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Juan Segarra Palmer Greeted, Nationalist Freed After 19 Years In Prison…Island Targets Spanish Tourists At FITUR 2004… More Than 100 Dominican Migrants Detained…Command Moving To Mayport…Berrios: Voters To Back Independence…E & E Wins Contract For Closure & Reuse Of RRNS…Rossello Praises Clark's Status Stance… Acevedo Vila Seeks Final Solution On Status

Hundreds Greet Nationalist Freed After 19 Years In Prison

By Laura Rivera Melendez of Associated Press

January 25, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

CAROLINA, Puerto Rico (AP) - Hundreds of Puerto Rican independence supporters welcomed home a nationalist who spent 19 years in prison for his involvement in the 1983 robbery of an armored truck in Connecticut.

Arriving at San Juan's international airport Saturday, the 53-year-old Juan Segarra Palmer told the crowd, "How good it is to be in Puerto Rico!"

Segarra Palmer was granted clemency in 1999 by then-U.S. President Bill Clinton, and he was freed from a prison near Orlando, Florida on Friday. Without Clinton's action, he would have been due for release in 2016.

"The sentence's long years didn't change your conscience!" people in the crowd chanted, waving Puerto Rican flags.

FBI officials have said they are still searching for four fugitives who in 1983 allegedly robbed the Wells Fargo armored truck of more than US$7 million in West Hartford, Connecticut.

Officials say one of them, Victor Manuel Gerena, allegedly injected two guards with a sleeping substance to facilitate the robbery. He is now on the FBI's list of top 10 most-wanted fugitives.

The robbery was carried out by members of the Puerto Rican nationalist group Macheteros, or Cane Cutters. The money was allegedly used to support their struggle.

Segarra Palmer said he felt sorry for his involvement in violence and said he hopes to "learn to be an instrument of peace."

He was one of 13 Puerto Ricans granted clemency by Clinton in 1999. As for his time in prison, he said "the most difficult thing isn't the conditions in prison. The constant worry of the prisoner is the well-being of his family."

He said he hopes to discuss his future role in independence efforts with those on the island, which has been a U.S. territory since the United States seized it from Spain in 1898.

"I do know that I want to serve. How I will end up serving, I don't know," Segarra Palmer said.

Among those who greeted him was Puerto Rican Independence Party leader Ruben Berrios and Lolita Lebron, who served 25 years in prison for a 1954 shooting attack that wounded five lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Other fugitives in the Wells Fargo robbery case include the brothers Avelino and Norberto Gonzalez Claudio, and Filiberto Ojeda Rios.

Cases of political violence have dropped on the Caribbean island in recent years, and a large majority of voters have shunned the independence party in past elections, instead choosing parties that support making Puerto Rico a U.S. state or leaving it as a U.S. commonwealth.

Puerto Rico Targets Increase Of Spanish Tourists At FITUR 2004

Latin America News Digest

News Digest produced by AII Data Processing

January 25, 2004
Copyright © 2004
AII Data Processing. All rights reserved.

Puerto Rico expects to increase the number of Spanish tourists to the island with its participation in the Spanish International Tourism Fair FITUR 2004, the executive director of Puerto Rico Tourism Company, Jose M. Suarez said on January 25, 2004.

The 24th edition of FITUR will be held from January 28 to February 1, 2004 in Madrid, and representatives of close to 170 countries will participate in it.

The presence of Puerto Rico at FITUR 2004 will be more extensive and dynamic, and an audience by the Spanish King, Juan Carlos I, has also been scheduled, Suarez said.

Puerto Rico also expects to sign a number of trade agreements during FITUR 2004, Suarez added. Such agreements will be beneficial to the Puerto Rican industry, Suarez added.

Spanish tourists to Puerto Rico totalled 6,405 for January to September 2003, compared to 5,924 for the same period of 2002. The official data for whole 2003 have not been published yet.

Puerto Rico has recently launched an advertising campaign on the Spanish TV channel Telemadrid, which has 5.0 million viewers, aiming at increasing the number of Spanish tourists to the island.

More Than 100 Dominican Migrants Detained Off Puerto Rico

January 25, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) _ Authorities have detained more than 100 Dominican migrants in three boats off the west coast of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Coast Guard said Saturday.

The 76 men and 17 women, found in good condition, were repatriated Saturday to their neighboring Spanish-speaking country, Coast Guard spokesman Eric Willis said.

A police helicopter on Friday night discovered the first 32-foot (9.6-meter) boat holding 30 migrants about 9 miles (15 kilometers) off the U.S. territory's northern coast, he said.

Police intercepted the second, 20-foot (6-meter) fiberglass boat with 69 passengers about 5 miles (8 kilometers) off the same coast, Willis said.

A Coast Guard cutter discovered the third boat on Saturday morning, after one of the passengers used a cellular phone to call for help when the boat ran into trouble on rough waters. The spokesman could give no further details about that encounter.

Since January, authorities have detained 937 migrants, mostly Dominicans, attempting the dangerous sea journey to enter this U.S. Caribbean territory.

