May 22, 2000
Washington - President Bill Clinton's proposal to resolve the dispute over the Navy's use of the Puerto Rican island of Vieques for training exercises may not face a Senate vote until June.
The proposal is contained in a major defense bill that has already been passed by the House, but is being held up in the Senate because of complications unrelated to the Vieques issue, said a spokesman for Sen. James Inhofe (Rep.-OK), who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
At this time, it's more likely that it will be held up, Inhofe spokesman Gary Hoitsma told EFE.
The Senate's version of the legislation includes 40 million dollars in economic aid for Vieques , the site of more than six decades of Navy military exercises.
The bill also authorizes a referendum to be held allowing Vieques ' 9,300 residents to decide whether or not the Navy may continue with its live-fire bombing exercises or if it must leave the island municipality within three years.
Protesters began calling for the Navy to cease its military exercises on Vieques and withdraw from the island after an errant bomb killed a civilian guard at one naval firing range more than a year ago.
May 24, 2000
SAN JUAN The new naval study to find possible options to Vieques could be ready in the next two months, said U.S. Navy Secretary Richard Danzigs spokesman Cmdr. Brian Cullin, according to published reports.
The Navy Analysis Center, designated to do the study, has shared its findings with Danzig since the study was ordered last year, but still needs about two more months of work, according to Cullin.
The new study is being carried out as a result of recommendations given last October by the Presidential Panel, presided over by Deputy Defense Secretary Frank Rush.
The Navy is searching for an alternative to Vieques, where they have carried out military practices since the 1940s, after President Clinton issued directives ordering them to leave Vieques in 2003, unless residents in that island municipality vote to allow them to stay indefinitely.
May 18, 2000
Environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. initiated legal action yesterday aimed at stopping U.S. Navy bombing off the Puerto Rican island of Vieques , charging there was no reason for the military exercises to continue.
"The Navy is breaking the law in Vieques ," Kennedy said after a news conference in Manhattan. "We feel certain that we will win the lawsuit."
According to Kennedy, a letter of intent to sue within 60 days was filed with the U.S. Navy, with a copy sent to the U.S. District Court in San Juan. Within the next two weeks, Kennedy hopes to ask the court there for a temporary restraining order to halt the bombing.
"The reason the Navy is dropping bombs on Vieques is because the Navy likes to drop bombs," Kennedy said. "There is no military reason. I come from a Navy family, and what the Navy has done is unconscionable."
The suit, according to Kennedy, will allege that the bombing is a violation of various environmental and civil rights laws.
A Navy spokesman would not comment on any pending litigation.
Last month Kennedy went scuba-diving with protesters off the coast of Vieques and promised a lawsuit against the Navy.
Kennedy said the bombings were endangering sea and bird life off Puerto Rico . During his dive, he inspected sunken munitions buried in coral reefs, then announced, "We've got to get the Navy out of here."
Kennedy, a senior counsel for the New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council, said the Navy was getting away with environmental violations it could never commit on the mainland.
The U.S. Navy owns two-thirds of Vieques, a 20-mile-by-5-mile island that it describes as the Atlantic Fleet's most important training ground. About 10,000 people live on the island, sandwiched between the bombing area and munitions depots.
Opposition to the Navy's presence boiled over in April, 1999, when a U.S. Marine Corps jet dropped two bombs off target, killing a civilian security guard and injuring four other people.