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DOW JONES INTERNATIONAL NEWS
Rossello Rejects Pentagon Offer On Vieques
January 24, 2000
Copyright © 2000 DOW JONES & COMPANY, INC. All Rights
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP)--Gov. Pedro Rossello Monday rejected
a new Pentagon offer to resolve a dispute over a U.S. Navy bombing
range on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques.
"This proposal is not acceptable," Rossello said
after meeting with an advisory committee of political, religious
and civic leaders Monday afternoon.
He was joined at a news conference by three former governors
of the U.S. territory.
"The Navy has not internalized that they have to stop
their exercises," said former Gov. Rafael Hernandez Colon.
Hernandez Colon, a bitter rival of Rossello, who joined the governor
Monday to show the rare unity the issue has inspired among Puerto
Rico 's often-divided politicians.
Rossello said he would continue to try to seek a "valid
and just" agreement with U.S. President Clinton but would
not negotiate further with the Department of Defense.
"There is a consensus to keep the doors open to dialogue
with the White House, but not with the Navy," Rossello said.
The Department of Defense Friday had offered to hand over some
of the land on Vieques if the Puerto Rican government allowed
it to continue military exercises with dummy bombs, Rossello's
They said the deal would also have called for a referendum
among Vieques' 9,400 residents on whether the Navy should be allowed
to resume bombing with live explosives.
If residents approved, the Department of Defense would have
asked Congress for a $40 million economic aid package for the
island. If they had disapproved, the deal would have required
the military to leave Vieques by March 1, 2005.
After efforts to clean the land of explosives, the training
ground would have been turned over to the U.S. Interior Department
and the General Services Administration.
The offer was the latest attempt by the U.S. government to
defuse a political battle that started when a U.S. Marine Corps
jet dropped two bombs off-target on April 19, killing a civilian
security guard in the Vieques training ground.
The guard's death touched off demonstrations against the U.S.
Navy, which owns two-thirds of Vieques. Protesters have camped
out in the bombing range to prevent further exercises, and Rossello
has demanded the military leave.
See also, White
House Talks Set In Vieques Dispute On Base