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Party Leaders React To Federal Indictments…Viequenses Seek Depleted Uranium Tests…Abortion Clinics Slam Regulations… GOP Group Rarely Helps Hispanics…Easter, Expos Security Plans In Place…Ex POW’s Urged To Obtain Benefits…Coliseum 20 Yrs From Solvency…Medicare Reimbursement Increase In Effect

NPP And PIP Leaders React To The Arrests By The FBI

By WOW News Staff

April 8, 2004
Copyright © 2004 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Following the news about the indictments of three former members of the New Progressive Party (NPP) on Thursday for participating in a corruption scheme involving contractors of the Superaqueduct, leaders of both the NPP and the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) expressed their opinion of the news.

NPP Electoral Commissioner Thomas Rivera Schatz, NPP House minority leader Anibal Vega Borges, and former NPP President Leo Diaz Urbina agreed that, if guilty, the accused should face the consequences.

"Those who violate the law should be held accountable, whether they are blue, red or of any other color," said Rivera Schatz referring to the official colors of the NPP and the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) respectively.

However, Rivera Schatz and Diaz warned about falling into the trap of generalizations.

"I don’t worry about this hurting the party in the least, because the Puerto Rican people are convinced of Pedro Rossello’s integrity," Diaz said.

Rivera Schatz added that scandals related with the PDP in the past have proven that corruption has no color and cannot be linked to any specific party.

PIP Sen. Fernando Martin, however, differed.

"This has been a mortal blow to Rossello’s campaign, hurting his chances of being elected governor [in November 2004]," Martin said.

Former NPP Secretary General Marcos Morell and Rene Vazquez Botet, former campaign director of NPP gubernatorial candidate Pedro Rossello were accused of extorting $2 million from Superaqueduct contractors.

Former NPP Rep. Jose Granados Navedo–who is cooperating with the federal investigation–pleaded guilty to participating in the scheme, which was perpetrated from 1995 to 2001.

If convicted, federal authorities said Vazquez Botet faces 100 years in prison and $2 million in fines. Morell faces 110 years in prison and $2.5 million in fines. Granados Navedo faces up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

Viequenses Ask For Depleted Uranium Tests

April 8, 2004
Copyright © 2004. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The recent controversy regarding soldiers alleging to have been contaminated in Iraq with depleted uranium has prompted the Committee for the Rescue & Development of Vieques to demand that the government test Viequenses for that specific pollutant.

At least two soldiers of Puerto Rico descent who are members of the New York National Guard stationed in Iraq have claimed to have been contaminated with depleted uranium found in U.S. armed forces’ weapons.

The U.S. Navy has confirmed the use of uranium capped bullets in the military practices it used to conduct in Vieques.

"The local Health Department has been completely negligent in not developing a comprehensive program to test our population for depleted uranium," said committee spokeswoman Nilda Medina.

The group demanded that the Health Department conduct a study promised several years ago and to test for traces of heavy metals.

"We have no doubt that the high cancer rate among our people is directly related to bullets capped with depleted uranium and other toxic material accumulated here after decades of military training," Medina said in a prepared statement.

Abortion Clinics Complain About Excessive Regulations

By Istra Pacheco of Associated Press

April 8, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN — The Department of Health is imposing "onerous," "illegal," and "absurd" requirements to clinics that perform abortions before their operation permits required by law are renewed, charged Dr. Mary Rivera Montalvo on Thursday.

The new requirements mandate clinics to install sprinkler systems and water storage tanks, and stipulate that all abortions must be performed by a gynecological specialist. They also call for clinics to formalize agreements with local hospitals to guarantee medical attention in the event something goes wrong with the procedure.

Many of these requirements go against existing commonwealth and federal laws that guarantee medical assistance in the case of an emergency, giving merit to their request for elimination of the measures to the Dept Of Health.

