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Campaign Launched To Combat Illegal Firearms… New Chief Justice Sworn In… NPP Leads In Campaign Fundraising, Decries Lack Of School Security… Wal-Mart’s Expansion Praised, Denounced… Boricua Pop In Miami… Acevedo: Draft Won’t Be Re-Enacted… Seafaring Migrants’ Fate Uncertain… Cartagena Defends Police In Murder Case

Campaign Launched To Combat Illegal Firearms

August 10, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The Department of Justice and the federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Bureau announced on Tuesday the beginning of an ad campaign geared at stemming the trafficking of illegal firearms into Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico Attorney General, Pedro Geronimo Goyco, will urge citizen to offer confidential information as to the whereabouts of illegal firearms. In the case a fire arm is recovered informants will receive a cash reward.

"Those citizens that call our hotline will not have to give their name or any personal information," said Goyco.

According to the Attorney General, those wishing to provide information may call toll free 1-866-313-8517.

Goyco said that the reward will vary according to the type of firearm recovered; handguns will garner $300 each with a maximum of $2,700; rifles will garner $500 with a maximum of $5,000; while assault weapons will earn $600 with a maximum of $7,000.

According to Goyco, the ad campaign has been assigned $ 625,000. He could precisely say how much money was available for the rewards.

Puerto Rico Swears In New Chief Justice Of Supreme Court

August 10, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Federico Hernandez Denton was sworn in Monday as the new chief justice of Puerto Rico's Supreme Court.

Hernandez, 60, had been an associate justice at the court for the past 19 years. The 29-member Senate confirmed him as chief justice late last month.

Hernandez replaced Miriam Naveira Merly, who became Puerto Rico's first female chief justice on Dec. 30.

Last month, Naveira turned 70, the mandatory retirement age for Supreme Court justices under the island's constitution. She was first appointed to the court as an associate justice in 1985, the same year as Hernandez.

Hernandez has said that his top priority would be to speed up the judicial process in the U.S. Caribbean territory. He plans to completely digitalize court files, many of which are still on paper.

NPP Leads In Campaign Fundraising

August 10, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The New Progressive Party is still ahead in the amount of funds contributed to the Political Campaign Financing Volunteer Fund with $2 million raised, three months short of the general elections.

The Popular Democratic Party (PDP) has raised $505,000, while the Puerto Rican Independence (PIP) has raised $120,000.

Those are the figures reported by each party as of August 6.

According to the Electoral Law of 2003 the parties have until December 31 to contribute to the fund. Parties can raise up to $4 million which will be matched by public funds. That sum is added to the $3 million already assigned by way of the electoral fund, enabling parties to spend up to $11 million in a general elections campaign.

NPP Condemns Lack Of School Security

By Leonardo Aldridge

August 10, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Two New Progressive Party (NPP) legislators condemned on Tuesday what they claim is lack of school security personnel and called on government officials to guarantee at least one police officer and one school security guard in every public school to handle social and community affairs.

Senator Migdalia Padilla and representative Iris Miriam Ruiz said that the 1,000 strong School Protection Corps is not undermanned and ill equipped to handle security for a school system with 610,000 students and 1,534 schools.

"If the Secretary of Education, Cesar Rey, were to keep his promise of assigning two officers per school, at least 1,000 would find themselves without security," said Ruiz.

On July 30, Gov. Calderon and Rey swore in 1,268 officers who would embody the School Protection Corps and who would join 500 private security guards in Puerto Rico’s public schools.

Calderon said on that they that public schools would count with one to three officers, depending on the security situation in each school.

The NPP legislators said that it is essential for the school security initiative to be effective in order to prevent incidents like the those of last year, in which a teacher and a student lost their lives in separate incidents in a wave of school violence.

Both legislators accused the administration of starting the school year in an "improvised manner."

Wal-Mart Stands Amid Praise And Lawsuits In Puerto Rico

By Leonardo Aldridge

August 10, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday came out in staunch defense of the Wal-Mart interest on the island and declared that the decline of small business cannot be blamed on a single company.

Those views, given by Chamber of Commerce vice-president Cirilo Cruz, diverged from those given by the Association of Community Pharmacist and an independent economist, who assured that the expansion of the meg-store chain on the island has had harmful effects on the economy.

Before the House Economic Development and Planning Committee, Cruz said that "no small retailer goes under simply because a bigger chains enters its market," and reminded that the chamber of commerce opposes protectionist measures.

Cruz warned that campaigns directed at individual companies, mainly by competitors, send foreign investors the message that they are not welcomed to do business on the island.

"We are telling foreign businesses that wish to do business here to go home, that they are not wanted here," said Cruz.

The Economic Development and Planning Committee chair, Ferdinand Perez, said he plans to meet with all the parties involved in the dispute to ascertain the effect Wal-Mart and its subsidiaries, which include Sam's Club and Supercenter, have had on the local economy.

In Tuesdays hearing, a study by economist Jose Alameda, said that Wal-Mart’s expansion between 1993 to 2002 caused 86 retailers and wholesalers to go bankrupt.

