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Fortuño To Fight To Keep Buchanan Open… Calderon Helps End Hostage Standoff… PRCC Opposes Anti-Business Legislation… Cop Retiring To Sing… 150 Soldiers Return… Martin: 1-Chamber Bill ‘Futile’… Vieques Civil Disobedience To Resume… Acevedo Promises To Solve Water Shortage

Fortuño To Fight To Keep Buchanan Open

By WOW Staff

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

New Progressive Party (NPP) candidate for resident commissioner Luis Fortuño announced on Thursday his commitment to island veterans as well as his willingness to fight for Fort Buchanan’s continued existence.

Fortuño emphasized Buchanan’s importance, its role as service provider, and its part in the island’s security.

"In the last four years there has been no discussion of the ramifications stemming from the departure of the U.S. Armed Forces from Puerto Rico and their effect on the security of the civilian population. If there is no Coast Guard and no Customs are territorial waters will be unguarded, left at the mercy of drug cartels and terrorist who may decide to set up shop here," said Fortuño.

Fortuño indicated that the United States House of Representative had approved legislative bill postponing the closing of military installations until 2007, but he warned that this does not mean it will pass during this legislative session.

"We need to work together to ensure Fort Buchanan becomes an integral part of the transformation taking place in the Pentagon to reinforce its battle readiness. We need to ensure that Buchanan plays a role in the war on terror and the war on drugs," said Fortuño.

Fortuño also criticized the inaction of Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila in light of the recent base closing and reiterated the importance of Buchanan for veterans and civilians alike.

"These base closings have has a huge impact on the quality of life for many Puerto Ricans including children and the elderly. I remind you that as a result veterans have lost access to clinics, people have lost their jobs, and families have been displaced," added Fortuño.

Fortuño also proposed to reestablish a functional and amicable relationship between local government and the U.S. Department of Defense, which he alleges the current administration has virtually eradicated.

During a visit to Washington in March, Fortuño met with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony Principi to discuss the details of the need of veterans on the island. He said access to medical facilities is the most urgent need.

P.R. Governor Helps End Hostage Standoff


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

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - In a dramatic intervention, Puerto Rico's governor helped end a nearly three-hour hostage standoff Thursday by confronting the knife-wielding assailant and listening to his demands for a job and a house.

Gov. Sila Calderon, 61, decided to join the negotiations despite the advice of police, who had said it could be dangerous.

Her participation came after the captor demanded to talk personally with the governor. He was arrested after he put down his foot-long kitchen knife.

At one point, he had held the knife to the throat of his captive, a receptionist in the governor's mansion.

"I didn't come planning to do this," 28-year-old hostage-taker Roberto Figueroa said later at the police station. "I came to see if she would listen to me." When she did, he said, "I got down on my knees in front of her and begged forgiveness."

Dozens of police had surrounded the three-story building outside the governor's mansion after Figueroa took the receptionist hostage about 9:30 a.m., sending other office workers running. Figueroa held the woman in the building's mail room, and police negotiated by speaking loudly through the closed door.

The governor entered the building about noon, as police carrying metal shields stood outside the entrance.

Negotiator Col. Jose Caldero said Calderon accompanied him to the door of the mail room, where he announced loudly that he would read the governor a letter Figueroa had brought demanding a house and job.

Once Caldero finished, the hostage-taker called out that he wanted to see the governor to make sure she had heard.

"He opened the door, saw the governor and immediately let go of the knife," Caldero said. The governor didn't have to say a word, he said.

About 100 people in the street, from construction workers to office employees, applauded when Calderon emerged with a hand on the shoulder of receptionist Iris Nereida Marcillio, who appeared unhurt.

The governor, who had been in the building only a few minutes, returned to the mansion with the freed woman. Police led Figueroa out in handcuffs and took him away in an unmarked car.

The standoff took place in a building that belongs to La Fortaleza mansion, about 150 yards from the mansion's main entrance in Old San Juan, the historic district of the U.S. territory's capital.

Police chief Agustin Cartagena said Thursday that police would re-evaluate security around the governor's mansion.

