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NPP Leaders Not Guilty In Riot Case… Governor Offers Condolences To The Spanish People…Vieques Cleanup To Cost $114m…PIP Boycotts Status Hearings…Troops Return Home…Cult Leader's Resurrection Awaited…AT&T Wireless Sponsors Copur…Cartagena Restructures Police Operations

NPP Leaders Not Guilty In Riot Case

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

March 11, 2004
Copyright © 2004 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

After almost two years of a controversial judicial process, the local court acquitted the four New Progressive Party (NPP) leaders who were accused of rioting for forcing entrance into the Women’s Advocate Office on June 20, 2002 to place a U.S. flag in the lobby.

Former NPP President Carlos Pesquera, former NPP Rep. Leo Diaz, NPP Electoral Commissioner Thomas Rivera Schatz, and NPP Rep. Edwin Mundo were found not guilty in a 11-1 decision.

Despite the court’s order to keep quiet during the reading of the verdict, a triumphant crowd roared outside the courtroom while NPP supporters inside released tears of joy and sighs of relief.

San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini, NPP Rep. Jennifer Gonzalez, and Farrique Pesquera—former NPP president’s polemical pro-independence brother—were a few who couldn't fight back their emotion.

After Superior Judge Ruben Torres Davila dismissed them, they rushed over to hug and congratulate the four leaders.

Once outside the courtroom, reactions were swift in coming.

Rivera Schatz was the first to address the press.

"I think the people of Puerto Rico have spoken through the jury," Rivera Schatz said.

Dozens of NPP supporters cheered for Pesquera, repeating his name and even urging him to run for governor. Pesquera smiled and said he was focused on putting his daughter through medical school and his son through college.

When asked about the animosity between him and NPP gubernatorial candidate Pedro Rossello—who was in court for the verdict,—Pesquera said their relationship remains cordial.

"I assure you Rossello has always wanted what was best for me," Pesquera stated.

Rossello told the press he was grateful to God for letting justice be done.

"I hope this kind of persecution doesn’t repeat itself. This has been a blatant attempt to ruin political leaders in Puerto Rico simply because their ideology differs from that of the administration," Rossello said.

Meanwhile, in what sounded like an apology, Pesquera said that although he would participate in such a manifestation again, there are things he hopes won’t reoccur.

"Just like everyone else here, I am a human being who has feelings; I have my own opinions," Pesquera said.

Mundo was crying and admitted that the long judicial process had been tough on him.

"Even when I knew I had committed no crime, I didn’t know if I would go to jail," said Mundo, who regretted not having his mother alive. Mundo had lost his mother during the judicial process.

Diaz said the case demonstrated the persecution from what he called an incompetent government that saw an opportunity to destroy the statehood movement but failed.

Meanwhile, chief prosecutor Jose Capo, visibly affected, said he was satisfied with the prosecution’s work.

"I still think we proved the case beyond reasonable doubt," Capo said. 

Governor Offers Condolences To The Spanish People

March 11, 2004
Copyright © 2004 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Gov. Sila Calderon said she was outraged at the triple bombing of a main train station in Madrid on Thursday. She also offered her condolences to the people of Spain.

"Once again, the world has been shaken by a vile act of a group of people dedicated to terrorize others in order to impose its ideas," the governor said in a prepared statement.

"I want to express my deepest condolences to the Spanish people and the Spanish community in Puerto Rico," Calderon added.

The governor chastised the terrorists who she said violated Spain’s democratic principles. She said such acts can’t be tolerated in a democratic system.

Calderon also expressed her support of Spain’s Government Chief Jose Maria Aznar’s fight against terrorism and called Puerto Rico an ally of the Spanish people.

Meanwhile, the Spanish consulate in Puerto Rico said the U.S. embassy in Miami is the one to talk to in case island residents need help finding out about the whereabouts of relatives who may have been affected by the terrorist attack.

Vieques Cleanup To Cost $114m Over 5 Years

March 11, 2004
Copyright © 2004 BUSINESS NEWS AMERICAS ( All rights reserved. 

A cleanup of Puerto Rican island-town Vieques will cost US$114mn over the next five years, El Vocero quoted acting Secretary of the Navy H.T. Johnson as saying at a congressional sub-committee meeting.

Johnson also requested that Vieques and Culebra be included in the national high priority cleanup list, the report said. The federal management and budget office must approve this request before approval from the US Environmental Protection Agency is sought.

The US Navy officially left the base located in Vieques last May 1, and according to the newspaper, left behind toxic waste, including uranium-containing ammunition used for weapons testing.

The base was built in 1940, and some Puerto Rican leaders are proposing turning the former base's airstrip into a civilian airport, opening its port to cruise ships and attracting tourists to its beaches.

The former military land covers 7,527ha of the island's total 13,355ha and is now controlled by the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge.

