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White House Status Group To Meet In SJ… Viequenses Demand Health Services… U.S. House Blocks Vieques Cleanup… Calderon Rutgers Honoree… EQB OKs Americas Port… 100 Soldiers Home From Iraq… Beach Conservancy Campaign Launched…BRAC Postponement Rejected… Poll: Rossello 38%, Acevedo 31%

White House Status Working Group Meets In SJ

May 20, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — White House spokeswoman Maria Tamburri confirmed that a working group on the island status issue will meet on Monday in San Juan with the island political leaders.

Tamburri identified the members of the working group as Ruben Barrales and Noel Francisco who will be arriving in the island on Sunday.

"They organized a series of elected officers and people interested in the future of Puerto Rico," said Tamburri.

Barrales and Francisco will meet Monday and Tuesday with Gov. Sila M. Calderon and the leaders of the island three political parties, to discuss the possibility of retaking the discussion of the island status by 2005.

Vieques Residents Demand Attention For Health Problems

May 20, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Vieques community groups marched in front of the Capitol on Thursday to demand that legislators address the health problems affecting the island residents.

Vieques residents are demanding that the Legislative Assembly appoint a liaison officer to coordinate efforts with the Vieques Health Commission, appointed by the Department of Health, and for the creation of an emergency fund to provide treatments needed by some residents.

"They are dragging their feet," said Vieques Rescue & Development Committee spokeswoman Myrna Pagan.

Pagan pointed out that Vieques is still without x-rays services on the weekend, their medical center lacks a pharmacy, the island has no dental health services, physical therapy, mental health, drug rehab or any services for the disabled.

She added that there are no oncology services on the island to deal with Vieques’ cancer rate, which is 27% higher that that of other municipalities in Puerto Rico.

"There is no other municipality in Puerto Rico with the level of health problems Vieques is forced to endure," said Pagan.

Vieques activist Ismael Guadalupe announced that on May 30, several groups that participated in the efforts to outs the U.S. Navy from Vieques would camp on the former firing range.

They do so in remembrance of the camps established on Vieques during their acts of civil disobedience against the Navy.

New Obstacles For BRAC Postponement

May 20, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The United States House of Representatives will evaluate on Thursday a White House amendment that aims to ratify that Base Realignment and Closure Process (BRAC) be continue as scheduled for 2005.

Republican Rep. Mark Kennedy (Minnesota) authored the amendment that excludes any postponement to the Defense Budget Authorization bill, which opposition hoped would postponed BRAC from 2005 to 2007, directly influencing the fate of Fort Buchanan in Guaynabo.

"If Congress wants to support the was on terror it must help the Defense Department cut cost by eliminating unnecessary programs," said Kennedy to reporters.

On Wednesday Republican lawmakers in the House blocked an amendment by Rep. Jose Serrano to commence clean up of Vieques and to ensure US commitment of the cleanup effort, a year after the Navy’s withdrawal.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld want to reduce military installations by 24%, a move that would save the Pentagon $5 billion.

Kennedy stated that past cuts in defense spending have saved the Pentagon $17 billion.

Calderon Receive Honorary Degree From Rutgers

May 20, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — On Thursday Gov. Sila Calderon became the first Latina to receive a honorary doctorate from Rutgers University in New Jersey, La Fortaleza officials said.

Calderon received an honorary PhD in Humanities for her public service, particularly in fields of economic development, fiscal responsibility, human rights, and her work with special communities.

"I want to express how satisfied I feel for being bestowed this honor. Rutgers University’s Board of Governors honors all Puerto Ricans with this award," said the governor.

Rutgers University President Dr. Richard L. McCormick and Board of Governor Member David J. Harris bestowed the honorary doctorate during the 2004 Commencement Ceremonies in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

EQB Endorses The Port Of The Americas

May 20, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Environmental Quality Board (EQB) issued a final Environmental Impact Declaration (EID) for the Port of the Americas that complies with the Puerto Rico Environmental Public Policy law, said Economic Development Secretary Milton Segarra on Thursday.

According to Segarra, the declaration completes the environmental part of the project and allows the Planning Board to finish the evaluation of the location consultation needed for the port construction.

The authority will now file the draft of the final federal EID before the U.S. Corp of Engineers, said Segarra in a written statement.

"Once the U.S. Corp of Engineers approves the final federal EID, it is predicted that federal permits will be issued and construction of the port will begin by the end of the year," said Segarra.

A Hundred Puerto Rican Soldiers To Return From Iraq

May 19, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — A hundred soldiers of the Puerto Rico National Guard are expected to return home on Friday after a year of service in Iraq.

