Para ver este documento en español, oprima aquí.


Puerto Rico Attorney General Threatens To Sue Navy

by Paul Tolme

August 6, 1999
Copyright © 1999 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. All Rights Reserved.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Puerto Rico's attorney general threatened on Friday to sue the Navy if it continues to use the island of Vieques for bombing practice and war games. He said the Navy is endangering the people and the environment of the tiny outlying island.

The Navy is violating clean water, clean air, endangered species and hazardous waste laws by destroying coral reefs, threatening sea turtle habitat and failing to dispose of bombs that land off the range, Jose Fuentes Agostini said.

A lawsuit could be avoided if a federal panel reviewing Puerto Rico's complaints persuades President Clinton to close the bombing range and turn it over to Puerto Rico, he said.

"The Navy must recognize that Vieques belongs to the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico, not the Navy," Agostini told the Special Panel on Military Operations on Vieques.

The Navy insists its bombing range on the 51-square-mile island six miles off Puerto Rico is the only site where its Atlantic Fleet air, land and sea forces can train simultaneously with live munitions.

A Navy spokesman said the Navy has complied with various environmental permits and that many areas of the island are better off because of the Navy's presence.

"We have made our case very clear that we have been very good stewards of the environment on Vieques ," said Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Herman Phillips.

In addition, protesters on the bombing range have made it impossible for the Navy to gather some unexploded munitions, he said.

Hoping to stop the bombing, protesters have set up camps in the live-fire area. Opposition to the bombing range, in use since World War II, has galvanized since a civilian security guard - David Sanes Rodriguez - was killed in a Navy bombing accident on April 19.

Agostini showed film clips of the island and said that it has some of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean but that tourism is virtually nonexistent because of the Navy. The film showed Navy gunships blasting the island, which is littered with craters.

Vieques contains three of the seven remaining bioluminescent bays in the world, and the island is "ringed with stunning and valuable coral reefs," Agostini said. In addition there are at least 10 species of federally threatened and endangered animals and plants, including leatherback sea turtles.

In May, the Navy admitted it mistakenly fired 267 rounds tipped with depleted uranium on the island in February in violation of federal law. It also admits to having used napalm on the island in 1993.

The panel is to complete its work in August.

Self-Determination Legislation | Puerto Rico Herald Home
Newsstand | Puerto Rico | U.S. Government | Archives
Search | Mailing List | Contact Us | Feedback