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Acevedo Endorsed By 54 Congressional Colleagues…Municipal Police Included In New Security Plan…Gov’s Surgery Goes Well, She’s Mum On Chief Judge Pick, Bar Backs 2 For Post…270 Kilos Of Cocaine Seized…Culebra Closed To Large Boats…Dominicans Warned Not To Go To P.R.…More Meningitis Cases Reported…Santini Sues Gov’t For $100m…Rodriguez Denies Division Within The NPP

54 U.S. Congress Members Endorse Acevedo Vila

By Laura Rivera Melendez of Associated Press

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

SAN JUAN (AP) - Anibal Acevedo Vila’s gubernatorial candidacy was endorsed by 54 members of the U.S. Congress, said Carlos Dalmau, campaign manager for the Popular Democratic Party president.

Dalmau presented a 60-second television ad that began Monday, in which several Democratic and Republican members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives spoke in favor of Acevedo Vila.

Dalmau identified some of the Congress members as Sen. Edward Kennedy (MA) and Reps. Robert Menendez (NJ), the highest-ranking Latino in Congress, Jim Clyburn (SC), and John Murtha (PA), all from the Democratic Party.

Roger Wicker (MS) and John Duncan (TN) are some of the Republicans who endorse Acevedo Vila.

Kennedy, chairman of the Education Committee, said Acevedo Vila was able to get $175 million for the Puerto Rico Education Department.

"Thanks to his [Acevedo Vila’s] efforts, the funds that were frozen for the [Puerto Rico] Education and Housing departments were released," Menendez said.

Wicker and Murtha praised Acevedo Vila’s efforts in the Vieques clean-up and plans to develop the former Roosevelt Roads U.S. Naval Station in Ceiba.

Others praised Acevedo Vila for attaining funding to dredge Martin Peña Canal and remodel the Veterans Hospital.

Dalmau said Acevedo Vila will endorse candidates that support him but noted that none have received a contribution from the PDP or contributed to the resident commissioner campaign.

Although Congress has 435 members, Dalmau said endorsement by 54 of them is historic and important.

Calderon To Include Municipal Police In New Security Plan

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

SAN JUAN (AP) - Gov. Sila Calderon will assign five municipalities’ municipal guards to Police Superintendent Agustin Cartagena’s command. The guards will work with members of the Puerto Rico National Guard and Police Department to combat the increasing crime wave.

Calderon made the announcement Tuesday during a press conference at La Fortaleza where she detailed the specific duties of the more than 500 members of the National Guard who were activated Sunday.

"I will talk to the mayors of San Juan, Bayamon, Ponce, Carolina, and Caguas, according to the Municipal Police Law, which allows the governor to activate municipal police under special circumstances and requires them to follow orders from the superintendent," Calderon said.

After speaking with the mayors, Calderon will talk to Cartagena so he can order the specific tasks to be performed for the municipalities in question.

The governor said 57% of the murders this year are related to drug trafficking and reiterated that the Puerto Rico National Guard will only play a supporting role in the fight against crime.

Governor Underwent Surgery But It’s Ok

By WOW Staff

July 20, 2004
Copyright © 2004 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Gov. Sila Calderon confirmed on Tuesday that she did undergo surgery last week to remove a polyp, which turned out to be negative, and is currently in good health.

In addition she accompanied her sister for a few days as she also underwent surgery.

In her first public appearance in more than a week, Calderon cleared speculation about her health and thanked all those who have called La Fortaleza to express their concern for her well-being.

"I had scheduled the surgery months ago. It was under general anesthesia and required me to stay in bed for two days. Fortunately everything went well. The polyp turned out to be negative and as you can see I am in perfect health," said Calderon during a Tuesday morning press conference at La Fortaleza.

Much had been speculated about the secrecy of Calderon’s trip outside the island. In refusing to give details to reporters last week La Fortaleza Chief of Staff Cesar Miranda said the governor’s right to privacy should be respected and had noted she would explain her reasons upon her return.

Today Calderon also invoked her right to privacy and said she will give no further details about her health.

