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FTAA Belongs In Puerto Rico, Say Business Groups…Padilla’s Lawyers Want Supreme Court To Stay Out Of Case…For Dems, Dean Is History…83 Faults Found At UT…Port Of Americas’ RFPs Sought…Island Wants 2010 World BB Champs…Kerry’s Self-Determination Stance Unchanged

Business Organizations: Island Should Be FTAA’s Site

By Istra Pacheco of Associated Press

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

SAN JUAN - Three business organizations joined government and private sectors calling for Puerto Rico to become the permanent headquarter of the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA) and urged the Legislature to enable this process.

During a public hearing of the House Socioeconomic Development & Planning Committee, the Chamber of Commerce, Manufacturers Association, and Products Association agreed the Legislature should pass bills to that effect.

Manufacturers Association President William Riefkohl said it is necessary to act promptly.

"There’s no time. The decision will be made within the next few months and this legislative assembly should allocate funds to create a lobbying plan with participating countries," Riefkohl said.

The Chamber of Commerce ’s counterpart, Cirilo Cruz Tejada, agreed with Riefkohl, noting that by becoming the FTAA’s official headquarters, it would mean more than $170 million in direct investments to the local economy.

The decision, which is to be made in Brazil, must be reached by consensus.

The other cities interested in becoming the FTAA’s permanent headquarters are: Miami; Atlanta; Chicago; Colorado Springs, Colo.; and Houston in the United States; Cancun and Puebla in Mexico; Puerto España in Trinidad & Tobago; and Panama City in Panama.

Padilla Lawyers Want Supreme Court To Stay Out Of Case

By Anne Gearan of Associated Press

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

WASHINGTON (AP) - Lawyers for a U.S.-born terrorism suspect asked the Supreme Court to reject government claims that their client is a dangerous enemy combatant who may be held indefinitely without charges or trial.

"The government's assertion of executive power in this case is raw and stark," lawyers for Jose Padilla argued in court papers. "After 20 months, the government has not brought any charges against Padilla stemming from his alleged participation in a plot to commit a terrorist act."

The Bush administration wants the Supreme Court to hear Padilla's case and overrule a lower federal court that concluded the president lacks the authority to declare Padilla an enemy combatant and hold him in open-ended military custody.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals gave the government 30 days to release Padilla or bring charges against him. That order is now on hold to give the Supreme Court time to decide whether it will hear the case.

Padilla's lawyers are fighting the government's appeal. They argued Wednesday that the appeals court was correct and there is no reason for the high court to get involved.

The justices could say this month whether they will hear the case. It appears likely the court will say yes and that it will combine the case with that of a second U.S.-born terrorism suspect, Yaser Esam Hamdi.

Hamdi was captured during fighting in Afghanistan. Padilla[, a former gang member and a convert to Islam,] was arrested as he got off an international flight at Chicago's O'Hare airport [in May 2002 in connection with an alleged plot to detonate a radioactive dirty bomb]. Hearing the cases side by side would allow the Supreme Court to address the legal and constitutional rights of American citizens no matter where they are captured or detained in the fight against terrorism.

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the Hamdi case, in which the government won its arguments in lower federal courts.

In their filing Wednesday, Padilla's lawyers accused the administration of a power grab in its treatment of enemy combatants.

"There is a profound difference between the historical practice of detention of prisoners of war on the field of battle and the new power the president claims here to deem the entire nation a battlefield in which any person may be seized and held without trial for the indefinite future," lawyer Donna R. Newman wrote.

"The risk of error, and the potential for abuse, is much greater in this new context, for the executive's novel argument would allow it to exile any citizen from the protection of our Constitution and laws simply though the artifice of labeling him, without any visible standards, as an 'enemy combatant,"' Newman wrote.

For Local Democrats, Dean Is A Thing Of The Past

By Leonardo Aldridge of Associated Press

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

SAN JUAN — Back when the polls placed Howard Dean as the only Democratic candidate able to challenge U.S. President George W. Bush in the November elections, Democrats in Puerto Rico lined up behind him.

Now, however, everyone wants to disassociate from Dean’s battered campaign and to find a more diplomatic way to line up behind someone with greater probability of winning.

