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NPP Seeks Decolonization Plebiscite…Justice To Challenge Court Ban On Russian Boy's Return …Cheney Visit Will Be Protested…Acevedo Vila Announces Fed Agreement With Coffee Growers…Centennial Offers New Wireless Internet Service…FEMA Extends Claims Deadline…Osceola, P.R. Exchange Productive…Oyolas, Bushes Share Anniversaries

NPP Seeks Plebiscite Containing Decolonization Formulas

By Jose Fernandez Colon of Associated Press

February 16, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

CHARLIE RODRIGUEZPONCE - New Progressive Party (NPP) followers have favored the celebration of a status plebiscite that includes non-colonial formulas, said Charlie Rodriguez, who is the chairman of the party's Program Committee.

The former Senate president said NPP voters who have attended the public hearings at the senatorial districts of Mayagüez, Arecibo, Guayama, and Caguas have recommended that a plebiscite be held next term with the support of the U.S. Congress.

He added that others have recommended a referendum between statehood and independence, while some have asked the inclusion of the free association formula.

"In terms of status, there have been proposals to ask the U.S. Congress to adopt a plebiscite of non-colonial options. That is what the majority wants," Rodriguez said.

However, he said most of the proposals have focused on security, education, and healthcare.

Rodriguez said hearing participants have asked to return to the past administration's "tough hand against crime" policy, increase the number of police agents, and allocate more funds for the acquisition of equipment and patrol cars.

Justice To Challenge Court Ban On Russian Boy's Returning To Family In Lithuania

February 14, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - The government of this U.S. Caribbean territory criticized a local judge's decision to keep a Russian boy from returning to his family in Lithuania while the courts resolve a bitter custody battle.

Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez said Friday that Judge Hector Sepulveda was wrong to order the 9-year-old boy be kept in Puerto Rico, and requested that authorities return his Russian passport.

She said she would legally challenge Sepulveda's order last week that the boy, Arnas Gaurilcikas, be turned over to the island's Family Department until custody is resolved.

Arnas 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 local charges for allegedly setting a house on fire.

Both the boy's maternal grandmother, also Irina Romanova, and his father, Gytis Gaurilcikas, have said they want the child. Ramos also has said she would adopt him.

The grandmother, an ethnic Russian with Lithuanian citizenship, arrived last week in Puerto Rico, while the Lithuanian father said he would arrive next week.

Cheney Visit Will Be Protested

February 13, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – When Vice President Dick Cheney visits Puerto Rico next week, religious, labor, and community leaders will protest against United States’ war policy.

The New Independence Movement and the Congreso Nacional Hostosiano said the protest will take place next Friday outside the Condado Plaza Hotel at 11 a.m., when Cheney will speak before a selected group of republicans who paid $1,000 per ticket to attend an afternoon fund raising for the Bush-Cheney campaign.

"Dick Cheney is part of the select group that is getting rich with the war. Everyone knows that he was the main instigator for the invasion of Irak," said Hector Pesquera.

Cheney will briefly visit Puerto Rico next Friday to attend the fund raising and to meet with a couple of members of the Republican Party.

The vice president’s office in Washington has declined to comment on his agenda arguing that they don’t disclose any information until 48 hours prior to the event.

Acevedo Vila Announces Agreement With Local Coffee Industry

February 13, 2004
Copyright © 2004
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila announced an agreement between Puerto Rican coffee growers and two federal agencies that could benefit up to 26,000 local farmers.

Acevedo Vila said the exportation of coffee would be handled by Productores de Café de Puerto Rico, for a non profit corporation that was created in November.

The organization, which groups 9,000 coffee growers, will sell annually 50,000 sacks of coffee of 100 pounds each to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Defense said the resident commissioner said in a prepared statement.

"The goal is to get the federal government to buy more local products," Acevedo Vila said.

He added that the agreement is part of an executive order of President George W. Bush to get federal agencies to endorse small businesses in economically depressed areas, also known as "HUB Zones".

According to Agriculture Department data, the economy of 22 municipalities on the island depends on coffee productions.

