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THE ORLANDO SENTINEL
Americans to Tour Vieques
Congressional Aides to See Bombing Range
by Ivan Roman
June 25, 1999
Copyright © 1999 THE ORLANDO SENTINEL
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - In the first such visit since the fatal
accident that spurred controversy over the U.S. Navy's presence
in Vieques, congressional staffers for the House and Senate Armed
Services committees will tour the area today and Saturday.
The staffers arrive amid renewed anger in Puerto Rico over Thursday's
news reports that a Navy official partially lays blame on the
Also, a confidential Navy memo that came to light Thursday detailed
a strategy to counteract the push for the Navy to leave Vieques.
The memo, drafted in the '70s, reportedly says that if the Navy
were forced out, federal funds and/or support for statehood for
Puerto Rico could dry up. Critics are calling that blackmail.
The six staffers, brought here by the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs
Administration, will tour the Navy's training grounds including
the observation post where wayward bombs killed security guard
David Sanes Rodriguez during target practice on April 19.
"We want them to see first hand the situation," said
Alcides Ortiz, administration executive director. "It's a
plus to be ready to react when the president's panel on Vieques
issues its report."
Responding to Gov. Pedro Rossello's request for the military exercises
with live ammunition to stop, President Clinton ordered creation
of a four-member panel to review the matter. Many don't trust
the panel because three members are Navy or ex-Navy.
With pressure building in Puerto Rico and Washington, Ortiz's
office persuaded some staffers to see what the controversy was
about. They include staffers from the offices of Sen. Arlen Specter,
R-Pa., Rep. J.C. Watts, R-Okla., Rep. Robert Brady, D-Pa., Joe
Scarborough, R-Fla., and Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas.
They will speak with a representative of the governor's commission
on Vieques, which will issue its report today, but won't make
it public until Wednesday.