Para ver este documento
en español, oprima aquí.
ASSOCIATED PRESS NEWSWIRES
Pentagon Hopes 'Cooling Off' Period Will Smooth Over
by Tom Raum
December 7, 1999
Copyright © 1999 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. All Rights Reserved.
WASHINGTON (AP) - Both sides need a "cooling off"
period to resolve the U.S. Navy's dispute with Puerto Rico over
whether bombing practice should resume on the outlying island
of Vieques, a Defense Department spokesman suggested Tuesday.
"I think there's room for dialogue here," said the
spokesman, Kenneth Bacon.
Bacon said that an envoy, Rear Adm. Kevin Green, would be in
Puerto Rico later this week to begin talks with local citizens
and officials in an effort to sell them on the administration's
plan to resume bombing practice next spring at sharply reduced
levels and without live ammunition. (N.B. The visit was postponed
on Thursday, December 10th).
"Obviously, tempers are hot now and we're hoping that
there can be a time for cooling off as people review terms of
this package," Bacon said.
He declined to say whether the administration would move ahead
if objections from Puerto Ricans remain as strong as they are
"I think I won't speculate on what's going to happen,"
Bacon said. "I will assume that everybody will be able to
sit down and agree to the package that has been presented and
we can begin working under terms of that package."
President Bill Clinton last Friday extended the present moratorium
on Navy bombing until next spring. Then, however, his plan calls
for a scaled-back resumption of training using inert bombs, with
all training to be phased out within five years.
Puerto Rico would get $40 million as an incentive under the
But Puerto Rican Gov. Pedro Rossello has said it is unacceptable
because it does not go far enough in closing down the bombing
range, which has been used by the Navy since the end of World
The bombing has always drawn opposition from Puerto Rican leaders
and citizens. But the controversy boiled over after a civilian
security guard was killed by an errant bomb in April.
Pentagon officials have said that Clinton's decision will mean
the next aircraft carrier battle group to deploy abroad from the
East Coast, led by the USS Eisenhower and the USS Wasp, will leave
their home station of Norfolk, Virginia in February in a reduced
state of combat readiness.
The next battle group, led by the USS George Washington, "would
train toward the end of March, so there's some time to continue
discussions," Bacon said.
"We're going to be sitting down with the Puerto Ricans,
both government officials and citizens' groups over the next few
months and talking to them about what the package means for them
and what it means for the Navy," Bacon said.
As to whether the administration might modify or try to sweeten
the plan, Bacon said, "I think the package is as far as we
can go at this stage."