The Democratic Party President in Puerto Rico, Sen. Roberto Prats, announced Wednesday he was withdrawing his support from Dean and opening his doors to contacts with the campaigns of John Kerry and John Edwards campaigns.

"Dean’s performance in yesterday’s process, as well as in Iowa and New Hampshire were disappointing," Prats said in a prepared statement.

It is no wonder that former Dean supporters are now focusing on Kerry, who on Tuesday won five of seven primaries.

Prats voiced his support for Dean during an event in December the local Democratic Party in which he was sworn in as new party president.

Back then, Popular Democratic Party (PDP) President Anibal Acevedo Vila, who is also running for governor, predicted the majority of the 58 Puerto Rican delegates would support Dean in the National Democratic Convention to be held in Boston this summer.

"It is almost certain Dean will count on the Puerto Rican delegation in the convention," Acevedo Vila said in December.

Acevedo Vila’s spokeswoman said the resident commissioner had no comments at the moment, while Prats never returned any calls.

83 Faults Found At The Urban Train

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

SAN JUAN (AP) - The Urban Train is facing operational problems because, among other concerns, it stopped short for no apparent reason during test rides, said Fernando Fagundo, Transportation & Publics Works secretary.

Fagundo described the problem as critical and that it is part of the automated system.

Fagundo says the difficulty is one of 83 found in the train's operations during a safety inspection, which provoked the end of free test rides.

"The automatic system isn't working. It stops when it isn't supposed to," Fagundo said, adding that other problems also were identified.

Once the faults are resolved, Fagundo sees no problem beginning the train's operations.

Puerto Rico Opens Bidding On Port Of The Americas Project

By Frank Griffiths of Associated Press

February 4, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Puerto Rico opened bidding from local and international companies on a project to build a cargo port that would be among the Americas' largest, officials said Wednesday.

The Port of the Americas Authority issued a request for proposals to design, build, operate and maintain the Port of the Americas in south-coast Ponce, said Edgardo Torres Caballero, a deputy economic development secretary.

The deadline for submitting proposals for the port's development is June 1, Torres Caballero said. He said it was too early to say how many companies had expressed interest.

The project is due to begin construction by the end of the year and be operational in 2006. It will be financed with public and private funds, officials said.

Supporters say the Port of the Americas, which would use giant cranes to load and unload cargo, could generate thousands of jobs. But it faces competition from ports in Jamaica, the Bahamas, Panama, Venezuela, Colombia and the Dominican Republic, and some experts warn that the $600 million project is chancy.

The port is intended to tap the huge global market for transshipment ports _ major hubs that allow shippers to cut costs by moving cargo between vessels to link and combine routes.

Its success depends in part on labor costs, which are usually higher in Puerto Rico, experts have said. They also noted that success could depend on whether the territory can lobby Washington to change the Jones Act of 1917, which requires cargo between Puerto Rico and the U.S. mainland to be transported on U.S.-built, American-operated ships, which generally are more expensive.

Nations Bid For 2010 World Basketball Champs

February 4, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

GENEVA (AP) -- Puerto Rico and six countries submitted bids to host the 2010 World Basketball Championships.

The countries in the running are Australia, France, Italy, Russia, Serbia & Montenegro and Turkey, basketball's world governing body (FIBA) said Wednesday.

Formal bid documents must be submitted before July 31, and the host site will be selected next fall.

The championships are held every four years. The next tournament takes place in Japan in 2006.

Kerry’s Self-Determination Stance Unchanged

February 4, 2004
Copyright © 2004
THE SAN JUAN STAR. All rights reserved. 

Democratic presidential front-runner John Kerry stands by his support of self-determination for Puerto Rico. He has proposed a referendum that allows the people of Puerto Rico to vote on statehood, independence or continued status as a commonwealth.

Any change in this position, which is stated in Kerry’s campaign website, is not contemplated, according to Dag Vega, spokesman for the Kerry campaign.

These comments contradict a recent statement by Kerry consultant Manuel Ortiz that the candidate would alter his position on island status to support self-determination "through constitutionally viable, non-territorial options" that would exclude the current commonwealth relationship with the U.S.

Told of Ortiz’s remarks about a coming Kerry position change on status, Vega said., " I don’t think that’s true. We’re not putting anything out in the near future."

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