2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: CPEO Moderator <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: 21 Jan 2003 18:20:33 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Navy's departure in Vieques is a bittersweet ending
Puerto Rico
Local fight to reclaim land won't stop when bombs do
Monday, January 20, 2003
For the Star-Ledger

VIEQUES, Puerto Rico -- The muffled roar of Navy jets and the distant
booms of off-shore shelling rolling over this island town last week will
become a memory once the Navy ends what is likely its last round of
training on a disputed bombing range here.

But for residents who have had to share the island since the Navy
expropriated roughly three-quarters of its 33,000 acres in the early
1940s, the struggle won't end until they gain control over former Navy
lands and win a federal commitment to clean up the contamination from 60
years of bombardment.

The announcement earlier this month that the Navy had found alternatives
to its Vieques training -- at bases in the southeastern United States
and with computerized training at sea -- was bittersweet for many here.

It preceded the start of a 29-day round of bombing exercises that began
Monday, and it was under terms that left nearly half the island -- some
16,000 acres -- in the hands of federal agencies.

"We have to continue struggling for the cleanup and return of the lands.
Vieques has the right to sustainable development," Vieques Mayor Damaso
Serrano said.

The decision to stop the war games comes after years of protest sparked
by the April 1999 death of David Sanes Rodriguez, a local resident and
civilian security guard killed during a botched bombing run.

The bombing range remained closed for nearly a year, as protesters
erected camps on its beaches and shrapnel-scarred hills. It was finally
cleared in a May 2000 federal raid after former President Bill Clinton
and former Gov. Pedro Rossello reached an accord that first established
a May 1, 2003, Navy exit date and restricted Navy practice to the use of
"dummy" bombs or inert ordnance in its Vieques training.

Last week, protesters continued demonstrating even after the Navy said
it would end training because, they said, of years of broken Navy
promises. "If the Navy says they will leave in 2003, it won't be until
at least 2004," said Angel Luis Diaz, a 43-year-old construction worker.
"It will take a long time after they are gone for me to believe it."

Resentment runs along both sides of the barb-wired fence that cuts off
the eastern third of this island -- from the north coast to the south
coast -- dividing military from civilian land.

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