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Jury Convicts 2 Men Who Could Face Death Penalty, Groups Hope Otherwise… Bhatia Lobbies For New Military Cemetery… Gov’t Offers Plan To Avoid Ft Buchanan Closure… Popular Mets’ Official Bank… SJ Safest In LA… NPP Delegate Assembly Called "Unfair, Unjust"… Rosario Dismissal Explained… Employment Figure Rises

Jury Convicts Two Men Who Could Face Death Penalty

March 22, 2005
Copyright © 2005 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - A jury on Tuesday convicted two men of murdering an armored truck security guard in Puerto Rico three years ago and it must now decide whether they should receive the death penalty.

The jury, composed of six men and six women, deliberated for more than five hours over two days before rendering a guilty verdict in the trial of Hernando Medina Villegas, 25, and Lorenzo Catalan Roman, 24.

The sentencing phase begins April 11.

Puerto Rico banned capital punishment 75 years ago, and in 2000 its Supreme Court ruled it violated the island's constitution. But a year later, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston overturned the ruling, saying the territory is subject to federal law and the death penalty can be applied in some cases. The U.S. Supreme Court later upheld the decision.

The U.S. attorney general has authorized federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty twice in Puerto Rico. Two men who faced the death penalty in another murder trial were acquitted last year.

Puerto Rico's last execution was in 1927, when farmworker Pascual Ramos was hanged for beheading his boss with a machete.

Groups Hope Guilty Verdict Doesn’t Lead To Death Penalty

March 23, 2005
Copyright © 2005 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Bar Association and Amnesty International on Tuesday expressed hope that the guilty verdict against two Puerto Ricans accused of killing a security guard will not result in the jury handing down a death penalty sentence.

Lorenzo Catalan Roman and Hernando Medina Villegas on April 11 will face the second judicial phase before the same jury that found them guilty, to decide if they will receive the death penalty, a punishment prohibited by the local Constitution but allowed under federal laws with jurisdiction on the island.

"I hope and I am confident that this guilty verdict does not mean the imposition of the death penalty on the convicted parties, it doesn’t matter how terrible the crime was for which they were found guilty," said Julio Fontanet, president of the Bar Association.

Margarita Sanchez, president of the Amnesty International chapter in Puerto Rico, said they will be holding activities to protest the death penalty.

Bhatia Lobbies For Funds For New Military Cemetery

March 22, 2005
Copyright © 2005 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA) committed Tuesday to lobby for funds for a new military cemetery, which will be known as "Cementerio Estatal para Veteranos."

The executive director of PRFAA, Eduardo Bhatia, and Veterans Advocate Luis Ramos, said the new cemetery will be located on grounds assigned by the government in Aguadilla.

Ramos said the current military cemetery in Bayamon will soon reach maximum capacity.

"In two or three years the Puerto Rico National Cemetery will not have any more room," he said.

Government Outlines Plan To Avoid Fort Buchanan Closure

March 22, 2005
Copyright © 2005 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Secretary of State Marisara Pont Marchese, acting as interim governor while Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila is away from the island, announced Tuesday that the Work Unit for the Strengthening and Development of Fort Buchanan has come up with a plan to avoid the closure of the military base.

The group, named by Gov. Acevedo Vila and led by Pont Marchese, is comprised of Resident Commissioner Luis Fortuño, National Guard Gen. Francisco Marquez, and the director of the Federal Affairs Administration, Eduardo Bhatia, among others.

Pont Marchese said the group’s priority is to raise the construction moratorium in effect on the base since 2000. To do this, the group has scheduled hearings in Washington, D.C., for April.

Pont Marchese said the National Guard has shown interest in relocating its offices to the base and consolidating its operations there.

The base offers services to around 14,000 retired military and veterans at its health clinics and commissary.

Popular To Operate All ATMs At Shea Stadium

March 22, 2005
Copyright © 2005 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (Dow Jones)--Popular Inc. (BPOP) inked a five-year deal that makes its Banco Popular unit the official bank of the New York Mets.