Governor Declines To Talk About Naveira’s Substitute

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

HUMACAO (AP) – Governor Sila Calderon declined to say on Tuesday if she will take into consideration the recommendations of the Bar Association for the substitute of Puerto Rico Supreme Court Chief Justice, a post that will be left vacant on July 28 and for which she will call an extraordinary session for the candidates nomination process.

The Bar endorsed on Tuesday Associate Justices, Federico Hernandez Denton and Francisco Rebollo, to substitute Chief Justice Miriam Naveira who by law is forced to leave the post when she turns 70.

Calderon declined to say if her candidate will come from inside the island top court or from her cabinet.

"I won’t talk about anyone in particular. All those people that are being mentioned are excellent professional, perfectly qualified," Calderon said during an activity in Humacao.

"That is a constitutional prerogative that I will exercise with much serenity and my better judgment thinking on what is best for Puerto Rico and I hope to make the announcement early next week," Calderon said.

Attorneys Make Recommendations For Chief Justice

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

SAN JUAN (AP) - Associate Justices Federico Hernandez Denton and Francisco Rebollo Lopez were recommended Tuesday for the chief justice post, which will become vacant July 28 when Chief Justice Miriam Naveira turns 70 and must retire by law from the post.

Bar Association President Carlos Mondriguez said the association evaluated six people, but Hernandez Denton and Rebollo Lopez received a majority of the votes during an extraordinary meeting held July 14.

The association’s governing board on Tuesday submitted a report with its recommendations to Gov. Sila Calderon.

Mondriguez identified the other candidates as Associate Judges Jaime Benitez Fuster and Liana Fiol Matta, University of Puerto Rico President Antonio Garcia Padilla, and the governor’s attorney Salvador Antonetti.

He added the members of the association evaluated eight criteria, including candidate’s administrative skills, leadership, and knowledge of the law.

Authorities Seize Large Cocaine Shipment

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

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Authorities seized a large cocaine shipment on an inflatable dinghy off Puerto Rico's southwestern coast and detained 11 people, officials said Tuesday.

A U.S. Customs maritime unit intercepted the dinghy about 10 miles (16 kilometers) southwest of the island early Monday, said Ivan Ortiz, a Customs spokesman. Authorities detained two Dominicans aboard the dinghy and seized 270 kilograms (595 pounds) of cocaine, he said.

Customs agents detained another three people on shore - two Dominicans and a Cuban - who were waiting for the shipment, Ortiz said. Six Dominicans were detained aboard an 80-foot (24-meter) fishing boat that was thought to have carried the cocaine before it was transferred to the dinghy, he said.

The 11 men were being held at a federal jail outside San Juan awaiting to be formally charged, authorities said.

Puerto Rico remains a destination for South American drugs and is also a common transshipment point for shipments headed north to the United States. Drugs are often dropped off by boat, carried by travelers or sent in cargo shipments.

Port In Puerto Rican Island Closed To Large Boats For Security Reasons


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

Associated Press Newswires

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - The U.S. Coast Guard on Tuesday ordered a port in a Puerto Rican island closed to large boats after it failed to meet new safety standards.

The Coast Guard prohibited boats carrying more than 150 passengers from entering the port in Culebra, a vacation island off the coast of this U.S. Caribbean territory, said Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Eric Willis.

More than 400 people, mostly Puerto Rican and foreign tourists, were stranded on the island as a result of the ban, said Juan Cirino, director of maritime transportation of Puerto Rico's Port Authority.

The order came after Coast Guard inspectors found security breaches under the U.S. Maritime Security Act, which entered into effect July 1.

Citing security reasons, Willis would not specify what regulations the port failed to meet but said they were designed to prevent unauthorized people from accessing vessels. He said there was no immediate terror threat.

Puerto Rican authorities scrambled to get stranded passengers off the island on speed boats, Cirino said.

"This has caused delays and discontentment," he said. "We are not leaving anyone here even if we have to work until dawn."

