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NPP To Celebrate Life Of Luis A. Ferre…Berrios Repudiates VP’s Visit… Justice Requests Return Of Arnas' Passport…Gov’t Accused Of Dragging Its Feet With UT…Ondeo Criticized For Excessive Spending…EPA Hails H-P Aguadilla…Padilla Can See Lawyer, Pentagon Says

NPP To Celebrate Life Of Luis A. Ferre

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

February 12, 2004
Copyright © 2004 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

The life and work of former Gov. Luis A Ferre will be celebrated on Sunday in Ponce, where the party that he founded, New Progressive Party, will commemorate the 100th anniversary of his birth.

Ferre died four months short of turning 100, but on Sunday, thousands of people are expected to gather at Ponce’s Parque del Tricentenario, starting at 10 a.m. to commemorate life of the former governor.

NPP General Secretary Maria Charbonier said the tribute to Ferre will include a video presentation of his life and work that will be played during the activity.

Being that Ferre was also an artist and musician, music had to be included in the day’s program. The renowned family of troubadours Familia Sanabria will improvise songs in honor of Don Luis, Charbonier said.

"Don Luis left a very important legacy for all Puerto Ricans, his love for culture, art and employees rights could never be forgotten," Charbonier said.

Although NPP President Pedro Rossello will participate in the event, he will not be its main speaker. That responsibility will fall on also Former Gov. Carlos Romero Barcelo.

Also addressing the crowd will be Ponce’s municipal committee president from the NPP Alejadro Roman, Aguadilla mayor Carlos Mendez, San Juan mayor Jorge Santini, and NPP second vice-president Lucy Arce.

Charvonier made her statements during a press conference at NPP headquarters in Hato Rey where Doña Tiody de Ferre joined her.

Noting that she was very pleased with the tribute being given by the party which her late husband had founded, Ferre urged island residents, regardless of their political preferences, to attend Sunday’s activity.

"For all of Puerto Rico, Luis was a very special person. For me, he was an extraordinary man and it gives me great pride to participate in the commemoration of his birth," Ferre said.

PIP Repudiates Cheney’s Visit To Puerto Rico

By Jose Fernandez Colon of Associated Press

February 12, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

PONCE – With only one week away from the official visit of U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney to the island, Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) President Ruben Berrios said any U.S. government leader linked to the war in Iraq should be repudiated in Puerto Rico.

"Any visit here of a person who directly or indirectly has something to do with the atrocity of the war in Iraq cannot be approved by the PIP," he said.

On Feb. 20, Cheney will visit the island to collect funds for U.S. President George W. Bush’s reelection campaign. Cheney also seeks reelection.

According to Berrios, instead of coming to Puerto Rico, Cheney should use his position as vice president to tend to the century-old issue of the political status of the island.

Berrios, who is also running for governor, noted that at least a dozen soldiers of Puerto Rican origin or descent have died in the U.S. war against Iraq.

The veteran political leader described as an insult to Puerto Ricans to be sent to fight when they cannot elect the president or vice president of the U.S.

"A person who is as directly linked as he is to an injustice as grave as the one in Iraq, particularly when it comes to Puerto Rico, should be repudiated," he said during a radio interview.

He accused U.S. politicians of coming to the island for fundraising purposes while the status problem remains the same as it was back in 1900.

Justice Department Requests Return Of Arnas' Passport

February 12, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The local Justice Department filed a legal petition before the Court of Appeals asking to lift restrictions forbidding Russian child Arnas to leave Puerto Rico.

The petition, filed by Solicitor General Roberto Sanchez Ramos, requests a fast solution of the case, published reports said.

The Justice Department specifically asked that the government give back the nine-year-old boy’s passport, without which he would be unable to return to Lithuania.

Puerto Rican Judge Maritza Ramos was given temporary custody of Arnas in July 2002, and he remained with her until this past Saturday, when the Department of Family placed him with another family.

Authorities removed Arnas from the mother - Irina Romanova - after an incident of domestic violence occurred in Puerto Rico with her boyfriend in 2002. After she returned to Lithuania later that year, the child's maternal grandmother - also named Irina Romanova - pressed for custody.

