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January 31, 2000

Office of the Press Secretary

Today, I am announcing a course of action to resolve the impasse over United States armed forces training on Vieques. This course will give the people of Vieques the right to determine the future of the island while assuring that our training needs are met. I have received a letter from the Governor of Puerto Rico endorsing this course.

I am issuing two directives. They provide that between later this year and early 2002, there will be a referendum held on Vieques, in which 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 second, training will continue on Vieques on terms that will be presented at least three months before the vote.

During the period leading up to the vote, training done on Vieques will be limited to non-explosive ordnance -- meaning there will be no live fire, and the Navy and Marine Corps will cut in half the amount of time they will spend training, to no more than 90 days per year, which is what we need to meet our training needs. I will also implement measures to meet the health, safety, environmental and economic concerns of the people of Vieques, and I will ask Congress to begin transferring title to land on the western quarter of the island to Puerto Rico.

I believe this plan will help resolve the impasse over Vieques in the fairest possible way, because it will meet our training needs while giving the people most affected by this decision -- the people who actually live on the island -- the ability to choose for themselves the future of their island.


I welcome the progress made with the Government of Puerto Rico in establishing a framework to move past the tragic accident of last April and focus squarely on the future.

Since early December, representatives from the White House, the Departments of Defense and the Navy, and the Government of Puerto Rico have worked constructively and in good faith to reconcile the vital need for training with the legitimate concerns of the people of Vieques. We recognized the unique burden that this training places on them and put forth a proposal that reduces the impact of this training and provides community initiatives to offset the costs.

When implemented, the directives issued by President Clinton will enable the Navy to resume its important training at Vieques -- training that will help keep our Navy and Marine Corps strong and ready. The directives provide for significant economic benefits for the people of Vieques. Most importantly, this clears a path for a fair, objective referendum through which the people of Vieques can chart the future and how the Navy fits within that vision.


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