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Fortuño Promises Fed Anti-Crime Grants… Culebra Manufacturing Campaign Set… Controller Wants $8m More…Mercado Wins Cleveland Marathon…Fas Named N.Y. Parade's Grand Marshal…El Yunque Bill Filed In Congress…Birth Certificate Thief Gets 27 Mos…16 Soldiers Tested For Uranium…Lausell, Machado Criticized For Favoring Rossello, Suit To Disqualify Him Is Dismissed

Fortuño Promises To Seek Federal Grants To Fight Crime

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

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

Following continuous reports of drive-by killings, New Progressive Party (NPP) candidate for resident commissioner Luis Fortuño announced a plan on Monday to increase funds to fight crime in Puerto Rico.

"The current government has been unable to establish an effective strategy to fight crime and has not requested the funds to fight it," Fortuño said during a press conference at his headquarters in Hato Rey.

Fortuño criticized former Superintendent Miguel Pereira for trying to cut the police force in order to have more budget for equipment. Fortuño said the non-stop climbing of the island’s murder rate has proved Pereira wrong.

"In 2000 the crime rate stood at 695 murder cases. Should the numbers continue to climb, we will end 2004 with 855 murders. Our situation is serious and requires immediate attention," Fortuño said.

Fortuño said the federal government has put $3.5 billion at the disposal of U.S. jurisdictions interested in competing to qualify for anti-crime grant programs.

The first one is known as Police Corps & Local Law Enforcement Block Grant Program. According to Fortuño, these funds may be used to train and recruit more officers, increase salaries, pay overtime, renew car fleets, and acquire equipment.

The second program is known as Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program. This program is aimed at allocating funds to purchase bulletproof vests for officers in jurisdictions with populations of less than 100,000. Fortuño said only five municipalities in Puerto Rico participated in the program in 2003.

The third program is known as Public Safety Partnerships & Community Policing Grants. This program provides funds to increase police presence and video cameras in high crime areas.

Campaign To Foster Manufacturing In Culebra

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

SAN JUAN (AP)- Some 20 local companies will participate in a promotional campaign dubbed "I buy in Culebra, Culebra is Puerto Rico," which aims to make locally manufactured products available to Culebra residents at better prices.

The campaign was announced by Culebra’s Mayor, Ivan Romero Peña, who said that the initiative was sponsored by the municipal government, The Association of Puerto Rican Products, and the Industrialist Association.

"I believe Culebra can serve as a model for integration of local products and storeowners, which could be emulated in the eastern regions of Puerto Rico and later be implemented island wide," said Romero Peña in a press conference.

Among the local industries participating in the project, are India Brewery, PanAmerican Grain, Trofima, Motaña Bottled Water, La Aguadillana Products, Barma Foods, Los Cidrines, Mills of Puerto Rico, Thom Tex, Rovira Biscuit, Avant Technologies, and National Brand.

Romera Peña said that, after months of hard work, he had reached a consensus with store owners and established alliances outside Culebra to implement the project.

As soon as the State Elections Commission approves the campaign, promotion to market the project will begin. The Mayor stated that the campaign’s central theme is to ensure that tourists and locals have access to these products in Culebra.

Controller Calls For $8 Million Budget Increase

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

PONCE (AP)- State Controller Manuel Diaz Saldaña said on Monday that his office requires an annual budget increase of $8 million to increase the frequency of its audits.

The statement came a day after House of Representatives president, Carlos Vizcarrondo, announced that the increase to the controllers office would be of $3 million.

"I want to obtain from the Legislative Assembly and the Governor the funds that we have consistently requested for our budget. This year the request was rounded at $8 million to hire additional auditors to increase the frequency of audits," added Diaz Saldaña.

He stated that the $8 million would serve to hire 70 new auditors and provide a new building for their operations.

Diaz Saldaña said that due to limited human resources and economic limitations government-wide audits can only be done every four years.

With 70 new auditors, the number of professionals at the Controllers Office would jump to 225.

The present budget for that office is $37.1 million dollars, said Diaz Saldaña.

Mercado Wins Cleveland Marathon


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

CLEVELAND (AP) -- Yolanda Mercado of Puerto Rico took the women's division of the Cleveland Marathon on Sunday.

Mercado finished in 2:53:28, while Nadeshda Sandrkina of Russia (2:57:31) was second and Laura Fuduric (3:00:01) placed third.

About 6,000 runners participated in both races in windy and wet conditions with temperatures in the 50s.

Puerto Rico's Senate President Named As New York Parade's Grand Marshal

April 23, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Puerto Rico's Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora will serve as grand marshal of this year's Puerto Rican Day Parade, organizers said Friday.

The parade will take place on June 13 along Fifth Avenue.

Fas Alzamora was selected as grand marshal for defending the rights of Puerto Ricans who live in the U.S. mainland and his support of Puerto Rican culture, parade president Ralph Morales said.

This year's parade will dedicated to the north-coast municipality of Dorado.

Nicholas Estavillo, the New York Police Department's Chief of Patrol was last year's grand marshal.

Bill To Protect El Yunque Filed In Congress

April 23, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – U.S. Senators Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer (D-NY) filed a bill before Congress aimed a declaring 10,000 acres of land in El Yunque rain forest a natural federal reserve.