Command Moving To Mayport

January 23, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

MAYPORT NAVAL STATION, Fla. (AP) - The Navy announced Friday it is relocating its Naval Forces Southern Command from Puerto Rico to Mayport Naval Station.

The command participates in joint exercises with other navies, carries out counter drug operations, handles humanitarian missions and stages protocol events.

"Mayport is the right choice for all the right reasons," said U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, a Republican from Jacksonville. "Having this command at Mayport underscores the military value of our region, it benefits our national security, and the high-caliber people involved will benefit our community."

Relocating the command from Roosevelt Road Naval Station in Puerto Rico means about 100 new jobs in the Jacksonville area.

Now that the Navy is no longer using the nearby island of Vieques for training, the military is removing U.S. forces from Roosevelt Roads. Under law, the command must be relocated no later March 31. The first detachment is expected at Mayport in early February.

More than 70 senior naval officers and 30 civilians will staff the new command.

Berrios: Voters To Back Independence

January 23, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ORLANDO SENTINEL. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- The leader of Puerto Rico's pro-independence party predicted new support in elections this year and said voters are increasingly disillusioned with the U.S. territory's unresolved status. Ruben Berrios, making his fourth run for governor in November, said Wednesday night that the Caribbean island's status as a U.S. commonwealth is "unsustainable." He called it a great achievement that the U.S. Navy decided to halt bombing exercises on Vieques island last year after protests and is now closing its Roosevelt Roads Naval Station.

Ecology And Environment, Inc. Wins Contract For Closure And Reuse Of Roosevelt Roads Naval Station In Puerto Rico

January 23, 2004
Copyright © 2004
PR Newswire Association LLC. All rights reserved.

BUFFALO, N.Y., Jan. 23 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Ecology & Environment, Inc. (E & E) has been awarded a contract with the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Atlantic Division (LANTDIV) to prepare an environmental assessment (EA) for the closure and reuse of Naval Station Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico.

The Naval Station is being closed by act of Congress following the closure last year of the Navy's bombing range on the island of Vieques. The EA will address the transfer and proposed reuse of the property by the Government of Puerto Rico and will include public scoping and public review of the draft EA. Project scope is similar to the closure EA, E & E performed in 2000 for the disposal of the Naval Ammunition Support Detachment on Vieques, which preceded the closure of the bombing range. The initial project budget is approximately $600,000.

The property comprises over 8,400 acres and has been operated as a naval base since World War II. E & E has conducted numerous studies at Roosevelt Roads since 1980, with a cumulative value of several million dollars.

Ecology and Environment, Inc is headquartered in Lancaster, New York. E & E can be located on the World Wide Web at

Rossello Praises Wesley Clark's Stance On Status Issue

By Manuel Ernesto Rivera of Associated Press

January 23, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - A Puerto Rican gubernatorial candidate praised Wesley Clark Thursday after he pledged to speed the timetable on deciding the island's relationship to the United States.

Former Gov. Pedro Rossello said that the Democratic U.S. presidential candidate "has presented the best proposal about Puerto Rico than any other candidate."

Rossello was the island's governor from 1993-2001 and is running in November gubernatorial elections. His New Progressive Party supports making the U.S. Caribbean territory the 51st state.

While he did not openly endorse Clark, Rossello said that Clark has "extraordinary characteristics of a candidate in terms of his position on Puerto Rico."

Besides statehood there are two other camps in the status issue: the U.S. commonwealth status advocated by the governing Popular Democratic Party, and a small but vocal independence movement.

Clark criticized the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush for failing to fund and use a White House task force to resolve an issue pending for decades.

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, said Yosem Companys, Clark's top adviser on Hispanic issues.

Clark said in Little Rock, Arkansas, that 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 future by referendum.

Acevedo Vila Seeks Status Consensus


January 23, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Puerto Rico's non-voting delegate to Congress said Friday that islanders should have more of a voice in deciding the U.S. commonwealth's status.

If chosen as governor in November elections, Anibal Acevedo Vila said he would call a constitutional convention to clarify Puerto Rico's current position and options for the future, especially in "economic areas."

"It's up to my generation to search for a final solution to this issue," Acevedo Vila told The Associated Press.

Acevedo Vila, a member of the Popular Democratic Party, has served as the island's delegate to Congress, supports the current commonwealth status.

Locally elected members of a constitutional convention, Acevedo Vila said, would "facilitate a process in which the people become the main actors -- not the parties."

The options they define would then be presented to U.S. Congress for approval, and then put to the island's public for a final vote.

"We need to reach a consensus in Puerto Rico," he said.

He rejected an idea proposed by his pro-statehood challenger, former Gov. Pedro Rossello, to call a referendum on whether the U.S. Congress should define options for the Caribbean island.

"The notion that the solution is going to come from Washington is not going to work," Acevedo Vila said.

Economically, Puerto Rico must conduct all of its business with the United States or receive approval from Washington for most international trade.

Rossello, who was the U.S. territory's governor from 1993 through 2000, presided over two referendums in which Puerto Ricans narrowly rejected statehood.

"It failed in the 1990s, so if you want to repeat the same mistakes, vote for Rossello," Acevedo Vila said.

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