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Acevedo Vila Promises Status Referendum, Admits Anti-Crime Efforts Inadequate…Young Oppose Pub Closing Laws…Rivera Spark Hofstra Win…100,000 Wait In Line To Receive Gifts On Three Kings Day…Women Head 50% Of Poor SJ Households…5 Soldiers Denounce Abuse In Iraq…Rossello Calls Mercado Case Biggest Political Cover-Up

Acevedo Vila Insists There Will Be Status Referendum

January 7, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

JUANA DIAZ (AP) - Popular Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial candidate Anibal Acevedo Vila reiterated that if elected, he will call for a referendum to choose the mechanism for demanding a change in the island’s political status.

Acevedo Vila said electoral consultations would be held during the first six months of his administration.

"My commitment is clear: to put this issue at the hands of the people during the first six months of my government and my administration so that they are the ones to decide the process for resolving the status issue," Acevedo Vila said.

The resident commissioner one of the mechanisms to be presented, and the one he favors, is a constitutional assembly, but he will respect the voters’ decision.

"The will of the people will be the one that decides," Acevedo Vila.

Acevedo Vila said errors of the past shouldn’t be repeated because it has been the political parties, and not the people, who have pretended to be the ones in charge of resolving the status issue.

He added that in 1952, the PDP took a step forward by negotiating the commonwealth status with the U.S. Congress, but the status issue has yet to be resolved.

Acevedo Vila Admits Much Needs To Be Done To Fight Crime

January 7, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Popular Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial candidate Anibal Acevedo Vila acknowledged on Wednesday that Gov. Sila Calderon’s administration has not effectively fought crime.

"It an area were there is still much, much that needs to be done. I believe that sadly the changes of superintendents have given the police a lack of stability needed to fight crime," Acevedo Vila said.

That is why he asked outgoing chief of police Victor Rivera to stay in his post but he said he has to leave.

Acevedo Vila then urged the governor to make a wise decision about his replacement.

"There definitely has to stability in all the security areas and I trust the governor can make an appointment that brings that stability," Acevedo Vila said.

He added it would be beneficial for the governor to make an appointment that is approved by both him and his main contender New Progressive Party President Pedro Rossello.

According to preliminary police statistics by the end of 2003 some 779 killings had occurred in Puerto Rico, fewer less than in 2002.

Meanwhile 18 violent deaths have occurred so far this year.

Group Of Young People Oppose Closing Law For Pubs

By Laura Rivera Melendez of Associated Press

January 7, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Although they have different views on the causes of crime and the actions that should be taken to prevent it, young people oppose a bill that calls for a 2 a.m. closing at local pubs.

The reason being that punitive actions such as these don’t attack the root of the problem.

That was the opinion of most of the young people who participated in a Wednesday round-table discussion called by the Youth Affairs Office on the bill that aims to reduce crime by imposing an earlier closing time for selling alcoholic beverages.

"By putting the closing time two hours earlier you won’t solve anything because instead of killing you at 3 a.m. they will do it at 2 a.m. If we take pubs and discotheques away from the young people then where will they have fun," said Chantal Delgado, 22, and a student of criminal justice.

Participants ages ranged from 17 to 28.

The discussion on the bill drafted by Rep. Jose "Connie" Varela was chaired by Youth Affairs Office Executive Director David Bernie who was joined by Drug Control Office Director Luis Zambrana.

Gymnast Diego Lizardi, 28, pub owners, religious and community leaders, were some of the participants.

Mariana Hernandez, 21, said crime is both a cultural and physiological problem that isn’t solved by restricting the liberty of young people.

She noted that crime occurs in Puerto Rico at any time and affirmed that limiting the opening hours of pubs could result in an increase in violence at private parties.

Bernier and Zambrana could not provide statistics as to the number of murders and their relation to the hours in which alcohol is sold.

Another alternative is, instead of closing the pubs at 2 a.m., simply to stop selling alcohol from that hour on.

Meanwhile Wilmer Velez, 26, a manager at a Condado pub, said that establishing a closing hour could contribute to the quality of life, just as it has done in New York and Colorado.

Bernier said he will evaluate the opinions of the young people before going to public hearings on the bill and assuming a position. He noted his office is evaluating other alternatives that might provide a safer environment such as making the use of metal detectors mandatory at all alcohol-selling establishments.

Rivera Sparks Hofstra Win

By Tom Rock

January 6, 2004
Copyright © 2004
NEWSDAY, INC. All rights reserved. 

It was just like back in Puerto Rico, in the time before Carlos Rivera became a shooting guard. In those days, he was a point guard, in control of the flow of the game, creating his own opportunities as well as those for the other players.

