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Calderon Brings The Police Back Into Public Housing Projects, Santini Seeks Cartagena Meeting…Troops Home From Iraq…Nightclub Safety Bill Up For Vote…PRFAA Office To Focus On Careers…Homicide Rate Ahead Of Last Year's…Coastal Urbanization Called Unplanned…Gay Rights Group To File Complaint With FCC

Government Brings The Police Back Into Public Housing Projects

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

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

It is nearly the end of Gov. Sila Calderon administration and in a dramatic change of position plans were announced on Tuesday to do exactly what had been criticized so much in the past administration; reinstating the state police in Puerto Rico’s public housing projects.

The change of policy was announced during a press conference held by interim Gov. Jose Izquierdo at the Luis Llorens Torres housing project in San Juan. The government’s new effort to fight crime also follows one of the bloodiest weekends yet this year, with 12 murders more than last year during the same period.

When asked about the government’s turnaround, Izquierdo said they have a different approach to that of former Gov. Pedro Rossello. He said that this time the state police would undergo a special training that will emphasize their role as a member of the community.

Izquierdo said this is very different from the iron fist policy Rossello implemented in the past.

"These police officers will be part of the community. They will contribute to the development of these communities," Izquierdo said.

The effort, however, is a far cry from what had been implemented in the past. Izquierdo said the program would start in 20 of the more than 300 housing projects of the island.

Police Superintendent Agustin Cartagena said 300 agents would be taken from other areas to work full time as housing project police. He added that these officers would be replaced by new ones, who have yet to graduate from the academy.

San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini has criticized the Calderon administration for removing much needed police officers from the San Juan area, instead of recruiting more agents. He is also demanding that these officers be replaced at once.

"First they took away 940 police officers, then they removed agents from the public housings, and now we are seeing the results of that," Santini said in a prepared statement on Tuesday.

Cartagena is the fourth superintendent appointed by the governor. The previous ones were now Court of Appeals Judge Pierre Vivoni, Corrections Secretary Miguel Pereira, and former Corrections Secretary Victor Rivera.

When asked how he plans to tackle the increasing murder rate, Cartagena said all plans need continue revising, which is what he is doing with the plans that have been implemented by his predecessors.

"We are putting everyone out there to lower the crime rate and provide a better service to the people of Puerto Rico," Cartagena said.

The government’s new initiative has been estimated at $10 million, Izquierdo said. The funds have been used to acquire 30 new vehicles and 20 scooters, as well as to cover salaries and marginal benefits to the designated agents.

Santini Seeks Meeting With Cartagena

April 6, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Given the sudden rise in violent crimes during the last few days, San Juan’s mayor Jorge Santini Padilla requested an urgent meeting with Police Superintendent, Agustin Cartagena.

Santini requested the meeting to discuss with Cartagena the details of an anti-crime initiative directed by the central government.

"This meeting must be held immediately," stated the mayor in a letter to the Police Superintendent.

Santini expressed his hope of meeting in a cooperative spirit, to hear the Superintendent’s plan and to offer available municipal resources.

"We don’t want any more crime in San Juan, we demand action from the State Police, which is responsible for addressing the proliferation of violent crimes," he stated in a press release.

Santini also took the opportunity to ask Cartagena to return the 940 officers removed from San Juan after he took office.

"They removed 940 police officers and took out agents stationed at area housing projects, we have seen the results. In San Juan there are more municipal police, but less state police; we need to return to the previous number of officers. This is the responsibility of the state police and as mayor I ask that the public be protected," added Santini.

Puerto Rican Soldiers Due Back After Year In Iraq

April 6, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Puerto Rican soldiers who served in Iraq for about a

year were due to return to the U.S. Caribbean territory Tuesday and Wednesday, officials said.

The first group of 45 U.S. Army reservists, belonging to the 394th Quartermaster Battalion, was scheduled to arrive Tuesday evening on a military flight, Army spokesman Jose Pagan said.

The remaining 125 reservists, attached to the 430th Combat Support Co., will arrive Wednesday night, Pagan said.

The 394th was activated in February 2003 and deployed in April 2003 to Kuwait and later Talil, Iraq, about 300 kilometers (185 miles) southeast of Baghdad, he said. The 430th was activated in March 2003 and deployed in May 2003 to Baghdad.

Last month, 71 Puerto Rican soldiers returned home from stints in Kuwait and Iraq.

Fourteen Puerto Rican soldiers have died in Iraq, and about 1,000 from the Army Reserve and Puerto Rican National Guard are currently deployed in the Middle East.

Puerto Rico's 4 million residents cannot vote for U.S. president and have no vote in the U.S. Congress, though they are American citizens and have served in the U.S. military for generations.

