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Cheney To Attend Fund-Raiser In Puerto Rico Feb. 20th… Capitol’s 75 Years Old…U.S. Budget Cuts Threaten Ponce Commuter Flights… U.S.- DR Trade Talks Underway…NKR Self-Determination Backed… Police Seize 765 Kilos Of Cocaine… Latino Boy From Oz?… Bar Owners Oppose 2 A.M. Closing

Cheney To Attend Fund-Raiser In Puerto Rico Feb. 20

February 11, 2004
Copyright © 2004 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney will visit Puerto Rico next week to participate in a fund raising event for the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign.

Luis Fortuño, the island's Republican national committeeman, said Cheney will visit the island on February 20 to attend the activity at which $200,000 are expected to be raised.

Cheney's press office in Washington declined comment Wednesday, saying it doesn't provide the vice president's schedule until 48 hours before an event.

Between 115 and 200 invited guests are expected at the $1,000-a-plate luncheon which is being held at a hotel, Fortuno said.

He refused to name the hotel, citing security concerns, but said it's in the San Juan metropolitan area.

Cheney's visit also includes a pre-luncheon meeting with island Republicans, Fortuno said.

Island Republicans have already sent $100,000 to the Bush-Cheney committee.

This is the first visit of a U.S. vice president to Puerto Rico in 33 years.?

The island's 4 million residents can't vote for president and have no vote in U.S. Congress, but the island's branches of the two major U.S. parties send delegates to the national party conventions.

The federal government contributes some $14 billion to the territory's economy each year though Puerto Ricans don't pay federal taxes.

They were made U.S. citizens in 1917 during World War I and have served in the U.S. military ever since.

The Capitol Celebrates Its 75th Anniversary

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

SAN JUAN (AP) - The Capitol turned 75 years old on Wednesday, and the presidents of both legislative bodies celebrated the anniversary by filing a bill to declare Feb. 11 National Puerto Rican Democracy Day.

Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora recalled that the Capitol keeps the original document of the Commonwealth Constitution. He added that the history and political maturity of Puerto Ricans are also represented in the building's mosaics and architectural details.

House Speaker Carlos Vizcarrondo said that since its inauguration on Feb. 11, 1929, the Capitol has harbored hundreds of legislators whose work has forged the present and future of the island.

"We should make an effort to perpetuate the Capitol's history and to spread it so that future generations learn of its importance," said Vizcarrondo.

Both legislative leaders also inaugurated a photographic exhibition with historical pictures of the building. They also presented a time capsule which will be sealed July 17, which is the day on which they will commemorate the laying of the building’s cornerstone in 1925.

Bush Budget Cuts Could Ground Commuter Flights In 105 Rural Communities

February 10, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

The White House budget plan for the 2005 fiscal plan would cut -- and in some cases, eliminate -- federal aid for commuter flights at 105 airports nationwide.

Airports that would lose federal Essential Air Service aid [include]:

--Ponce, Puerto Rico

U.S.- DR Trade Talks Get Underway In San Juan

By John Collins of Caribbean Business

February 10, 2004
Copyright © 2004 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All rights reserved. 

The weeklong negotiations between Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Regina Vargo and Trade Minister Sonia Guzman of the Dominican Republic (D.R.) got underway Monday.

This second round of the negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), between the U.S. and the D.R., was scheduled here in San Juan because of the significant trade relationship between the D.R. and Puerto Rico ($1.3 billion annually). The third and final round is scheduled in Washington March 12-15 from which a completed version of the agreement is to be issued.

The talks center on agricultural, textile and industrial markets as well as intellectual property rights [and were expected to focus on technical barriers to free trade].

[The United States on Tuesday offered to remove 99 percent of tariffs on Dominican goods if the Caribbean country joins the Central American Free Trade Agreement, said Guzman.

The Dominican delegation is taking the offer with a grain of salt, knowing that it would have to eliminate protective tariffs for agricultural products to match the American proposal.]

Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila addressed the delegates indicating that he had supported the FTA with the D.R. as well as the Central American FTA (Cafta). He also took the opportunity to endorse the application for the Puerto Rico Export Council (PREC) for San Juan to host the permanent secretariat of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).

While the PREC initiative has also been endorsed by Secretary of State Jose Izquierdo and Economic Development & Commerce Secretary Milton Segarra, Gov. Sila Calderon has been silent on the subject. President Hipolito Mejia endorsed the candidacy of Panama several months ago.

Armenia Conducts Policy Directed On International Recognition Of Nkr People Right For Self-Determination

February 10, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ARKA News Agency. All rights reserved. 

YEREVAN, February 9. /ARKA/. Armenia conducts policy directed on international recognition of NKR people’s right of self-determination, Deputy Foreign Minister Tatul Margarian stated today. According to him, it is the most correct way to full settlement of the conflict and establishment of long-term peace in the region.

He said that the modern world and the international community now often use the right of self-determination to prevent or find a final settlement to existing conflicts. "[T]his option was chosen for East Timor, Northern Ireland, Quebec, southern Sudan, Serbia and Montenegro, Puerto Rico and in some other cases," Margarian said.

Puerto Rican Police Seize 765 Kilos Of Cocaine

February 9, 2004
Copyright © 2004 EFE News Service. All rights reserved. 

San Juan, Feb 9 (EFE) - U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials in Puerto Rico seized 765 kilos (1,685 pounds) of cocaine hidden inside a container originating in Venezuela, authorities here said Monday.

Customs inspectors found the cache during a routine inspection of foreign cargo, the agency said in a communique.

The drugs were hidden in 14 sacks inside a 10-meter (33-foot) long container that arrived in Puerto Rico aboard the M/V Green Moral, which had passed through Panamanian, Venezuelan and Dominican ports before docking here.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Division of Customs and Border Protection is in charge of inspecting all foreign items entering the United States.

Customs spokesman Ivan Ortiz told EFE that no one had been arrested in relation to the seized drugs.

Oritz said authorities have already determined that Kimberly Clark, the company that owns the ship, was not implicated in the drug-smuggling operation.

Officials have not been able to identify the owners of the container, and so far they only know that the container was loaded onto the ship in Venezuela, he added.

Latino Boy From Oz?

February 9, 2004
Copyright © 2004 Nationwide News Pty Limited. All rights reserved. 

MX (Australia)

Broadway is buzzing that The Boy From Oz may soon hail from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Sources say producers of the hit show are scouting Latin star Ricky Martin as a possible replacement for our own leading man, Hugh Jackman.

The Australian X-Men actor had signed for a 12-month run in the show, but his contract expires in mid-September.

Bar Owners Oppose 2 A.M. Closing Hour

February 9, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - Bar, discotheque, and pub owners expressed their opposition to House Government Committee Chairman Jose Varela’s bill to require these establishments to close at 2:00 a.m.

Shimmy McHugh, owner of Babylon discotheque and Arena Pier 10 concert hall, and Daren Bolan, owner of Lazer and Eros discotheques, were upset that Varela called them to a meeting that only lasted 20 minutes.

They added that they can’t understand how lawmakers pretend to be fighting crime simply by changing the closing hour of establishments selling alcohol.

Out of 781 murders that occurred in 2003, 29 happened to occur in or near discotheques and bars, Varela said.

"If the streets aren’t safe, it isn’t our responsibility, and we shouldn’t be punished for it. This is ridiculous, Bolan said.

They added that Varela’s proposal not only affects tourism, but also jobs and the economy, which benefit from the nightlife. They also noted that with such measures the government would be punishing the population for their failure to control crime.

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