The man had lost a government job several years ago in the town of Manati and the Caribbean island's north coast, officials said. He had made contact several times with the governor's office to demand help, most recently on Wednesday, officials said.

Figueroa had previously been arrested for robbery and car theft, police said.

"May God forgive me," Figueroa said at the police station, where he was awaiting formal charges. "But I'm not doing anything bad -- I'm asking for help."

PRCC Is Against Bills That Might Hinder Local Economy

By Joanisabel Gonzalez of Caribbean Business

May 27, 2004
Copyright © 2004
CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All rights reserved. 

The Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce (PRCC) and representatives of other business organizations on the island on Thursday raised their voice of protest to denounce consideration by the legislature of over 20 bills that threaten the stability of local businesses and will affect the island’s economic development.

In a packed press conference held in Hato Rey, PRCC president Hector Mayol said the organization’s Technical and Legislative Services division revealed over 20 bills that if approved, it would allow governmental interference in the management and affairs of private business, it would increase operational costs of businesses, and would diminish the island’s competitiveness within a global economy.

Mayol noted that different members of the legislature from the island’s three major parties filed the bills in a two-week period before May 10, which was the last day for the legislative assembly to submit new legislative proposals.

"We [the diverse associations representing the private sector] have united to warn the people about a series of bills that will affect the island’s entrepreneurial productivity. We understand the interest of the legislature in protecting certain sectors, but instead of promoting equal treatment and progress, those bills would separate the island from the pathway other economies of the world are going through," said Mayol.

Mayol listed Senate Bill 2788 (to enact a new antitrust law), Bill 2537 (to regulate entertainment businesses operations and business hours) and Bill 4749 (to impose a withholding tax on offshore commercial loans) as some of the proposals the 14th legislative assembly intends to approve before the end of its term.

"The Secretary of the Treasury [Juan Flores Galarza] has said some of these proposals like Bill 4749 are needed to balance the island’s budget. We [the private sector] want the Treasury Secretary to know that the way to balance the budget is by reducing government expenses not by imposing more burdens to the small-, mid- and large-companies doing business on the island," Mayol said.

PRHTA executive director Erin Benitez added that since financing for most tourism projects on the island is arranged through lending facilities elsewhere, Bill 4749 would adversely affect the development of tourism projects and would go against the public policy that supports the strengthening of the tourism economic sector.

She added that the group of bills will certainly affect business operational costs. "The high operational costs of doing business on the island are a key aspect at the time of setting the rates hotels will charge to their guests," explained Benitez.

Other bills that would hinder the island’s economic development are the Penal Code—which creates new felonies for damage of the environment but whose clauses are vague and extremely open to interpretation—and bills 3275, 4608, 2771 that seek to amend the local Minimum Wage Law.

As an example, Mayol said that conferring vacation and sick leave to part-timers would affect the businesses payroll and that in the past six years there’s been a decrease in the number of part-timers on the island.

According to the Labor Department figures, in 1996 there were 346,000 part-time jobs or 35% of the island’s total jobs and last year there were 311,000 or 27% of the total jobs.

"There has been an increase in the number of full-time jobs (working 35 hours or more per week). In 1996, there were 656,000 jobs (65%) and in 2003, the Labor Department said there are 833,000 full-time jobs for a 73% of the island’s total jobs," he said.

Economist Luis Benitez insisted it is time for the private sector to overtake the island’s economic development since the government can’t continue filing more bills without assessing the real impact of those proposals.

Retiring To Sing


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

Police Officer Daniel Rodriguez, whose tenor renditions of patriotic songs at public gatherings lifted spirits in the bleak days after 9/11, is retiring from the New York Police Department to devote himself to music. The police department said yesterday that at the age of 40, after 20 years on the force, the officer had applied for retirement. "I'd like to dedicate myself to learning how much I can actually accomplish as a singer," he said. "I'm sad to leave because I really love the job, but I'm also happy to be moving forward." On his schedule are his opera debut, next year in "La Bohème" in New Zealand, and his third CD, The Associated Press reported.

