By Ivan Roman
Published in The Orlando Sentinel on May 15, 2000
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- It has been just more than a week since federal agents removed more than 200 protesters from the restricted Navy grounds and target range on Vieques. The Navy began bombing exercises in an area they say is clear of people, but protesters who have been hiding keep popping up. The Navy said Sunday that guards had detained 55 more protesters, including former light-heavyweight boxing champion Jose Torres.
Others who went back, such as Puerto Rican Independence Party president Ruben Berrios, were arrested and hauled to federal court while fishermen and Vieques residents filed a lawsuit down the hall. A federal judge recused herself from cases relating to Vieques. Catholic leaders are starting a fast this week.
Amid all this, two congressional committees in Washington passed amendments that essentially gutted President Clinton's directives designed to solve the standoff over the Navy's presence in Vieques. Angel Morey, Puerto Rico's secretary of state and chief of staff, blamed protesters for the actions of pro-Navy Republican conservatives in Congress.
"If we were to go to Congress all united behind the presidential directives, bolstered by the Navy's and the White House's position, there wouldn't be a problem with this," Morey said.
As proof, Morey handed to the media letters from Secretary of Defense William Cohen and Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig urging the House Armed Services Committee not to pass legislation or amendments that alter the presidential directives.
House committee members apparently didn't pay much attention. They blocked the $40 million in economic-development aid for Vieques and transfer to Puerto Rico of 8,000 acres of land.
No federal money would be used on the Vieques referendum, under their amendment, and the $50 million in aid Vieques would get if voters decided the Navy could use explosive bombs after May 2003 vanished. The Senate Armed Services Committee was kinder to Clinton's proposal but warned that ultimately military bases in Puerto Rico could be closed.
Until the referendum, Morey said, the Puerto Rico government and the Navy are on the same side. But Cohen's and Danzig's letters and previous statements indicate they see the directives as part of a "long-term resolution" that will bring back live bombs.
Officials in Washington and San Juan say they still think the directives can survive intact from the rest of the appropriations process, particularly when the matter gets to the full House.
By Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero
May 15, 2000
Inter Press Service
SAN JUAN, May 15 (IPS) -- Just over a week after U.S. law enforcement authorities cleared protesters off of the Navy firing range on the island-town of Vieques , some have already returned and been arrested. They have vowed to keep re-entering the area in spite of threats from the U.S. Justice Department.
But to the anti-Navy campaign's leaders, their arrest was just the end of the first round in this battle. They have already re-grouped and re-entered the firing range, leading to the current arrests.
The protest campaign's leaders assured the press that civil disobedience will continue until the Navy leaves Vieques.
May 16, 2000
The Washington Post
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico , May 15 -- Twenty-five protesters charged with trespassing at the Navy's Vieques bombing range over the weekend were released without bail today to cheers from supporters.
"Navy Get Out! Navy Get Out!" chanted dozens of protesters outside the federal courthouse.
The 25 were among 55 protesters who cut through a fence to slip into the training ground Saturday night. The others, including former light-heavyweight boxing champion Jose Torres, had been released on Sunday and face similar charges.
Under an executive order by President Clinton, trespassers at Vieques can face more serious penalties: up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
May 16, 2000
The Associated Press
SAN JUAN (AP) White House aide on Puerto Rico Jeffrey Farrow said President Bill Clinton may veto a bill authorizing funds to the Department of Defense (DOD), if it contains language that allows the use of live fire in Vieques.
Farrow said the U.S. Senate and House are expected to debate Wednesday a measure to authorize funds to the DOD, which contains the $40 million aimed for the development of Vieques as part of Clintons directives of the future of the Navy in that island municipality.
Republicans have succeeded in tacking on to the bill a requirement of resuming live fire practices in Vieques, which contradict Clintons directives.