Bill Promoting Nightclub Safety Ready For Vote

April 6, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP)—Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Sen. Roberto Prats announced on Tuesday that to reduce violence, the Senate Commission on Government and Public Safety has drafted a bill to establish safety regulations for businesses providing public entertainment.

Prats will now submit the bill to the senate for voting.

"We understand that a major cause of violence is that there are no safety guarantees in place or viable security measures to protect the guests…at these establishments," said Prats in a press release.

Under the bill, night-club owners and operators would have to meet a number of requirements. They would have to install metal detectors, hire security staffs, create protocol for intervening in conflicts between clients, ensure all exits and entrances have proper lighting, and other things.

The bill, sponsored by Prats, also includes tax breaks to compensate for the cost of implementing these security measures.

He reiterated that the bill will still leave control of security matters under the municipalities’ jurisdiction and won’t affect their authority to impose public ordinances to regulate night clubs.

PRFAA Office To Focus On Careers

April 6, 2004
Copyright © 2004
THE ORLANDO SENTINEL. All rights reserved. 

Orlando- The Office of the Government of Puerto Rico will have an open house Wednesday to introduce a career-resource center.

The center will offer workshops in English-language skills, provide job-search tools, have seminars for job-seekers and compile a job bank that will be accessible to local employers. The center offers free use of computers, faxes and office equipment for job-seekers. The office is on the ninth floor of Orlando City Hall, 400 S. Orange Ave.

For more information, call 407-423-4422.

Police Report 12 Killings In Puerto Rico Over The Weekend

April 5, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN,(AP) - At least a dozen people were killed over the weekend in Puerto Rico, keeping the year's homicide rate ahead of 2003, police said.

The two most recent killings took place Sunday, police said. Gunmen killed a 21-year-old man in front of a beach bar in north-coast Vega Baja.

Earlier in the day, gunmen killed a 20-year-old man in a drive-by shooting in front of a bar in the town of Aguas Buenas, 16 miles (26 kilometers) south of the capital, San Juan, police said.

Authorities reported six killings on Saturday, including a double homicide in front of a San Juan liquor store, and four on Friday.

No arrests have been made in the killings, police said.

Police Superintendent Agustin Cartagena has called an emergency meeting with the Department’s top leaders to discuss the sudden increase in violent killings.

There have been 223 killings in this U.S. Caribbean territory since January, 13 more compared to the same period last year, police said.

There were 780 killings in 2003 compared to 781 in 2002. Police say most of the violence is drug-related on the island of 4 million residents.

Police make arrests in less than half the cases, which they blame partly on poor cooperation by residents who can feel either compelled to protect their neighbors or afraid to incriminate them.

Over 40% Of P.R. Coasts Are Urbanized

April 5, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — More than 40% of Puerto Rico’s coasts are urbanized, and those with private access prevent people from enjoying the most important natural resource of the Island, the Puerto Rican Society of Planning said on Monday.

Anselmo De Portu, the society’s vice president, said the coastal development is the result of lack of planning and of an integrated plan for the use and management of the island’s coasts.

"If we don’t have specific criteria for the use of the coasts, things will get pretty ugly," said De Portu.

De Portu made his statements on Monday during a House of Representative Public Hearing which is evaluating a land use plan.

Gay Rights Group To File Complaint At The FCC

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

April 5, 2004
Copyright © 2004
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Homophobic slurs that have been constantly aired in local radio and television shows have prompted gay and civil rights activists to file a complaint at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Civil Rights Commission to stop a practice they believe promotes hatred against honest members of Puerto Rican society.

Pedro Julio Serrano, president of Puerto Rico for All organization, said on Monday that gay activists will file the complaint as soon as they finish gathering recordings of TV and radio talk shows containing messages and expressions of hate against homosexuals.

Serrano added that they will also request that the Civil Rights Commission investigates the issue.

"In recent months we’ve noticed that the homophobic conduct of a few people in the media has intensified. [Homophobic] statements promote prejudice, hatred, and violence. They also incite people to commit hate crimes against the gay community in Puerto Rico," Serrano said.

Serrano was accompanied by representatives of more than 20 human rights and gay activists gathered at the Ateneo Puertorriqueño in San Juan on Monday to express their outrage at the morning 94.7 FM radio show "El Enchufe" in which a caller said homosexuals should be beheaded.

Serrano played a section of the radio show in which members of the press could hear the host saying that "those freaks and punks should stay in the closet." The subject of discussion was gay marriages.

The gay activist said that just like racist comments, homophobic slurs should not be allowed on the air.

"We cannot permit them to continue presenting distorted images of our community. It is time for the media to take full responsibility for presenting images that are true to who we really are," Serrano concluded.

Puerto Rico Psychologists Association President David Perez Jimenez, Puerto Rico Bar Association former President Arturo Davila, and human rights attorney Salvador Tio were among those who attended the press conference to demand that the gay community be treated with respect.

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