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Defense Department Regular News Briefing Speaker: Kenneth H. Bacon, Defense Department Spokesman

Navy Right To Use Vieques As A Training Range Until The Referendum Is Held

Political Transcripts by Federal Document Clearing House

January 4, 2001
Copyright © 2001 Federal Document Clearing House, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


QUESTION: Vieques , has this department made a decision on what it's going to do if the new governor of Puerto Rico abridges the existing agreements' last treaty?

BACON: Well, Governor Calderon, who was sworn-in earlier this week, has made some very clear statements about Vieques . We are waiting to sit down and talk with her about the way ahead on Vieques .

The Navy's view and the department's view on this is very clear, that we have an agreement that calls for a referendum to decide the future of the Navy range -- the Navy use of Vieques . We have set a date for that referendum. I believe it's in November of this year --November 6 or 7, as I recall, of this year. And we are prepared to move ahead with that. And there are some land transfers and other actions that take place before that.

We did not make any land transfers at the end of December, as originally planned, because we wanted to be able to sort out with the governor-elect -- now Governor Calderon -- exactly what her plans are for Vieques . And I hope we'll be able to do that relatively soon.


QUESTION: Yes, back to Vieques , I mean, now the governor who's sworn in has said as recently as yesterday that she's going to withdraw the SWAT team at the entrance of the gate which provides protection to the range. She still vows that she's going to have her own independent referendum. She still has called, once again, on President Clinton to use his powers as commander in chief to order the withdrawal of the Navy now. When does the department finally decide that the agreement is null and void? Or is there any hope that she can get what she wants?

BACON: I can't answer those questions. As I said, there has to be a meeting between the governor or her team and either the Navy or the administration. As you know, the current agreement was hammered out over a number of months during a number of meetings at the White House and here and elsewhere and in San Juan. And we'll continue the process.

We believe this agreement gives the Navy the right to use Vieques as a training range until the referendum is held, under the terms that were set in the agreement: no live fire but inert ordnance. And our plans are to continue to do that.

But we will attempt to sit down and talk with the governor about this.

Thank you.

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