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Puerto Rico Moves On To Quarter Finals, Defeats Australia 87— 82… Port Strike Ends… Governor Attacks Weapons’ Legalization Proposal… Rossello: Comptroller’s Accusations "Erroneous"… Local Control Of Vieques-Culebra Ferry Urged… OSJ Rescue Group Seeks Candidate Support… Plaud 'Not Guilty' Of Sign Destruction… Another Puerto Rican Soldier Falls In Iraq

Puerto Rico Defeats Australia 87 - 82

August 21, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Puerto Rico hasn't looked impressive since its shocking Olympic win over the United States, but it's in the basketball quarterfinals. Carlos Arroyo's three-point play with 2:21 left gave Puerto Rico just its second lead since early in the game Saturday and it went on to an 87-82 victory over Australia. The win moved Puerto Rico (3-1) on to the round of eight.

Puerto Rico stunned the United States by 19 points in the opening game, the first Olympic loss ever for a U.S. team with NBA players, then followed with an eight-point loss to Lithuania, a three-point victory over winless Angola and the down-to-the wire win over Australia.

``This was a game of ups and downs but we played much better in the second half,'' said 40-year-old Puerto Rico center Jose Ortiz, who is playing in his fifth Olympics. ``It's been a long journey and maybe we can close it up with a good tournament like it's been so far.''

Shane Heal's drive -- Australia's only field goal in the closing minutes -- gave it an 80-79 lead with 2:59 to play. Arroyo, who plays for the Utah Jazz, came up with his big play 38 seconds later to give Puerto Rico the lead for good. Puerto Rico went 5-for-6 from the free throw line over the final 1:41 to seal the win.

Australia was down 85-82 and had a chance to tie, but Heal's long 3-pointer from the left side with 5 seconds left bounced off the rim.

Daniel Santiago led Puerto Rico with 20 points, while Arroyo had 16.

Matthew Nielsen had 20 points for Australia and Heal finished with 12 on 4-for-14 shooting.

Port Authority Workers End Strike In Puerto Rico

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

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Hundreds of Port Authority workers ended a strike Friday after staying off the job for three days in a protest that paralyzed ferry service between Puerto Rico and its outlying islands of Vieques and Culebra.

About 700 employees represented by the Brotherhood of Office, Commercial and Related Fields Workers decided to end the protest after the Port Authority agreed to study a new pay scale, officials said.

"The strike is no longer necessary," said union president Juan Roberto Rosa.

Since the 1980s, port authority workers have been striving for a higher pay scale, saying they do more work than other government employees who are better paid.

Residents of the outlying islands rely on daily ferry service, which includes cargo ferries, to bring food, gasoline and other products to Vieques and Culebra. Tourists also use the service to get from the U.S. Caribbean territory's mainland to the islands.

Culebra has a population of 1,870 while Vieques has 9,100 residents.

Governor Lambastes Proposal For Weapons Legalization

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

SAN JUAN (AP) — Gov. Sila M. Calderon criticized on Friday those who are trying to legalize that manufacturing, distribution and sale of weapons in Puerto Rico.

That was Calderon reaction to the information revealed by Popular Democratic Party San Juan mayor candidate, Eduardo Bhatia, regarding San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini endorsement for the construction of semi-automatic weapons, in a letter issued to two mayors in the United States.

"The effect that the free production and distribution of the semi-automatic weapons will be the indiscriminate introduction of military weapons to Puerto Rico," said Calderon.

Calderon said her administration enacted a surveillance plan with the Police Department, the Puerto Rico National Guard and the Municipal Police that has resulted in a reduction in violence.

"This attempt to legalize assault weapons is totally unacceptable," Calderon said.

The governor noted that her administration has put forth initiatives to reduce the illegal trade of weapons.

At present the federal law known as the Assault Weapons Ban, prohibits the fabrication, sale and use of 19 types of semi-automatic weapons, including Colt AR-15 , AK-47 and the machine gun known as Uzi, some of the weapons must used by criminals. The ban ends on September 14.

Santini defended his letter and his stand on the issue arguing that most of the crimes committed in Puerto Rico are the result of illegal weapons.

Rossello: Comptroller’s Accusations Against Me "Erroneous"

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

SAN JUAN (AP) — For Pedro Rossello, Comptroller Manuel Diaz Saldaña is mistaken in his accusation, which claims that the former governor transferred $2.5 million from the Treasury Department to the Puerto Rico New Millennium Commission without legal authorization.