Centennial Launches New Wireless Internet Access Service

February 13, 2004
Copyright © 2004
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Centennial of Puerto Rico has launched a new wireless Internet access service called Blue Zone that provides faster connection for users of portable computers and electronic information handheld devices.

"Today Centennial has once again made history on the island by offering the most advanced wireless data transport technology to connect to the Internet. It provides the flexibility and mobility Internet users need, particularly in businesses and industries that require out-of-office connectivity," said Alvaro Pilar, who is vice president and general manager of Centennial Business Solutions.

Naji Khoury, who is vice president of New Business Product Development of Centennial Business Solutions, said that, contrary to other providers, Centennial Blue Zone uses a high velocity Internet connection, thus ensuring the highest level of service available to Internet users.

"The concept is simple. We want users to experience a connection like no other, one that is definitely much faster than dial-up, DSL, and satellite connections," he said.

Pilar explained that the new network locations are at the hotels Normandie and Caribe Hilton in San Juan; Water Club in Isla Verde; Amadeus Bistro in Torres Chardon; Professional Offices Park & The Forum at the City View Plaza; and Manjares Café & Grill in Guaynabo.

He also said all Centennial stores will soon be connected to the network, but that for now, the service is available at stores located on Roosevelt Avenue in Hato Rey and Los Paseos on Las Cumbres Avenue.

FEMA Extends Deadline For Filing Claims

February 13, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has extended the deadline for people affected by heavy rain in November to file their claims to qualify for the National Flood Insurance Program.

FEMA local coordinator Justo Hernandez said those who have flood insurance and suffered losses from Nov. 10 to 23 have until March 7 to file their claims.

"Because of the extensive flooding in November 2003, FEMA wishes to make sure that those insured under the program have enough time to file their claims," said Hernandez in a prepared statement.

The federal official said the extension applies to all properties insured under the Puerto Rico National Insurance Program and to homeowners who have bought flood insurance during the three years that followed hurricane Hortense and Georges.

According to Hernandez, the local government has continued to renew those policies, although most of them are still valid.

Business Exchange May Produce Projects

From Sentinel staff reports

February 13, 2004
Copyright © 2004
Orlando Sentinel. All rights reserved. 

KISSIMMEE -- A recent two-day business exchange between Osceola County and Puerto Rico has led officials to discuss five possible joint projects.

Officials have not released what sort of plans are being discussed as a result of the Central Florida Business Exchange in January at Osceola Heritage Park. However, the event drew larger numbers than were expected, with 22 companies from the island and 57 local companies meeting individually to talk about cooperative efforts, county economic-development director Maria Grulich said. More than 120 people attended a wrap-up luncheon.

"This brought us projects," Grulich said. "They are in manufacturing and distribution, which is what we want to attract."

A second event is being planned for next week. Grulich said the projects being discussed will be made public as they develop.

April Hunt and Rebecca Panoff of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report.

Oyolas, Bushes Share Anniversaries

By Diane C. Lade
Staff writer

February 13, 2004
Copyright © 2004
South Florida Sun-Sentinel. All rights reserved. 

The Oyolas, who soon will be married for 30 years, celebrated Thursday by having dinner at the home of another couple nearing their 30th anniversary as well.The home was the Governor's Mansion. The couple were Jeb and Columba Bush.

The Boca Raton couple was one of five -- and the only one from South Florida -- selected from around the state.

If the governor wanted an opinion on what makes a marriage last, the Oyolas already had their answer.

"Perseverance," said Arlene Oyola, a bookkeeper for JM Family Enterprises. "That's our family value, and we stick to it." She and her husband, Manuel, a roofing contractor, met when they were 13 and married three years later.

This is the second year couples have been invited to dinner as part of the governor's focus on marriage and strengthening families.

The Florida Department of Elder Affairs and Volunteer Florida put out calls around the state, looking for candidates.

As part of the selection process, the marital candidates had to fill out a questionnaire.

What first attracted you to him or her?

"He was a handsome boy and I was a nice girl," wrote Arlene, who first met Manuel on vacation in Puerto Rico. They went back there to be married three years later and hope to return for their anniversary this July.

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