P.R. Soldiers Stationed At Abu Ghraib Prison, Governor Will Remove Ambiguity From Environmental Laws, Criminal Penalties For Violations Sought 7 Charged With Dealing Cocaine Prats Presents Fed PDP Anticrime Plan Acevedo Vila Defends New Penal Code J. Lo Wearing Marc's Ring Crash Landing Injures 13, Investigation Underway
EPA Places New Sanctions On Prasa
May 12, 2004
SAN JUAN (AP) Environmental Protection Agency Director for Puerto Rico Carl Axel Soderberg announced on Wednesday that new sanctions could be imposed on Prasa for its mismanagement of a sewage treatment plant.
Soderberg stated that last week he ordered Prasa to make the necessary repairs to their the Regional Sewage Treatment Plant in Carolina.
"The problem is recurrent. The AAA has alleged that its a result of sabotage, but whether that is true or not, as far as the EPA is concerned, they must meet established guidelines. Prasa is responsible," stated Soderberg.
According to published report the EPA could fine Prasa for more than $137,000.
Puerto Rican Soldiers Stationed At Abu Ghraib Prison
May 11, 2004
SAN JUAN (AP) At a time when more allegations of abuse have surfaced in connection with U.S. soldiers at Iraqs Abu Ghraib prison, a military unit based in Puerto Rico has been redeployed to work security detail at the prison.
The U.S. Armys 301st Reserve Unit, based at Fort Buchanan in Guaynabo, has been at Abu Ghraib prison since early March, military sources reported to the local press.
Buchanan Army Reserves spokesman Pedro Silva said more than 130 soldiers from the 301st are stationed in Iraq. The 301st was deployed on February 20, and has presumably been in Iraq since March.
In 2003, Abu Ghraib prison, located in the outskirts of Baghdad, was guarded by military police from the 770th Puerto Rico National Guard Unit. It is scheduled to return to the island in May.
High ranking U.S. military officials have refused to comment whether units stationed in Puerto Rico have been linked to the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal which has already led to the investigation of an Army Reserves Company from Maryland.
"There are investigations into the mistreatment of Iraqi detainees, but we do not discuss investigations while they are in progress," said Mark Doggett, the U.S. Armed Forces spokesman in Baghdad.
President George W. Bush has expressed his continued support of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld despite a growing political storm brought on by allegations that U.S. soldiers abused Iraqui detainees in Abu Ghraib prison.
Governor Will Remove Ambiguity From Environmental Laws
May 11, 2004
SAN JUAN (AP) Governor Sila M. Calderon said on Tuesday that her revision of the environmental aspects of the new penal code are aimed at eliminating ambiguity while clearly defining what constitutes an environmental crime.
Calderon denied claims by the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) that her decision was prompted by pressure from special interest in the development sector.
"Mi wish is to clarify what constitutes an environmental crime," said the Gov. Calderon in press conference.
Last week the governor created an ad hock committee comprised of legislators and members of the Executive Branch with the purpose of reviewing the new penal code, prompting Senate president Antonio Fas Alzamora for a stay in voting from the senate.
The Governor proposed extensive evaluation of designations of environmental crimes and the penalties they will carry.
She added, "I want to sign the new code, that is why I want to clarify the penalties as well as the crimes that will constitute environmental violations."
Environmentalists Call For Approval Of Environmental Crimes
By WOW Staff
May 11, 2004
Environmentalists and members of the scientific, religious, and legal community, urged Gov. Sila Calderon on Tuesday to approve articles within the new penal code that criminalize environmental law violations.
"By classifying these offenses as environmental crimes, a legislative void is filled within the legal code, they fall in line with constitutional mandates to protect and preserve environmental resources. That is why we demand that the articles be approved as they were originally written," said Inter American University Environmental Law Program Director Jessica Rodriguez Martin.
The Committee in charge of drafting the new penal code used as guidelines international legislation exercising Comparative Law, focusing primarily on Germany and Spain.
Rodriguez Martin also stated that the majority of developed countries have adopted laws that criminalize environmental violations, in this aspect Puerto Rico is lagging behind.
In response to claims made by construction professionals, she said that saying the economy will be negatively affected by the new environmental regulations is untruthful and irresponsible. Many European countries that have adopted the laws have experienced enviable economic health.
Puerto Rico Congregations Council Rev. Hector Soto Velez, environmental scientist Luis Jorge Rivera Herrera, and environmental activist Wanda Colon Cortez agreed with Rodriguez.
The coalition presented the cases of La Quebrada Chiclana, the Monte Verde development in Manati, and the Millennium condominium as examples of environmental violations.
They also presented a memo distributed among sectors of the construction industry that voices the groups opposition to the environmental violation articles in the new penal code, dated a day before the governor decided to hold the penal code for review.
Seven Charged In Federal Court For Dealing Cocaine
By Leonardo Aldridge of Associated Press
May 11, 2004
SAN JUAN (AP) Seven people, among them a state police officer and a member of the Ponce municipal police, were arrested after a Federal Grand Jury indicted them on two counts of possession of cocaine with an intent to distribute, said U.S. District Attorney Humberto Garcia.
