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Governor Denies She’s Abandoned Vieques …RUM Robot Triumphant…Calderon Rejects Environmental Charges…PDP Invited To Appear Before The UN…March To Commemorate Int’l Workers Day…Martin Records Kid’s Campaign… Areceibo Telescope Powered-Up…Costa Rica Weights In On RR… Vieques Tourism Grows…Environmental Council Denounces Project Irregularities

Governor Denies She Has Abandoned Vieques

April 28, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP)- Governor Sila M. Calderon denied on Wednesday that her administration has forgotten about Vieques, as alleged by civic groups, and said her administration had invested a total of $170 million in the municipality.

Gov. Calderon said that after six decades of military practice it would take longer than a year to be properly develop Vieques.

"There has been an investment of $170 million and we now don’t have to deal with the bombing or the health risk that the military exercises posed," stated the Governor while touring the facilities of the Rio Piedras Medical Center.

A year after the Navy’s withdrawal, civic leaders and independence advocates are calling for more government involvement in guiding the island economic development of the island municipality.

They also call for a fulfillment of the promise made to crate jobs prior to the Navy’s withdrawal.

Puerto Rican Robot Triumphant In Competition

April 27, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - A group of engineering students from the University Of Puerto Rico’s Mayagüez Campus (RUM) and their robot Alakran won first prize in the robot battle competition in which 30 United States universities participated.

During the event held this past Saturday in Minnesota, Alakran beat all other entries including Goliath, who was the competition favorite, stated team captain Jesus Sanchez’ mother, Nereida Vazquez.

"They were very excited because their robot did not fail. It faced very strong robots but he triumphed over all of them. Everyone was cheering for the Puerto Rican robot, because it just kept winning," said Vazquez.

The four students who participated in the Battlebots competition returned to Puerto Rico Monday night.

The team was made up of students Arnaldo Perez, Dario Valenzuela, Jose Cotto, and professor Alexander Pulliza.

Alakran weights 120 lbs. And has a capacity to lift up to 300 lbs. In the competition it was operated by remote control and faced 30 different opponents who attacked with weapons ranging from mechanical arms to buzz saws.

Governor Denies Environmental Council’s Negative Claims

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

April 27, 2004
Copyright © 2004 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Gov. Sila Calderon rejected on Tuesday the criticism that her own Environmental Advisory Council made against her administration’s public policy for allegedly selling public property of high ecological value to private construction developers.

"It is not correct. We are not selling government land of high ecological value for such purposes," Calderon said during a press conference in Guaynabo on Tuesday.

Calderon added that some of the projects that the council referred to on Monday have yet to reach government agencies for evaluation.

According to the governor, no other administration has tried like she has to acquire more than 12,000 acres of land for preservation.

Despite the disagreement, Calderon said she holds no grudge.

"This is a democracy. Everybody has the right of free speech. They may have different motives to do so, but I’m certainly proud of the work we’ve done with our natural resources," the governor stated.

On Monday, the council urged Calderon to halt the dispensation of building permits for maritime adjacent lands, coastal barriers, and prime agricultural lands.

Among the projects cited were the Costa Serena Hotel in Vacia Talega, Loiza; a tourist center in Salinas; the Dos Mares, and San Miguel Four Seasons, between Luquillo and Fajardo.

PDP Invited To Appear Before The UN

April 27, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP)- The president of the autonomist organization PROELA, Angel Ortiz Guzman, invited the leadership of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) to appear in before of the United Nation’s Decolonization Committee.

"As autonomist we should petition the UN’s Decolonization Committee to recognize in its 2004 resolution that any process to determine the status of Puerto Rico should be initiated in Puerto Rico and the United States Congress should respect the will of the people as expressed through a general assembly," stated Ortiz Guzman in a press release.

According to Ortiz Guzman, autonomists and nationalists within the PDP cannot afford to isolate themselves from the international community, because Puerto Rico’s case by nature is an international one.

"We must arm ourselves with courage and understand that at this historical crossroads Puerto Rico’s participation in the UN is important for its future," added Ortiz Guzman.

Ortiz Guzman also mentioned that the upcoming elections would mean more than just a change in government.

"The election’s outcome will also define how the issue of status is resolved," said Ortiz Guzman who is presently putting together a delegation to appear before the United Nation’s Decolonization Committee, which holds annual meeting to discuss the issue of Puerto Rico’s status.

March To Commemorate International Workers Day

April 27, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP)- Over twenty labor unions will participate on Friday in a march commemorating the International Worker’s Day.

They will also protesting privatization of public corporations.

Ricardo Santos, spokesman for the Union Organizers, said that the march would begin at 5:00 in the afternoon at the Dept. of Education and would traverse Roosevelt Ave. ending in front of Banco Popular, in the area known as the golden mile in Hato Ray.

"The march will protest the privatization policies that threaten public corporations," said Santos in press release.

According to Santos, the activity will be endorse by the Puerto Rican Teachers Federation, The Union of Electrical and Irrigation Industry Workers, the Brotherhood of Non Academic Employees of the UPR, and the Puerto Rican Worker’s Federation.

Ricky Martin Records Children’s Campaign

April 27, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP)- In an attempt to end child prostitution and exploitation, Puerto Rican recording artist Ricky Martin completed on the island a public service announcement for his foundation People for Children, which will be launched on May 27th in Puerto Rico’s Art Museum.

