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Calderon Sends Condolences To Nancy Reagan… Thousands Excluded From Health Plan… Martin: Santini Hard To Beat…GI Killed In Iraq… Weather Didn't Dampen Their Pride… Dean: Huge Health Problems On Vieques…Prepa: Comptroller Has Erred… Rullan Threatens To Resign… $7m In Ag. Subsidies Owed… Police Trained To Work In Public Schools… 150 Soldiers Demobilized… Gov. Signs 6 Anti-Crime Bills

Calderon Sends Her Condolences To Reagan’s Widow

By WOW Staff

June 7, 2004
Copyright © 2004
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

On Monday Gov. Sila Calderon expressed her condolences on behalf of the Puerto Rican people to Nancy Reagan, widow former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, and to U.S. President George W. Bush for the death of the 40th U.S. president.

"On behalf of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, please receive our most heartfelt condolences on the death of your esteemed husband. President Reagan was a man of principle, a visionary, and a true gentleman for whom I will always hold the deepest respect and admiration," said Gov. Calderon in a letter sent on Monday to the former first lady.

Calderon said that with Reagan’s passing the world had lost a true guardian of democracy and social justice; a man who dedicated his life to his ideals, his family, and his nation.

In a separate letter sent to President Bush, the governor stated that Puerto Rico joins the rest of the world in mourning the death of the former president.

"As governor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and on behalf of all Puerto Ricans, I extend our heartfelt condolences to the American Nation. Puerto Rico recognizes the enormous legacy of President Reagan in ending the cold war and the change he brought to the world at large," stated Gov. Calderon.

She added in her letter that Puerto Ricans have always admired the heroism, courage, and his great talent as an orator in the pursuit of liberty for everyone.

Thousands Of Puerto Ricans Excluded From Health Plan

June 7, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) –Medical Surgeons Association President Marissel Velazquez announced that there are over 400,000 island residents who have lost all hope of receiving quality healthcare because they don’t qualify for the Health Reform plan and cannot afford private health coverage.

"There is need for an urgent overhaul of the public and private healthcare system to better define the role of the recipient as well as of providers to increase the quality of service," said Velazquez.

Velazquez, who just two months ago became Medical Surgeon Association president, made the comments during the swearing in ceremony of that organization’s Board of Directors, which was presided over by Supreme Court Judge Liana Fiol Matta.

Velazquez said that in a attempt to lower cost, the quality of medical services and medicines has been neglected. She also criticized the propagation of the practice of denying patients access to specialized treatment.

She said the victims of these institutional changes are patients, specially when they are denied the right to choose their provider.

Martin: Santini Is A Difficult Candidate To Defeat

By Jose Fernandez Colon of Associated Press

June 7, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN – The Puerto Rican Independence Party’s (PIP) mayoral candidate for San Juan, Fernando Martin, referred to his New Progressive Party (NPP) opponent and current mayor Jorge Santini as "a very difficult candidate to beat," while he dismissed Popular Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Eduardo Bhatia as "a man who has already tasted defeat in the previous elections."

Martin said Santini, who beat Bhatia by 3,629 votes in 2000, has the advantage of being the incumbent and that the PDP has fallen out of favor in San Juan.

"San Juan’s mayor is an incumbent, making him difficult to beat. I think that he has discouraged the PDP, who already experienced defeat in the previous elections under circumstances which merited a PDP victory," said Martin.

The executive president of the PIP said that Bhatia should have defeated Santini in the 2000 mayoral elections because the PDP controlled City Hall and then mayor Sila Calderon was running for governor.

Martin also pointed out that Bhatia’s decision to announce that he would run for the legislature and not for San Juan mayor only to reverse himself, damaged his chances to win the mayoral seat.

Martin did not mince words in his criticism of Bhatia, classifying his campaign as "as weak, ineffective, and demoralized."

He claimed that dissatisfaction with the job Santini has done and the total loss of steam by the Bhatia camp will benefit the PIP in November’s mayoral election.

In 2000, Santini received 101,012 votes or 48%, Bhatia 97,383 or 46.3%, and Vance Thomas running for the PIP received 10,753 or 5.1%.

Bhatia criticized the PIP’s decision to postulate Martin, who is considered among their strongest political figures, as an attempt to derail the PDP’s campaign.

Martin replied by saying that the PIP did not make decisions based on what was good for the PDP.

In an interview conducted in February, PDP President Anibal Acevedo Vila, said that he understood that the PIP was allied to NPP to completely devastate the Commonwealth and the PDP.

"I would not call it a conspiracy, but I believe everyone knows that both parties have tirelessly tried to destroy the Commonwealth, an effort in which they have failed," said Acevedo Vila.

Another Puerto Rican Soldier Killed In Iraq

June 7, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

ARECIBO (AP) – Sgt. Melvin Mora Lopez, a 28 year-old native of Arecibo, was killed on Sunday in Iraq, joining the ranks of Puerto Rican casualties of the United States’ War on Terror.