The Comptroller’s report, which has been forwarded to the Justice Department and the Treasury Department, claims that the New Progressive Party (NPP) gubernatorial candidate broke with procedure when he failed to get the required authorization for the disbursement.

"The Comptroller is mistaken in his interpretation of legal authority regarding the governor’s ability to assign funds to programs which were not previous funded formally in the budget," said Rossello.

The New Millennium Commission’s president at the time of the transfer was Jorge Inserni, who was also executive director of the Puerto Rico Public Broadcasting Company and who is now investigated for alleged violations to Government Ethics Laws.

Both Rossello and Inserni failed respond to a rough draft of the report.

"I did not reply to the rough draft because there are many reports…As a matter of fact, I did not even get to see it because it was analyzed by others who did not see a need to respond to it," added Rossello.

New Millennium Commission, who was headed by Gabriel Velez Suau and Carlos Bermudez as executive directors, was created to coordinate the central governments millennium celebration. Its life span was strictly set by law.

Call For Local Management Of Vieques-Culebra Ferry

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

By Jose Fernandez Colon

PONCE (AP) — Environmental planner Jose Rivera Santana on Friday called for the creation of a municipal consortium which would be responsible for the administration of the Vieques-Culebra Ferry Service, which is responsible for transporting passengers and goods to the island municipalities.

Rivera Santana said that the proposal has been included in a Sustainable Development Plan for both municipalities, citing that there is already a law that stipulates the administrative change but it has yet to be implemented.

"We are calling for Ferry Service administration to be handed over to a municipal consortium representing Vieques and Culebra, as has been stipulated by a law that has yet to be implemented," said Rivera Santana.

Rivera Santana, an environmental expert in charge of the economic development plan formulated by the Estudios Tecnicos firm, said that with the right budget allocations a consortium could greatly improve Ferry service between the island municipalities and Fajardo.

He said that for Vieques and Culebra residents ferry service is a vital necessity while for the Port Authority, which currently manages service, it is one of many operations it oversees.

Rivera Santana cited a recent strike by port workers, which left many stranded and without the basic necessities, as a reason why municipal control of ferries is an urgent necessity.

"Ferry service is vital for residents of both islands," he added.

Old San Juan Advocacy Group Calls For Candidate Support

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

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Old San Juan Rescue Organization made a call on Friday for San Juan mayoral candidates to put forth their development plan for the Capital’s historic neighborhood.

The group has given 20 days for incumbent Jorge Santini, Popular Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Eduardo Bhatia, and Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP)Candidate, Fernando Martin, to put forth possible development ideas for the for the historic neighborhood.

"We are giving all mayoral hopefuls time to express their position regarding Old San Juan," said organization president Jaime Altieri.

Among the desired infrastructure projects are a multimode transportation depot and designated areas exclusive for pedestrian traffic.

Felix Plaud Found 'Not Guilty' In Sign Destruction Case

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

SAN JUAN (AP) — Judge Lourdes Velazquez found statehood activist Felix Plaud not guilty on misdemeanor charges stemming from the destruction of sings advertising government public works projects.

Plaud’s lawyer, Roberto Alonso, said that Judge Velazquez sided with the defense because when the defendant removed the signs he did not destroy public property.

"Judge Lourdes Velazquez has validated our position, that no property was damaged, nothing was destroyed so he is not guilty," said Alonso.

He added that if the government wants the $385 that the sing cost, they must seek restitution in a civil case.

Upon exiting the courtroom Plaud simply said, "that he was very happy."

He refused to say whether he would remove other signs which although deemed illegal are still being displayed.

Another Puerto Rican Soldier Falls In Iraq

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

WASHINGTON (AP) — A United States Army soldier native to Caguas and who resided in Connecticut was killed in action on Wednesday in Sadr City, Iraq, announced the State Department on Friday.

Army specialist Jacob Martir, 21, was attached to Fifth Regiment of the First Army Division based in Fort Hood, Texas.

Martir was killed when the patrol vehicle he was traveling in came under small weapons fire, informed Army officials.

Martir joined the U.S. Army in 2000 and was based in Fort Hood for most of his tour.

Martir is the 18th soldier of Puerto Rican background killed in the so-called War on Terror.

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