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Rains Flood Puerto Rico

San Antonio Considered For Army South Headquarters

Vieques Ecosystem Hurt

PDP Calls Sen. Maribel Rodriguez To Hearing

Energy Costs Business More

Navy Told To Follow Rules

Burgos In Good Spirits

Former Governor Aide Charged

Rains Flood Puerto Rico

December 24, 2001
Copyright © 2001 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Puerto Rico was recuperating Sunday from its heaviest December rainfall in nearly 40 years.

Since Dec. 1, San Juan, has had 11.37 inches of rain, breaking a 1962 record for that period. The normal rainfall for the first three weeks of December is 3.7 inches.

The main highway leading to the colonial old city was blocked by floodwaters, causing traffic jams as drivers sought alternate routes to the historic district, where there are many holiday parties.

The National Weather Service reported that accumulations of more than 3 inches from two days of heavy rain fell on San Juan, where above-normal rainfall this month has left the ground saturated and unable to absorb water.

Last month, 10 inches of rain fell on Puerto Rico in just three days, causing widespread flooding in north coast towns near the capital and leaving an estimated $75 million in damage.

San Antonio Being Considered For U.S. Army South Headquarters

December 23, 2001
Copyright © 2001 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

SAN ANTONIO (AP) - If political and environmental controversies in Puerto Rico force the relocation of U.S. Army South, there is strong support for moving it to San Antonio, according to a memo from the head of the command.

The San Antonio Express-News reported Sunday that in the memo, dated Aug. 22, Maj. Gen. Alfred A. Valenzuela said studies have recommended either Fort Sam Houston, in San Antonio, or Fort Benning, Ga.

Lt. Col. Tom Budzyna, a spokesman for Valenzuela, said "the word on the street" is that Fort Sam Houston will be the choice, but added: "The final decision is going to be made by the chief of staff of the Army and the secretary of the Army with the consent of Congress."

Valenzuela is a San Antonio native.

Army South oversees operations in Central and South America and has 1,250 military and civilian workers. It pumps $160 million a year into the economy of Puerto Rico , but myriad problems there are prompting the Pentagon to consider a move.

The newspaper reported that a controversy over a Navy bombing range at Vieques has convinced Valenzuela that Army South should relocate to the mainland.

Agency: Vieques Ecosystem Hurt

December 23, 2001
Copyright © 2001 ORLANDO SENTINEL. All rights reserved.

WASHINGTON -- Officials with the National Marine Fisheries Service have acknowledged that military training on the island of Vieques has damaged, in some place irrevocably, surrounding coral reefs and other ecosystems. The Fisheries Service recommended more study before training resumes next month. A copy of a letter the agency sent to the Puerto Rican Planning Commission, in which the ecological damage is outlined, was obtained last week by the San Juan newspaper El Nuevo Dia. A large portion of Anones Lagoon and the reefs of South Salinas Bay were damaged to such an extent that many may never recover, the report said.

PDP Calls Sen. Maribel Rodriguez To Attend Hearing

December 23, 2001
Copyright © 2001 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

PONCE (AP) - Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Sen. Maribel Rodriguez will have the opportunity to refute during a public hearing convoked by the PDP the allegations that caused her suspension from all her political posts. The hearing has been scheduled for Jan. 10, public officials said.

PDP General Secretary Jorge Colberg Toro said the senator, who was elected for the Arecibo district, "would have to answer all the questions that will be asked, would have to present documents, and will be told to give explanations regarding the trip she made to participate in the Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York," during which time she allegedly tried to misappropriate public funds.

Colberg Toro said it is up to Rodriguez to decide if she will attend the hearing alone or accompanied by an attorney.

He also said Rodriguez and her legal advisors will have to decide if they want to disclose in a public and political forum all the criminal actions attributed to the senator.

Energy Costs Business More On Island

December 23, 2001
Copyright © 2001 ORLANDO SENTINEL. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- The island's high cost of electricity means residents pay more to heat and cool their homes, but it also means businesses and factories pay more to run their operations. That is hurting Puerto Rico's economy, a federal official said last week. Puerto Rican residents in 1999 paid an average of 8.67 cents per kilowatt hour, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, compared with an average of 8.16 cents on the U.S. mainland. But when business and industrial costs are factored in, energy on the island costs three times what it does in the United States, said Alfonso Aguilar, the agency's spokesman.

Navy Told To Follow Rules

December 22, 2001
Copyright © 2001 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - Puerto Rico has told the U.S. Navy it should show it is complying with environmental regulations before it resumes bombing exercises on Vieques.

The Planning Board released Friday its letter to Capt. H.J. Kircher, Chief of Staff of the Navy's southeast region in Jacksonville, Florida.

In the letter, Board President Hermenegildo Ortiz said the Navy is holding its bombing exercises on Vieques without a pollution discharge permit and in violation of the U.S. Clean Water Act.

The letter said an environmental assessment prepared by the Navy didn't properly consider the cumulative effect of bombing exercises on Vieques, which the Navy has used to prepare troops for conflicts for six decades.

The Planning Board president concluded his letter saying the Navy should submit a "complete" environment impact statement and have it approved by the Department of Natural Resources.

"We're in the process of reviewing their letter," Navy spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Katherine Goode said. "In our report, we state we're consistent with the law."

Burgos In Good Spirits During Her First Day In Jail

December 21, 2001
Copyright © 2001 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - After almost 24 hours in jail, New Progressive Party Sen. Norma Burgos is found "in good spirits" and is up to date with the details of her office, an aide said.

The legislator's press aide, Jesus Velez Rosado, said in a press release that Burgos described the atmosphere in the federal jail as one that "breathes the Christmas spirit."

The senator was admitted Thursday afternoon in the Women 3C Section of the Metropolitan Detention Center, where she told her aides that she was well received by the penal personnel and inmates, some who she met during her previous incarceration.

Federal Charges Filed Against Former Deputy Chief Of Staff

December 23, 2001
Copyright © 2001
PRWOW News Service. All rights reserved.

The U.S. District Attorney's Office filed charges Friday against Angel Luis Ocasio Ramos, who was the La Fortaleza deputy chief of staff during the first four years of Gov. Pedro Rossello's administration.

The former official was accused of two federal charges of conspiracy to interfere with commerce through extortion, according to a press release of the U.S. Justice Department in Puerto Rico.

The accused held the post of deputy chief of staff from 1993 to 1996 with Chief of Staff Alvaro Cifuentes.

Ocasio Ramos, who currently presides Global Management and Consultant Inc., was arrested Friday without incident by FBI agents in San Juan, the press release said.

According to the indictment, Ocasio Ramos offered $50,000 to then Retirement System Administrator Andres Barbeito in 1998 to upgrade its computer system in order to make it Y2K compliant.

Barbeito, identified in the press release as an "unindicted co-conspirator," ensured that the $1.9 million contract was awarded to HR Systems Inc., which did business as Global Management and Consultant Inc.

According to the press release, between October 1998, and December 1999, Ocasio Ramos paid Barbeito a total of $35,000 in checks and cash.

The U.S. District Attorney's Office informed that HR Systems was not a part of the conspiracy nor had any knowledge of the wrongdoings of defendants Ocasio Ramos and Barbeito.

Barbeito was already processed in federal court at the end of the last four years for corruption charges.

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