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Presidential Candidates Favor Self-Determination…Acevedo: Calderon Will Support Me…U.S. House Approves $20m For UT…SJ Chief Suspended After Disco Slayings, More Metro Police Patrols Ordered…Pudge Says Goodbye To Marlins…Humanists Meet…Medicare Bill Affects The Island…Legislature To Seek Tax Changes…Morel Loses WBA Title…Navy, Marines Move Training To Eglin

Presidential Candidates Favor Self-Determination

December 9, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Four of the nine candidates to the U.S. presidency said they favor Puerto Ricans deciding the island’s political status.

House Reps. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), John Edwards (D-N.C.), and former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (D-Ill.) said the movement to determine Puerto Rico’s political status must start.

They also agreed that the Pentagon must assume responsibility for cleaning up the land in Vieques that the U.S. Navy used for training for more than 60 years.

Almost all of the presidential candidates made their statements through their spokespeople during a forum of the National Puerto Rican Coalition in Washington, according to published reports. Kucinich was the only candidate at the event.

"The process should start in Puerto Rico and a way to take up the subject in Washington should be proposed from there," said Craig Smith, Sen. Lieberman’s adviser.

Acevedo Vila: Calderon Will Support My Campaign

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

December 9, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Although they have had their differences, Popular Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial candidate Anibal Acevedo Vila said Gov. Sila Calderon will participate in his 2004 campaign.

"Puerto Rico, the PDP, and I need Sila Calderon, and I have no doubt we can count on her support in this campaign," said Acevedo Vila during a press conference at the party’s headquarters on Tuesday.

On Tuesday Acevedo Vila said he had spoken with Calderon and warned NPP contender Pedro Rossello that Acevedo Vila has the full support of his party, including that of the governor.

"Pedro Rossello had better be prepared. In this campaign, [former] Gov. Rafael Hernandez Colon; [former gubernatorial candidates] Victoria Muñoz and Hector Luis Acevedo; [former Senate President] Miguel Hernandez Agosto; Sila Calderon; Jose Alfredo Hernandez Mayoral; and many others will be backing me up," said Acevedo Vila.

"I can assure you that Sila Calderon will be by my side in this campaign. Yes, we have talked," he added.

U.S. House Approves $20 Million For Urban Train

December 9, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The U.S. House of Representatives approved Monday a bill that would grant Puerto Rico $20 million for the Urban Train.

That amount, however, is $23 million less than what President George W. Bush had suggested in his administration’s bill for next fiscal year’s budget.

The bill must now be evaluated by the Senate, but it may not be discussed until January, according to published reports.

The bill also includes a $1.6 million allocation for improving the infrastructure of the communities Palenque and Garrochales in Barceloneta, as well as $500,000 so the Department of Natural & Environmental Resources can work to protect the island’s coral reefs.

For the prevention of crime, the House also proposed that $550,000 be allocated to San Juan, $250,000 to the Guaynabo-Bayamon consortium, and $100,000 to Barceloneta.

The Metropolitan Bus and Ports authorities may receive $500,000 each if the bill is approved.

San Juan Chief Suspended After Disco Slayings

December 9, 2003
Copyright © 2003
EFE NEWS SERVICE. All rights reserved. 

San Juan, Dec 9 (EFE) - Puerto Rico's police commander on Tuesday suspended for 10 days the San Juan chief after the gunning down of four people outside a downtown nightclub.

Commander Victor M. Rivera Gonzalez took the action against Col. Israel Vazquez Rivera, saying the San Juan chief no longer enjoyed his full confidence.

Rivera Gonzalez announced the commander's suspension during an emergency meeting with police officials called to discuss the crimes and complaints by Emmanuel Melendez Perez, head of security at the nightclub where the killings occurred.

Melendez Perez said police had failed to keep up their end of a supposed agreement to provide security outside the nightclub on Sundays.

The police superintendent said officers offered to carry out patrols, but he said the clubs must provide their own security.

Governor Orders More Police Patrols In Metro Area

By Sandra Ivelisse Villerrael of Associated Press

December 9, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

Following the murder of four people in Santurce, Gov. Sila Calderon ordered the police to increase patrols in the metro area.

The governor didn’t rule out Police Superintendent Victor Rivera Gonzalez’s proposal to force clubs and other establishments that sell alcohol to close early.

"Unfortunately we know what has happened in the past two weekends in terms of murders," said Calderon, referring to the violence that has increased the number of homicides to 729 this year.

The governor defended the anticrime plan that was implemented in August and supposedly was responsible for a 12% drop in felonies against people and property.

Calderon also said business establishments are responsible for ensuring the public’s safety.

Although she said it is a good idea, Calderon noted the proposal to close clubs and discos earlier should be evaluated.

Pudge Says Goodbye To Marlins


December 8, 2003
Copyright © 2003
THE MIAMI HERALD. All rights reserved. 

Free-agent catcher Ivan Rodriguez turned down a multiyear worth more than $7 million a year late Sunday, ending any hopes the Marlins had of holding on to the 10-time All-Star.

