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Calderon Activates Nat’l Guard To Aid Police Crime Patrols, Divided PDP Urges Discretion …Burgos: Ad Hoc Return To "Iron Fist" Policy… 80 Going To Olympics…NPP Challenges Gov’s Last Budget…New Haiti Aid Set…House OKs Constitutional Assembly, Senate Passes 1-Chamber Bill…Rossello’s Candidacy Upheld…GDB Political Discrimination Verdict Overturned…Through The Eye Of Memory

Calderon Activates National Guard To Aid Police

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

By Rebecca Banuchi of Associated Press

Gov. Sila Calderon announced Sunday that she will activate the Puerto Rico National Guard to aid police in curtailing a violent crime wave on the island, officials said.

As the first step in a three-phase plan, Calderon ordered 500 troops to patrol public events and areas where large amounts of people gather, including festivals and shopping malls, said Brig. Gen. Francisco Marquez, commander of the Puerto Rico National Guard.

The move is designed to relieve police presence at these events and locations so that more officers can be dispatched to high-crime areas like public housing projects, Police Superintendent Agustin Cartagena said.

The National Guard presence will be in San Juan, Ponce, Bayamon and Carolina, officials said. No troops, however, were mobilized on Sunday because officials were finalizing the plan, said Army Maj. Millie Rosa, a National Guard spokeswoman.

Calderon, who is away from the island, issued the order through government secretary Cesar Miranda. It came as the number of homicides is on track to surpass last year's rate.

Police have reported 444 homicides on the island since Jan. 1, an increase of 30 compared to the same period last year. There were 780 homicides last year and 781 in 2002, police spokeswoman Yaira Rivera Gonzalez said. Police say much of the violence is related to the drug trade.

A number of high-profile incidents led Calderon to activate the National Guard, officials said, including the shooting death of a police officer and two others during an armed robbery in the capital Saturday night and a triple homicide at a San Juan housing project on July 12 that also left five wounded including a 6-year-old girl.

Dozens of officers were ordered into the housing project after the shooting and residents threw bottles and rocks at police, who fired tear gas to repel the attacks. Several officers were injured.

Police said they believed last Monday's shooting was related to fighting for control of a drug distribution point in the Luis Llorens Torres housing complex. The authorities said the gunmen slipped into the area using a stolen vehicle with a government license plate. Two men have been charged.

A few days earlier in a separate incident, gunmen opened fire in a Home Depot at a crowded shopping plaza in Bayamon, killing a reputed drug lord and wounding two others.

If the level of violence doesn't decrease during the plan's first phase, Calderon would order joint police-National Guard patrols of housing projects and other high-crime areas, authorities said. The third phase - a last resort according to officials - would be to station troops in housing projects.

During former Gov. Pedro Rossello's two terms in the 1990s, National Guard troops were ordered into more than 80 of the island's 336 housing projects. Crime dropped following the raids, but some residents complained of civil rights violations by the soldiers.

Rossello, whose tactics during that period earned him the reputation of having a "hard hand," is running for governor again in Nov. 2 elections as a member of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party. He has vowed a return to tough tactics if elected.

Violent crime has become a major campaign issue in the lead-up to the polls. Rossello is running against Anibal Acevedo Vila of the governing Popular Democratic Party. Calderon is not competing this year, citing personal reasons.

National Guard To Aid Police Patrol

By Manuel Ernesto Rivera of Associated Press

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

The 500 National Guard officers who were mobilized to reinforce security on the streets, will accompany state police agents on patrol, said Police Superintendent Agustin Cartagena on Monday.

Cartagena said the police force also needs the National Guard’s help because of the approximately 300 agents who were mobilized to Iraq. These agents were also National Guard members.

The police chief met with Chief of Staff Cesar Miranda at La Fortaleza on Monday to discuss the mobilization plan that should be approved by Gov. Sila Calderon through an executive order.

"The National Guard will come to the aid of police. In other words, the police will intervene and the National Guard will give support," Cartagena said.

The military will be deployed in high crime areas of San Juan, Bayamon, Carolina, and Ponce. A hundred and fifty soldiers each will be assigned to San Juan and Bayamon, while Carolina and Ponce will have 100 each.

National Guard officers will work 12-hour shifts. Their employment will cost the government $1.5 million a month. It has yet to be determined where the money will come from.

The police has reserved $3.5 million of its budget to pay for overtime, Cartagena said.

The patrolling will be reinforced during the weekends, which is when more murders occur, he said.

Cartagena added that, according to police statistics, 60% of violent crimes happen on the streets and 58% of murder cases are related to drug trafficking.

The police chief said he would evaluate the plan’s results by mid August.

National Guard Deployment Divides The PDP

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

BARRANQUITAS (AP) – The leadership of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) was divided on Monday, during the celebration of the 145th anniversary of the birth of Luis Muñoz Rivera, regarding the governor’s decision to use the National Guard to quell the surge of violent crime on the island.

