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The Washington Times

McClintock Slams Calderon

By Jeffrey T. Kuhner

May 19, 2001
Copyright © 2001 The Washington Times. All Rights Reserved.

Puerto Rico 's Senate minority leader yesterday criticized Gov. Sila Calderon's opposition to the Navy's bombing exercises on Vieques , saying she is pandering to anti-American nationalists who favor independence for the small island.

In a luncheon interview with editors and reporters at The Washington Times, Kenneth D. McClintock, Senate minority leader of Puerto Rico 's pro-statehood New Progressive Party, said that Miss Calderon's opposition to the exercises has been unfairly presented in the U.S. media as the view of most Puerto Ricans .

"People on the mainland think that the governor speaks for all Puerto Ricans , that there is this monolithic position in Puerto Rico . In fact . . . it is very revealing how little they know about Puerto Rico ."

Miss Calderon wants an immediate end to the exercises.

Mr. McClintock says the issue has divided Puerto Rican society into those who are against the bombing exercises and those who back the U.S. military.

He said that, contrary to claims by opponents that the bombing exercises pose health risks to residents, the federal government "has reduced noise pollution on Vieques by at least 80 percent because they cut down the days of training from 180 a year to 90."

He also said the Navy has eliminated the use of live ammunition from its exercises, which "has cut explosions at least by half."

Despite the decline in noise, the minority leader said that opponents of the bombing earlier this year, in an attempt to prevent the war games, "approved a noise control law in the legislature aimed only at noise sources offshore. Nothing else was affected - no ghetto blasters, rock concerts and alarms going off in the night are affected."

Mr. McClintock yesterday called the bill "ridiculous and stupid." For making the identical statement earlier this year at a San Juan news conference, he was censured and suspended from the Senate for a day.

"I am asking the ACLU to intervene on our behalf," he said yesterday in Washington. "Because they always intervene on the side of the leftists in Puerto Rico . OK now, this is a First Amendment issue. If an individual citizen says a bill is ridiculous and stupid he is protected by the Constitution."

Mr. McClintock called the suspension "Third Worldish."

He said that Miss Calderon, head of the Popular Democratic Party, which favors Puerto Rico remaining a U.S. territory, has moved to the left since her election last November.

"She is supposed to be a middle-of-the-roader, but since she got elected as part of a pro-independence, pro-Commonwealth coalition . . . she has turned to the left to pick up the independistas vote and . . . plays footsy with them."

Anibal Acevedo, Puerto Rico 's delegate in Congress and a member of the Popular Democratic Party, says that the New Progressive Party`s loss in November's elections was due to its perceived weakness on the Vieques issue.

"They were defeated because of the way the past administration dealt with Vieques ."

He also said ordinary Puerto Ricans support Miss Calderon's position on the issue and that opposition to bombing on the island cuts "across party lines."

"Studies have shown repeatedly that there are numerous health and environmental risks to the people of Vieques ," Mr. Acevedo said.

He also criticized the Senate minority leader for flip-flopping on whether the Navy should stay on Vieques .

"McClintock says down here that he wants the Navy to leave Vieques . Now he is singing a different tune in Washington," said Mr. Acevedo.

Mr. McClintock could not be reached for immediate comment.

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