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Lutheran Leader May Join Vieques Fight

Impasse Over Riot Squad

Calderon Opposes PDP Referendum Repeal Bill

Timing Is Of Essence

Bush Favors Clinton Directives


Lutheran Leader May Join Fight Over Vieques

By Cathleen Falsani, Religion Reporter

February 1, 2001
Copyright © 2001 Chicago Sun-Times. All Rights Reserved.

Bishop H. George Anderson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, plans to lead a delegation to Puerto Rico at the request of Caribbean Lutherans concerned about the continued U.S. Navy presence on the tiny Puerto Rican island of Vieques.

Anderson, who is based in Chicago, and several other Lutheran officials plan to visit Vieques March 22-23 to meet with the island's mayor, residents and military representatives.

The Rev. Gregory Villalon, former bishop of the ELCA's Caribbean Synod, called the trip a fact-finding mission.

"What we hope to do is respond to a call from some of our members there . . . to find a peaceful solution to this whole issue," said Villalon, who is the ELCA's director of ethnic leadership development. "We want a just and fair solution for all sides, which might or might not be a military withdrawal."

The Lutheran body, which has about 7,000 members in Puerto Rico, has been lobbying for years for an end to military activity on Vieques. In 1999, the governing body of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which represents 5.15 million Lutherans in the United States and the Caribbean, asked the U.S. government to "seek reasonable solutions that will end U.S. military operations on the island of Vieques and return the land to the people of the island while not compromising our nation's security."


Impasse Over Riot Squad Between Calderon And Vieques Leaders

February 1, 2001
Copyright © 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - Vieques community leaders informed Gov. Sila Calderon that they do not want any type of police troops in Vieques, and as soon as the Riot Squad leaves the island municipality they will increase protests.

"We have been very clear that we don't want to see a replacement of big billy clubs for little billy clubs. We told that to the police superintendent when he made his first visit to Vieques," said Roberto Rabin on Wednesday in a press conference after a meeting between Vieques leaders and the governor.

"What we have suggested is that military transit in Vieques roads should stop to avoid aggression to the community and avoid a possibility of a clash," Rabin said.


Calderon Opposes Vieques Referendum Repeal Bill By PDP Lawmakers

By Proviana Colon Diaz

January 31, 2001
Copyright © 2001 PuertoRicoWOW News Service. All Rights Reserved.

Gov. Sila Calderon on Wednesday opposed a bill filed by 15 Popular Democratic Party (PDP) representatives to repeal the laws that enable a referendum on the future of the U.S. Navy in Vieques. The Navy has said it will hold the referendum on Nov. 6.

She said the bill goes against her "strategy" regarding the issue.

"I have a public policy and a defined strategy of dialogue with President [George W.] Bush, and that bill is not in accordance at this time with my strategy," Calderon said.

The governor said she will work toward improving the referendum included as part of an accord between former President Bill Clinton and former Gov. Pedro Rossello, but if her efforts fail, she will hold a local referendum.

Once again, Calderon asked that she be given "space" to complete her strategy on Vieques.


Governor: Timing Is Of Essence

Iván Román

January 29, 2001
Copyright © 2001 Orlando Sentinel. All Rights Reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- In her first speech before the Legislature, Gov. Sila Maria Calderon drew thunderous applause when she announced Wednesday that the bill proposing environmental noise regulations that would block the U.S. Navy from bombing in Vieques was ready to go.

Then she drew laughs from the crowd when she repeated what in her four weeks in office is becoming a mantra.

"This bill will be presented, when necessary, at the right moment," Calderon said, after presenting about 20 other bills to legislators that night.

Opposition New Progressive Party Sen. Norma Burgos wasn`t laughing. After bucking her party`s stance supporting presidential directives in place that allow limited Navy exercises with dummy bombs until May 2003, she wondered what Calderon was waiting for.

On the campaign trail, Calderon vowed to present the noise regulations in her first 60 days in office. After she won, her strong rhetoric about her aggressive plans caused many in Washington to worry that a confrontation to get the Navy out of its premier training facility in the Atlantic was inevitable.

"Maybe she`s pulling punches," a disappointed Burgos said after the speech. "Maybe now she realizes it`s not the same to make promises on the campaign trail, then to come through once you`re sitting in the governor`s chair."

Calderon has spent the week asking for patience. She wants a chance to talk with the Bush administration and wait for federal health officials to conclude their review of the military exercises` effects on the health of Vieques` 9,300 residents.Her supporters -- and some activists giving her the benefit of the doubt -- say local bills are important, but the true battle to be won is in Washington so it may be smart to wait and line up the forces on their side.

President Bush on Friday reiterated his support of the presidential directives, which also give Vieques voters the power to decide whether the Navy stays or goes after 2003 in a referendum Nov. 6.

But pro-Navy hard liners in Congress want the directives renegotiated to allow live fire between now and 2003 and ensure that the Navy stays if it can`t find a suitable alternative.

So stressing the need for "dialogue," Calderon has held off on taking away the SWAT teams that guard the entrances to Navy property in Vieques. And she hasn`t repeated threats to hold her own referendum before Nov. 6 that adds a choice to cease all bombing immediately.

Activists are pinning their hopes on the federal health review President Clinton ordered days before leaving office, to be completed before the Navy resumes exercises March 9. A preliminary study that Calderon released earlier this month shows that the sonic boom from the bombing caused heart abnormalities in Vieques fishermen and their families.

He also ordered the Navy to identify an alternative site and predicted the Navy would lose the referendum.

Opponents in Congress dismiss Clinton`s orders as "last-minute politicking." But some Republicans are jumping on the Puerto Rico bandwagon. Calderon persuaded New York Gov. George Pataki, a prominent Republican, to denounce the bombings and lobby the new administration on her behalf.

And the 1.4 million-member strong Service Employees International Union, the largest union within the AFL-CIO, made getting the Navy out of Vieques a main point in its agenda last week. A delegation of the union is visiting Vieques today.

Although they didn`t support Bush, union leaders say his victory while having lost the popular vote will force him and other Republicans to listen. And they plan to talk about Vieques with every politician they meet with.

"If Bush wants to win the support of the Latino and progressive communities in the United States, this is a good way to prove that he wants to establish ties with those who didn`t support him," said Dennis Rivera, president of Local 1199 in New York City, the union`s largest.


Acevedo Vila: Bush Favors Vieques Presidential Directives

January 29, 2001
Copyright © 2001 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All Rights Reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila said President George W. Bush said he supports the directives issued by President Bill Clinton in relation to the U.S. Navy presence on Vieques.

Acevedo Vila brought up the Vieques topic during a lunch with Bush and new U.S. congressmen, where Acevedo Vila shared a table with Bush.

Acevedo Vila reminded Bush that Gov. Sila Calderon wished to meet with him to explain why they want to "improve the agreement," according to published reports.

Bush had consulted with his assistants Andrew Card and Joshua Bolten about the Vieques case, but Acevedo Vila thought that both offered the president the Defense Department version.

He said when he inquired about the health problems in Vieques, Bolten was surprised.

The White House, however, has not issued official statements that reveal the president's position on Vieques, though during his electoral campaign, Bush said he would respect the directives issued by his predecessor in relation to the matter.

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