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U.S. Flag Raised At Vieques

Governor In Washington

Hansen Plays Wilderness Card

Congressmen Criticize Decision

Protesters Decry Foul Play


U.S. Flag Raised At Vieques Church Causes Debates

June 28, 2001
Copyright © 2001 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP)--Activists who favor statehood for Puerto Rico raised a U.S. flag outside a chapel dedicated to the cause of ending Navy exercises on Vieques island Thursday, provoking a shouting match and standoff over whether to take the flag down.

It was raised by members of the Pro-Statehood University Movement. One member of the group, Omar Negron, said he and others wanted to put up the flag in response to the recent destruction of a U.S. flag by anti-Navy activists.

About 600 people, including some of Puerto Rico 's top politicians, gathered around the small chapel in front of the Capitol where pro-statehood demonstrators raised the U.S. flag.

Activists from across the island's political spectrum shouted at each other, turning the flag into a symbol of the disagreement between those who support statehood, the current "commonwealth" status and independence.

Pro-statehood demonstrators later raised a Puerto Rican flag to fly under the U.S. flag. As it went up, they shouted: " Puerto Rico USA, Puerto Rico USA!"


Governor In Washington To Promote Economic Incentives

June 28, 2001
Copyright © 2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - With an agenda full of meetings with U.S. congressmen, Gov. Sila Calderon went to Washington to promote the approval of economic incentives for Puerto Rico.

Calderon will meet with members of the Ways and Means Committee, and other congressmen. After that meting she will meet with the Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle; with Congressman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Finance Committee Chairman, and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa,) member of the same committee.

The meeting with members of the Ways and Means Committee was promoted by congressmen Phil Crane (R-Ill.) and Charles Rangel (D-NY,) who support a bill to enable incentives for the establishment of foreign corporations in Puerto Rico, according to public officials.eek the land for free, "and then sell it to their friends. That's the scam. And the scam hurts national security."


Hansen Plays Wilderness Card

By Lee Davidson

June 27, 2001
Copyright © 2001 . All rights reserved.

WASHINGTON -- This time he didn't call Puerto Rico a welfare state. But Rep. Jim Hansen on Wednesday did threaten to block converting a soon-to-close training range there into lucrative beachfront property.

He says he may instead push to declare the Vieques Island testing range as an undevelopable wilderness area -- one contaminated with bombs to boot. That, of course, won't help the economy much of the islanders who have pushed to close the range.

"I've heard it would take $200 million to clean that baby up," Hansen, R-Utah, said about the Vieques range, which President Bush decided earlier this month to close in 2003. It is the only range where Navy and Marine forces can now train together with live weaponry.

Hansen, who loudly denounced the closure as severely damaging to U.S. training, told colleagues at a House Armed Services Committee hearing Wednesday that cleaning the Vieques bombing range would be too expensive and dangerous.

"As chairman of the Resources Committee . . . (I ask) why do we want to take that dangerous precedent? I think it would be much smarter to turn the whole thing into wilderness," Hansen said.

Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., another critic of closing Vieques , contends that developers were behind protests that led to closure, hoping to develop beachfront property. And, of course, Hansen's idea of turning the area into bomb-infested wilderness would not help them.

"Someone is footing the bill -- and it's developers who want to get their hands on 16 miles of beachfront property," Taylor said. He said Puerto Rican officials would likely seek the land for free, "and then sell it to their friends. That's the scam. And the scam hurts national security."


Lawmakers Criticize Vieques Decision

June 27, 2001
Copyright © 2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congressmen criticized Navy Secretary Gordon R. England on Wednesday for his decision to withdraw from the Vieques Island training site, with some saying the Pentagon should rethink the plan.

In a three-hour Capitol Hill hearing, lawmakers vented their anger that President Bush and others in the administration didn't consult them before announcing two weeks ago it would bow to Puerto Rican protesters and quit the Navy's premier Atlantic exercise site by May 2003.

Others criticized the decision as a political move to appease Hispanics; a risk to military training, readiness and lives; and a bad precedent for other places around the world where U.S. military facilities are opposed by local residents.

Rep. James V. Hansen, R-Utah, said that in Vieques they have waged a propaganda war with unsubstantiated claims the military bombing is destroying residents' health.

``Just wait, Okinawa is next, then Korea and on down the line,'' Hansen said.

``It's clear to me that a mistake has been made here,'' said Rep. Robin Hayes, R-N.C. ``I would strongly suggest that you go back and revisit this issue.''

Of some 20 congressmen who spoke at the hearing of the House Armed Services Committee, the majority opposed the withdrawal plan.

England told the committee that the administration decided to leave Vieques and look for an alternative site or sites because officials believed the Navy would lose a November referendum in which island residents are scheduled to vote whether training there should continue or be ended.

England said lawmakers will be asked to cancel the referendum now called for by law. It was unclear how many congressmen would support such legislation.

``If the Department of Defense wants the committee's support in canceling the referendum and leaving the island, then it must first prove that the closure of Vieques will not damage military readiness and that a viable alternative is in fact available,'' said committee chairman Bob Stump, R-Ariz.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., said the Pentagon could try to win the referendum through ``a lot of good public relations work.''


Protesters Decry Foul Play

Ivan Roman

June 27, 2001
Copyright © 2001 Orlando Sentinel. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- A somewhat weakened yet defiant Jackie Jackson, wife of civil-rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson, was taken to federal prison for another two days Tuesday night to complete a 10-day sentence for trespassing on U.S. Navy property in Vieques.

Just before she was handcuffed again, Jackson reiterated she would keep refusing the searches that she thinks violate her rights.

"I am an American patriot, and when I fight for civil rights, social justice and world peace, I am acting out the American dream," Jackson told U.S. District Judge Daniel Dominguez before he sentenced her to 10 days in jail and one year probation. "I believe that bail and jail should not be used as a method to support the bombing policy by dissuading acts of civil disobedience and the exercise of First Amendment rights."

In Puerto Rico, Jesse Jackson questioned the federal court's imposition of $3,000 bail on people for misdemeanors, handing down stiff sentences to protesters locked in a two-year struggle to stop the bombing on Vieques, and allowing the federal government to use Navy lawyers to prosecute these cases.

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