The company gains the right to operate automatic teller machines at the Mets' home field, Shea Staduim, and plans to offer tickets to those who open new accounts.

Reached for comment, a spokeswoman said at Shea, the company plans to charge $1.50 per transaction, for customers who don't have an account with Banco Popular, just as it does at its ATMs outside the stadium.

In a press release Tuesday, the bank-holding company noted that its deal with the Mets confers advertising and community outreach opportunities for Banco Popular.

The company will have its name on the back of the scoreboard, with a sign on the front as well. It will also put its name on all ATM's in the stadium, mark its brand on the tarpaulin cover and have signs behind home plate for one half of one inning each game.

Popular offers financial services through outlets in Puerto Rico, the U.S., the Caribbean and Latin America.

San Juan, Puerto Rico And Mexico's Monterrey Ranked The Safest Cities In Latin America

Kate Joynes

March 22, 2005
Copyright © 2005 World Markets Research Centre Limited. All rights reserved.

WMRC Daily Analysis

Monterrey has so far managed to avoid the security problems troubling Mexico's capital, scoring joint first place with Puerto Rico's San Juan as the safest city in Latin America. Mexico City was ranked among the most insecure in the region in the latest Mercer Human Resources report.

Ranking cities according to a range of factors, including insecurity and crime levels, pollution, traffic congestion, susceptibility to natural disasters, and quality of public services, Mexico City also performed poorly, taking 127th place, while Colombia's capital Bogotá was placed 210.

NPP Delegate Assembly Creates "Unfair Pressure"

March 21, 2005
Copyright © 2005 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — The general assembly proposed by New Progressive Party leadership to try to unseat Kenneth McClintock from the Senate presidency to replace him with Pedro Rossello is a "unjust, ridiculous and infantile pressure" that has affected the party and the image of Rossello, said McClintock and NPP Senate spokesman Jorge de Castro Font on Monday.

"This really is a controversy that, as it continues, is distracting the attention of the people of Puerto Rico from the ‘estadista’ electorate and members of the Senate from important issues," McClintock said, and he insisted the presidency is "a closed issue."

De Castro Font said the approach of the assembly of delegates is "ridiculous and infantile" and he stressed that "no person in the New Progressive Party can replace the decisions of the senators elected to the Senate."

Prepa Board Explains Rosario Dismissal

March 21, 2005
Copyright © 2005 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — The governing board of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa), on Monday said the reason for dismissing Hector Rosario as executive director of the company was due to his decision to circulate in the media the names of three appointments which the organization had opposed.

Board President Jose del Valle said the decision also related to an alleged extramarital affair that Rosario had with an employee.

Del Valle said the first action of the former director was a challenge to the organization, and the reasons for removing him from his post were valid and relevant.

"There were two fundamental reasons that motivated Rosario’s suspension. The first was an open challenge to the board on the part of the former director, letting some appointments be made known in the media, which board members opposed," he said in a statement.

"We consider this an act of insubordination and contempt for the teamwork we always have been characterized by," he said.

Regarding the alleged extramarital affair, Del Valle cited the impact on "morale and attitude" for Prepa employees.

"The second reason is an extramarital affair that Rosario has had with one of his subordinates, which was confirmed by him after a hearing the board requested on March 15," del Valle said.

Rosario was fired Thursday and the board of directors named current deputy executive director Hector Alejandro as interim director.

Employment Figure Rises For PR, Labor Department Says

March 21, 2005
Copyright © 2005 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Labor and Human Resources Department said Monday that a poll of businesses found that in the past month, an employment number was recorded that was higher than for any February since this type of data has been collected.

Agency Secretary Roman Velasco said employment rose to 1,227,000 in February, an increase of 2,000 in comparison to last January, and of 22,000 in comparison to February 2004.

"It is the highest (figure) for the month of February in history," he said in a statement.

According to the study, the unemployment rate for February was 10 percent, a drop of 0.8 percent compared to the previous month.

In February, there were 137,000 unemployed people, which represents 11,000 less than were recorded in January and 9,000 less than in February 2004.

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