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Behind The 9/11 Commission… Naveira Opposes Unionizing Judiciary, Lawmakers Critical…FBI’s Most Wanted Seen…Court OKs SJ Codes…Ballet Concierto To Perform…P.R. Closer To Own Quarter…Aerostat Reactivation Sought …Paradisus Resort Opens…Feds Allot $9m For Jobs

A Key Force Behind The 9/11 Commission

Family and victims' groups have provided a 'road map' for the probe, asking tough questions.

By Gail Russell Chaddock | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

March 25, 2004
Copyright © 2004 The Christian Science Monitor. All rights reserved. 

WASHINGTON – William Rodriguez was the last man to run out of the World Trade Center. Had he made it to work on time, he and the master key to the stairwells would have been near the top of the complex when the second plane hit.

Instead, he raced up the stairwells he had maintained for 20 years to unlock doors and help people escape. "I was protected for another purpose," he says. Credited with saving many lives, he received a National Hero Award from the Senate of Puerto Rico and organized the Hispanic Victims Group.

Like many others who lost family or were personally involved in Sept. 11, Mr. Rodriguez is convinced that much of what happened that day is still behind locked doors, and the only way to open them is to keep hurling questions at officials until they get answers. For such activists, the appearance of top Clinton and Bush administration officials before the 9/11 commission this week was a key moment, long awaited.

From the start, family and victims' groups have energized the official investigations. They were a driving force behind the creation of the 9/11 commission and the joint congressional investigation than preceded it. They describe themselves as the commission's best friends - and "worst nightmare."

The families started with the most basic question: Why is there no official investigation of what went wrong on Sept. 11? Their demand that there be such an investigation - and quickly - muscled the 9/11 commission through the Congress and the White House.

Naveira Criticizes Unionizing Judiciary-Branch Employees

March 25, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Puerto Rico Supreme Court Chief Justice Miriam Naveira said again on Thursday that she opposes unionizing judiciary-branch employees because she believes it could negatively affect the court’s functioning.

During a joint Senate and House hearing in which members evaluated the amendment regarding judiciary unions, Naveira said that such an action by the legislation could affect separation of powers. Only certain employees of the judiciary branch would join the union.

Naveira said the legislative branch did not consider the judicial branch’s point of view when it approved the bill.

"This process hasn’t taken into account the Judiciary Branch’s position; it undermines the delicate constitutional balance that should prevail in our government. It is therefore not in harmony with our concept of separation of powers," Naveira said.

Two Branches Clash In The Legislature

March 25, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Legislators from all political parties reacted diplomatically but energetically to Supreme Court Chief Justice Miriam Naveira’s opposition to unionizing judiciary-branch employees. She believes unionization could negatively affect the court’s functioning.

Following Naveira’s criticism of the legislature for failing to ask the judiciary branch’s opinion during the process, House Speaker Carlos Vizcarrondo reminded her that the current legislature was the one to approve the Judiciary Reform that grants fiscal autonomy to the courts.

Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora took his turn at criticizing Naveira for submitting evidence on Thursday that had never been brought before the legislature.

Even New Progressive Party Rep. Oscar Ramos had something to say: "The rights of those working in the judiciary branch will soon be recognized."

Naveira made her statements on Thursday during a legislative conference in which members were discussing the possibility of making amendments to a bill approved in 2003 by the House that is now being evaluated by the Senate.

FBI’s Most Wanted: Filiberto Ojeda Rios Seen In Jayuya

March 25, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

JAYUYA (AP) – Police continue combing Jayuya after receiving an anonymous call early Thursday morning from someone claiming to have seen Filiberto Ojeda Rios, a fugitive who is on the FBI’s most-wanted list. Ojeda Rios is the leader of the Boricua Popular Army, also known as Los Macheteros.

"We received an anonymous phone call and we are trying to corroborate the information. There is no proof that [Ojeda Rios] is in Jayuya," said Utuado’s police spokeswoman Blanca Barreto.

Barreto said three agents from the precinct in Jayuya and two from Ciales went to the area to search for the fugitive.

The FBI was immediately notified, Barreto said.

Ojeda Rios has been on the FBI’s most-wanted list since 1990 when he escaped from a Connecticut prison where he was awaiting trial for his participation in a $7-million robbery of a Wells Fargo truck.

Although he has remained in hiding since his escape, he has issued statements to the press and pro-independence supporters.

The FBI has offered a $500,000 ransom for him.

Federal Court OKs San Juan’s Public Order Codes

March 25, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – U.S. District Court Magistrate Gustavo Gelpi said the public order codes implemented by the San Juan municipal government in Puerto Nuevo are in accordance with the U.S. Constitution.

Gelpi said the 25th Amendment allows U.S. jurisdictions to restrict the sale of alcoholic beverages.

"The court acknowledges the legislative chambers’ ample powers to address this matter, unless there is an element of unconstitutionality," Gelpi said.

Gelpi proceeded to dismiss the lawsuit that a Puerto Nuevo businessman had filed. The plaintiff claimed that the public order code, which prohibits selling alcoholic beverages after 2 a.m., has caused him severe loss of profits.

The federal magistrate acknowledged, however, that the public order codes have not been equally and fairly enforced in San Juan.

San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini said the public codes are aimed at reducing nighttime criminal activity. ?

