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Governor Wishes For Quick Return Of Puerto Rican Soldiers, Says 2003 Was Full Of Surprises… Caguas Loses Shoot Out…Paseo De Rio Piedras To Be Remodeled…PIP Requests Soldiers’ Return…

Governor Wishes For Quick Return Of Puerto Rican Soldiers

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

December 24, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Gov. Sila Calderon took the opportunity while taking the traditional Christmas family picture at La Fortaleza to send her best wishes to the people of Puerto Rico and to hope for the quick return of Puerto Rican soldiers from Iraq.

Calderon made her statements while surrounded by her three children--Sila Marie Gonzalez, Maria Elena Gonzalez, and Francisco Gonzalez--and six grandchildren: Luis Anibal, Gustavo Miguel, Sila Aurora, Maria Cecilia, Isabel Cristina, and Francisco Xavier.

"I know that for many people, this holiday season has been difficult because of relatives who are in the military and are away from Puerto Rico," Calderon said. "I want to wish them peace, tranquility, and may the Christmas spirit fill their hearts so that they can trust in the quick return of their loved ones."

U.S. Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Jose Rosado has said 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.

On Dec. 6, almost 1,000 Puerto Rican reservists were mobilized for training to help with the reconstruction of Iraq.

On Wednesday, 50 soldiers were scheduled to return to the island after eight months in Iraq.

The governor, who gave all government employees Friday off, urged locals to spend a peaceful Christmas with their families, just as she plans to do with her loved ones.

"As a mother, I am very happy to have my three children gathered here with their offspring, and we wish everyone a lot of happiness, many good things, and many blessings," Calderon said.

Calderon: 2003 Has Been Full Of Surprises

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

December 24, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Gov. Sila Calderon reminisced about what 2003 has brought her, describing it as a year full of surprises.

Surrounded by her immediate family, the governor shared a few laughs with the press while recalling several key moments of her personal life, especially her marriage to former Economic Development & Commerce Secretary Ramon Cantero Frau on Sept. 10.

"In our family we’ve had many changes. We’ve had the addition of my husband, Ramon Cantero Frau," she said.

Calderon described her husband as a supportive companion who is there when she needs him.

The former Economic Development & Commerce secretary acknowledged that his marriage to Puerto Rico’s first female governor has meant quite a change in his life.

The governor also recalled the bittersweet moments of her administration.

"I decided not to seek re-election and there was the surprising announcement of a new politician in the family," she said, referring to her daughter and director of the First Lady’s Office, Sila Marie Gonzalez, who is running for Popular Democratic Party (PDP) senator in 2004.

Although Calderon declined to name Ferdinand Mercado, she acknowledged that the scandal that triggered his immediate resignation as secretary of state and the withdrawal of his nomination to associate justice of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court has troubled her.

"It is has caused me sadness and inflicted pain in my heart," the governor said.

On an brighter note, Calderon said she expects the New Year to bring plenty of happiness to her family.

The governor added that Puerto Ricans will be able to unite despite their differences during the coming election year.

"Let the values that we share be more important than the things that separate us," Calderon said.

Caguas Loses Shoot Out

By Emily Badger | Sentinel Staff Writer

December 24, 2003
Copyright © 2003
THE ORLANDO SENTINEL. All rights reserved. 


KISSIMMEE -- The Kissimmee Rotary Club couldn't have scripted it any better, with the Great Florida Shoot Out title game Tuesday night pitting the Nos. 1 and 3 seeds against each other in a matchup of the best story lines, the strongest drawing power and the top talent at the tournament.

Never mind that neither team was from Florida or even within 700 miles of here. St. Benedict's (N.J.) was attempting to repeat a tournament championship, and Colegio Bautista de Caguas (Puerto Rico) was attempting to prove itself off the island for the first time in school history.

The outcome of the game seemed like a mere afterthought in all the noise over the pairing, but in the end, the announced record crowd of 5,160 -- half of whom held their hands over their hearts for the Puerto Rican national anthem -- saw Caguas fall 78-72.

St. Benedict's J.R. Smith, last year's tournament MVP, traded baskets with Caguas' 7-foot-4 center, Peter Ramos, for most of the game. But the Gray Bees (10-0) began to mount an early lead as six of Smith's baskets came from behind the arc, while Ramos worked effectively inside.

Smith finished with 30 points.

None of Smith's baskets had quite the same crowd appeal as Ramos' fourth-quarter dunk to make it 71-65.

Ramos, who finished with 29 points, played seven minutes of the fourth quarter in foul trouble.

Paseo De Rio Piedras To Be Remodeled

December 23, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - As soon as the Christmas festivities conclude, municipal brigades will begin to demolish public structures and remodel the urban center of Rio Piedras as part of San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini’s plan to remodel the area.

The $4 million plan is scheduled to begin Jan. 12 and should be completed in eight months, Santini said.

Santini said everything is ready for the remodeling to begin, but they will wait until after the Christmas shopping season to begin.

"Great cities aren’t built in a day, and great changes don’t come overnight," Santini said.

PIP Requests The Return Of The Puerto Rican Soldiers

By Manuel Ernesto Rivera of Associated Press

December 23, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Revealing the context of a letter issued by Puerto Rico National Guard soldiers in Iraq denouncing discriminatory treatment, the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) urged the governor on Monday to demand the return of the Puerto Rican soldiers.

PIP senate candidate Maria de Lourdes Santiago submitted copies of letters from soldiers belonging to Unit 755 active on service on Iraq complaining that they are victims of "abuse and discrimination" when compared to the treatment received by the American soldiers.

Quoting from the letter Santiago said that more than 60 Puerto Rican soldiers qualify to be returned home but the brigade to which the unit is attached, refuses to de-activate them.

"In contrast units in Virginia and New York with the same or less time in war have been deactivated," Santiago said in press conference at PIP headquarters in Puerto Nuevo.

In their letter the soldiers say they have been assigned to dangerous missions without the proper training or legislative support and the lack of preparation cost the live of one of the unit members.

"As commander and chief of the Puerto Rico National Guard," the governor has to demand the return of the Puerto Rican soldiers," Santiago said.

She added that 13 Puerto Rican soldiers have already been killed in combat.

Santiago noted that the presence of the Puerto Rican soldiers in Iraq is unnecessary because Saddam Hussein’s regime was overthrown and he was detained last December 13.

Meanwhile the PIP has formed a team of attorneys who will serve as legal advisers to soldiers and their families to inform them of their rights, if they do not which to return to service.

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