De Castro Font: Government Dragged Its Feet With UT

By Ricardo Zuñiga of Associated Press

February 12, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN – New Progressive Party (NPP) Rep. Jorge de Castro Font accused Gov. Sila Calderon’s administration of dragging its feet with regard to the construction of the Urban Train only to speed it up now in order to have it ready before the November general elections.

However, he said it would be difficult to operate the train before November because of government problems in conducting safety tests, obtaining federal certifications, and dealing with a legal dispute against the construction company Siemens.

On the other hand, the NPP legislator acknowledged that the skyrocketing cost of the project (it went from $1.6 billion to $2.5 billion) could be attributed in part to the fact that maybe the past administration was off in its initial assessment of the cost.

"Maybe the one who established the value of the project was at fault, or maybe it was the fault of the one who managed it for the past four years," De Castro Font said during a press conference at his Capitol office.

He said the governing Popular Democratic Party (PDP) wants to take political advantage by inaugurating the project before the elections to take the credit.

De Castro Font also said Transportation & Public Works Secretary Fernando Fagundo has known of the flaws plaguing the Urban Train since October 2002, and did close to nothing to fixed them in a timely manner.

Agosto Alicea Criticizes Ondeo’s Excessive Spending

February 12, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Authority (Prasa) Executive Director Juan Agosto Alicea blamed French company Ondeo on Thursday for allegedly engaging in excessive spending of the budget allocated by the Puerto Rican government.

Agosto Alicea reacted to the documents revealed by Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Rep. Jorge Colberg Toro that show Ondeo businesspeople had been overspending while claiming a budget insufficiency of $93 million.

According to Colberg Toro, company officials traveled to Paris, Colombia, and Argentina using government funds.

"If they went to Europe, it was their responsibility to pay for it, and that is why they had losses," Agosto Alicea said during a press conference.

Ondeo executives weren’t immediately available for comment.

Agosto Alicea insisted that he had no knowledge of Ondeo’s excessive spending of government funds originally allocated to cover payroll, repairs, maintenance, and other operations.

Prasa ended its contract with Ondeo in December because the French company wanted an additional $93 million compensation after claiming that the budget had been assigned by the local government was not enough.

Environmental Protection Agency: Performance Track Welcomes 39 New Facilities

U.S. Newswire

February 11, 2004
Copyright © 2004 Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved. 

WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The EPA announced today 39 new facilities from 22 states and Puerto Rico for membership to the National Environmental Performance Track Program. PT rewards facilities that voluntarily exceed regulatory requirements, implement environmental management systems, work closely with their communities, and set three-year goals to continuously improve environmental performance.

Participating facilities receive a low priority status for inspections; reduced regulatory, administrative and reporting burdens; and public recognition. These benefits translate to greater efficiency and reduced costs.

New members include Hewlett-Packard in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, winner of the 2003 U.S. EPA Environmental Quality Award for the Business and Industry Category in EPA Region 2.

Performance Track currently has 344 members from 43 states and Puerto Rico.

Padilla Can See Lawyer, Pentagon Says

By John J. Lumpkin of Associated Press

February 11, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

WASHINGTON (AP) - An American citizen held incommunicado by the military for more than a year as an alleged al-Qaida supporter will be allowed to see a lawyer, the Pentagon said Wednesday.

Jose Padilla, who the government says plotted to detonate a radioactive dirty bomb in the United States, is being held at a U.S. Navy brig in Charleston, S.C. No meeting has been scheduled.

In a statement, the Pentagon said it had determined that providing Padilla access to an attorney would not compromise national security or interfere with efforts to use him as an intelligence source.

Still, the Pentagon maintained it was not required to let him speak with a lawyer.

"Such access is not required by domestic or international law and should not be treated as a precedent," the statement said.

Padilla's attorneys have challenged the government's right to hold him indefinitely, without charges or trial, as a violation of his rights as a U.S. citizen. The government, meanwhile, calls him an enemy combatant who can be held for the duration of the war on terrorism.

The Bush administration lost the case in federal court and wants the Supreme Court to step in. In December, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 ruling, ordered Padilla released from military custody unless the government charges him. That ruling is on hold while the Supreme Court considers taking the case. A decision may come as early as this month.

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