Hispanic Artists Are Highlighted In Ballet

Ana Gershanik

March 25, 2004
Copyright © 2004 Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved. 


The Jefferson Performing Arts Society will present the Ballet Concierto de Puerto Rico dance company April 2-4 at the Jefferson Performing Arts Center, 400 Phlox Ave., Metairie.

Performances are April 2 and 3 at 7:30 p.m., and April 4 at 2 p.m.

The mission of the ballet troupe is to highlight the work of Hispanic artists. The 22-member company is known for its versatility and virtuosity, and for enriching audiences with the customs, traditions, and arts of Hispanic culture.

The dance company will present a condensed version of "Carmen," an adaptation of Bizet's famous opera, choreographed by Miami's Jimmy Gamonet. It will also present "Latinissimo" (which means very Latin), a celebration of Hispanic culture, consisting of six short works choreographed to Latin popular music. In "Latinissimo," the company integrates a variety of dance movement such as jazz, modern, contemporary and classical ballet, set to bright colors and images of tropical islands and sunny skies.

For tickets or more information, call 885-2000.

P.R. Closer To Getting Its Own Quarter

March 24, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

Washington-AP (AP) - -- Take a look in your pocket and you'll probably find quarters honoring New York, Connecticut and other states. Soon, the nation's capital could be on one of those 25-cent pieces.

The House today approved a bill giving the District of Columbia its own quarter. That's happened two times before, only to have the bill die in the Senate. In the past, there was disagreement about whether the measure required a two-thirds majority to pass the Senate. But under new rules, there's no question it does. D-C Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton says she's optimistic about getting the votes.

Norton's bill would also create quarters honoring Puerto Rico, the U-S Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

In case you're wondering, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands consists of 14 islands in the Western Pacific Ocean. The residents are U-S citizens, but can't vote in presidential elections, and they have their own government.

Drug Czar Defends Reactivation Of Aerostat

March 24, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

By Jose Fernandez Colon of Associated Press PONCE (AP) - National Drug Control Office Director Luis Guillermo Zambrana said Wednesday that the deflation of aerostat in Lajas has left the island without a vigilant eye in the sky.

He also said the government is still trying to get federal funds to reactivate it.

"At this moment, with the aerostat deflated, we lack a watchful eye to protect us from airborne drug trafficking," said Zambrana during an interview with the Associated Press.

According to Zambrana, $2.8 million is needed to reactivate the aerostat, which stopped operations a few months ago because of budget cuts by the Department of Defense.

The aerostat was operated in Puerto Rico by the private company Lockheed, which was hired by the United States Air Force.

"Once the National Drug Control Office was alerted of the order to deflate the aerostat, we contacted the secretary of defense, Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila, and the attorney general, and the process of dismantling the area was stopped," explained Zambrana.

He added that if there are no federal funds to reactivate the aerostat, he will recommend that Gov. Sila Maria Calderon and the Legislature find the money needed for its operation.

"We support the measure to get the aerostat in the air again because it demonstrated, from the moment of its installation, that it reduces the traffic of airplanes bringing drug shipments to our coasts," said Zambrana.

He emphasized that the aerostat was also an instrument to detect "objects related to terrorism."

Governor Inaugurates All-Inclusive Resort

March 24, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

RIO GRANDE (AP) - With Wednesday’s inauguration of Paradisus Puerto Rico in Rio Grande, island's room inventory increased by 2,000 rooms said Gov. Sila Calderon.

Built at a cost of $417 million, the island first all-inclusive resort will have 486 rooms.

"Without a doubt, Puerto Rico continues to grow stronger as a tourism destination in the Caribbean, and it pleases me to hear the European market is being targeted," said Calderon during a press conference to inaugurate the hotel.

Calderon noted that a study indicates Puerto Rico has become the fourth tourism destination in the world. It was 52nd in 2000.

$9 Million Allotted For Job Creation In 19 Municipalities

March 24, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

San Juan (AP)- The Labor & Human Resources Department announced Wednesday the allotment of $9 million in federal funds for the creation of 2,857 temporary jobs in 19 municipalities.

Labor of Secretary Frank Zorrilla and the director of the Counsel for the Development of Occupational Human Resources Brenda Sepulveda Lugo, said the funds come from the U.S. Labor Department’s Workforce Investment Act.

According to the officials, the allocation of six island-wide consortiums is intended to promote temporary jobs for displaced workers in the 19 municipalities declared disasters zones by President George Bush because of flooding in November 2003.

"The jobs creations proposal we submitted in December to the federal Labor Department’s Training was reviewed and approved for a maximum of $9 million in aid, of which $3 million has been allotted for immediate use in the implementation of projects to create temporary jobs for unemployed workers in the 19 municipalities affected," said Sepulveda Lugo in a press release.

She added that the funds must be used by Dec. 31st of this year, because they are meant as temporary aid for those workers whose permanent job, in agriculture and infrastructure will again be available.

The 19 municipalities are Juana Diaz, Salinas, Santa Isabel, Maunabo, Patillas, Yabucoa, Cabo Rojo, Guanica, Lajas, Yauco, Canovanas, Fajardo, Loiza, Luquillo, Naguabo, Rio Grande, Toa Baja, Arroyo, and Guayama.

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