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Navy Suggests Cutting Back Vieques Use

Maneuvers End

3 Detained For Throwing Firebombs

Navy Suggests Cutting Back Use Of Vieques

Puerto Ricans will vote on plan


August 9, 2001
Copyright © 2001 The Miami Herald. All rights reserved.

The U.S. Navy has proposed cutting in half its use of the target range on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques and limiting live-fire exercises to no more than 36 days if its voters allow military maneuvers to continue, Pentagon officials confirmed Wednesday.

The proposal, outlined in a letter sent by Navy Secretary Gordon England to Puerto Rico Gov. Sila Calderón, is to be among the options presented to voters in a binding referendum scheduled for Nov. 6.

The calendar of curtailed exercises would apply only if Vieques voters were to cast ballots in favor of allowing the Navy to remain on their tiny island -- a development considered unlikely in view of its overwhelmingly rejection in a non-binding referendum last month.

``This is the terms of use if the results [of the Nov. referendum] were to approve continued use of Vieques,'' said a Pentagon official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

A second option to be considered by voters in the November referendum is for all training to end by May 2003 -- a date to which President George W. Bush already agreed, but which may not pass muster with Congress, which is increasingly skeptical about abandoning Vieques.

Officials from Calderon's administration declined to comment on the proposal Wednesday, saying the governor was still reviewing the contents of the letter dated Aug. 2. But opponents of the maneuvers criticized England's proposal, saying Vieques residents already have voted against the Navy in a nonbinding referendum held July 29.

Nearly 70 percent of the voters supported an end to the bombing and the Navy's withdrawal from the island.

``We weren't in favor of the Navy's use of inert bombs, so imagine live ones,'' said Vieques Mayor Dámaso Serrano López. ``The people of Vieques have already spoken in a very democratic way. The American government -- the mother of democracy -- should honor that vote.''

Opposition to the Navy's use of the target range grew after an off-target bomb killed a civilian guard in April 1999. Under an agreement reached by former President Clinton and former Gov. Pedro Rosselló, the Navy ceased using live rounds as part of military exercises and limited use of the range to 90 days.

Before the agreement, the Navy had unlimited use of the 900-acre range but it was used 182 days, mostly with live rounds, in the year preceding the death of the civilian guard, said Jeffrey Farrow, a former White House staffer who helped broker the deal between Clinton and Roselló.

Meanwhile, the Navy has moved forward with an attempt to quash the November referendum by trying to get Congress to amend legislation that requires that the president ``provide for a referendum.''

The House Armed Services Committee recently recommended against holding the November vote.

Committee members also recommended that the Navy find a suitable alternative before they close the training range, even though military officials have repeatedly said Vieques is the only place in the Atlantic with the right combination of factors for air, sea and land maneuvers.

``This issue is a long way from resolution,'' said Farrow, now a public policy consultant in Washington. ``The only thing that can now be done is accept what the president has said. Outside of that, there is going to be continued conflict.''

Controversial Maneuvers End With 68 Arrests

August 9, 2001
Copyright © 2001 EFE News Services (U.S.) Inc. All rights reserved.
Source: World Reporter (TM)

Vieques , Puerto Rico , Aug 9 (EFE).- Calm returned Thursday morning to the offshore Puerto Rican island of Vieques , after the U.S. Navy wrapped up a week of shelling, bombing and amphibious assault exercises that triggered renewed protests.

The exercises were intermittently interrupted by demonstrators who broke through the fence that seals off the southeastern end of the island which the Navy has been using as a firing range for the past 61 years.

Altogether 68 protesters were arrested and two were injured when they tried to infiltrate the firing ground in acts of "civil disobedience" seeking to become "human shields" that would force the maneuvers to be called off.

``We're already prepared for the next round,'' said Vieques protest leader Ismael Guadalupe.

Three Detained For Throwing Firebombs At Military Vehicle On Vieques


August 8, 2001
Copyright © 2001 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

VIEQUES , Puerto Rico (AP) - Local police on Wednesday detained three people who allegedly threw homemade fire bombs -- "molotov cocktails" -- at two sailors in a military vehicle in a protest over U.S. Navy bombing on Vieques island.

The firebombs - tossed by the protesters on civilian lands - missed the vehicle, which was patrolling the fenceline of the Navy's Camp Garcia. The firebombs burned a patch of grass, causing no injuries, said Vieques Police Commander Jose Caldero.

"This is far from an act of civil disobedience," said Police Chief Pierre Vivoni. "This is a criminal act that could cause death."

Charges were not immediately filed against the two women, who police described as university students, and one man. The bombs were fashioned from glass bottles, filled with gasoline and rags, Caldero said.

"They have crossed the line into becoming violent," said Navy spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Katherine Goode.

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