Dominicans Warned Not To Go To Puerto Rico


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

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) -- The U.S. ambassador to the Dominican Republic warned residents on Tuesday against illegal migration to wealthier Puerto Rico, saying it was dangerous and citing dozens of drownings in recent months.

U.S. Ambassador Hans Hertell said Dominicans who arrive illegally at the U.S. Caribbean territory have little hope of normalizing their status after tougher restrictions were imposed following the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

About 7,000 illegal migrants -- mostly Dominicans -- have been detained trying to reach Puerto Rico since Oct. 1, double the previous year's total of 3,477 migrants. At least 60 have died trying to cross the treacherous Mona Passage.

More Cases Of Meningitis Reported In The South

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – The Department of Health confirmed on Monday that they have identified more cases of meningitis affecting the island’s southern region. It is still unknown whether an 11 year-old boy died from the illness.

The Director of Epidemiology at the Department of Health, Juan Alonso Echanove, said that as of Monday 26 cases had been reported: 20 in the municipalities of Patillas, Arroyo, Santa Isabel, Salinas and Guayama, as well as six in Ponce and Juana Diaz.

"The 26 cases being investigated involve aseptic meningitis, that is a milder version of the more dangerous bacterial meningitis, and is usually resolved without special treatment," said Alonso Echanove in prepared statement.

He maintained that he still did not know whether an 11 year old boy had died from the disease in a Ponce hospital.

He repeated that all laboratories, hospitals, and private practice doctors must report all cases to the Department of Health as required by law.

According to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, meningitis is an infection of the fluid of the spinal cord and the fluid that surrounds the brain. Funguses, viruses, bacteria, or parasites may cause meningitis.

People who become infected with meningitis may experience sharp headaches, fever, vomiting, stiffness of the neck area, and drowsiness.

"We’re recommending that people wash their hands frequently, especially after going to the bathroom or changing baby diapers. They should also wash their hands before handling food," warned Alvarado during a press conference.

Santini Sues Central Government For More Than $100 Million

By WOW staff

July 19, 2004
Copyright © 2004 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini filed a lawsuit against Gov. Sila Calderon and Health Secretary Johnny Rullan on Monday for alleged discrimination against the municipality and its citizens.

According to the lawsuit, soon after Santini assumed his post, the defendants engaged in a pattern of discrimination against the mayor and his administration, which degenerated into actions that directly affected the welfare of San Juan residents.

The lawsuit claims the alleged discrimination caused more than $100 million in damages.

"Initially, the discrimination became evident when Rullan cut funding that had been available to the city for over 30 years. Then, as chairman of the Health Services Administration board of directors, he fostered an environment of coercion, impositions, and threats against municipality officials," said Santini in a prepared statement.

Santini said 20,000 eligible San Juan residents were removed from the Health Reform Program. Others were denied emergency room services at the Rio Piedras Medical Center. The mayor also denounced a disregard for federal healthcare statutes.

"Although we have been fighting the discriminatory actions of Secretary Rullan, and officials appointed by him, for months, the straw that broke the camels back was the reported deaths of San Juan residents who were denied medical services," added Santini.

He also accused Rullan of denying the municipality access to Medicaid funds.

Rullan was unavailable for comment, as Health Department press officials said he is off the island and is not expected back until next week.

Rodriguez Denies Any Sign Of Division Within The NPP

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

By Jose Fernandez Colon of Associated Press

PONCE – Charlie Rodriguez, who chairs the Campaign Platform Committee of New Progressive Party (NPP) gubernatorial candidate Pedro Rossello, on Monday denied that the proliferation of independent candidates who have sprouted from that party could signal internal disputes.

Loiza Mayor Ferdin Carrasquillo will seek reelection as an independent candidate. Former Cataño Mayor Edwin Rivera Sierra and former Vega Baja Rep. Jesus ‘Chu’ Valle will also run for mayor independently for their hometowns.

Rodriguez said these leaders filed their candidacies because they are certain they can win despite the fact that they lost the NPP primary.

He added that these candidacies are challenging the decision of NPP affiliates who voted in the November primary. Therefore, Rodriguez said these independent candidates couldn’t be seen as a sign of division within the party.

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