The bill is similar to that which was filed in April 2003 in the House of Representatives by Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila. This bill has already received the endorsement of the executive branch.

"If the bill is approved the wild zone of El Toro, (located inside El Yunque), will be the only tropical forest within the United States National Parks Service," said Clinton in a written statement.

Schumer, said the bill also seeks to protect the area from any future developments that might put the area ecosystem at risk.

Acevedo Vila was pleased with the endorsement of the democratic senators, who are playing a key role in achieving the conservation of over 200 types of tree and 77 bird species.

He has been lobbying in Congress in favor of the legislation since he took office in 2001.

Man Gets 27 Months For Stolen Puerto Rican Birth Certificates

April 23, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

OCALA, Florida (AP) _ A man who pleaded guilty to trying to sell more than 1,000 stolen, blank Puerto Rican birth certificates was sentenced to more than two years in federal prison.

Jose M. Aponte, 27, tearfully apologized before U.S. District Judge William Terrell Hodges sentenced him to two years and three months in prison on Thursday.

"I'm really sorry for what I did. I want to apologize," Aponte said. "I'm here because I did something wrong, and I have to pay for it."

Aponte was arrested in September after authorities said he attempted to sell 1,021 blank birth certificates to FBI agents for $225,000. He pleaded guilty in November.

The blank certificates, which could have been used for identity theft, fraud or to obtain a U.S. passport, were stolen from the Bureau of Vital Statistics in Dorado, Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico is a U.S. commonwealth and its natives are U.S. citizens. People who have Puerto Rican birth certificates are entitled to obtain U.S. passports.

16 Puerto Rican Soldiers Tested For Uranium

April 23, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP)- At least 16 soldiers from local units of the United States Armed Forces, who have recently returned from tours of duty in Iraq, have attended the Veterans Hospital to request they be tested for depleted uranium exposure.

It was confirmed by Veterans Hospital spokeswoman, Annie Moraza, who stated that the request for testing was made after it was revealed that four soldiers who participated in the war had tested positive for high levels of contamination from depleted uranium.

A New York newspaper reported that four members of the New York National Guard, three of whom were Puerto Rican, tested positive for contamination from depleted uranium.

Reports state that over a 1,000 soldiers have requested testing from Walter Reed medical center in Washington as a result of the New York cases.

Depleted uranium is a heavy metal used to reinforce projectiles and is believed to cause kidney problems.

Veterans groups also claim that exposure to the hazardous material causes cancer, although medical studies dispute that by itself it causes cancer.

Hernandez Criticizes Autonomist Who Favor Rossello

April 23, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

MAYAGÜEZ (AP) – Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Rep. Charlie Hernandez, who is working on legislation aimed at solving the status issue of Puerto Rico, on Friday criticized the decision of so called autonomist leaders Miguel Lausell and Richard Machado to endorse the candidacy of former Gov. Pedro Rossello for governor.

"Popular autonomist and sovereign leaders of the Popular Democratic Party must never vote for Rossello, because he is the enemy of the Commonwealth," said Hernandez who is the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

Lausell and Machado have openly endorsed Rossello, gubernatorial candidate for the New Progressive Party, arguing that the PDP candidate Anibal Acevedo Vila is not willing to address the status issue of Puerto Rico.

"It’s very said to see those who support Rossello arguing that he has expressed himself in favor of addressing the status issue when the PDP is the only party that has promised to hold a Constitutional Assembly, in which we autonomist will play key role," said Hernandez.

Hernandez added that Lausell and Machado’s proposals are not serious, seem to be cheap textbook propaganda and don’t hold any relation to their actions.

Hernandez said that if Rossello were to win the general elections on November 2, the idea of holding a Constitutional Assembly would be dismissed as the former governor has said he does not approve of it.

Lawsuit To Disqualify Rossello Is Dismissed

By Laura Rivera Melendez of Associated Press

April 22, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Superior Court Judge Oscar Davila Suliveres denied a motion filed by citizen Jose Emilio Perez to challenge New Progressive Party (NPP) president Pedro Rossello candidacy for governor.

Immediately after the ruling the plaintiff said that he is considering whether to ask the judge to reconsider or seek an appeal the motion filled by New Progressive Party commissioner, Thomas Rivera Schatz, which claimed that the suit had no merit.

Davila determined that Perez Guzman did not fulfill the prerequisite stipulated by the state electoral law which calls for any challenges of eligibility to be made within 10 days of the initial filling.

"We rule in favor of dismissal. It is the court’s decision that certification made by the States Election Commission naming Pedro Rossello Gonzales as the official candidate for the NPP is still valid," stated court documents.

In his lawsuit Perez Guzman claimed that Rossello did not meet the constitutional mandates which states that in order to be eligible for candidacy, any hopeful candidate must have been a bona fide resident of Puerto Rico for 5 years prior to the elections.

"By making this ruling on Thursday, the judge has shown that electoral laws controlled by the three parties stand above the Constitution," added the plaintiff.

He further stated that he was willing to take the fight all the way to the supreme court.

After finishing his second term as governor Pedro Rossello relocated to the United States, where he worked as a college professor.

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