"If they do not repeal the requirements we will take this matter to court. The Center for Reproduction Rights, based in New York, has already informed us, for example, that it is illegal for any hospital to refuse services to a patient in an emergency situation, even if the individual does not have insurance or is not accompanied. When they make this contract a requirement, they are breaking the law," stated the administrator of the Ladies Medical Center.

She spoke of an incident involving an inspector from the Dept of Health who, while making an evaluation of an unnamed clinic, made the sign of the cross before entering the facility; an act showing the lack of objectivity of department employees.

The indictment came from Dr. Rivera Montalvo during an annual protest held in by a Pro Life group, in front of the clinic.

Hispanic GOP Group Rarely Helps Hispanics

April 7, 2004
Copyright © 2004 THE WASHINGTON TIMES. All rights reserved. 

WASHINGTON, April 7 (UPI) -- A U.S. political action committee formed to boost Hispanic Republican candidates has spent a mere 8.9 percent of its funds on its stated goal.

The Washington Post said Wednesday that according to Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-Tex., who has been running American Dream PAC since 1999, the group's mission is "to give significant, direct financial assistance to first-rate minority GOP candidates.

But since 1999, only $48,750 -- or 8.9 percent -- of the $547,000 the southwest Texas congressman has raised for his political action committee has gone to minority office seekers.

By contrast, more than $100,000 has gone to GOP causes, including a legal defense fund for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, an Anglo, the newspaper said.

"The fact that this [American Dream] PAC had a mission statement and that it appeared the funds didn't follow that purpose to a degree raises the question of whether donors may have been misled," said Kent Cooper, co-founder of the campaign watchdog group PoliticalMoneyLine.

Bonilla's response, "We did the best we could."

Superintendent Announces Security Plan For Easter Week

April 7, 2004
Copyright © 2004. All rights reserved. 

San Juan- Police Superintendent, Agustin Cartagena, announced on Wednesday that he will mobilize 2,298 agents to provide security for the activities taking place around the island during the Easter Week celebration.

Cartagena stated that of the 2,298 agents, some 1,077 will be assigned to San Juan, Bayamon, and Carolina.

The Superintendent added that there are some 200 activities scheduled to take place in the metropolitan area during the weekend. Activities that include plays, services, and religious processions.

According to Cartagena, the calender includes 91 events in San Juan, 63 in Bayamon, and 48 in Carolina.

"There a total of 383 activities taking place around the island and which are included in our calendar, for which we will provide security," he declared in a press conference.

Cartagena further said that there will be roadblocks and preventive patrolling in the San Juan starting Thursday through Sunday.

The Superintendent warned that officer will be on the lookout for citizens not wearing their seatbelts, children traveling without child seat, drunk drivers, those who "four tracks" in public roads, and drivers who violate the speed limit.

Security Plan For Expos Series Well Underway

By WOW staff

April 7, 2004
Copyright © 2004 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

The San Juan Police Department and the Public Safety Office enacted today a security plan engineered to safeguard the Montreal Expos serious to be played in Hiram Bithorn Stadium April 9th through the 15th of 2004.

The plan is being coordinated by Col. Adalberto Mercado Cuevas and will be in place until the last game is played. The first faze of the security plan was enacted on April 5th at 6:00 in the morning, which includes a 24 hour watch of the stadium and its grounds.

75 municipal police officers working with state police, the FBI, the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms Bureau (ATF), and the San Juan Fire Department will be in charge of stadium security, safeguarding players and their families, guarding their hotels, as well as providing security for all Mayor League Baseball personnel and fans.

The security details will begin as soon as players arrive at Luis Muños Marin International Airport and will be responsible for escorting them to their hotels. All hotels and vehicles used by players will be thoroughly checked by the Police Dept.’s Explosives Unit, Canine Units, and the Fire Dept., to ensure their safety.

Due to heightened concerns of terrorist attacks during mass events, an electronic virtual security system has been installed. The system creates a digital image of stadium areas, through the use of 14 stationary cameras and 2 high-mobility long-range cameras for vulnerable areas.