Last night Rivera was back at the point, and although he hadn't played the position for several years, it all came back to him. And most of Hofstra's win came from him. The freshman scored a career-high 23 points, hitting six three-pointers, to lead the Pride to a 66-61 win over Virginia Commonwealth in a CAA men's basketball game in front of 1,210 at Hofstra Arena.

"It was something different," said Rivera, who became a shooting guard in high school because of his remarkable range and because, at 6-2, he was one of the taller guards on the team. "It felt like back at home when I was in Puerto Rico."

Hofstra (5-7, 1-1) trailed 44-38 with 10:25 left. But Rivera sank a three-pointer and Kenny Adeleke hit a foul shot and a putback to tie the score at 44. When Adeleke tipped in a missed shot for a 51-49 lead, Hofstra went ahead for good.

100,000 Wait In Line To Receive Gifts From Puerto Rican Governor On Three Kings Day


January 6, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) – About 100,000 Puerto Ricans waited in long lines as children received toys Tuesday from Puerto Rico's governor at a celebration marking Three Kings Day.

Some families camped out in a field overnight to keep places near the front of the line. Others arrived before dawn.

Salsa music thumping from large speakers reverberated through Old San Juan after daybreak and hours later more than 40,000 people had received gifts, police Capt. Artemio Figueroa said.

Gov. Sila Calderon, along with other government officials, firefighters and volunteers, distributed gifts including basketballs and books, standing in a row of plastic facades resembling gingerbread houses.

The Jan. 6 holiday, marked in various ways across Latin America, celebrates the Bible's account of three wise men coming with gifts for the Christ child.

For decades Puerto Ricans celebrated the day with gift-giving at the governor's mansion. But due to security concerns about large crowds crammed into narrow streets outside the mansion, this year's event was held on a grassy field next to the colonial El Morro fort.

Last year, a 2-month-old boy waiting with his mother in line died of suffocation when his mother gave him water after he vomited. Some people said help arrived late because the crowds hindered ambulances.

This year, hundreds of police and National Guard troops were posted to provide security.

The U.S. Caribbean territory of 4 million people is spending at least $1.4 million on the event, including 215,000 gifts to be distributed, officials said.

Though the holiday retains religious significance for Puerto Ricans, advertisers have capitalized on the event, this year placing large inflatable models of their products nearby, including a towering Coca-Cola bottle and Duracell battery.

Women Head 50% Of Poor Households In San Juan

January 5, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – A government study about the social and economic reality of the island revealed that almost 50% of poor households in San Juan are run by women, published reports said.

Meanwhile, more than 40% of these families’s monthly incomes don’t reach $500.

Forty-four percent of people in those communities never graduated from high school and the population over 60 is several percentage points more than that of the rest of the island.

The study titled Socioeconomic Profile of Puerto Rico’s Capital, was conducted by the Special Communities Office in 47 of the poorest communities of San Juan. The study didn’t include the communities such as Martin Peña Channel because there is already a socioeconomic study on them and their rehabilitation projects are more advanced.

According to the study, the female population in poor communities makes up 53.7% while males make up 46.3% of the total population. In those communities, 47.4% of households are run by women, compared to 38.7% for the rest of the island.

Five Puerto Rican Soldiers Denounce Abuse In Iraq

January 5, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Missions without security, lack of equipment and services, as well as exploitation from superiors were some of the problems soldiers of unit 432 of the Puerto Rico U.S. Army Reserve have had to face in Iraq since June.

"They have never defended us, on the contrary, we have been offered as slaves without physical, mental nor spiritual rest," five soldiers said in published reports on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.

The group which specializes in supply transportation denounced alleged irregularities in granting vacation passes.

It was not possible to obtain a reaction from the U.S. Army.

Unit 432 was activated in March and was first deployed to Kuwait and then to Iraq. In July the convoy was attacked and lost one member, Sergeant Ramon Reyes.

Despite their complaints, the soldiers said they were proud to participate in the Iraqi Freedom mission.

Rossello: Mercado Case Is Biggest Cover-Up In History

January 5, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – For former Gov. Pedro Rossello, the scandal of the failed nomination of former Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado to the Puerto Rico Supreme Court is the biggest political cover-up in the history of the island.

Rossello accused Gov. Sila Calderon and his main gubernatorial rival Anibal Acevedo Vila of knowingly ignoring the accusations against Mercado.

"They pushed forward the nomination for the highest judicial court in Puerto Rico knowing that he had committed felonies," Rossello said in a radio interview.

Rossello has been criticized for the numerous acts of corruption that went on under his nose, including the multimillion-dollar fraud scheme at the Education Department by now convicted former Education Secretary Victor Fajardo.

The former governor, however, has reiterated that he knew nothing of the corruption cases and noted the situations are very different from that of Mercado.

"I have been accused of not knowing, but this was intentional," he said.

Rossello added that the governor’s decision not to seek reelection is an acknowledgement of her ineptitude and inefficiency.

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