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U.S. Navy Seeks Better Vieques Ties
by Manuel Ernesto Rivera
February 18, 2000
Copyright © 2000 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. All Rights Reserved.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - A top U.S. Navy official on Friday
said the Navy could build a relationship with the residents of
Puerto Rico's Vieques Island, whose protests at a military base
have halted bombing exercises.
Rear Adm. Kevin Green is the U.S. government's main liaison
with Puerto Rico on the issue of resuming the Vieques bombing
"One of my goals is to work closely with the people and
improve the relationship between the Navy and the people of Vieques,''
Green told reporters Friday in San Juan.
Green is head of a new U.S. Naval Forces South Command in Puerto
Rico, established to consolidate Atlantic and hemispheric commands,
the U.S. Atlantic Fleet announced in a statement Friday.
For about 60 years, the Navy has bombed and shelled Vieques
as a military training ground. The island's 9,400 residents are
sandwiched between a western zone where the military stores weapons
in bunkers and an eastern training ground, where bombings, shellings
and mock invasions are staged.
After an errant bomb killed a civilian security guard and injured
four others in April, protesters moved in, camping on the bombing
range to thwart further exercises. The exercises were temporarily
suspended, and Puerto Rico demanded the bombing range be shut
However, President Clinton and Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Rossello
reached an agreement last month that allows the Navy to continue
training on Vieques for now, but only using inert bombs.
The Navy's future on the island will be decided by the residents
of Vieques. They will vote in a referendum, likely to be held
in 2001, on whether the Navy should stay or go.
Green's duty is to act as a liaison in that sensitive process.
He told reporters at his first news conference in Puerto Rico
on Friday that his first mission was "to listen and not talk
Some of the Navy's critics in Puerto Rico called a news conference
earlier this week in Washington to press demands that the Navy
Although last month's agreement allows the Navy to resume training
with dummy bombs, it nevertheless has moved training of the USS
George Washington battle group next month from Vieques to Florida.