-The Stadium will adhere to strict security protocols that include:

-A complete search of the facilities by canine units and agents from the Explosives unit before players arrive.

-The establishment of a 100 feet perimeter around stadium grounds.

-A search of all bags and the imposition of a 16"x 16"x 8" bag size restriction. Coolers will be completely banned.

-Except for security personnel, no firearms or other weapons will be allowed in the stadium.

-A zero tolerance stance on violent or disorderly behavior that may endanger the lives of players, officials, or fans.

-All vehicles in stadium parking will be subject to periodic searches and any vehicles not unattended after a game will be immediately removed.

The security plan is ready to respond to any emergency that may occur in the stadium and its grounds. All activities will be coordinated from a Joint Command Center located in the station grounds.

Call Made For Ex Prisoners Of War To Examine Benefits

April 7, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP)- On Wednesday the Department of Veteran affairs and the Veterans Hospital called on former prisoners of war to verify that they are receiving full benefits for their military service, which they are entitled to.

This year, the Veterans Administration (VA) contacted by mail some 4,700 former Prisoners of War that were not in their databanks about their benefits. However the federal agency estimates there are another 11,000 ex Prisoners of War for whom they have no contact information.

"The ex Prisoners of War are eligible for compensation and healthcare benefits, but many are unaware of this," stated in a communiqué Prisoner of War Coordinator, Jesus Bonilla.

The official informed that veterans that do not yet receive benefits from the VA should contact the agency at 1-800-827-1000 or see a counselor at their local VA office.

Bonilla added that since new health concerns stemming from imprisonment during times of war, there have been policy changes that offer a broader range of services to a number of veterans.

He also said that those ex Prisoners of War that already receive benefits could be eligible for additional compensation.

Bonilla is focusing mainly on those Prisoners of War from World War II and Korea.

It Could Take More Than 20 Years To Pay For Coliseum

April 7, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The government will probably disburse up to $15 million a year to pay off the building debt for the Jose Miguel Agrelot Coliseum of Puerto Rico, according to Jochi Davila, marketing manager of SMG company in charge of the coliseum’s operations.

Davila also said in published reports it would probably take more than 20 years for the coliseum to achieve financial solvency.

According to Davila, the government would only receive up to $2 million in profits every year, the rest would be paid by taxpayers.

Davila added that the money obtained from the concession stands and the sponsorships will go to the government.

"That income will not go to SMG, but to the coliseum’s maintenance and debt payment," Davila said.

Acevedo Vila Announces Increase In Medicare Return

By WOW staff

April 6, 2004
Copyright © 2004 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Resident Commissioner, Anibal Acevedo Vila, verified Tuesday the commencement of the first stage of a 25% increase in reimbursement for services rendered to Medicare patients by island hospitals.

The announcement, made on Tuesday at Ashford Presbyterian Hospital in Condado, translates to $25 million of available funds to the local hospitals that will revitalize the industry.

"We are glad to share the information with hospital administrators the significance of this increase of reimbursements to institutions for services rendered to Medicare patients," said Acevedo Vila.

He added, "We will keep fighting to secure a 100% return." Referring to the fact that the increase will reimburse 75% of the cost by next October.

Under the new Medicare law signed by President George W. Bush last December; local hospitals received a 12.5% increase in reimbursements effective immediately, with an additional 12.5% increase to take effect next October, bringing reimbursement from 50% to 75%.

Along with these hospital benefits, the Medicare Reform will make available prescription subsidies as well as $46 million a year to reimburse private doctors that treat Medicare recipients.

Actually, even with this increase by reimbursement of 75% that Puerto Rico will receive in two stages, Puerto Rico is not receiving its fair share as U.S. citizens in the states receive. Puerto Ricans on the island contribute the equivilant amount that stateside citizens contribute but up to now had only received 50% reimbursement.

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