''He will not be a Marlin in 2004,'' general manager Larry Beinfest said early this morning.

''I tried my best to remain a Marlin by not requesting a salary increase,'' Rodriguez said in a statement issued by Boras. ``To my knowledge, I'm the only major leaguer in recent times who won the World Series and received a postseason MVP award, and yet his club did not offer a higher salary.''

Humanists Meet In Puerto Rico

December 8, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Advocates for human rights, the arts, politics, and literature will meet in San Juan from December 11 to 14 to initiate an international network.

Motivational speaker and author Deepak Chopra; former Costa Rican president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Oscar Arias; former United States Vice President Al Gore; writer Antonio Skarmeta; and human rights activist Kerry Kennedy are some of the personalities that will participate in the event.

The network will be known as Alliance for the New Humanity and seeks a more fair, compassionate, and humanistic society, the organizers said.

"The Alliance for the New Humanity seeks to unite millions of people all over the world that are sensitive to the needs of their fellow human beings and seeks to build bridges between those who want peace and those who defend human rights," reads an ad promoting the event.

Medicare Bill Has Its Effect On The Island

By Istra Pacheco of Associated Press

December 8, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Come April, people older than 65 can subscribe to the new Medicare benefit signed into law on Monday by President George W. Bush that will grant a 25% discount in prescription purchase for a $30 annual fee.

And after 2006, patients paying the annual fee will receive a 75% discount if they pay a $670 annual fee.

Health Department Secretary Johnny Rullan said Puerto Rico would receive $4.4 billion in 10 years as a result of the new law.

"This is the most important federal assignment granted in the last years for the island’s health services," Rullan said.

A 65-year-old patient spends an average of $1,200 per year on prescriptions.

Meanwhile Puerto Rico Medical Surgeon Board President Oscar Rodriguez said the new benefits would translate into better services for the island’s patients as doctors will most likely accept the plan.

Legislature To Seek Changes In Tax System

December 8, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – In the upcoming ordinary session, the Legislature may consider a bill aimed at changing the way in which Puerto Ricans pay taxes through the establishment of a sales tax.

House Treasury Committee Chairman Francisco Zayas Seijo said a new tax system could increase annual public revenues by as much as $1 billion. Currently, $8.3 billion is taken in each year.

The legislative proposal includes a sales tax not higher than 10%.

The bill could take effect July 1, 2005, Zayas Seijo said.

"In 10 years, the Treasury Department could increase revenues in more than $10 billion, he said.

One reason for the effort is the desire to replace the current system in which underground commerce, or the "black market," allegedly accounts for sales of some $20 billion annually and does not pay any taxes.

Eric Morel Loses WBA Flyweight Title


December 7, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

BAYAMON, Puerto Rico (AP) - Venezuelan Lorenzo Parra claimed the WBA flyweight title Saturday with a unanimous points decision over Puerto Rico's Eric Morel.

Parra (20-0, 15 KO) began the fight at an intense pace and scored a knockdown in the third round with a short right hand to Morel's forehead.

The judges saw the fight 116-111, 115-112 and 116-111.

"This is great win for me, I'm Venezuela's new ambassador," Parra said after the fight.

Morel (33-1, 18 KO) was making his sixth title defense.

"He moved too much and I couldn't catch my rhythm," Morel said.

In another bout, Puerto Rican Ivan Calderon defended his WBO minimum weight crown with a unanimous decision over Alex Sanchez.

Calderon (17-0, 3 KO) won 118-110, 117-111 and 116-112, and outclassed his opponent with quick combinations and nifty footwork in every round.

There were no knockdowns in the fight, but the champion hurt Sanchez (29-4-1, 20 KO) in the third with an uppercut and two quick straights to the face.

He stunned Sanchez again in the seventh with a series of combinations to the head.

Navy And Marines Prepare For Training Exercise

December 7, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Florida (AP) - Thousands of Navy sailors and Marines were poised to swarm ashore in a training exercise that starts Monday along a part of the Gulf of Mexico coast, the first such joint operation at this Florida Panhandle base.

For nearly 60 years, the Navy and Marines used Vieques, a tiny island off the coast of Puerto Rico, for pre-deployment bombing and for gunnery and tactics practice. However, training stopped there after an errant bomb killed a security guard in 1999, and the forces left in May.

The Navy moved training to more than a dozen coastal bases, including Eglin. More than 7,400 Marines and sailors will participate in the exercise. Many will hit the shore and assemble convoys before tracking across a coastal highway, where they will disappear into the thick woods of the base.

The training will go over rifle attacks, mortar and artillery launches, offshore Naval gunfire and aircraft bombing runs and ground maneuvers.

Though residents near Eglin may see jets and helicopters overhead or Marines hauling equipment along a coastal highway, military officials say it will be controlled. The exercise ends Dec. 17.

"This is not going to be done with shock and speed. It will be done in a very safe and orderly fashion," said Lt. Col. Bryan Salas, spokesman for the U.S. Marine Corps in Norfolk, Virginia.

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