2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: CPEO Moderator <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: 25 Apr 2003 19:38:13 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Moving Beyond Resentment In Vieques
Puerto Rico
Moving Beyond Resentment In Vieques
by John Marino
April 25, 2003

The Navy will officially leave Vieques next week, ceding its lands to
the Department of the Interior and transferring its training to
stateside bases, mostly in Florida.

While the Navy announces massive layoffs and dismantles key operations
at Naval Station Roosevelt Roads, at one time its largest base in the
United States, a big celebration is being planned in Vieques that
promises to be the hottest party in Puerto Rico. (Rumor has it that
salsero Rubén Blades may even make an appearance.)

But May 1, 2003 still has the feel of a bitter divorce, and resentment
runs along both sides of Camp García’s barb-wired fence that has cut off
the eastern third of this island -- from the north coast to the south
coast -- dividing military from civilian land.

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

Navy officials, meanwhile, appear intent on doing as little cleanup as
possible and closing up Roosevelt Roads after being forced out of what
for decades they have called their "crown jewel" of training grounds.

When military planners certified to Congress they had found alternative
training sites to Vieques, a requirement to exiting the island
municipality, they made sure to show their displeasure. "I acknowledge
the situation with regard to Vieques with extreme disappointment – our
sailors and Marines deserve better," said Marines Corps Commandant Gen.
James Jones in a Dec. 31 memo to Navy Secretary Gordon England, released
as part of the certification. "Some in Puerto Rico (particularly in
Vieques) have demonstrated an appalling hostility towards sailors,
Marines and their requirement for pre-deployment training; this at a
particularly dangerous time in our nation’s history."

Also at the time, Navy Secretary Gordon England told Gov. Sila Calderon
that "we will discontinue operations at Naval Station Roosevelt Roads
associated with training on Vieques" after May 1, while Adm. Robert
Natter, commander of the Atlantic Fleet, said that without its adjacent
Vieques training ground, the base is a "drain" on taxpayer dollars.

The recent announcement of massive layoffs and an accompanying cut-down
in operations at Roosy Roads indicates the Navy is setting up the base
for closure in 2005, when the next round of base closings will be

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