Clinton's Directives on Vieques
Clinton's speech on P.R. TV
Puerto Rico Reaches Navy Range Pact
By ROBERT BURNS AP Military Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - Puerto Rico agreed Monday to permit the U.S. Navy to resume limited training on the island of Vieques and said it would help clear the bombing range of protesters who want the Navy to leave.
The agreement, following months of negotiations, also calls for a referendum that would give islanders two choices: let the Navy resume use of the range on its own terms - including the use of live bombs - or require the Navy to cease all training by May 1, 2003. That is two years earlier than the Navy previously indicated it was willing to give up what it calls the ``crown jewel'' of its Atlantic training sites.
The deal apparently clears the way for the USS George Washington carrier battle group to use Vieques for training in March prior to heading to sea for a six-month deployment. The last carrier battle group scheduled to use Vieques, last December, was forced to forego the training prior to deploying - a situation the Navy's leaders said could not be repeated.
The Puerto Rican Independence Party, which has led dozens of protesters camping inside the Vieques bombing range, announced it would oppose any renewed military exercises.
``We will continue with our civil disobedience,'' said party Vice President Fernando Martin. ``For us, any proposal that supposes the renewal of bombing is unacceptable.''
In a letter to President Clinton, Puerto Rican Gov. Pedro Rossello called Clinton's plan for Vieques ``a fair and positive basis'' for resolving the conflict that began after a civilian security guard was killed by an errant bomb in April.
``The government of Puerto Rico shall conduct a referendum for the citizens of Vieques to decide the future of training operations on the island of Vieques,'' Rossello wrote in the letter dated Monday. The Pentagon released copies.
Clinton issued directives Monday to Defense Secretary William Cohen ordering that the Vieques referendum be held at a date set by the Navy, probably on May 1, 2001, but possibly nine months later or nine months earlier.
If the people of Vieques vote to let the Navy resume full-scale training, the administration will ask Congress to provide an extra $50 million in aid to Vieques for housing and infrastructure improvements.
If the referendum vote goes against the Navy, then Navy land on the eastern side of Vieques - including the area where live ordnance has been dropped during years of practice bombing - will be transferred within one year of the referendum to the General Services Administration.
Between now and the time of the referendum, the Navy will be permitted to resume training on Vieques, but using only dummy bombs instead of live ordnance. And training would be limited to 90 days a year, instead of the 180 days a year that was once standard.
Puerto Ricans have long objected to the Navy's practice bombing on Vieques, but the controversy boiled over - and the Navy suspended training - after the guard was killed by a bomb dropped by a Marine Corps jet.
In December, the Navy announced what it thought was an agreement with Rossello to resume training on Vieques this spring using dummy bombs. That deal fell through, however, with Puerto Rico insisting that no training of any kind be allowed.
The deal announced Monday was similar except that it offered an extra $50 million in economic assistance, should the referendum vote turn out in the Navy's favor.
In a statement released at the Pentagon, Cohen welcomed what he called progress in ``establishing a framework'' to resolve the issue.
``This clears a path for a fair, objective referendum through which the people of Vieques can chart the future and how the Navy fits within that vision,'' Cohen said.
In addition to the $50 million, Clinton repeated his previous offer to ask Congress to provide $40 million in economic assistance once the Navy has resumed its limited training on Vieques. This money would finance such projects as the construction of a new commercial ferry pier and terminal, and projects to help commercial fishing areas.
January 31, 2000
DIRECTIVE TO THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET
SUBJECT: Resolution Regarding Use of Range Facilities on Vieques, Puerto Rico (Referendum)
By virtue of the authority vested in me and in order to further the interests of national security and to address the legitimate interests and concerns of the residents of Vieques and the people of Puerto Rico, I hereby direct the following:
1. The future of Navy training on Vieques will be determined by a referendum of the registered voters of Vieques, using Puerto Rico electoral laws and regulations as they exist as of the date of this directive. This referendum will occur on May 1, 2001, or 270 days prior to or following May 1, 2001, the exact date to be specified on the request of the Department of the Navy. (This specified date and the terms of the refer-endum must be requested at least 90 days in advance of the referendum.) It is understood that the full implementation of this directive is contingent upon the Government of Puerto Rico authorizing and supporting this referendum, and the cooperation of the Government of Puerto Rico as specified in paragraph 5(a).
