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Many Are Upset With Leadership Of Puerto Rico

by Gina Cavallaro

February 13, 2000
Copyright © 2000 THE WASHINGTON TIMES. All Rights Reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - The question of whether and when the Navy should abandon its training facilities on Vieques has created new divisions among Puerto Ricans, who less than two weeks ago enjoyed what seemed to be an airtight consensus for no more bombs.

With the announcement by Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Rossello on Jan. 31 that he had reached an agreement on Vieques with the White House ­ stipulating, among other things, the resumption of target practice with inert ordnance ­ consensus nose dived.

A week later, President Clinton asked Congress for $2.5 million to help develop a mechanism for addressing Puerto Rico 's political status. Mr. Rossello wants Puerto Rico, a U.S. commonwealth yielded by Spain in 1898 after the Spanish American War, to become the 51st state.

The proximity of the two announcements prompted a flurry of accusations that the governor had made a quick deal behind his committee's back to trade concessions on Vieques for a White House commitment on status.

But the governor and Puerto Rican Secretary of State Angel Morey, who represented Mr. Rossello at the Vieques negotiations, both denied there was any link, saying the White House decision to help clarify the island's status had been the result of years of work.

The accidental death in April 1999 of a private security guard on duty at a Navy observation post led to the immediate halt of exercises and sparked a flurry of criticism about the environmental and health effects of the Navy's activity there.

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