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Cheney’s Visit Igniting Political Passions…NM Legislature...Backs P.R. Self-Determination…Russian Authorities Claim Boy…3 Dominican Migrants Drown…Calderon Promotes Special Communities, She Dismisses Rossello’s 7 Superaqueduct Proposal…FTAA Deadline March 1st

Cheney’s Visit To Be Marked By Demonstrations For And Against Him

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

February 19, 2004
Copyright © 2004 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney is expected to arrive to the island Friday to participate in a fund raising event that observers expect will be marked by demonstrations of local organizations for and against him.

On Thursday, the Republican Youth Federation National Committeewoman Yanira Martinez announced that several pro-statehood organizations will gather in front of the Condado Plaza Hotel at 10 a.m. to show their support for Cheney.

"Our goal is to show Vice President Cheney how proud we are of our American citizenship and what our great nation stands for," Martinez said.

Meanwhile, members of the Pro-Independence College Front (also known as FUPI), Socialist Organizations, and the Congreso Nacional Hostosiano have announced that they will also be present, but to protest Cheney’s visit.

In a written statement, Pro-Statehood Puerto Rican Youth President Felix Plaud—who has been part of heated disputes at the University of Puerto Rico—urged anti-American organizations to put their differences aside so both groups could protest in peace.

"It is our wish that all demonstrations during this historical visit be conducted in democratic harmony, with mutual tolerance and respect for the freedom of speech protected by the Commonwealth and U.S. constitutions," Plaud said.

The local police has already announced that it would increase surveillance and control traffic access to Ashford Avenue in Condado.

The U.S. Secret Service will be in charge of security inside the hotel during Cheney’s visit.

It has yet to be announced if members of the local press will have the opportunity to talk to the vice president.

The National Republican Party expects to raise around $200,000 for the re-election campaign of both Cheney and U.S. President George W. Bush during a luncheon. The vice president is expected to return to the mainland on the same day of his arrival.

New Mexico Legislature Supports P.R. Self-Determination

Citizens' Educational Foundation-US

February 19, 2004
Copyright © 2004 Citizens' Educational Foundation-US. All rights reserved.

Today, the New Mexico Legislature joined a growing number of state legislative bodies and national organizations who have publicly acknowledged a need for change in Puerto Rico's unresolved political status and endorsed a process of self-determination for the Island.

The Joint Memorial recognizes that over 4 million U.S. citizens living in Puerto Rico find their rights as citizens limited due to the ambiguous nature of the island's territorial status. "Despite the denial of full representative democracy, Puerto Rico has always played a vital role in the defense of American ideals," stated José E. Aponte, Executive Director of the Citizens' Educational Foundation-US.

"New Mexico is the fifth amongst key states in recognizing the importance of this national issue," stated Aponte. The California Legislature, Wisconsin General Assembly, Texas House of Representatives, and Florida State Senate have all recently adopted resolutions and memorials which also urge the President and the U.S. Congress to enact federal legislation that would clearly define the non-territorial and permanent status options available to the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico and authorize a federal referendum through which they can choose their final status.

19 de febrero de 2004
Copyright © 2004 Citizens' Educational Foundation-US. Todos los derechos reservados.

Boy Turned Over To Russian Authorities

By Ricardo Zuñiga of Associated Press

February 19, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - A Russian boy at the center of a bitter custody dispute was turned over to Russian authorities, clearing the way for his return to family in Lithuania, officials said.

The 9-year-old boy departed by plane Wednesday night with honorary Russian consul Anastasia Kitsul and a social worker, headed for the Russian Embassy in Washington, said Yolanda Zayas, the U.S. territory's Family Department secretary.

"With this action we have concluded the intervention of the Family Department in this case," Zayas said at a news conference.

Both the boy's maternal grandmother, also Irina Romanova, and his father, Gytis Gaurilcikas, have said they want custody of the child in Lithuania. That dispute has yet to be settled.

The boy had been in temporary custody with Puerto Rican Judge Maritza Ramos. Authorities in July 2002 removed him from his Russian mother, Irina Romanova, after a domestic violence incident with her boyfriend. Romanova returned to Lithuania, a former Soviet republic, in October 2002 to avoid charges in Puerto Rico for allegedly setting a house on fire.

The boy's departure was made possible by a legal deal between his grandmother and authorities, said Carmelo Davila, a lawyer for Romanova. She said the custody dispute will go forward in Lithuania, where the relatives all live, and in Russia, where the boy holds citizenship.

"I'm going to fight in Lithuania and I'm going to win," said Gaurilcikas, the father.