PIP Will Not Participate In Status Hearings

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) President Ruben

Berrios said on Thursday that he would not participate in the legislative hearings regarding the bill that calls for a referendum to choose the mechanism that would resolve the island’s status issue.

Berrios, who is also the PIP’s gubernatorial candidate, said the legislative leaders’ decision to postpone the referendum until after the general elections is a farce.

"To not even consider the possibility of holding the referendum now makes the public hearing process a farce and charade," Berrios said.

Popular Democratic Party President Anibal Acevedo Vila attended the hearings last week and defended the Constitutional Assembly as the form that should be used to resolve the island’s status issue.

Acevedo Vila vowed that if elected governor, the referendum would be held within 120 days of his taking office.

Puerto Rican Soldiers Return Home

By Ray Quintanilla | Sentinel Staff Writer


March 11, 2004
Copyright © 2004. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- The first wave of Puerto Rico's U.S. Army National Guard troops returned home all smiles Wednesday, as 58 soldiers hit familiar ground for the first time since deployment to Iraq nearly a year ago.

Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Francisco A. Márquez praised the soldiers as "patriotic and courageous," while greeting them upon arrival at Luis Muñoz Márin International Airport on Wednesday afternoon. "We are so pleased to have our citizen-soldiers home safely," he said. "All of us here on the island are so proud of you all."

[He also said this is the first Puerto Rico National Guard battalion to return from war in Iraq and the only Puerto Rico National Guard infantry battalion to have served in that Middle Eastern country.]

Officials said 1,600 members of Puerto Rico's National Guard are stationed around the world, mostly in support positions. About 250 remain in Iraq.

About the same number of U.S. Army reserves from the island are stationed abroad as well, military officials said. The first wave of reservists in Iraq should begin returning from active duty in summer.

Cult Members In Puerto Rico Await Leader's Resurrection

March 10, 2004
Copyright © 2004 EFE News Service. All rights reserved. 

San Juan, Mar 10 (EFE).- Followers of the "Voice of the Third Angel" cult are patiently awaiting the resurrection of their recently deceased leader in Utuado, in mountainous central Puerto Rico.

Luis Laborde Salas, who founded the group three decades ago and changed his name to "Luiko de Jesus," died over the weekend at his home in the Angeles neighborhood of Utuado at age 73, the press reported Wednesday.

Laborde Salas, who said Jesus Christ gave him the name "Luiko de Jesus," promised his followers he would return from the dead, just as the Gospels say the founder of Christianity did three days after being crucified in Jerusalem some 2,000 years ago.

"Luiko" was also known among his followers as "The prophet of 2000" and "The last prophet and son of God."

Since his death, some 100 followers have shut themselves in a hut and a cement structure on a 30-acre farm (12.15 hectares), apparently cult property.

"He has not died, what he has done is he has been taken by the Lord, just like he promised. He has been moved to heaven," his widow told the El Nuevo Dia newspaper.

She said the amount of time the leader spends in the afterlife is inconsequential "because he will return vindicated in a younger body. The Bible says so and 'Luiko' verified it."

AT&T Wireless And Copur Form An Alliance

By PRWOW News Staff

March 10, 2004
Copyright © 2004 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Company and committee officials announced that AT&T Wireless has become a sponsor of the Puerto Rico Olympic Committee (Copur by its Spanish acronym).

AT&T Wireless General Manager Raul Burgos and Copur Chairman Hector Cardona made the announcement during a press conference on Wednesday.

They said the private company will be the official wireless communication provider of the Puerto Rican Olympic delegation at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece.

"We are very proud to be able to sponsor the athletes who will represent us in Greece," Burgos said.

The local athletes will use AT&T cellular phones and will have access to high-quality wireless technology.

The delegation will be able to contact their loved ones back home through regular phone calls or text messages.

AT&T Wireless provides service to the 78 municipalities of the island and to more than 7,700 cities in the U.S. and Canada. It also provides roaming service in 132 countries.

Cartagena Restructures Police Operations

By PRWOW News Staff

March 10, 2004
Copyright © 2004 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Police Superintendent Agustin Cartagena announced on Wednesday that the department’s field operations have been divided into four regions to speed up the work flow among the island’s 13 police regions.

Cartagena said that, once the new system takes effect, the first region will include the areas of San Juan, Carolina, and Fajardo. The second region will consist of Utuado, Arecibo, and Bayamon.

The third region will be comprised of Aguadilla, Mayagüez, and Ponce. Aibonito, Guayama, Caguas, and Humacao will make up the fourth region.

"The colonel in charge of each region must meet with their people to discuss their work plan," Cartagena said during a press conference at the police headquarters in Hato Rey.

The police superintendent said Comdr. Felipe Ortiz will be in charge of region one; Col. Anibal Solivan, of region three; and Col. Israel Vazquez, of region four.

Cartagena said he has yet to appoint the second region director, but will do so soon.

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