The group conspired to introduce a cocaine shipment into Salinas by boat and later transferred it to two vehicles with a third serving as escort, according to the indictment.
"The accused knowingly conspired among themselves and with others known to the Grand Jury to commit this most grave offense against the United States: the possession of more than five kilograms of cocaine with the intent to distribute," stated the indictment.
If found guilty the seven defendants could face life imprisonment and fines exceeding 4 million dollars.
The accused were informed by agent William Bota Cortes of the United Forces of Rapid Response Force (FURA by its Spanish acronym) about possible interference from other law enforcement agencies.
Each one of the defendants received $5,000 for their participation in the drug smuggling scheme, said Narcotics Division Chief David Rivera, of the US District Attorneys Office in Puerto Rico.
FURA Director Capt. Octavio Cruz said, "we are doing everything to cooperate and clean up all corruption."
Authorities that the accused were not a gang, but rather a group that came together on this occasion with purpose of committing the offense.
Prats Presents Federal Side Of PDP Anticrime Plan
By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News
May 11, 2004
One day after the Popular Democratic Party gubernatorial candidate presented his campaign platform to fight crime, the candidate for resident commissioner Roberto Prats announced what could be described as the federal counterpart to the plan.
Most of the proposals are federally funded and consist of a series of joint task forces and venues shared by federal and state law enforcement authorities.
If elected resident commissioner, Prats vowed to lobby in Congress to push for a joint intelligence effort to exchange information to solve crime.
He noted he would like to create a security task force composed of the FBI, DEA, ATF, HIDTA, the local Drug Control Office, and the Treasury, among other local agencies.
Prats however acknowledged that he does not know of any similar task forces in the continental U.S.
At present, the FBI, DEA, ATF, and the U.S. Coast Guard are but some of the federal government agencies grouped within the Department of Homeland Security, and their main mission is to fight terrorism.
The senator however argued that Washington is willing to accept any idea that would help in the fight against crime. Therefore, he believes his plan could be well received.
Meanwhile the current Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila on Tuesday announced a grant of $1 million in federal funds to help in the fight against crime.
On Tuesday, he gave the local Police Department the first 100 portable communication radios out of a 1,000 that will be purchased with a $1 million assignment of federal funds.
Tuesdays distribution revealed the need for more technological equipment in the force.
"The idea is that just as every policeman gets a gun when he or she graduates, he or she will also get a portable communications radio," said Acevedo Vila, adding that the current 19,000 members of the police force have only 7,000 portable communications radios.
Police Superintendent Agustin Cartagena however noted that not all 19,000 agents are on the streets 24-7 as there are four work shifts. But he agreed with Acevedo Vila that all agents should get portable radios at the time of their graduation.
"It is certainly one of the most important tools used by agents at all times," Cartagena said.
Acevedo Vila noted that through his efforts he was also able to obtain $1 million for the purchase of technology equipment for the municipalities of Guaynabo and Bayamon.
He said another $1 million will go to reinforce the San Juan municipal guard.
Acevedo Vila Defends New Penal Code
By Hilario De Leon of Associated Press
May 10, 2004
SAN JUAN Popular Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial candidate Anibal Acevedo Vila has described the new penal code as an "extraordinary breakthrough." The new code has been approved by the House of Representatives but has been put on hold in the Senate at the request of Gov. Sila Calderon.
Acevedo Vila stated that the new document gives priority to the rehabilitation of inmates.
"I acknowledge that the new penal code has been the result of three years of work, in which outside resources were used to take positive steps in the rehabilitation of inmates," said Acevedo Vila in a press conference to discuss his crime-fighting initiatives.
The Resident Commissioner added that finally the rehabilitation of inmates was put in the courts hands.
"At first we did not catch criminals, and those we did catch we put in jail only for them to be released and labeled rehabilitated just because our prisons were crowded," said Acevedo Vila.
He called the new process of petitioning the courts before an inmates release a great improvement.
He dismissed allegations made by the New Progressive Party (NPP) that claim the new code shortens sentences and puts dangerous criminals back on the street.
He cited Judicial Committees from both the House and Senate, which ensure that under the new penal code criminals will actually serve more time than they do now with sentence reduction practices.
"If a criminal was given 50 years, whether his sentence was deemed just by society or the victims, it would be reduced to 25 years regardless of whether the inmate had been rehabilitated or not," stated Acevedo Vila.
"Besides standardizing sentence, we want to make sure that sentences handed by the courts are actually served," he added.
Gov. Calderon reiterated on Thursday that the new penal code was a legislative initiative and added that she had petitioned Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora for time to review the code before it was approved by the Senate.
J. Lo Wearing Anthony's Ring
May 11, 2004
New York Post
ONCE again, Jennifer Lopez has appeared to move from one fiance to another without missing a beat.
Lopez has given back the pink diamond engagement ring given to her by Ben Affleck and is now wearing a bauble of betrothal from current beau Marc Anthony.
"She is wearing a huge diamond ring on the middle finger of her left hand," blabbed a Lopez pal. "It is a diamond band with a huge square clear diamond in the middle and the square diamond is surrounded by more tiny diamonds. It is an engagement ring." A rep for Lopez would only say: "I don't know about that ring."
