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THE ORLANDO SENTINEL
Battle Brings 'Schizophrenia' to Forefront
by Ivan Roman
August 16, 1999
Copyright © 1999 THE ORLANDO SENTINEL. All Rights Reserved.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Both things were happening the same
day. And the timing and symbolism raised more than a few eyebrows.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson joined protesters and activists Friday
morning and walked along the bombed-out terrain of eastern Vieques,
calling for the U.S. Navy to stop military exercises there and
leave the island off Puerto Rico's southeast coast.
Meanwhile, in San Juan, Gov. Pedro Rossello watched the U.S.
Army's Golden Knight parachuters drop onto parade grounds at Fort
Buchanan with the flag of the U.S. Army South, which left Panama
this year and part of which was moved here.
At the welcoming ceremony, Rossello told them, "Esta es
su casa" (This is your home).
But when it comes to Vieques, he has told the Navy to clean
up and get out.
"He's trying to get them out of Vieques, and he's bringing
them into San Juan," socialist activist Carlos Gallisa said.
"The difference is that one group is dressed in white and
the other dresses in khaki. That only happens in the schizophrenia
of the colony...."
Rossello, the government of Puerto Rico , political parties
and many others are in a battle with Washington to get the Navy
out of Vieques ever since a fatal accident during bombing practice
killed a security guard in April.
Before that happened, the governor lobbied to get part of the
Southern Command here. About 1,300 soldiers are coming to Buchanan
and another 400 to Naval Station Roosevelt Roads, which includes
the three-quarters of the 52-square-mile island of Vieques that
it uses for training.
Rossello sees no mixed messages, no contradictions.
"[Vieques] has to do with the human rights of the civilian
population," he said. "The message coming out of here
is that Puerto Rico is united about the Navy leaving Vieques,
but it supports the U.S. armed forces and supports Puerto Rico's
participation in the national defense."
About 100 of those he was referring to, mostly socialists and
pro-independence activists, chanted slogans against the militarization
of Puerto Rico outside the U.S. Army South installations as the
ceremony took place. Recent consensus against the Navy's presence
in Vieques leads the activists to believe they are closer to winning
"It's a contradiction for the United States to pretend
to see this Vieques matter objectively while they are reaffirming
the militarization of Puerto Rico today in San Juan," said
Sen. Ruben Berrios, who has been camped out on restricted Navy
grounds in Vieques for 100 days.
"But the world is full of contradictions," he said.
"What's important is to win the battle over Vieques now,
so that we can later win the battle of demilitarization."
Puerto Rico has had strong ties to the military since its population
was granted U.S. citizenship in 1917, just in time to fight in
World War I.
Rossello said most Puerto Ricans welcome the military presence
on the island because "95 percent of our people cherish our
Some argue about the numbers, but it's clear that an overwhelming
majority of people here value that citizenship. And considerations
about citizenship influence discussion about political status.
Many people who want statehood for Puerto Rico , and also many
who support the current commonwealth status , don't want Washington
to get the wrong message. Even Jackson, while pledging to turn
the Vieques issue into a national campaign, was careful about
"We hope the U.S. government sees people here as saying
to the Navy, 'Out as an occupier, but not as a defender of peace,'"
Jackson said, standing near a former lagoon dried up by the Navy's
"And I hope Secretary of Defense [William] Cohen will
see that distinction."