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Rossello: U.S. Navy Impeding Vieques Bombing Range Talks...
Clinton Reiterates Confidence In Vieques Military Officers


Rossello: U.S. Navy Impeding Vieques Bombing Range Talks

January 9, 2000
Copyright © 2000 THE ORLANDO SENTINEL. All Rights Reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Gov. Pedro Rossello accused top U.S. Navy officials last week of blocking discussions with the White House to decide the fate of a controversial bombing range on the outlying Puerto Rican island of Vieques.

"It's a process in which I have to admit that the Navy presents a position of inflexibility," Rossello said. "They represent a serious obstacle in our coming to a fair decision in the reclaiming of Vieques."

He identified Navy chief of operations Adm. Jay Johnson and Marine Corps Commander James Jones as "divorced from reality, of what this means for the people of Vieques, and in my estimation they're acting in insubordination of their commander in chief, who is the president."

Capt. Jim Kudla, a spokesman for Johnson, said the two officials "remain committed to ensuring the combat readiness of Navy and Marine deployable forces" and were willing to find the best compromise.

"They support the plan put forth by Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig and continue to work with (Danzig), Secretary of Defense Richard Cohen and the White House toward a solution agreeable to all parties," Kudla said.

The Navy has owned two-thirds of Vieques since the 1940s, with the island's 9,400 people living on the other third. Residents have claimed for years that the bombing range harms the environment and fishing industry, chases away tourism investment and even contributes to a higher cancer rate.

The situation came to a head in April, when a civilian guard was killed by two bombs dropped off-course within the range.

President Clinton proposed a compromise in December that would have the Navy resume bombings next year, but only with dummy ammunition limited to 90 days a year compared to 180 days of live bombings, and withdraw entirely from Vieques within five years.

Puerto Rican leaders rejected the proposal and have continued talks with officials in Washington.

Rossello, a strong statehood supporter who has fostered ties with politicians in the United States to further his cause, said he believed the "Navy structure" was not following Clinton's plan and had resisted Clinton's original plan to use inert "dummy" bombs on fewer days of the year.

"In this place of democracy, the United States, there has to be a civil power that has prominence over the military," Rossello said.

Kudla said the Navy officials are working with local officials, and he pointed to Johnson's comments at a December Pentagon news conference in which he said it was time to "get to work on these challenges ... it's important to us and to the people of Vieques."

The December proposal also includes a $40 million development grant for Vieques.


Clinton Reiterates Confidence In Vieques Military Officers

January 6, 2000
Copyright © 2000 EFE NEWS SERVICES (U.S.) INC. All Rights Reserved.
Source: World Reporter (TM)

Washingon - U.S. President Bill Clinton has reiterated his complete confidence in the two military officers blamed by Puerto Rican Gov. Pedro Rossello for allegedly derailing an agreement on the future of the Navy's maneuvers on the Puerto Rican islands of Vieques.

"The president has total and full confidence in the leadership and judgment of the head of naval operations and the commandant," National Security Council spokesman, Jim Fallon, said late Wednesday.

Adm. Jay L. Johnson and Gen. James L. Jones have publicly campaigned to allow the Navy to continue exercises on Vieques, suspended until April in the wake of the protests that resulted following the accidental bombing in 1999 of a control tower in which a civilian security guard was killed.

Clinton said in December that the exercises, which have been conducted for 60 years, would resume in March despite the opposition of dozens of Puerto Ricans determined to stop them.

The Puerto Rican governor on Wednesday accused Johnson and Jones of "military insubordination" and criticized their "irrational insistence" that the Navy renew maneuvers.

Spokesman Fallon said the White House will continue trying to find a solution satisfactory to everybody.

"While the negotiating process continues, it does not help for there to be public comments that undermine the confidence of either side," Fallon said.

"The president maintains his commitment to continuing a process toward a solution that fulfills the training needs of the Navy, our national security and heeds the concerns of the people of Puerto Rico," Fallon said.



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