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Transcript of Clinton Remarks To The People Of Puerto
Rico Concerning Navy Training on Vieques
February 1, 2000
Copyright © 2000 U.S. NEWSWIRE. All Rights Reserved.
Following is a transcript of videotaped
remarks by President Clinton:
The Map Room
The White House
THE PRESIDENT: My fellow citizens, last April there
was a tragic accident at the Navy range on Vieques . I deeply
regret the loss to the family of David Sanes, and the suffering
of others injured on that day.
That accident focused attention on the longstanding concerns
of the island about training operations there. It led to a strong
view in the Commonwealth that the Navy should end its training
on Vieques . I understand why many people feel that way.
At the same time, as Commander in Chief, I must do all I can
to ensure that our servicemen and women get the very best training
possible. I know you understand that. Many Puerto Ricans have
served with real distinction in our Armed Forces. You have never
turned your back on your duty to share in the defense of our country.
For more than 50 years, Vieques has been a central part of
our training for the Atlantic fleet. The reason this is such a
difficult issue is because right now there are no alternative
sites that provide the same combined training opportunities.
For the past nine months we've been working closely with Governor
Rossello and Resident Commissioner Romero-Barcelo to find a solution
that meets our training needs and addresses fairly the concerns
of the people of Vieques . Today I'm announcing a course of action
that will give the people of Vieques themselves the right to determine
the future of the island, while, at the same time, assuring that
our training needs are met.
Between later this year and early 2002, the people of Vieques
will vote. In that vote, the people of Vieques will be asked to
choose between two alternatives. If they choose the first alternative,
the Navy will cease all training on Vieques and leave the island
by May 1, 2003. If they choose the other alternative, training
will continue on Vieques on terms that will be presented in detail
at least three months before the vote.
I believe this is the best way to resolve the impasse over
Vieques because it gives the people most affected by this decision,
the people who actually live on the island, the right to determine
for themselves which course of action we should take. In the meantime,
until that vote is held, we're taking several other steps to ensure
that our servicemen and women get the training they need, while
addressing the needs of Vieques .
First, during the period leading up to the vote, I am ordering
the training done on Vieques will be limited to non-explosive
ordnance, meaning there will be no live fire. I am also directing
the Navy and Marine Corps to cut in half the amount of time they
will spend training. In 1998, our troops trained for 182 days
on Vieques ; this year they will be authorized for 90 days.
Second, to address the problems caused by past training, we
will implement measures to meet the health, safety, environmental
and economic concerns of the people of Vieques . Measures we will
implement include positioning Navy ships to reduce noise; development
of a new ferry pier and terminal; creating a new commercial fishing
area; temporary compensation for fishermen; expanding and improving
roads; a bioluminescent bay preservation program; a job-training
program for young people; providing land to extend the airport
runway; and a public health service study.
Third, I will also ask Congress to begin transferring title
to land on the western quarter of the island to Puerto Rico .
In the event that the residents of Vieques vote to continue
training on the island, in recognition of the burden such training
places on the community, we will increase the investment we make
to meet infrastructure and development needs. In the event that
they vote for an end to training, we will dispose of the land
through the normal federal process.
To make this solution work I need your help. I understand the
deeply held views people have on this issue. I understand that
for many residents the accident exacerbated old wounds about the
effect the training was having on your quality of life. They reflect
a distrust that, unfortunately, has been building for decades.
As a Defense Department panel found, we have not always been
good neighbors on Vieques . But I believe this plan will help
resolve the impasse over Vieques in the fairest possible way,
because it gives the people most affected by the decision the
ability to choose for themselves what the future of their island
I hope I can count on the cooperation of all the people of
Puerto Rico to implement the measure I have outlined, to allow
the training of our troops to continue in a responsible and much
more limited manner during this period, while addressing the long-time
concerns of the residents of La Isla Nena.
I want to thank Governor Rossello for his unceasing effort
to work out a resolution to this difficult impasse. Puerto Ricans
and the people of Vieques have contributed greatly to our nation's
security; I am very grateful for that. And I hope all of us can
work together with our Congress and with the government and Governor
of Puerto Rico to implement this plan.
Thank you and God bless you.
Contact: White House Press Office, 202-456-2100