Puerto Rico gov backs statehood referendum

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico’s governor says he would back a federally sponsored referendum that asks voters whether the U.S. territory should become a state.

Ricardo Rossello made the announcement on Friday after U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah asked the U.S. attorney general last week to certify such a referendum.

Puerto Rico has held five non-federal referendums, although none specifically asked people to simply vote yes or no on statehood.

In the most recent referendum, held last year, nearly half a million votes were cast for statehood, about 7,600 for free association or independence and nearly 6,700 for the current territorial status. But just 23 percent of voters turned out.

U.S. Congress has final say on any changes to Puerto Rico’s political status.

Haiti hit with more violence amid protests

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Haiti faced a third day of protests and violence on Tuesday as anger grew over allegations of government corruption.

An Associated Press journalist saw a man who had been fatally shot in the head near the National Palace. It wasn’t clear who shot him.

Schools, businesses and government offices remained closed while scattered protests were reported across the country.

“Haiti is always in crisis, but this crisis is the worst I’ve seen,” said Dieufete Lebon, a 35-year-old moto-taxi driver who was looking for clients in the largely empty streets of Port-au-Prince.

At least eight deaths have been reported in clashes between protesters and police since the protests began on Sunday. Among the dead is a police officer who was shot and burned to death by a gang on Monday.

Three people also were wounded, including a 29-year-old French woman and a Haitian-American tourist, who were hurt when a group of armed men opened fired on an airport shuttle when it refused to stop.

“Where is this leading us to?” asked Lebon, who said that President Jovenel Moise should step down if the situation does not improve. “If tomorrow the country stays paralyzed, the Haitian people are going to lose their patience.”

Among those who were already fed up was 24-year-old Valdo Cene, who works at a propane gas refilling station and was walking toward a friend’s house to borrow some money. He said he had been unable to work for two days and was upset that banks remained closed.

“I have a child who’s sick,” he said. “Our country is unable to function the way it’s functioning. Citizens are suffering.”

Demonstrators have demanded that the president resign for not investigating allegations of corruption in the previous government over a Venezuelan subsidized energy program, Petrocaribe.

‘Cocaine cowboy’ deported to Dominican Republic

MIAMI — One of Miami’s former drug kingpins from the “cocaine cowboy” era has been deported to the Dominican Republic after serving prison time.

News outlets report that Guillermo “Willie” Falcon was deported Nov. 6 after completing a 20-year money laundering sentence. Falcon and partner Salvador “Sal” Magluta were two of the top cocaine traffickers for Colombian cartels in South Florida during the 1980s.

Although Falcon grew up in Miami, he never became a U.S. citizen and thus was eligible for deportation. Magluta is serving a 195-year drug trafficking sentence.

Falcon’s younger brother, Gustavo, recently was sentenced to 11 years in prison after spending a quarter-century as a fugitive. Gustavo “Taby” Falcon was arrested in 2017 in the Orlando area, where he and his wife were living under false names.

Puerto Rico seeks more funds, help after Maria

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico’s governor is imploring U.S. Congress to increase federal funding and approve several measures to help the island recover from Hurricane Maria, saying that the U.S. territory is still struggling more than a year after the Category 4 storm.

Gov. Ricardo Rossello released a letter on Tuesday in which he asked the U.S. government to cover all costs linked to debris removal and emergency protective measures, declare the entire island a distressed area for tax break purposes and provide a tourism tax credit, among other things. While he called Congress “an instrumental partner,” he also demanded equal treatment for the people of Puerto Rico, who are U.S. citizens.

“Significant emergency response work remains to be done on the island,” he wrote in the letter dated Monday. “Time is of the essence, and continued action by Congress now is critical.”

Rossello said the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency is no longer fully funding things such as temporary generators, the demolition of buildings and tree removal. He said this is a major concern because “numerous” critical facilities still rely on generators, millions of cubic yards of debris still have to be cleared and more than 15,000 properties have to be cleaned or demolished.

Five die after helicopter crash in Dominican Republic

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — Authorities in the Dominican Republic say five people have died after a helicopter crashed near a popular tourist area.

The director of the Investigative Commission of Aviation Accidents says the EC20 helicopter disappeared late Thursday after the pilot picked up four people at a hotel in Rio San Juan on the country’s north coast.

Col. Emmanuel Souffront told The Associated Press on Friday that the group was headed to the southeast coastal city of La Romana.

Authorities said they lost contact with the helicopter some 24 miles (39 kilometers) northwest of their destination.

No further information was immediately available.

Cuban doctors return after program ends with Brazil

HAVANA — A first group of Cuban doctors who treated impoverished patients in Brazil returned to Havana on Friday as both countries end a program that saw thousands of doctors dispatched to underserved areas.

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel greeted 211 doctors who had worked in the South American country in exchange for hundreds of millions in badly needed hard currency given to the government.

They were among the more than 8,000 doctors that Cuba has recalled after rejecting conditions imposed by far-right Brazilian President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, who stipulated that doctors would need to directly receive their salaries from Brazil and be allowed to bring their families with them during their assignments, in addition to other conditions.

The Cuban government generally keeps most of the salaries of state employees working abroad as part of the socialist state’s “international missions.” One of the doctors who returned from tending to patients along the Brazilian-Argentine border was 33-year-old Anisley de Arguelles.

“It’s hard. I’m returning to my house and my homeland, but my heart is tight because I already had a connection with those people,” she told The Associated Press as she stood next to the Cuban president. “We were doing very beautiful work that unfortunately will remain incomplete.”

— Compiled from The Associated Press

Contact Johann Calhoun at newseditor@phillytrib.com or call at (215) 893-5739

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