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Clark Vows Status Solution, McClintock Pleased… Cartagena Admits Increase In Police Corruption…Mainland P.R. Voters Up 185k …RR Closing Near… A Democrat 1ST : Spanish Rebuttal…NPP Platform To Get Citizen’s Input…UT Hearings Called…Gov. Opposes ’04 Status Referendum

Clark Vows To Push Up Puerto Rico's Status Vote

Associated Press Writer

January 22, 2004
Copyright © 2004
The Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

LITTLE ROCK (AP) - Wesley Clark offered Thursday a plan to speed up the timetable for Puerto Ricans to determine their island's status as either a U.S. state, an independent country or something in between.

["I believe that the people of Puerto Rico should be able to determine their own future by resolving the status issue. The four million American citizens living in Puerto Rico should have full civil rights and liberties. To that end, I will work with Congress to determine viable status options," Clark said in a statement.]

Clark, a Democratic presidential candidate, criticized the Bush administration for failing to fund and use a White House task force to resolve an issue pending for decades.

Yosem Companys, Clark's top adviser on Hispanic issues, said the retired general doesn't have a stance on what Puerto Rico's status should be, but believes residents of the island should choose from constitutionally viable options without the threat of Congress rejecting their decision.

Clark said he would double funding for the executive task force to $5 million, move up deadlines and call on Congress to let Puerto Ricans who live on the island choose their governmental future by referendum.

"Puerto Ricans want a president who will exert leadership to resolve the question of (its) ultimate status," Clark said in a statement. "My plan will resolve this question, rectify the injustices presented by the current status and improve the quality of life for Puerto Ricans everywhere."

Puerto Rico has been a commonwealth for more than 50 years, giving those born there American citizenship but denying them full representation in Congress.

In an October poll, 43 percent supported commonwealth status, which is Puerto Rico's current status, 41 percent supported full statehood, 5 percent independence, 7 percent not sure and 4 percent with no answer. The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Clark has not said whether Congress should demand a majority or a plurality in any future vote.

In 1993, then-President Clinton called for Puerto Rican self-determination and 48 percent of residents chose an enhanced form of statehood that provided some benefits of independence.

Congress rejected the vote, saying the only options should be independence, statehood, continued commonwealth status, free association or none of the above. The island revoted and chose none of the above.

Clinton then created the executive task force and called for the spending of $2.5 million to study the issue. Bush didn't call the task force to action until this year and pushed the deadlines back.

Clark, who ran the U.S. Army's Southern Command based in Panama, called it "deplorable" that Puerto Ricans can risk their lives in the U.S. Armed Forces but can't determine their own governmental status.

Companys said Clark doesn't believe $2.5 million is enough to fund the task force. Companys also said it would be crucial to have an aggressive public information campaign on the island to inform residents of their choices.

"This is part of the general's broader agenda for Hispanics and Latinos," Companys said. "He believes that if we don't have a proposal that allows Puerto Ricans to determine their own status, we can't have an overall agenda that defends the civil rights and liberties of all Hispanics."

Major candidates for Puerto Rican governor have associated with Howard Dean. Former Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo-Vila, who wants to keep the status quo, has endorsed Dean. His opponent, former Gov. Pedro Rossello, has associated with Dean but has not made a formal endorsement.

Rossello and Dean worked together as successive chairmen of the Democratic Governors Association and both are medical doctors.

McClintock Pleased With Clark Statements

January 22, 2004
Copyright © 2004
The Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – New Progressive Party Sen. Kenneth McClintock, who favors Howard Dean as the Democratic Party presidential candidate, was pleased with the statements made by potential candidate Wesley Clark, regarding his campaign promise to solve Puerto Rico’s status should he be elected President of the United States.

McClintock, National Delegate for the Democratic Party in Puerto Rico, said Clark’s promise is courageous and brave and is something that the rest of the candidates will have to respond to.

"It is a direct threat that the rest of the candidates will have to respond to clearly and define what will be the position of the White House regarding Puerto Rico," McClintock said.

The statehood senator also expressed concern with the fact that Clark had spoken to Dean earlier about the status issue.

"It worries me that the candidate I endorsed has not publicly expressed his position regarding the status issue, even though he has personally told me what it is," McClintock said.

McClintock said he would ask Dean to publicly express his position regarding statehood.

The Democratic Party in Puerto Rico will send 58 delegates to the convention which will be held in Boston in late July.

Cartagena Acknowledges Increase In Police Corruption

By Ricardo Zuñiga of Associated Press

January 22, 2004
Copyright © 2004
The Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Nominated Chief of Police Agustin Cartagena acknowledged on Thursday that corruption has increased inside the police department and noted that in his opinion part of the problem was lack of supervision.

Cartagena said there is a need for more rigorous supervision of the first ranking officers, who are most often the ones involved in corruption schemes.

On Tuesday more than a dozen state and municipal agents were arrested by federal authorities for their alleged participation in a drugs and weapons illegal trafficking scheme.

"Corruption has increased a bit in the last couple of years," said Cartagena before the Senate Nominations Committee.

He noted that in order to solve the problem not only does supervision need to increase but citizens have to be more aggressive in denouncing corruption cases and those failing the uniform which he described as the "rotten apples."

"Citizens have to denounces these officers who fail to honor the uniform," Cartagena said.

In other matters the nominee was asked his opinion on a bill that calls for the closing of all establishments selling alcohol at 2 a.m.

Cartagena said that closing pubs at 2 a.m. won’t necessary translate into a reduction in crime as violent deaths occur at all hours.

"We have to give young people space for their entertainment," Cartagena said.

He noted that he is also against the legalization of drugs.