Caguas mayor and former general aide to the National Guard William Miranda Marin disapproved of PDP members who favored Gov. Sila Calderon’s decision to use the National Guard.

"They could disagree with me, but I have a brain, I have my way of thinking, my experience and I believe it’s a mistake. They should have explored other options before resorting to that measure. Besides, what they hope to accomplish has no real value," said Miranda Marin.

Meanwhile, PDP gubernatorial candidate and Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila said he supports a temporary deployment of the National Guard.

"No citizen wants to live with the National Guard patrolling the streets with assault weapons. It is a strategy to free up the overburdened police force, which are properly trained to deal with crime," said Acevedo Vila.

PDP San Juan mayoral candidate Eduardo Bhatia said the National Guard isn’t the solution to the problem, even though it has been used as a temporary remedy.

Likewise, House Vice President Ferdinand Perez called for "discretion and caution" in regards to the governor’s use of the military.

In light of the rising incidence of crime, 500 National Guard members were deployed on Sunday to provide security for large public gathering areas such as festivals, shopping centers, and the airport.

Perez Calls For Discretion In Use Of The National Guard

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – House Vice President Ferdinand Perez called on Gov. Sila Calderon to exercise "discretion and caution" in regards to the deployment of the National Guard to combat the rising wave of violent crime affecting the island.

Perez also criticized the "iron fist" policies utilized by the past administration, which was the first to activate the National Guard to occupy public hosing projects.

"I ask the governor to exercise discretion and caution in using the National Guard during this difficult time," said Perez in a prepared statement.

"I know that she has everything under control, but I just ask that she isn’t swept by the pressure exerted by those who want to use this unfortunate situation for political gain," added Perez.

Perez also said the National Guard training is not focused on fighting crime.

He said the "iron fist" approach used by the last administration made the situation worst.

In light of the rising incidence of crime, 500 National Guard members were deployed on Sunday to provide security for large public gathering areas such as festivals, shopping centers, and the airport.

Burgos: Improvised Return To "Iron Fist" Policy

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

SAN JUAN (AP) – In the midst of the activation of the National Guard in an effort to subdue the recent wave of violent crime on the island, New Progressive Party (NPP) Sen. Norma Burgos said on Sunday that the move acknowledges the failings of the Calderon Administration’s anticrime policies.

Burgos, who was Secretary of State in Pedro Rossello’s administration, said the activation of the National Guard signals a return to the "iron fist policy" established by the previous government. However, she said this time the move has been "improvised" because it has failed to weigh the social component to fighting crime.

"The plan is reactionary and improvised. They are managing a crisis," said Burgos in an interview.

According to Burgos, contrary to Rossello’s anticrime initiative, the Calderon plan doesn’t train National Guard officers to deal with petty crime nor does it include a quality of life component, which under the past administration provided employment and training for youth as a crime deterrent.

Puerto Rico Sends 80 Members For Athens Olympics

July 17, 2004
Copyright © 2004 Xinhua. All rights reserved. 

Xinhua News Agency

(c) Copyright 2004 Xinhua News Agency

HAVANA, July 16 (Xinhua) -- Sara Rosario de Meltz, chief of the Puerto Rican deletgation for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, informed that the island's team will count with 80 members.

The Puerto Rican delegation will travel to Greece the first week of August, according to informations issued on Friday in San Juan, capital of Puerto Rico.

The medal hopeful for Puerto Rico rests on the men's basketball team which, because of its individual quality, has good chances to move on to the finals.

Puerto Rico has a budget of 400,000 dollars for transportation and uniform expenses.

Fifty percent of those expenses will be destined for air-fare tickets, both for the athletes and their support teams.

Also the acquisition of sports gear, footware, suitcases, flags and other small objects for all of the members of the delegation have been considered as part of the budget.

Sara Rosario de Meltz, said it is a sufficient budget.

NPP Challenges Governor’s Last Budget

July 16, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The House and Senate’s New Progressive Party (NPP) delegations challenged Gov. Sila Calderon’s newly approved budget before the courts on Friday, saying it inflates revenues and spends money which has yet to reach government coffers.

NPP Senate minority leader Kenneth McClintock said more than $1 billion of the approved government budget are comprised of non- recurrent income that is meant to cover administration debts. He also said he believes that revenues projections were inflated.

"This is an improvised budget that is not balanced with recurrent revenues. Proof to the effect can be found in the $1 billion of non-recurrent revenue, of which $862 million come from the general fund," said McClintock.

La Fortaleza wasn’t available for comment.

The lawsuit was filed in the First Circuit Court in San Juan by McClintock and NPP House minority leader Anibal Vega Borges.

Puerto Rican Groups Announce New Aid For Haiti

July 16, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - A coalition of Puerto Rican groups on Friday announced they will send a shipment of aid to flood victims in Haiti next week.

Floods in Haiti and the neighboring Dominican Republic in May killed at least 1,700 people and left some 1,600 others missing and presumed dead. Entire communities were swept away, and international agencies have been sending aid regularly to thousands of survivors.