2. This referendum will present two alternatives. The first shall be that the Navy will cease all training not later than May 1, 2003. The second will permit continued training, to include live fire training, on terms proposed by the Navy. Live fire training is critical to enhance combat readiness for all our military personnel and must occur in some location.
3. In the event the referendum selects the option of termination of Navy activities, then
5. Between the date of this directive and the referendum, the following will occur:
WILLIAM J. CLINTON
# # #
My fellow citizens, last April there was a tragic accident at the Navy range on Vieques. I deeply regret the loss the family of David Sanes, and the suffering of others injured on that day.
That accident focused attention on the longstanding concerns of the island about training operations It led to a strong view in the Commonwealth that the Navy should end its training on Vieques. I understand why many people feel that way.
At the same time, as Commander in Chief, I must do all I can to ensure that our servicemen and women get the very best training possible. I know you understand that. Many Puerto Ricans have served with real distinction in our Armed Forces. You have never turned your back on your duty to share in the defense of our country.
For more than 50 years, Vieques has been a central part of our training for the Atlantic fleet. The reason this is such a difficult issue is because right now there are no alternative sites that provide the same combined training opportunities.
For the past nine months we've been working closely with Governor Rossello and Resident Commissioner Romero-Barcelo to find a solution that meets our training needs and addresses fairly the concerns of the people of Vieques. Today, I'm announcing a course of acting that will give the people of Vieques themselves the right to determine the future of the island, while, at the same time, assuring that our training needs are met.
Between later this year and early 2002, the people of Vieques will vote. In that vote, the people of Vieques will be asked to choose between two alternatives. If they choose the first alternative, the Navy will cease all training on Vieques and leave the island by May 1, 2003. If they choose the other alternative, training will continue on Vieques on terms that will be presented in detail at least three months before the vote.
I believe this is the best way to resolve the impasse over Vieques because it gives the people most affected by this decision, the people who actually live on the island the right to determine for themselves which courses of action we should take. In the meantime, until that vote is held, we're taking several other steps to ensure that our servicemen and women get the training they need, while addressing the needs of Vieques.
First, during the period leading up to the vote, I am ordering the training done on Vieques will be limited to non-explosive ordnance, meaning there will be no live fire. I am also directing the Navy and Marine Corps to cut in half the amount of time they will spend training. In 1998, our troops trained for 182 days on Vieques, this year they will be authorized for 90 days.
Second, to address the problems caused by past training, we will implement measures to meet the health, safety, environmental and economic concerns of the people of Vieques. Measures we will implement include positioning Navy ships to reduce noise; development of a new ferry pier and terminal; creating a new commercial fishing area; temporary compensation for fishermen; expanding and improving roads; a bioluminescent bay preservation program; a job-training program for young people; providing land to extend the airport runway; and a public health service study.
Third, I will also ask Congress to begin transferring title to land on the western quarter of the island to Puerto Rico. In the event that the residents of Vieques vote to continue training on the island, in recognition of the burden such training places on the community, we will increase the investment we make to meet infrastructure and development needs. In the event that they vote for an end to training, we will dispose of the land through the normal federal process.
To make this solution work I need your help. I understand the deeply held views people have on this issue. I understand that for many residents the accident exacerbated old wounds about the effect the training was having on your quality of life. They reflect a distrust that, unfortunately, has been building for decades. As a Defense Department panel found, we have not always been good neighbors on Vieques. But I believe this plan will help resolve the impasse over Vieques in the fairest possible way, because it gives the people most affected by the decision the ability to choose for themselves what the future of their island will be.
I hope I can count on the cooperation of all the people of Puerto Rico to implement the measure I have outlined to allow the training of our troops to continue in a responsible and much more limited manner during this period while addressing the long-time concerns of the residents of La Isle Nena.
I want to thank Governor Rossello for his unceasing effort to work out a resolution to this difficult impasse. Puerto Ricans and the people of Vieques have contributed greatly to our nation's security; I am very grateful for that. And I hope all of us can work together with our Congress and with the government and Governor of Puerto Rico to implement this plan.
Thank you and God bless you.
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