Jose Pagan, local U.S. Army spokesman, said Lopez was killed when a mortar exploded near him.

"The incident occurred during a surprise attack on Camp Cooke, were the Sgt. Mora Lopez was stationed," said Pagan in a prepared statement.

Camp Cooke, which was established in the former Al Taji Air Base, is 27 km northwest of Baghdad.

According to Pagan, Sgt. Mora Lopez was single and had relocated to the United States nine years ago, where he joined the Army Reserves 245th Maintenance Company based in St. Louis, Missouri.

The victims parents, who live in Arecibo’s Jarelito neighborhood, were notified on Sunday evening about the death of their son.

His father, Hermes Mora, is a maintenance worker at Cayetano Coll y Toste Hospital in Arecibo and his mother Irma Lopez is a teacher with the Department of Education.

His parents were not available for comments and the date of arrival of his remains is still unknown.

The is the 18th Puerto Rican soldier killed in the United States’ war on terror.

Puerto Rican Parade Weather Didn't Dampen Their Pride


June 7, 2004
Copyright © 2004
NEWSDAY. All rights reserved. 

Carlos Garcia's teenage son woke him up yesterday at 5 a.m. in their home in Manorville, and they were on the streets of Brentwood by 7 a.m. - five hours ahead of the start of the Puerto Rican-Hispanic Parade.

It wasn't exactly ideal weather for the event: rainy and cool. But that didn't stop the construction worker and thousands of others from showing up for the second largest Puerto Rican Day parade in New York State.

"Being here is like being back in my homeland," Garcia, 40, said in Spanish. "I feel the warmth of Puerto Rico."

For such a dreary day, attendance at the 38th annual parade was surprisingly high. Suffolk County police estimated that as many as 35,000 people lined Fifth Avenue, while parade organizer Celina Lopez of the Brentwood-based community group Adelante said the number may have reached 50,000. Cultural institutions, municipal agencies and private companies sponsored floats or marched in the parade, which ran along Fifth Avenue from the Southern State Parkway to Third Avenue.

The only Puerto Rican Day parade that is larger is the one in Manhattan, scheduled for next Sunday.

Willie Olivera, 40, of North Bay Shore, said he's been coming to the parade since he was 10. "I feel proud to be Puerto Rican," he said.

Dean: Enormous Health Problems On Vieques


June 5, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - "I am a doctor and I feel confident in saying that there are still enormous health problems on Vieques," said former U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean, who met with community leaders and residents of the offshore Puerto Rican island. "They clearly have a high incidence of heavy metals in their systems."

Dean made the comments as he was visiting Vieques, where the U.S. Navy used to have a bombing range that residents blame for health problems, including a high incidence of cancer. The Navy denies the claims.

Dean pointed to exploded and unexploded ordinance on the bombing range that the Navy used for six decades before leaving in May 2003. "They need to clean it up," he said.

The former Vermont governor said he would speak about Vieques with officials from the campaign of his former political rival, U.S. Sen. John Kerry, before the Democratic National Convention in Boston next month. Residents here have called on Democrats to include language about Vieques in their party platform.

Dean, who recently debuted as a national syndicated columnist, said the health problems in Vieques may be the subject of one of his future articles.

Comptroller Has Erred, According To Prepa

June 4, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) on Friday categorized as a gross error the Comptroller’s Office recommendation that calls for a reimbursement of millions of dollars in variable operation and maintenance charges to clients.

Commonwealth Comptroller Manuel Diaz Saldaña issued a recommendation on Thursday that calls on the Prepa to return $49.8 million which it allegedly overcharged clients.

"The formula used by the comptroller to calculate that sum of the surcharges in the variable operation and maintenance fees is incorrect. These were derived from data from a report design to plan electric energy production procedure," said Prepa Deputy Executive Director Hector M. Alejandro.

Alejandro said that the report does not include an analysis of operation cost to determine proper service fees and cannot be used for that purpose.

"Our clients should not be misled with such accusations because they are untruthful and are based on wrong information," said Alejandro, who insisted that there is proof that the comptroller’s figures are wrong.

Alejandro said Prepa personnel is highly qualified and uses a sophisticated calculation process to establish service fees.

"We have acted with integrity and responsibility in calculating service fees. We establish fees based on guidelines set forth by law, we charge for electricity based on current industry guidelines," added Alejandro.

According to the deputy director, fees are influenced by the cost of providing the service, fixed rates, and the price of crude, which global trends show to be on the rise.

"Fixed charges for basic service are based on set prices and demand, energy consumption, and individual client. These cover expenses incurred by Prepa in the provision of services to clients, excluding the price of fuel and purchased energy," said Alejandro.

The comptroller’s report analyses the formula utilized by Prepa to calculate fees from January 1, 1998 to December 31, 2003; a period of time which covers the administration of former Executive Director Miguel Cordero and current Prepa Executive Director Hector Rosario.

The Comptroller’s Office recommended the return of overcharges, but did not specify whether these would be returned in account credit or in an actual payment.

