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Menendez Requests Bio Tests’ Papers…Pereira Won’t Lower His Guard…Withdrawal Of Navy Lawsuit Considered… Rabin: Calderon Paid Political Price…EQB To Look Over Vieques Clean Up…Firms Interested In Building Bridge To Vieques…Skepticism Over Governor’s Announcement

Menendez Requests Vieques Chemical Exercises Papers

October 24, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - Robert Menendez, the highest-ranking Hispanic in Congress, asked President George W. Bush to authorize the handing over of all documents related with the chemical and biological practices conducted on Vieques.

Democrat Menendez’s petition is included in the most recent letter sent to Bush demanding an executive order that guarantees the government’s commitment to stop the Navy’s exercises on Vieques no later than May 2003.

The Cuban congressman, elected by New Jersey, told Bush that it is vitally important for the public health of the Viequenses to know the details of these practices.

The military practices on Vieques included at least one exercise in 1969 in which the chemical substance "fosfato de trioctilo" was thrown from a military plane to study its impact on land troops and a crew on a nearby boat on Blue Beach.

Pereira Won’t Lower His Guard In Vieques

October 21, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Police Superintendent Miguel Pereira will increase the number of police agents in Vieques to prevent any incidents. He made the decision after U.S. President George W. Bush’s promise to withdraw the U.S. Navy from Vieques by May 2003 was confirmed last week.

The police chief noted that should new military practices resume prior to the deadline, he would implement the same security and surveillance plan he has implemented in the past.

Right now, there are 60 police officers in Vieques.

According to Pereira, the crime rate in Vieques is mostly linked to drug consumption, for which addicts rob others to satisfy their need.

Justice Evaluates The Possible Withdrawal Of Navy Lawsuit

October 21, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez said she would consider whether to withdraw the lawsuit against the U.S. Navy. The case is still pending at the Washington D.C. Court of Appeals.

Based on the fact that the Navy has already confirmed to Gov. Sila Calderon that it would leave Vieques by May 2003, Rodriguez said she would reevaluate the case to make a decision.

She didn’t want to reveal specific details.

As to the class action lawsuit that Vieques Mayor Damaso Serrano said he would file against the federal government, Rodriguez said he hasn’t asked for her opinion.

However, she said the Vieques municipality has the ability to go to court without consulting the Justice Department.

Serrano said he would request a multimillion-dollar compensation for the damage that the Navy bombings have allegedly caused to the health, ecology, and economy of Vieques.

Nevertheless, the governor has warned anti-Navy protesters to be careful with their actions.

Rabin: Calderon Paid Political Price

October 21, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Gov. Sila Calderon’s announcement of the end of the military practices on Vieques was an important move in the process to achieve the demilitarization of the island municipality. The political moment was also vital, a Vieques leader said.

"Those expressions were in accordance with the times, times of congressional and governmental elections in the mainland U.S. Those were the expressions that we had hoped to hear this month," said Robert Rabin, spokesman of the Pro Rescue and Development of Vieques Committee.

According to Rabin, the key was to announce that Calderon would support the political campaign of Republican New York Gov. George Pataki.

Rabin said that was the political price she had to negotiate with President Bush in exchange for confirming the end of the military practices.

He said that same political move was what made North Atlantic Navy Fleet Cmdr. Robert Natter announce the multimillion-dollar economic injection that the state of Florida would receive from the transferring of the military practices in Vieques.

EQB To Look Over The Cleanup Of Vieques Lands

October 20, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - The announcement of the official withdrawal of the U.S. Navy from Vieques is the beginning of a new battle: the decontamination of the small island municipality, said Environmental Quality Board Chairman Esteban Mujica.

According to published reports, Mujica said the process could be long because it requires identifying and locating the contaminating agents in order to determine the strategies that will be implemented to remove and neutralize the pollutants.

"However, we cannot spend 60 more years cleaning up Vie?ques. This must be done in a rapid, scientific, and effective way," said engineer and attorney Mario Soriano.

The environmentalist said that even if the Navy leaves Vieques, its presence will be there as long as pollutants remain on the island as evidence of the military practices which have been carried out there during 60 years.

He said the Navy should collaborate in identifying the contaminated spots and paying for the cleanups.

Firms Interested In Building Bridge To Vieques

October 20, 2002
Copyright © 2002 EFE NEWS SERVICE. All rights reserved. 

Ponce, Puerto Rico - An Italian and a Japanese firm have expressed interest in constructing a bridge that would connect the island of Vieques to the eastern tip of Puerto Rico , Sen. Jose Luis Dalmau said Saturday.

Dalmau, of the ruling Popular Democratic Party (PPD), is promoting the initiative as a way of stimulating the depressed economy of Vieques , which is 11 kilometers (6 miles) from Puerto Rico and has been the site of U.S. Navy live-fire maneuvers for more than 60 years.

He said that "the firm which built a similar bridge in Sicily, and another that constructed one in Kobe, Japan, have approached my office and are interested in competing in the bidding" for the project.

Dalmau told EFE the toll for crossing the bridge would be minimal, and that his advisers estimate that a $400 million investment will be needed to complete construction.

Seeking to justify the project, the PPD senator remarked that the ferries now traveling between Vieques and the main island of Puerto Rico are losing $20 million to $25 million per year.

He also said the Puerto Rican government should present a proposal because Washington is considering the construction of more than five similar bridges, and that any project selected could be eligible up to 100 percent federal financing.

Skepticism Over Governor’s Announcement Of Navy’s Exit

October 19, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Vieques leaders opposed to military practices in Vieques took Gov. Sila Calderon’s announcement that she received verbal confirmation for the Armed Forces that the U.S. Navy will cease its practices in the island municipality on or before May 2003 with skepticism and caution.

Ismael Guadalupe, Carlos Zenon, and Robert Rabin, three of the main leaders opposed to the military practices, reacted separately to the governor’s announcement but coincided in that they prefer to see a written confirmation to believe that the Navy will abandon Vieques.

"We don’t have anything to celebrate. We will celebrate when we see the Navy completely abandon Vieques, clean our lands, return our lands, and compensate us," Guadalupe told AP.

He said the experience of the Puerto Rican people is that the Navy has lied to the Viequenses in the past, so he will not believe in the Navy’s word until they stop military practices.

Rabin said the governor’s expressions should be taken with caution, especially when they are said in moments of a state and congressional election campaign in the United States.

Among the many thanks the governor offered in her press conference in which she made the announcement, Calderon particularly mentioned Republican New York Gov. George Pataki, who is in a reelection campaign.

"We can’t lower our guard; we can’t celebrate victory. There is still no signed document, and the governor did not mention anything about the practices scheduled for January," Rabin said.

However, he acknowledged that the news "is very positive for us because it tells us that the Vieques issue is extremely important for U.S. electoral politics."

Also expressing himself in a similar manner is Zenon, who also said he prefers to see a written document to believe the announcement.

"I am warning the Puerto Rican people, and especially the Viequenses, that we have to take this with tweezers," indicated the fisherman and veteran leader of the anti-Navy cause.

"The sad thing of all this is that we still have not seen a document, written in black and white, that [the Navy] is leaving in 2003," he added.

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