Bush Stays Course
Navy Shrugs Off Referendum
Pro-Navy Leader Gears Up For November
Barrales' Statements That Choice Is Between Independence
Statehood Called `Undemocratic'
Expanded Vieques Referendum Proposed
Bush Stays Course On Vieques, Says Withdrawal Should Be Gradual
Ron Fournier, Associated Press
July 31, 2001
WASHINGTON - President Bush is sticking by his plan to gradually phase out bombing exercises on Puerto Rico 's Vieques island despite a local referendum demanding an immediate end.
Bush's spokesman, Ari Fleischer, said yesterday the Pentagon needs time to find a new site for exercises under an agreement in which the Navy will withdraw by May 1, 2003, and continue the training on Vieques with dummy bombs until then.
"The president has always said it's very important to listen to the people of Puerto Rico , and he has," Fleischer said. "The president also believes it's very important to have a seamless transition so that our military can be the best trained it can be so we are prepared for any contingencies around the world, and that's the approach that the president will reflect."
Bush's decision to withdraw within two years "was a recognition of the fact that people of Puerto Rico have concerns on this issue," Fleischer said. "But so, too, is it important to make certain that our military is trained until an alternative is found."
A legally binding referendum is scheduled for November.
"These matters are not only decided by referendum, but they are decided by a variety of factors that represent a balanced approach, and that's what the president has done here," Fleischer said.
Government officials have said the Pentagon will probably need the full two years to make the transition off Vieques.
Navy Shrugs Off Vieques Referendum
July 30, 2001
WASHINGTON - The US Navy shrugged off Monday the results of a non-binding referendum demanding an immediate halt to amphibious warfare training on Puerto Rican island of Vieques , saying the exercises will continue.
A naval battle group led by the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt is expected to begin exercises on the island later this week despite the residents' vote, Navy officials said.
"We will continue to train as provided for under the current law," said Lieutenant Commander Cate Mueller, a navy spokeswoman.
The Bush administration has said the navy will leave the island in 2003 because they are no longer wanted.
Sunday's referendum "doesn't change what we're doing there. We're still focused on the future and finding alternatives to continue conducting effective training for the Altantic Fleet's navy and marine corps forces before they deploy to protect American interests," Navy Secretary Gordon England said.
Pro-Navy Leader Dismisses Sunday's Result, Gears Up For November
By Proviana Colon Diaz
July 30, 2001
VIEQUES - Pro-Navy leader Luis Sanchez on Sunday refused to accept that his option 3 was defeated in the referendum, saying they obtained more votes than others expected.
In Sunday's local referendum, option 2, which advocated the immediate and permanent cease of U.S. Navy military exercises in Vieques and the Navy's exit from the island, obtained 68% of the votes to option 3's 30%.
Sanchez said support for his option, which advocated continuation of military exercises by the Navy and the resumption of bombings with live ammunition, might have been less because they had few resources to carry out their campaign.
"Now is that we begin to work toward the referendum that really counts. One month was not enough for us to get prepared. We now have three months to prepare ourselves," said Sanchez, adding that the federal government will hold the November referendum.
Sanchez added that he sees little if no repercussions to Sunday's results.
"There will be no consequences. Congress was clear that this referendum had no value. This is take the results, place them in a suitcase and throw them in the garbage," Sanchez said.
Government Officials: Barrales' Statements `Undemocratic'
July 28, 2001
SAN JUAN (AP) - La Fortaleza Chief of Staff Cesar Miranda said statements by an aide to U.S. President George W. Bush that the only options for Puerto Rico are statehood and independence were "absolutely undemocratic."
Miranda referred to statements made Friday by Ruben Barrales during acts to commemorate the birthday of statehood stalwart Jose Celso Barbosa. Barrales said the Bush administration is committed to help Puerto Ricans choose their political destiny, but that the decision ultimately would be between "independence and statehood."
"The statements of Barrales were not authorized and do not represent the official position of the president," Miranda said.
He reminded Barrales that in all status consultations held on the island since the Commonwealth was created, this option has won over statehood and independence.
Bush Aide: Choice Is Between Independence, Statehood
July 27, 2001
BAYAMON (AP) - Stating that the administration of President George W. Bush is committed "to allowing Puerto Ricans to choose their own destiny," an aide of the president said the ultimate choice will be between "independence and statehood."
In a message delivered in Spanish during acts to commemorate pro-statehood stalwart Jose Celso Barbosa's birthday, Bush's aide, Ruben Barrales, said Puerto Rico would be better off by having a permanent relationship with the United States to reach its goals.
Barrales addressed the crowd calling them "my fellow citizens," in an apparent attempt to ease statehooders who were annoyed with Bush's statements that Puerto Ricans are "friends and neighbors" of the United States.
New Progressive Party (NPP) Sen. Kenneth McClintock, who spoke earlier during the activity, had already said "we are a lot more than friends and neighbors."
"You have done a great service and sacrifice for the United States of America," Barrales said. "Thanks for all that you have given our nation."
Expanded Vieques Referendum Proposed
July 26, 2001
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A House Republican wants to raise the stakes on Puerto Rico if it is able to hold a referendum in November on whether the Navy must stop military exercises on the island of Vieques by May 2003.
House GOP leaders want to block the referendum, which Congress originally imposed. But if they fail to do so, Pennsylvania Republican Curt Weldon wants it to be far more sweeping: Instead of just voting for the Navy to stop using Vieques, he wants the island's residents to vote on completely removing the U.S. military from Puerto Rico.
That would include the vast Roosevelt Roads Naval Station that administers Vieques and employs more than 5,000 military and civilian employees, including about 200 residents of Vieques, where unemployment runs at 12.3 percent. It also would include Fort Buchanan in San Juan, with its 2,100 Army personnel.
``If they want the benefits of the military'' such as the jobs, he said, they'll have to take the training as well, Weldon said Thursday.