150 Soldiers Return From Tours In Iraq And Kuwait

May 26, 2004
Copyright © 2004
THE NEW YORK TIMES. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Some 150 United States Army Reservist in Puerto Rico returned to the island on Wednesday after a yearlong tour off duty in Iraq and Kuwait.

Local Army spokesman Jose Pagan announced that 432nd Transportation Company will arrive at Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport at 7:30 p.m.

"Being one of the units most exposed to combat, the Reserve unit suffered one casualty, that of specialist Ramon Reyes Torres on July 16 2003 in an ambush in Baghdad," said Pagan.

According to Pagan, the soldiers will be transported 10:00 PM to Fort Buchanan in Guaynabo to meet with family members.

The 432nd unit was deployed on February 11 2003 and departed to Iraq on May 10. Its main mission was maintaining supply and equipment lines initially from Kuwait and them from Iraq.

The soldiers must then report to Camp Santiago in Salinas for deactivation protocols.

Pagan noted that there are still 3,079 Puerto Rican soldiers in active duty in Afghanistan, Kuwait, Iraq, and the United States.

Martin: Single-Chamber Project A ‘Dead End’

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

SAN JUAN (AP) — The single-chamber bill filed by Senator Eudaldo Baez Galib is an ‘exercise in futility’ that will lead to a ‘dead end,’ said on Wednesday Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) Sen. Fernando Martin.

The bill calls for a referendum in July 2005 for voters to say whether they would like a single-chamber legislative body or the current House and Senate. If 50% vote for the legislative change a second referendum would put the constitutional amendment to a vote by July 2007.

According to Martin, the main problem with the propose change is that the Supreme court limited the number of amendments in a referendum to a maximum of three, which would make any serious legislative changes impossible.

"Puerto Rico’s Supreme Court has interpreted that in manner which makes it impossible to create a single chamber legislature," said Martin

"If this legislative body is created thru a three amendment referendum, it will make any reform purely superficial," he added.

Martin, whose Party as well as himself favors a single-chamber legislature, proposed that a bill is approved as soon as possible which calls on the people to decide whether to a constitutional assembly to discus a revision of the constitution.

That process, he warned, would probably require the intervention of the Supreme Court.

Vieques Civil Disobedience To Resume

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

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Rescue and Redevelopment of Vieques Committee announced on Wednesday it will once again engage in civil disobedience to protest the slow progress of the cleanup and devolution of lands held by the United States Navy for more than 60 years.

Committee spokesman Ismael Guadalupe urged all citizens to participate in a demonstration scheduled for Sunday in the grounds now administered by the United States Office of the Interior.

"With this demonstration we hope to highlight local and federal agencies’ indifference and thoughtlessness in dealing with demands that Vieques residents have made for decades," said Guadalupe at a press conference.

Guadalupe announced the Committee will reestablish the former civil disobedience camps at Cayo La Yavi, Escuela Hostosiana, Lula Tirado, and Angel Rodriguez Cristobal.

As part of the event, a silk-cotton tree will be planted in memory of deceased Ponce mayor Rafael Cordero Santiago, who went to jail for his acts of civil disobedience.

AAV Presents Campaign Promises To Solve Water Shortage

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

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

For Popular Democratic Party (PDP) President Anibal Acevedo Vila the solution to impending problems at the Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Authority (Prasa) is more money.

Therefore, if elected governor, he would assign Prasa $1.6 billion for the construction of five new reservoirs, two desalinating plants, as well as for improvements to the existing infrastructure.

Acevedo Vila believes his plan will finally put an end to the water shortage around the island because this time the legislature would allocate and specify how Prasa’s budget will be invested, instead of giving the money for the corporation to manage it alone.

"A bill with a list of projects that should begin and be completed would be filed and the legislature would allocate funds identified for such purposes so that there is no way the money can be used for something else," said Acevedo Vila.

It has been argued that the maintenance of a desalinating plant is very expensive. That is why none has been built in Puerto Rico, but Acevedo Vila said new technology would help lower the cost.

The desalination plants would be built in Salinas and Guayanilla at a cost of $30 million each, Acevedo Vila said.

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