Zayas, meanwhile, said her agency is investigating its own handling of the case.

Dominican Migrants Drown When Their Boat Capsizes

By Frank Griffiths of Associated Press

February 19, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - At least three Dominican boat migrants drowned early Thursday and 18 others were missing when their boat capsized in rough waters off Puerto Rico's northern coast, officials said.

At least two survivors were able to swim ashore to the town of Camuy and are in custody of U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer John Gaffney said. The three victims were women, authorities said.

Coast Guard helicopters and a cutter were conducting a search for the missing migrants.

"Some of them probably made it to shore," Gaffney said. "But we don't know for sure."

The 30-foot (9-meter) boat was carrying 23 migrants from the neighboring Caribbean country when it struck a reef near Camuy, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) west of the capital, San Juan. The blue and red fiberglass boat capsized at about 2:45 a.m., one of the survivors told authorities.

Heavy surf conditions common in the area were hampering the rescue efforts, the Coast Guard said.

Since the start of the 2004 fiscal year on Oct. 1, authorities have detained a record number of illegal migrants, the majority Dominicans, trying to reach Puerto Rico, surpassing the previous year's total of 3,477 people in only four months.

So far, officials have detained 3,889 migrants since Oct. 1 trying to reach Puerto Rico, Border Patrol spokesman Victor Colon said.

Officials blame the increase in part on a deteriorating economy in the Dominican Republic which is prompting more Dominicans to flee in search of jobs. At least 24 migrants have drowned since Oct. 1 trying to reach this U.S. Caribbean territory, officials said, and most Dominican migrants who are caught are repatriated.

Calderon Continues To Promote The Special Communities

February 18, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

HUMACAO (AP) – Gov. Sila M. Calderon continued promoting on Wednesday her administration special communities project when she visited the Buena Vista sector of Humacao where more that 100 homes will be built and remodeled.

Calderon again urged the upcoming administration to continue the special communities program which she described as the most important social justice initiative to have occurred in the island since Luis Muñoz Marin was in office.

"I am asking it to the three political candidates," Calderon said.

During her visit to Buena Vista, Calderon spend some time with resident Mariela Oquendo whose home was recently remodeled with funds from the special communities trust.

Calderon Mocks Rossello’s Proposal

February 18, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – On Wednesday, Gov. Sila Calderon mocked New Progressive Party (NPP) gubernatorial candidate Pedro Rossello’s proposal to solve the island water crisis by building seven new superaqueducts.

Rossello presented his plan on Tuesday with the slogan "Por un tubo y siete llaves," [Loads of water]. The idea is to build seven new superaqueducts that would be connected with the existing superaqueduct of the northern area of the island.

"Instead of loads of water, this country will have loads of corruption if that man returns to office," Calderon said during a brief press conference at the Barrio Buena Vista in Humacao.

The governor added that the Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Authority and the Legislature are working to solve the water crisis in the east.

Rossello said that, judging by the cost of the first superaqueduct, the new project, which may take 10 years to complete, could cost more than $2 billion.

However, Puerto Rican Independence Party candidate for resident commissioner Edwin Irizarry Mora said on Wednesday that the seven superaqueducts would cost $3 billion, which he said is 50% more than what the NPP leader estimated on Tuesday.

Rossello To Build Seven More Superaqueducts

By Istra Pacheco of Associated Press

February 18, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN – If elected governor, New Progressive Party (NPP) President Pedro Rossello vowed to build seven new superaqueducts that will connect to the one on the northern coast of the island in order to solve the lack of drinking water that affects citizens on a daily basis.

The construction could take 10 years and cost $2 billion, judging by the one that already exists, said Rossello.

His proposal also includes the construction of new filtering plants in Guajataca, Ponce, Villalba, Juncos, Fajardo, Guayama and Portuges, as well as a new water treatment plant in Fajardo.

"This system (superaqueducts) would work as a network for Puerto Rico," said Rossello during a press conference at his committee headquarters.

Rossello added that all reservoirs will be dredged to reduce sedimentation.

Although he acknowledges that his proposal is ambitious in terms of cost, Rossello hopes to include a private capital investment which, in his opinion, is the only way to complete construction of projects because the island’s budget is not big enough.

The FTAA Contestants

February 18, 2004
Copyright © 2004. All rights reserved. 

These are the cities competing for the FTAA secretariat. All must turn in proposals by March 1: Atlanta; Chicago; Colorado Springs; Galveston, Texas; Houston; Miami; Cancun, Mexico; Panama City, Panama; Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago; Puebla, Mexic; and, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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