Robert Underwood on Homeland Security
Delegate to US House (Guam)
The Administration’s announcement today that the Navy must leave the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico in May 2003 was received by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus with a mix of optimism and concern. “There are only two ways to order the Navy to cease all training operations on Vieques: One is a referendum; the other is certification by the Navy that the Vieques Naval Training is no longer needed for training. It is not clear from the news reports we have seen that the certification has been made,” said Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
Other members of the CHC expressed their dissatisfaction with the announcement. “Today’s decision is a hollow victory. The announcement condemns the people of Vieques, US citizens, to two more years of pain and suffering at the hand of the US Navy. The issue of Vieques is not about the Navy leaving today, tomorrow, or in two years; it’s about the immediate and unconditional cessation of the bombing exercises,” said Rep. Bob Menendez (D-NJ).
“The President’s statement is a recognition that the people of Vieques have suffered as a result of the bombings and that the government must respect the people’s will. The decision also shows that Vieques is not necessary for the military preparedness of the US Atlantic Fleet. However, it falls short of resolving the problem, because any continuation of the bombing is simply unacceptable for the people of Puerto Rico,” said the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico, Anibal Acevedo-Vila.
Recent CHC hearings brought to light the civil and human rights violations of those arrested during acts of civil disobedience on Vieques in April. The Caucus has requested Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to assist in an investigation [of trespassing arrests on Navy property] after the Navy refused to answer to the Caucus questions and a specific request to produce videotapes taken during the detention.
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