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February 28, 2000
Copyright © 2000 FEDERAL DOCUMENT CLEARING HOUSE, INC. All Rights Reserved.


QUESTION: Governor, can you tell us how your meeting went and what the outcome was?

ROSSELLO: Well, we have just concluded a meeting and the result of that is that the deed to 110 acres of land in Vieques has been transferred to the government of Puerto Rico in accordance to the presidential directives that President Clinton directed on the 31st of January.

This is another step in the implementation phase of those presidential orders. And it joins with what the president has done before through OMB in submitting supplemental legislation for appropriations for approximately $40 million for initiatives that respond to the health concerns, to the economic development concerns and to the infrastructure needs in Vieques , as well as to the conservation of the environment.

It also joins a step that was taken recently on the 25th of February when the Navy submitted a bill for the transfer of the western part of Vieques to the government of Puerto Rico .

So essentially these are steps that are being taken in accordance to the presidential directive that will allow us to solve this very controversial problem in a very just and I think expeditious way.

QUESTION: Governor, what will the land be used for?

ROSSELLO: What land?

QUESTION: That was transferred.

ROSSELLO: The one -- now it's going to be used for an extension of the airport which will allow bigger aircraft to service Vieques , which in turn is a measure for economic development stimulus.

QUESTION: Governor, does this warrant any congressional action?

ROSSELLO: No, not this.

QUESTION: Governor, there's a lot of people in Puerto Rico ...

ROSSELLO: It's done, it's done.

QUESTION: There's a lot of people in Puerto Rico that don't seem to like the agreement or the directive of President Clinton.

ROSSELLO: Well, there's a lot more to do.


QUESTION: When does the Navy want to begin...

ROSSELLO: Come here. Come here.


They're asking me...

QUESTION: When does the Navy want to begin exercises, to restart the exercises?

ROSSELLO: I have no indications of when that's going to be, but that's part of the presidential directive. At some point they will start exercises under the limited conditions that the president has detailed and...

QUESTION: As early as March?

QUESTION: Did you discuss the March exercises today?

QUESTION: In March. Because the March is...


QUESTION: Did you not discuss that today?


QUESTION: And the Navy has not asked you to have the islands cleared or discussed...


QUESTION: ... clearing the islands for more?


QUESTION: Governor, the transfer of this land, does it warrant any congressional action?

ROSSELLO: Not for this transfer. For the transfer of the western part, as I said, a bill has been submitted to Congress which will require congressional action. But for this one it's a done deal.

QUESTION: Governor, there have been suggestions in the past that if the range is cleared more people will come over and take the place of those who were arrested. What's your assessment of that now? What is public opinion in Puerto Rico like? Will people come over and take the place of the demonstrators?

ROSSELLO: Well, I think that as we proceed along this pace of implementation, more and more it's becoming obvious that this is the best way to solve this problem. So I feel that from a situation where people were not clear as to what this presidential directive meant to now when we're seeing specific steps being taken, it will allow much more support for all aspects of that presidential order, including the limited exercises that will be taken in Vieques .

QUESTION: Governor, over here. Just to make sure I understand, you do anticipate that soon, someday soon, the exercises will begin?

ROSSELLO: I anticipate that in accordance to the presidential directives there will be exercises in Vieques under the limited condition that the president has detailed.

QUESTION: But how are you going to clear the island? I mean, isn't there still a controversy? How do you resolve that issue?

ROSSELLO: We will.

QUESTION: So basically by getting this piece of land you believe it is now all resolved, everything will be taken care of?

ROSSELLO: No, no, no, I'm saying this is -- if you look at the presidential orders, you will see that there are many steps, OK, I mentioned to you before.

ROSSELLO: For example, one step is that the Navy has named Admiral Green to be the person in charge of implementing from the Navy point of view the presidential orders.

Secondly, the president through OMB has requested Congress for supplemental appropriations for the $40 million projects that will be carried out in Vieques .

Thirdly, the Navy has submitted to Congress a bill that will allow the transfer of the western part of Vieques to Puerto Rico . This is another step where now the deed for the 110 acres around the airport for its explanation is already a fact of life.

And so what I'm saying is that within the context of the presidential directives, every step is being carried out, including at one point, and I don't know what point that is, the exercises for no more than 90 days a year, with inert bombs, and increasing the security and the quality-of-life concerns of the people of Vieques .

QUESTION: Please, with all due respect, it sounds like the way this was resolved is that the administration just opened up their checkbook. Did you get bought out here?

ROSSELLO: No, I -- and I resent that, sir. I think that if you had been there from the beginning you would recognize that the people of Vieques have placed on the table concerns as to what has happened to their health, to their environment, to their opportunities for economic development.

The funds that are requested are precisely to respond to those very valid concerns. And so it's not -- as a matter of fact, that's part of whatever happens, no matter what the decision in the referendum is, that will happen no matter what, because it's a recognition that the health has been altered, that the economic opportunities have been limited, and that there has been significant damage to the environment. And this is the right of every American citizen to request redress for things that have been wrong in the past.

QUESTION: Is the referendum binding? Is there room for the president to override that if, say, down the road, you know, if they voted against the Navy and he says, Well, it's a national emergency, national security, we need the range?

ROSSELLO: I think the president has been clear in saying that even though he has the authority to make a point blank decision, that he has deferred to the people of Vieques to make the decision. And I think that's very clear. He has the authority, he has deferred, and he will honor that decision.

QUESTION: Governor, the land that was transferred today, does it warrant any Navy clean-up?

ROSSELLO: Not to my knowledge.

QUESTION: And when will the health study start?

ROSSELLO: I don't know specifically when it will start, but it will.

QUESTION: Governor, when the range...

QUESTION: Let me just -- you mentioned infrastructure. Can you give us some specific examples of what sorts of things that money will be used for?

ROSSELLO: It will be used for the building of a new commercial pier that will allow better transportation between the island of Puerto Rico and the island of Vieques, which is a major concern. It will allow for the improvement or new construction of roads and bridges that will connect the western part where this pier will be located to the rest of the island. And basically it will allow for any sort of project that is needed to create an infrastructure, be it water, transportation or energy for the island.

QUESTION: Do you believe that the first lady's political activity might have had an influence on the series of decisions?


QUESTION: Did you discuss her campaign at all (inaudible)?


QUESTION: When the range is cleared, Governor, do you expect that the state authorities or your authorities in the commonwealth will do it or will it be the federal authorities coming down?

ROSSELLO: We will collaborate with the federal authorities. It is very clear that the state authority does not apply to federal lands, so the major responsibility of anybody that's in federal lands will be in the hands of the federal agencies. However, we will cooperate in the surrounding areas and we would cooperate on anything that impedes the securing of the range that is done from state land.

QUESTION: Would you take steps to keep people from crossing the channel to join the protest?

ROSSELLO: We will take whatever steps are appropriate to make sure that the range is available.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you, Governor.

ROSSELLO: Thank you.

QUESTION: One last question here.

QUESTION: After the March, do you think that the government needs more time for convince the people that this is a good idea?


QUESTION: Do you think the people -- the government will be ready to remove the people from Vieques now?


Thank you very much.

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