The latest shipment to be sent by ferry on Monday includes two shipping containers of donated canned food, medicines and drinking water, said Hilda Guerrero, an organizer of the effort.

Groups involved in pooling donations in this U.S. territory included the Committee of Solidarity with the People of Haiti, the local Teamsters Union and others.

Guerrero said the aid is to be shipped to some of the hardest-hit areas of Haiti, including the southern town of Mapou.

House Approves Constitutional Assembly Bill

July 16, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

By Istra Pacheco of Associated Press

On Thursday the House of Representatives passed a bill to establish the Constitutional Assembly as the mechanism to be used next term to deal with Puerto Rico’s political status.

That would not be the case, however, if the New Progressive Party (NPP) wins the November general election, because the new administration could override the bill.

The bill received 29 votes in favor and 12 against.

On Wednesday, the bill had been left on standby pending more votes from the Popular Democratic Party delegation.

NPP Rep. Anibal Vega Borges and Puerto Rican Independence Party Rep. Victor Garcia San Inocencio voted in favor of the bill. However, Garcia San Inocencio said he voted by mistake and reiterated that he disapproves of the bill.

Vega Borges could not be reached for comment.

Senate Approves Amendments To Single-Chamber Bill

July 16, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The Senate agreed with the amendments that the House of Representatives made to the bill that seeks to hold a referendum in 2005 on the possibility of changing the Legislature into a single-chamber system.

Six New Progressive Party legislators and one from the Puerto Rican Independence Party voted against the bill.

According to a prepared statement, the bill will now be sent to Gov. Sila Calderon for final approval.

The Senate also passed a $10 million allocation to help University of Puerto Rico pay for a line of credit it used to improve the infrastructure of its campuses.

Supreme Court Ratifies Rossello As Legitimate Candidate

July 16, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The Supreme Court ratified New Progressive Party (NPP) gubernatorial candidate Pedro Rossello on Thursday, dismissing a lawsuit filed by a private citizen who claimed the candidate didn’t meet constitutional requirements to return to office.

The Supreme Court confirmed two previous rulings of the lower courts and dismissed a lawsuit filed by Jose Emilio Perez Guzman, a 52 year old technician, who alleged that Rossello had not fulfilled residency requirements, which dictate that a candidate must reside on the island for five years before running for office, as stipulated by the constitution.

The decision didn’t enter into the merits of Rossello’s residency. It limited itself to highlighting procedural errors on Perez Guzman’s part. The ruling was conferred 6-1, with the only dissenting vote coming from Supreme Court Associate Judge Jaime Fuster Berlingeri.

The Supreme Court maintained that Perez Guzman didn’t file his complaint within the 10 day term stipulated by the State Elections Commission (SEC), costing him the case.

Perez Guzman reiterated his intention to retake the matter up with the Supreme Court or take it before the federal forum.

In his tax forms for 2001 and 2002, Rossello declared himself a "non-resident" of Puerto Rico, although in his candidacy application before SEC he stated that he had resided on the island during those years.

Appeals Court In Boston Overturns Discrimination Verdict

July 16, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - A federal appeals court in Boston overturned a $646,000 verdict in a case in which six former employees of Puerto Rico's Government Development Bank said they were fired due to political discrimination.

The decision that was overturned Thursday had ordered the reinstatement of the six, who were identified as supporting the U.S. territory's pro-statehood New Progressive Party.

The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the main argument of the plaintiffs that their termination was purely political, siding with the position of the Government Development Bank.

The job cuts occurred following a 2001 audit ordered by the bank' president, Maria Fuentes Pujols, to look at appointments in the agency during the 2000 electoral season. The audit found irregularities in a number of appointments during the transition.

Then-Gov. Pedro Rossello, of the New Progressive Party, stepped down without contesting 2000 elections, and Gov. Sila Calderon of the pro-commonwealth Popular Democratic Party took office after becoming the first woman elected governor of the Caribbean island.

This year Calderon has declined to run, Rossello is returning to run for his old post against Calderon's nonvoting delegate to the U.S. Congress, Anibal Acevedo Vila.

Through the Eye of Memory

July 15, 2004
Copyright © 2004 Allentown Morning Call. All rights reserved. 

Photographer/visual artist Hector Mendez-Caratini, a sociologist of his native Puerto Rico and the rest of the Caribbean, is showcased in "Through the Eye of Memory," a four-decade retrospective running July 28 through Sept. 12 at Lehigh University's Zoellner Arts Center.

Born in 1949 in San Juan, Mendez-Caratini has chronicled African heritage in the village of Loiza Aldea and life on the island municipality of Vieques after U.S. Navy bombs killed a military guard named David Sanes Rodriguez. He participated in "Our Journeys/Our Stories," a Smithsonian Institution show of commissioned portraits of 25 Latino luminaries organized by Ricardo Viera, director/curator of Lehigh's galleries and museum operation.

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