Este informe no está disponible en español.
Vieques Feud Takes Back Seat For Now
By Iván Román | San Juan Bureau
September 23, 2001
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- For the first time since the Vieques controversy erupted more than two years ago, scores of protesters won't be trespassing onto U.S. Navy grounds to try to block bombing exercises set to start Monday.
With devastating images of the crumbling twin towers engraved in people's minds, protesters who want the Navy out of Vieques say it's not the time -- and may be too dangerous -- to face military police as more than 860 have done so far.
So they will march on picket lines this week, knowing the winds of war will grow stronger, making their fight that much more difficult.
The suicide attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon may have suddenly snatched away what just two weeks ago seemed within their grasp. Not only is discussion of the issue understandably stalled in Washington, but support for the United States' worldwide war on terrorism could deal a major blow to the movement and raise questions now about whether the Navy will ever leave Vieques.
"We know we are in a critical moment in our struggle," said Nilda Medina, coordinator of the Vieques Peace and Justice Camp across the street from the main gates of the Navy's Camp Garcia. "Like the past 60 years, we are going to once again be the stage for the needs of the U.S. and not the needs of our people."
Angering pro-military congressmen and appeasing Puerto Ricans, President Bush announced in June that the Navy would leave Vieques by May 2003. Not only does the deployment of aircraft carriers to the Middle East raise questions about whether that will happen, but it also virtually silences all politicians bolstering the protesters' demands that the Navy stop all training in Vieques immediately.
Rep. James Hansen, R-Utah, who in the House has spearheaded the fight for the Navy to stay in Vieques, met with Navy officials last week to push for the use of live fire in its training there, something banned by federal law since last year.
"All of us are going to have to ask ourselves what we're willing to do now, no matter what the future brings," said Hansen's spokesman Bill Johnson. "The John F. Kennedy battle group going to Vieques now will likely go to the Middle East right after, and those people need that training now."
The decision on live fire is one Bush would have to make. And for the time being, he's busy with bigger issues.
Vieques residents are scheduled to vote in an unprecedented referendum Nov. 6 to determine whether the Navy leaves after May 1, 2003, or stays indefinitely and trains using live fire in exchange for $50 million in economic-development aid. Under presidential directives that became federal law, the Navy can continue limited training using dummy bombs until that date.
Rep. Anibal Acevedo Vila, the island's only non-voting representative in Congress, said the Senate will stave off any changes to the law on Vieques to avoid any friction during this time of crisis when lawmakers are almost unanimously seeking consensus.
"To ask Congress at this moment to change the current agreement about Vieques is not practical, and it won't be productive, and that goes for those on both sides of the controversy," Acevedo Vila said.
Gov. Sila Calderon, who has fiercely opposed any more bombing, won't talk about how the recent attacks could change her position on Vieques and stresses that this is a time to support Bush, help the victims, and take part in rebuilding.