Rullan Threatens To Resign

June 4, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Health Secretary Johnny Rullan threatened to resign if the local courts insist that the agency return $224 million that were withheld from the Medicaid program. The agency must reimburse that money to 19 diagnostic & treatment centers.

"I’m seriously thinking that I cannot continue to work as secretary of health under these circumstances," said Rullan, who was visibly upset on Friday during a Senate Treasury Committee hearing to evaluate the agency’s budget.

Rullan said the department doesn’t have the money to comply with Superior Court Judge Carlos Davila Velez’s order. The agency has filed a petition for reconsideration, but Davila Velez has postponed his final decision until next Friday.

"We cannot, under any circumstances, pay $224 million a year when the federal government only gives us $210 million to pay for 1.6 million health reform beneficiaries in Puerto Rico," Rullan said.

The judicial ruling is related to a federal law that requires the state to compensate Medicaid hospital providers for losses resulting from services rendered to the indigent population.

The money has been retained at a rate of $32 million a year since 1997.

Dept. Of Agriculture Owes Over $7 Million In Subsidies

By Jose Fernandez Colon of Associated Press

June 4, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

GUANICA (AP) – The Department of Agriculture owes between $7million to $8 million to local farmers in employee hiring subsidies, announced on Friday agency Administrator Luis Rivero Cubano.

However, Rivero Cubano said that thus far the agency has distributed over $60 million to farmers in agricultural incentives.

"We are behind in our payments for the last quarter, but we most take into consideration that we have double the number of incentives and services that we offer farmers," said Rivero Cubano.

Rivero Cubano attributed the delay to a $13 million debt owed by the Department of Education to the Livestock Services Development Administration from the purchase of foodstuffs for school cafeterias.

He called on farmers to exercise patience saying he would give priority to farmers from the island’s mountain region.

"We are working to remedy the situation and taking the necessary steps to do as soon as possible," said Rivero Cubano.

Rivero Cubano was in Guanica to handover new farming equipment to the Center for Mechanized Farming of the Livestock Services Development Administration.

Officers Trained To Work In Public Schools

By Hilario de Leon of Associated Press

June 4, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – 120 Police Officers completed on Friday a training session geared at teaching them on how best to handle incidents of violence in schools.

Thus announced American University President Juan B. Nazario, where the Officers took an intensive seminar which dealt with crisis management, human relations, school regulations, juvenile law, child abuse and suicide intervention, among other topics.

Nazario said the seminars were conducted by experts in the aforementioned fields and came from such agencies as the Department of Justice, Department of the Family, Department of Health, as well as the Mental Health & Anti-Addiction Services Administration.

"Puerto Rico’s Police Department already has officers stationed at some schools, but they lack the proper training to effectively deal with the problems facing the public school system," said Nazario.

The 120 officers, of which 13 are women, will be assigned to schools Dorado, Guaynabo, Bayamon, Naranjito, Vega Baja, Vega Alta, Cataño, Toa Alta, and Corozal areas.

The idea for the training seminars came from Police Department Community Relations Director Jose A. Santana, who received a B.A. in Criminal Justice from American University.

"Worried by the state of our schools, I volunteered to spearhead the effort to produce a plan of action in collaboration with the Criminal Justice University College and the Department of Education," said Santana.

150 Soldiers Who Served In Iraq And Kuwait To Demobilized

June 4, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Some 150 soldiers belonging to the United States Army Reserve will be demobilized after a year of service in Iraq and Kuwait.

The demobilization ceremony for the 432nd Transportation Company, which suffered one combat casualty in Baghdad, will take place on Friday at Fort Buchanan in Guaynabo.

Serviceman Ramon Reyes Torres died last July 16 during an ambush in Bagdhad.

The 432nd was deployed to Kuwait on May 10, 2003 and just arrived back last week.

Its main duty was to provide transportation support to supply and equipment lines, initially from Kuwait and later with missions to Iraq.

Calderon Signs Six New Anti-Crime Bills

June 4, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Puerto Rico's governor has signed six anti-crime bills into law, stiffening legislation for murder suspects, weapons offenders and those who drive under the influence of alcohol.

The new laws came as Puerto Rico is experiencing a rise in homicides this year. The island has seen 348 homicides since January, an increase of 26 compared to the same period last year, police said.

Under one of the new laws, murder, rape and kidnapping suspects will be required to wear electronic bracelets and/or be confined to house arrest as part of bail requirements. Previously, they were not required to do so.

A person convicted of manufacturing, importing, selling or distributing firearms without a license will face a 15-year minimum prison sentence, according to another new law. The previous sentencing guideline ranged between five and 10 years, police said.

According to another new law, a person convicted of carrying an unlicensed firearm will face a mandatory sentence of 23 years. The previous sentencing guideline ranged from five to 10 years, police said.

Another new law makes it mandatory to submit to a breathalyzer test in alcohol-related traffic cases. Previously, motorists could choose whether to take one.

Puerto Rico is a U.S. Caribbean territory of nearly 4 million residents.

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