Zambrana, who is currently the HIDTA coordinator.

Bush Names 16 To Panel To Study Status Of Puerto Rico

December 5, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

WASHINGTON (AP) - Sixteen Bush administration officials have been named to a presidential panel to study whether Puerto Rico should become a state, an independent country or continue as a U.S. commonwealth, the White House announced Friday.

Each Cabinet agency and the White House is represented on the task force, which President Bill Clinton created in December 2000 to clarify options for the island group's future status.

During the last presidential campaign, both President George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore supported the idea of the task force.

Residents of the island are divided over what status they desire. Voters narrowly rejected statehood in nonbinding referendums in 1993 and 1998. In the last vote, the status quo squeaked by with just over 50 percent.

The task force is to report to the president as needed, but at least once every two years.

The members are:

-Gilbert G. Gonzalez Jr., deputy undersecretary for rural development, Agriculture Department.

-Elizabeth Dial, director of intergovernmental affairs, Commerce Department.

-Victor E. Bernson Jr., director of the office of legislative counsel, Defense Department.

-Kathleen Leos, associate deputy undersecretary, Education Department.

-Theresa Speake, director of the office of economic impact and diversity, Energy Department.

-Regina Schofield, director of intergovernmental affairs, Department of Health and Human Services.

-Joshua Filler, director of the office of state and local government coordination, Department of Homeland Security.

-Frank Jimenez, chief of staff, Department of Housing and Urban Development.

-David P. Smith, deputy assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks, Interior Department.

-Noel J. Francisco, deputy assistant attorney general, Justice Department.

-Chris Spear, assistant secretary for policy, Labor Department.

-Leo DiBenigno, senior policy adviser to the assistant secretary, State Department.

-Sam Reid, deputy assistant secretary for governmental affairs, Transportation Department.

-Tony Fratto, deputy assistant secretary of public affairs, Treasury Department.

-William McLemore, deputy assistant secretary for intergovernmental affairs. at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

-Ruben Barrales, director of the office of intergovernmental affairs, White House.

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