Local Army spokesman Jose Pagan announced that members of the 770 Military Police Company will arrive at 7 a.m. Friday at Luis Muñoz Marin Airport.

"The soldiers will then move to their base in Aguadilla where they would reunite with their families," said Pagan in a prepared statement.

According to Pagan, soldiers would then have to report to Camp Santiago in Salinas for the deactivation process.

The 770 Company was mobilized in February of 2003 and arrived in Iraq on May 19, 2003. Its primary mission was to provide security for Baghdad Airport.

Pagan said there are an additional 3,079 soldiers from the local National Guard serving in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, and the U.S. mainland.

"That number represents 2% of the 169,000 military personnel currently involved in the war on terrorism," said Pagan.

Puerto Rico is the twentieth U.S. jurisdiction with the highest number of active reservists.

Campaign Launched To Promote Beach Conservancy

May 19, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Two public organizations, a private company, and several government agencies announced on Wednesday the launching of an educational campaign geared at highlighting the waste disposal problem threatening Puerto Rican beaches, which are visited by thousands of people each summer.

Department of Natural & Environmental Resource (DNER) Secretary Luis Rodriguez said that by this summer citizens will change their attitudes and behavior concerning the problem aided by the campaign that has been organized in cooperation with the Solid Waste Management Authority, Phillip Morris Co., the Washington D.C. based Ocean Conservancy, and San Juan Bay Estuary Program.

The sites to be included in the campaign are Ocean Park, in San Juan; Combate, in Cabo Rojo; Jobos, in Isabela; and Playa Santa and La Jungla, in Guanica.

"We have chosen the beaches for their ecological characteristics. Many of them are very busy and are home to sea turtles, manatees, and mangrove forest," said Ocean Conservancy program Director Seba Sheavly.

The campaign will mostly consist of graphic signs that depict the effect waste disposal has on seaside wildlife.

One sign features a sea turtle eating a garbage bag.

Sheavly said cigarette butts are among the most harmful and harder to remove contaminants in beaches. Phillip Morris spokeswoman Sandy Gutierrez said the company would donate $5,000 to the campaign.

U.S. Senate Rejects BRAC Postponement

May 19, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — A bill meant to postponed the 2005 deadline for the initiation of The Base Realignment and Closure Program (BRAC) was defeated in the Senate on Tuesday by a vote of 49-47.

In letter sent to the senate by the White House, the Executive Branch expressed their willingness to veto any bill that delays or cancels the Base Realignment and Closure Program, a process that would decide the fate of thousands of military installations in US territories, including Fort Buchanan in Guaynabo.

However, the bill enjoys widespread support in the House of Representatives which it will more than likely approve on Wednesday. The controversial bill will then resubmitted to Defense Budgets committees in both bodies, were they will attempt to resolve differences.

Poll: Rossello 38%; Acevedo Vila 31%; Berrios 5%

May 19, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — If elections were held today, New Progressive Party (NPP) gubernatorial candidate Pedro Rossello would defeat his Popular Democratic Party (PDP) rival Anibal Acevedo Vila by 7%, according to a poll released on Wednesday.

38% of those polled favored former governor Rossello, 31% supported the present resident commissioner Acevedo Vila, and 5% chose independence candidate, Ruben Berrios.

The poll was conducted by Kaagan Research Associates, a New York based company, on behalf of a local newspaper. The test sample included 1,000 island residents, excluding residents of Vieques and Culebra, whom were interviewed between April 22 and May 10.

16% of eligible voters said they would not vote in the governors race because of existing choices. Likewise, 47% of nonaffiliated voters said they would abstain while 22% said they had not yet made up their mind as to which candidate they would support. Meanwhile, 42% of eligible voters favor New Progressive Party (NPP) candidate for resident commissioner Luis Fortuño, while 31% prefer his Popular Democratic Party (PDP) opponent Roberto Prats, according to a poll published on Wednesday.

3% support Independence Party candidate Edwin Irizarry Mora, 14% will not vote, 8% said they are undecided, while 3% refused to provide an answer to the query.

Among unaffiliated voters, 39% said they will not vote for the post of resident commissioner, 21% would vote for Fortuño while 15% would support Prats.

The poll also revealed that 56% of eligible voters would like to have different candidates in the governor’s race, while 39% are satisfied with the existing options.

Among none affiliated voters polled, only 16% are satisfied with gubernatorial candidates, while 76% would like to see changes in the current roster of candidates.

56% New Progressive Party (NPP) voters said they are satisfied with their options.

However, Popular Democratic Party (PDP) voters are more dissatisfied with their candidate, as only 37% feel their candidate is the best possible candidate that the party could have nominated.

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