2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: CPEO Moderator <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: 25 Mar 2003 22:06:44 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Sign-on Letter from Fellowship of Reconciliation (Vieques)
"La lucha en Vieques no termina"
"The struggle in Vieques is not over"

TO:      Leaders of Environmental Organizations

FROM:  Sonia Ivette Dueño and John Lindsay-Poland, Fellowship of

RE:      Sign-on Letter urging the U.S. Department of Interior Secretary
to allow open and genuine public participation from Viequenses and
supporters in the negotiations underway between Interior and the
Department of Defense for the transfer of lands in the eastern portion
of the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico.

Date:   March 24, 2003

DEADLINE for response to Sign-on Letter: Wednesday, March 26, 2003 at
5pm, EST.

Dear Friends of Vieques:

As you may know, when the US Navy certified in January 2003 that it was
ceasing military operations in Vieques as of May 1st, 2003, the
provisions of the Spence Law kicked in necessitating a Memorandum of
Agreement (MOA) between the Departments of Interior and Navy for the
transfer of the lands in Eastern Vieques to Interior. The loophole is
that contrary to the community's desire, this agreement could allow
further military uses of Vieques unless specifically stated in the

The Fellowship of Reconciliation received notice Friday that the
Departments of Interior and Navy want to finalize the Memorandum of
Agreement for the land transfer of Eastern Vieques by this Friday, one
month before they had originally said it would be finalized.

Why the concern? Interior and Navy have been negotiating in secret
without Viequenses' input and participation.  We are concerned the terms
of the Memorandum of Agreement will be detrimental to Viequenses and
they have not even had an opportunity to comment and may set a
precedence for the cleanup process which will ensue.

PLEASE E-MAIL YOUR RESPONSE TO: sdueno@umc-gbcs.org or fax: 202-488-5639

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Please sign my name and organization on to the letter regarding Vieques

TITLE                                     ORGANIZATION


The Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), established in 1915, a national,
interfaith, pacifist organization, founded the Task Force on Latin
America and the Caribbean (TFLAC) in 1983. TFLAC's goals are 1) to
strengthen communication and collaboration between North and Latin
American nonviolent movements; 2) to help FOR members become actively
engaged in Latin American and Caribbean issues; 3) to promote
demilitarization and justice in U.S. policy toward the region through
public education, collaboration with other North American groups, and
advocacy.  The Washington Office of Vieques was created in 2002.

March 24, 2003
Gale A. Norton
Secretary of the Interior
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240

Dear Secretary Norton:

We are writing to respectfully urge you to promote open and genuine
public participation in the negotiations underway between your agency
and the Department of Defense for the transfer of lands in the eastern
portion of the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico.

We also urge you to ensure that agreements and plans for eastern Vieques
are consistent with the reasons why so many people worked to bring about
the cessation of naval training on the island, specifically by
prohibiting future military activities and guaranteeing Navy
responsibility for a comprehensive environmental cleanup.

You have stated that, "At the heart of [Consultation, Communication, and
Cooperation, in the service of Conservation] is the belief that for
conservation to be successful, the government must involve the people
who live and work on the land."  The National Wildlife Refuge System
Administration Act requires the Interior Department to designate public
uses for the refuge that are compatible with wildlife by the time
transfer of jurisdiction takes place.  To be effective, the process of
identifying such compatible uses must include meaningful participation
by local residents, who have important knowledge of the lands' history
and who have a stake in their future.  Similarly, the Memorandum of
Agreement (MOA) for the terms of the transfer currently under
negotiation between Interior and the Navy must respond to community
knowledge and needs.  The community has demanded such participation, as
detailed in the accompanying document endorsed by a wide range of
Vieques community groups.  We wholeheartedly support these demands.

As you know, DOI's mission is "to protect and provide access to our
Nation's natural and cultural heritage."  The lands in eastern Vieques
have a long history of human use that DOI must take into account, in
both the process and the content of its plans and negotiations.  This
history begins over 4,000 years ago with the first human settlements and
continues with nearly unbroken human occupation and use of the entire
island until the Navy expropriations during the 1940s.  In the last few
centuries, it has included fishermen who use the waters and coasts of
eastern Vieques,  organized land occupations by Vieques residents in the
1970s and 1980s, recreational camping facilitated by the Navy until
1999, civil disobedience encampments in 1999-2000, and regular entrance
by persons committing civil disobedience since 2000.  These lands have
become a powerful symbol of a long-term struggle to reclaim lands that
were expropriated from Puerto Ricans in the 1940s.  Unlike the
destruction of lagoons, topsoil, and other life wrought by military
training, the lands have historically been used by the local people in
ways that have been compatible with wildlife.  In short, the community
is a stakeholder in the Memorandum of Agreement and in both interim and
comprehensive land use plans.

For these reasons, we urge the Interior Department to:

-     undertake a high-level visit to Vieques before May 1 to hear
residents' concerns in public hearings.

-     promote opportunities for public comment both on the draft
Memorandum of Agreement between DOI and Navy and on the identification
of public uses compatible with wildlife.

Second, the record shows that the military sometimes uses negotiations
with other federal agencies receiving former firing ranges to minimize
its liability for cleanup of munitions and other contamination, as well
as for harm to humans or the environment that may result.  In eastern
Vieques, some of the concerns include the contamination of fish, crabs
and horticulture with heavy metals, suspected groundwater contamination
with explosives constituents and other contaminants, and unexploded
ordnance.  We urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to:

-     ensure that all agreements explicitly maintain the Navy's
liability for a full and comprehensive cleanup of explosives and
contamination in eastern Vieques, as well as for restoration of damaged

Finally, the wildlife refuge law contains a disturbing loophole that
could allow the future use of eastern Vieques for military activities,
unless it is appropriately addressed in the MOA.  The law states that
you will "continue, consistent with existing laws and interagency
agreements, authorized or permitted uses of units of the System by other
Federal agencies, including those necessary to facilitate military
preparedness."  Although the Navy has certified that it will cease
training in Vieques by May 1, this does not apply to the Special Forces
Command, which have also carried out activities in Vieques in recent

In light of the environmental destruction caused by military activities
in Vieques and the evident inability of the Navy to prevent people from
going onto the lands, we urge you to:

-     ensure that the Memorandum of Agreement prohibits all military
activities in eastern Vieques, except those absolutely required for
contractors to conduct environmental remediation and restoration.

We thank you in advance for considering these concerns, and look forward
to your response.


Cc: Sam Hamilton, Director of Fish & Wildlife Service Region 4

Craig Manson, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife
and Parks


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