In his statements to the members of the committee the veteran of the police force said he would propose better cooperation agreements with the state and municipal police as well as better training and the purchase of the necessary equipment for police to do their job.

His goal is for citizens to see the police as friends, someone they can help, trust and cooperate with.

First-Time Puerto Rican Voters In Mainland U.S. Reach 185,000

January 22, 2004
Copyright © 2004
The Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - Some 185,000 Puerto Ricans living on the U.S. mainland registered to vote for the November 2004 general elections, said Maricarmen Aponte, director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration.

Aponte said the goal is to reach 300,000 new inscriptions by November.

The inscriptions, she added, are the result of a $12 million campaign begun by Gov. Sila Calderon’s administration aimed to increase the power of Puerto Ricans living in the mainland U.S.

It is estimated 1.3 million Puerto Ricans have the right to vote in the United States, but 645,000 aren’t registered.

The goal is to register 50% of that number. The campaign now moves to Rochester and Buffalo, N.Y.; Milwaukee, Wis.; and Jacksonville and Tampa, Fla.

Closing Dates Near For Roosevelt Roads

January 22, 2004
Copyright © 2004
The Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - The U.S. Navy said that as part of the shutdown process of U.S. Naval Station Roosevelt Roads, its airport and maritime port will cease operations Jan. 31.

Two weeks later, on Feb. 12, operations at the base hospital also will shut down, said Ted Brown, spokesman for the U.S. Navy Command based in Norfolk, VA.

By March 31, the official closing date, the U.S. flag will stop waving over the Ceiba base for the first time in more than five decades.

The great majority of the commands located at Roosevelt Roads already have been relocated to other bases on the U.S. mainland. As of Dec. 23, 950 soldiers and 1,150 civilians were working at the base. Another 1,230 people living on the base are relatives of those stationed there.

A Democrat First: Spanish Rebuttal

NM governor courts Hispanics, saying Bush hasn't helped enough


January 21, 2004
Copyright © 2004
DALLAS MORNING NEWS. All rights reserved. 

President Bush has been known to speak some Spanish. But Tuesday night, it was the Democrats' turn — as, for the first time, they responded to the president's State of the Union address in that language.

The five-minute speech, made by New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and transmitted through the Spanish-language network Univision, resumed Democratic criticism of the administration's policies in job growth, education reform and health care.

"Many people in America think that as Hispanics, we only care about immigration and civil rights," said the governor, who is Hispanic. "But Hispanics also care about ... access to health care, education reform, economic growth and the war in Iraq."

Mr. Richardson said that 300,000 Hispanics have lost their jobs since Mr. Bush assumed the presidency.

He also decried the state of education and health care among Latinos.

"We haven't been given a plan to prevent that almost 50 percent of Hispanic students drop out from high school," said Mr. Richardson.

He added that 38 percent of Hispanic workers don't have medical insurance.

Mr. Richardson also criticized the recent White House immigration proposal.

"Instead of being a path to a better life, this plan represents a blind alley to immigrants, who after three years [of legal worker status] don't have any guarantee of being able to stay," he said.

The speech in Spanish was a "historic event," said José Ángel Gutiérrez, political scientist at the University of Texas at Arlington and a longtime political activist.

"They are recognizing the importance of the Hispanic vote. They want us to be informed of their opinion, and they do it through one of us," he said.

The speech especially addressed the concerns of Hispanic citizens, said Fabiola Rodríguez-Ciampoli, spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee.

"We are taking into account that there are more than 10 million Spanish-speaking homes in this country," said Ms. Rodríguez-Ciampoli.

"It's part of our efforts to carry our message to the Hispanic community," she said.

NPP Platform To Be Formed By Citizens

January 21, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The New Progressive Party (NPP) will hold public hearings to integrate the voice of the people in the government platform for 2004.

Charlie Rodriguez, platform president committee chairman, said eight public hearings will be held in different locations across the island where citizens will be given the opportunity to express their concerns and bring forward any ideas they might have.

"This is a real open process," Rodriguez said.

The platform will be presented to the Delegates Assembly on June 27.

The first public hearings have been scheduled for January 24 and 31 in Mayaguez and Arecibo respectively, from 9 a.m.

Public Hearings To Evaluate Urban Train Called?

January 21, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — House Economic Development and Planning Committee Chairman Ferdinand Perez, said Wednesday that he would call for public hearings to evaluate the construction of the Urban Train and the performance of Siemens, the company in charge of the project.

Perez however did not reveal when the hearings will be held.

"It is our legislative responsibility to know the state of the project and the public funds invested in the construction can be protected," Perez said in a press release.

Perez added that he invited Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila to participate in the house investigation because he has been responsible of obtaining federal funding to continue building the train.

The committee will investigate the construction of the Urban Train and will question the German corporation on the constant delays in the operation of the system.

"We are evaluating the performance of the company and hope that with this process we will finally be able to establish mechanisms to enforce contractors to comply with the contracts signed with the Commonwealth," Perez said.

Following constant delays the Urban Train is finally expected to begin operating in February.

Sila Is Against Mixing Referendum With General Elections

January 21, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Gov. Sila Calderon said she is against mixing the November general elections with a referendum on the people’s will to call for a Constitutional Assembly to solve the island’s status issue.

"I believe the people of Puerto Rico have to make a very important decision in 2004 as to who will be their governor and that should be the only matter upon which they have to decide," Calderon said.

In her opinion the referendum should be held in 2005.

The Popular Democratic Party has divided opinions as to whether it is convenient or not to consult the people on the mechanism that should be defended before U.S. Congress to finally solve the island’s status issue.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Charlie Hernandez who favors holding the referendum on the same day as the general elections said he has asked party President Anibal Acevedo Vila for a meeting to discuss the matter.

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