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POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS BY FEDERAL DOCUMENT CLEARING
GOVERNOR ROSSELLO HOLDS MEDIA AVAILABILITY FOLLOWING
MEETING WITH THE WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF, THE SECRETARY OF
February 28, 2000
Copyright © 2000 FEDERAL DOCUMENT CLEARING HOUSE, INC. All
SPEAKERS: PEDRO ROSSELLO (D- PUERTO
QUESTION: Governor, can you tell
us how your meeting went and what the outcome was?
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
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
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
ROSSELLO: Come here. Come
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
QUESTION: Did you not discuss
QUESTION: And the Navy has not
asked you to have the islands cleared or discussed...
QUESTION: ... clearing the islands
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Thank you very much.