Here's hoping J. Lo's ravishing new rock will lift her spirits, as the early buzz on her next two movies is a real downer.
She stars in the Miramax releases "Shall We Dance" (with Richard Gere) and "An Unfinished Life" (with Robert Redford) due out later this year. But both movies are being re-tooled after test audiences in the Midwest saw them and, as our sources put it, "reacted badly."
American Eagle Flight Skids Off Runway, 13 Injured
May 10, 2004
SAN JUAN (AP) - An American Eagle flight blew a tire on landing and skidded off the runway at San Juan's main airport, injuring at least 13 people on board, authorities said.
The Super ATR turboprop, which was carrying 22 passengers and four crew members, was thrown off balance Sunday when the tire blew during touchdown, and one of its wings struck the runway, Port Authority executive director Miguel Soto Lacourt said.
The plane came to rest tilted on its left side off the runway near a wooded area, with dozens of ambulances and emergency vehicles crowded around.
The 13 injured, including the pilot and co-pilot, were taken to hospitals and listed in stable condition, Soto said.
Many of the injuries were to the neck and chest, authorities said. Some were taken out on stretchers and others wore neck braces. Some others had cuts and bruises and were treated at the scene.
The left wing appeared to be cracked and scraped, but otherwise the tilted plane showed little outward signs of damage. Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said the fuselage was intact.
"It was a disastrous experience but we are alive," flight attendant Luis Ramirez told Univision television as he was leaving the airport, complaining of back pain.
One of the airport's two runways was shut down after the accident but flights were running on the other. The accident occurred at 2:50 p.m. (1850 GMT) as American Eagle Flight 5401 was arriving at Luis Munoz Marin International Airport from the western Puerto Rican city of Mayaguez.
The FAA was investigating the cause. Authorities declined to say which tire was believed to have blown upon landing.
The twin-engine plane, which was manufactured in 1995, has a capacity for 64 passengers.
American Airlines spokeswoman Minnette Velez said it was unclear what may have caused the accident.
The pilot did not communicate with the control tower to request help or complain of any trouble prior to landing, Soto said.
A team of investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board was expected to arrive soon in the U.S. Caribbean territory, Soto said. The plane remained on the runway in the meantime.
The Super ATR has never had any significant problems in the region, said Gary Ellmer, president of American Eagle in the Caribbean.
American Eagle is the commuter carrier owned by the parent company of American Airlines, AMR Corp., based in Fort Worth, Texas.
Investigators Study American Eagle Crash In Puerto Rico
By Laura Rivera Melendez of Associated Press
May 10, 2004
SAN JUAN(AP) - A team of federal investigators on Monday began probing the cause of a crash landing that injured more than a dozen people aboard an American Airlines commuter flight.
In the moments before Sunday's accident a flight attendant announced, "Brace position please. This is an emergency," passenger Luis Ramirez Alicea told the Puerto Rican newspaper Primera Hora.
"The other people followed the instructions," he was quoted as saying. "If not, there would have been deaths."
Instead, 12 of the 26 people on board were hospitalized, including the pilot and co-pilot, American Airlines spokeswoman Minnette Velez told The Associated Press. Many of the injuries were to the neck and chest.
American Eagle Flight 5401 was arriving at Luis Munoz Marin International Airport from the western Puerto Rican city of Mayaguez when it blew a tire on landing, authorities said. The Super ATR turboprop was thrown off balance and one of its wings struck the runway, Port Authority executive director Miguel Soto Lacourt said.
By Monday four remained hospitalized in stable condition, including the pilot, while eight others had been released, Velez said. Others on board had cuts and bruises and were treated at the scene.
The five-member team of investigators from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board was studying the plane, which remained tilted with its left wing to the ground Monday off the runway where it skidded to a stop, NTSB spokesman Terry Williams said by telephone from Washington.
He said they were accompanied by an official from the Federal Aviation Administration.
It was unclear what sort of problem had prompted the warning for passengers to lean forward and brace for an impact. Gusty winds were reported in the area at the time.
Authorities declined to say which tire was believed to have blown out upon landing.
Ramirez, a 36-year-old off-duty flight attendant for the small carrier Fina Air, spoke at a hospital where he was waiting for X-ray results, his left elbow hurt and bandaged. He told Primera Hora there were screams when the plane hit the runway.
"The fall was abrupt," Ramirez was quoted as saying. "I felt calm because if I got panicked I couldn't help anybody. I helped take off seat belts, open doors and help the passengers."
The left wing appeared to be cracked and scraped, but otherwise the tilted plane showed little outward signs of damage.
The twin-engine plane, which was manufactured in 1995, has a capacity for 64 passengers. Twenty-two were on board, plus four crew members.
Authorities initially said 13 were hospitalized, but later revised the number to 12. Some were taken out on stretchers and others wore neck braces.
The pilot didn't radio the control tower in the U.S. Caribbean territory to report trouble before the accident, Soto said.
American Eagle is a commuter carrier owned by the parent company of American Airlines, AMR Corp., based in Fort Worth, Texas.