The recording of the public service campaign was made last week, and was almost entirely sponsored by Martin. It will be available in 30 second TV spots, which will air in Spanish, English, and Portuguese.

"If my voice can help bring awareness, in particular about the trafficking of children for sex, it is a positive thing. This is a life long struggle, this problem will not be solved in five years, because it is a well organized crime," said Martin to a local newspaper.

Martin, a native of San Juan, announced that in September of this year he will convene a congress on the island which will include world leaders and entertainment personalities that are committed to ending child sex exploitation.

"We are not talking about those who traffic drugs, which essentially deal with inanimate objects, these are children who can be trafficked and exploited over and over again, this what we must realize," said Martin.

Within Latin America, the artist hopes that the campaign will be displayed in airports to raise awareness about the problem.

The scenes for the campaign were filmed in an abandoned building in the former Miramar Navel Base in San Juan; it represents a dark and dirty space, which hopes to dramatize the plight of children in the sex trade.

Martin says he also plans to offer help for those children rescued from sex work to offer them a new lifestyle. He already counts with the support of The Latin American Development Bank, The American Bar Association, the Dalai Lama, and the non profit foundation SER of Puerto Rico.

More Power For Arecibo Telescope


April 27, 2004
Copyright © 2004 THE NEW YORK TIMES. All rights reserved. 

That Arecibo telescope, with a dish 1,000 feet in diameter, is sensitive enough to do a radar scan of a Saturnian moon 850 miles in diameter and about a billion miles away. But a recent upgrade has made it even more sensitive.

Last week, a new instrument called the L-Band Feed Array was set up above the dish. It's essentially a wide-field camera of sorts that will allow the telescope to survey bigger slices of the sky, making it easier to find quasars and other sources of radio energy.

Costa Rica Weights In On Roosevelt Roads

April 26, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP)- Costa Rica’s government offered environmental advice to Puerto Rico’s government on the development of eco-tourism on the site formerly occupied by the Roosevelt Roads Naval Base, stated Puerto Rico’s Economic Development Secretary, Milton Segarra.

During a visit to Costa Rica by a Puerto Rican governmental delegation, Segarra said that he plans to devote 4,250 acres of the recently acquired grounds to eco-tourism.

He also added that a delegation from Costa Rica’s Energy and Environmental Ministry will visit the site.

The recommendations made by the Costa Rican delegation will be included in an economic development report that Puerto Rico’s government will submit for the development of the area.

Segarra said that the plan will be presented in public hearings in August. He reiterated that the project is the result of petitions by the municipalities of Ceiba and Naguabo.

"It is the needs of those municipalities that will be met, no matter what government takes power those recommendation should be followed through" added Segarra.

Tourism Grows In Vieques A Year After Naval Withdrawal

April 26, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP)- World interest in the conflict stemming from the US Navy’s presence in Vieques and its subsequent withdrawal of all military personnel from the island a year ago have had positive effects on its tourism industry, stated Puerto Rico Tourism Company director, Jose Suarez.

So far in 2004, within five days of the one year anniversary of the official end to Naval operations, there has been a 35% increase in tourism in Vieques.

The statistics, provided by the Tourism Company to a local newspaper, include only those tourists who stayed in inns and guesthouses endorsed by the agency, stated Suarez.

Day travelers were also excluded from the study, as well as those who stayed with family and friends or in hotels not certified by the Tourism Company.

"The number could be much higher," added Suarez.

"This information fluctuates, because properties in Vieques come in and out of certification. What is important is that there is a well marked increase in the market, not only by our accounts but by those of local merchants, hotels, and taxi drivers," said Suarez.

In 2001, there were 3,745 visitors to the island, that number dipped in 2002 and 2003 when it fell to its lowest point at 3,015.

This year the number stands at 5,801 tourists.

Council Denounces Irregularities In Several Projects

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW Staff

April 26, 2004
Copyright © 2004 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Since their appointment, as part of a Gov Sila Calderon’s campaign promise, the members of the Executive Environmental Advisory Council have known that their task would be difficult and the results would be slow to be seen.

After all, it was the first time that a group of environmentalists were given the chance to sit face to face with their adversaries; the developers, the contractors and the government agencies in charge of issuing construction permits.

Acknowledging that their recommendations have been ignored more often than they have been taken into consideration, members of the group held a press conference to denounce several major developments that are in clear violation of every environmental law.

The members of the Executive Advisory Council for Environmental Issues complained on Monday that it has been a month since they sent a letter to the governor requesting that permits be halted in a dozen developments across the island that are in violation of the law and they are still waiting for an answer.

The developments violate the marine land zone law, are located in coastal barriers or are being built on public land of great agricultural value.

"We believe this administration has failed to take advantage of the opportunity of complying with its campaign promise of a sustainable development for the island," said council member Ariel Lugo.

Council Chairwoman Mariam Gonzalez noted the developments denounced are not the only ones in violation of the law across the island and identified them as Costa Serena, in Piñones; Luquillo Fun Park, in Luquillo; Centro Turistico del Sur in Aguirre; San Miguel Dos Mares in Luquillo; La Cala Dorada in Dorado; and several zone changes that have been made in Tortuguero.

The council added that the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources has failed to issued a clear position with regards to the marine land zone.

In addition the council complained that the Planning Board continues to approve developments that affect the island coasts.

While the Land Authority allegedly continues to approve sales of plots with rich agricultural value for them to be use for other purposes.

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