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Planning Vieques


May 15, 2003
Copyright © 2003 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Much has been said and written about the disgraceful events that took place in Vieques the morning of May 1, when the U.S. Navy officially transferred title over its lands to the U.S. Dept of the Interior’s Fish & Wildlife Service. Most of it has been angry recrimination born out of political rivalry and opportunism.

Here’s one last thought on the matter. The events, where an angry mob illegally entered and destroyed hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of federal property in "celebration" of the Navy’s departure, evidenced the local government’s traditional incapacity to plan ahead. We don’t mean only the present administration. The local government’s lack of planning goes across party lines. You would have thought that after four years since the accidental death of the security guard that sparked the controversy, three or four "commissions" on the matter, and endless speeches and reports, the government could have used the time to articulate and sell to the local population, both on Vieques and throughout Puerto Rico, a plan about how to manage the transition and, ultimately, what to do with the land if and when it was transferred to Puerto Rico. It has not been done.

In the absence of order, chaos prevails. In the absence of a plan--and we don’t mean just a piece of paper, but a well-articulated plan to be sold to and supported by all stakeholders--Vieques will continue to see confrontation, now against the U.S. Dept. of the Interior instead of the Navy. In the absence of a plan, Vieques may end up being no man’s land, with illegal squatting being the order of the day, with adults and children alike risking injury or death with so much unexploded ordnance all over the abandoned target range.

We hope to be wrong, but unless the government gets its act together, now that the Navy has left the island municipality and almost certainly will leave its base at Roosevelt Roads, Vieques and Ceiba are likely to experience the fate of Culebra and Aguadilla decades ago: tremendous economic development opportunities squandered by lack of adequate planning.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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