"Our estimate is that for every $15.8 million in sales made by Wal-Mart one small to medium business in Puerto Rico goes under," reads Alameda’s study.

The Association of Community Pharmacist president, Julie Hurtado, said Wal-Mart has solicited permits, thru its subsidiary supermarket chain Amigo, to establish pharmacies. Reneging on a pledge not to open pharmacies in Amigo supermarkets.

Hurtado blamed Wal-Mart for the closing of dozens of pharmacies who could not compete, due to the megastore’s ability to buy products in larger quantities which allow to offer consumers lower prices.

"I’m saddened by the fact that La Fortaleza missed the opportunity to curve Wal-Mart’s growth in the island, I am left wondering whether if anyway will save us from this economic extermination we are going through," said Hurtado.

Hurtado referred to the green light given by outgoing Secretary of Justice Anabelle Rodriguez to the Wal-Mart/Amigo merger, with minor restriction that are being minimally enforced.

Business sectors have criticized Rodriguez’s decision to allow the merger, even when, to their knowledge, it violated anti-trust laws in Puerto Rico and 20 states stood in solodidarity with the island against the merger.

Boricua Pop In Miami

Puerto Ricans and the Latinization of American Culture

August 10, 2004
Copyright © 2004
. All rights reserved. 

(Coral Gables) This coming August 20, 2004 at 8:00 PM, writer, filmmaker and scholar Frances Negrón-Muntaner will be at Books and Books in Coral Gables to be part of the presentation of her latest book Boricua Pop: Puerto Ricans and the Latinization of American Culture. Writer and journalist Celeste Fraser Delgado will present the book.

This is the first book solely devoted to Puerto Rican visibility, cultural impact, and identity formation in the U.S. and at home. Drawing from literature, film, painting, and popular culture, and including both the normative and the odd, the canonized authors and the misfits, the island and its diaspora, Boricua Pop is a fascinating blend of low life and high culture: a highly original, challenging, and lucid new work by one of our most talented cultural critics.

Maggie de la Cuesta (for the author), 305-519-3372

Books and Books, 305-442-4408

Books and Books is located at 265 Aragon Avenue, Coral Gables, FL.

Acevedo Vila: Military Draft Will Not Be Reestablished

August 9, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

PONCE (AP) – Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila said that there is little chance for the United States House of Representatives to reestablishe compulsory military service, better known as "the draft."

Acevedo Vila, Popular Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial candidate, said he would endorse any bill aimed at resurrecting the practice.

"I’m against that possibility, that is an extreme course of action. There is no room in the House for any though of re-instituting the draft," he added.

Acevedo Vila said the topic "has been hardly discussed" internally in the House because there is no support for the reinstitution of the draft.

He maintained that the idea has not been seriously considered by congressman.

"I can reassure the Puerto Rican people that there will be no draft," he added.

However, the Resident Commissioner acknowledged that outside Congress rumors are circulating that president George W. Bush has considered the possibility.

Fate Of Seafaring Migrants Uncertain

August 9, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

AGUADILLA, Puerto Rico (AP) – In light of the disappearance of 79 migrants who departed from form the Dominican Republic in a small vessel, the issue of migrant mortality at sea is being explored by authorities.

Jaime Francisco Mota Morla is one of thousands of Dominicans who have risked death on rough seas to join a huge wave of illegal migrants trying to reach Puerto Rico and escape their country's worst economic crisis in decades.

At least 60 have died this year, and authorities say the number is probably higher. But Mota, 25, says he wasn't deterred by the danger when he left his home town of San Pedro de Macoris.

"Things are hard there," said Mota, leaning against a chain-link fence at the U.S. Border Patrol headquarters in this northwestern coastal town where he was being held. "I wanted to find a better life."

The Dominican Republic's annual inflation rate is near 30 percent, unemployment is at 16 percent and the country of 8.8 million is plagued by blackouts. A U.S. dollar that cost 16 Dominican pesos in the 1990s now costs 45.

One result is that more than 7,000 Dominican migrants have been detained in Puerto Rico since Oct. 1., double the number for the previous 12 months.

Superintendent Laments Mendez Roldan’s Release

August 9, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – After a technicality gained the release of a self-confessed murderer, Police Superintendent Agustin Cartagena defended the actions of the officers involved while exploring another course of action that could be taken in the case.

Cartagena lamented that Judge Lourdes Velazquez Cajigas released on Friday Melvin Mendez Roldan, who admitted to killing music student Ricardo Morales Saez, because his confession was taken in the absence of legal representation.

Cartagena said that the ruling "sends the wrong message to the all citizens, because it seems we are setting murderers free."

"Mendez Roldan confessed that he killed a person, but because of a technicality the case fell apart. However the police acted responsibly. We consulted the district attorney and we did everything according to the law," he assured.

Col. Jose Caldero Lopez, who was in charge of the initial investigation said that several attempts were made to contact Mendez Roldan’s attorney, Jane Hofmann, but she did not answer her phone.

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