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Sila M. Calderon, Mayor Of San Juan, Holds News Briefing At The National Press Club

January 27, 2000
Copyright © 2000 FEDERAL DOCUMENT CLEARING HOUSE, INC. All Rights Reserved.


HICKMAN: Well, good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much for coming. Buenos tardes (ph). Welcome to the National Press Club and another NPC afternoon newsmaker. My name is Peter Hickman. I'm vice chairman of the club's Newsmaker Committee and a freelance journalist and editorial and media consultant.

(T)hat newsmaker, as you know, is the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico , Senora Sila M. Calderon.

Mrs. Calderon, welcome to the National Press Club.


We are very glad you could be here today.

CALDERON: (inaudible)

HICKMAN: Copies of Mayor Calderon's biography are outside, so I won't go into detail about her background, except to say that she is president of the Popular Democratic Party of Puerto Rico and that party's candidate for governor of the commonwealth in the November elections this year.

HICKMAN: And she also has experience in labor affairs, banking, investment, real estate and, we're happy to say, journalism, as chairman of the board of the Puerto Rico Public Broadcasting Company. You didn't know what I was going to say there, did you?


Mayor Calderon is in Washington to, among other things I'm sure, take part in the 68th winter meeting of the United States Conference of Mayors which began Tuesday and ends tomorrow, I think.

Today, her topic of discussion with us, as you know, is the rather broad one of U.S.- Puerto Rico relations. This of course covers a lot of ground, but one of the issues prominent in the news recently concerns the Puerto Rican island of Vieques . The U.S. Navy uses Vieques as a weapons training area, including bombing, and has said the area is indispensable for that purpose. There is considerable opposition to this practice in Puerto Rico , which at the moment is suspended I understand, and negotiations I believed resumed or are going to resume today, aren't they? Am I correct on that?

Mayor Calderon is also a member of Puerto Rican Governor Pedro Rossello's working group on Vieques and as such is instrumental in shaping Puerto Rican policy on the future of the island.

After the mayor's speech, she'll take your questions and please let her know your name and affiliation when you ask them. And when you do have a question, if you'll give me a signal at any time during the news conference, I'll call on you in turn and as many of you as time permits.

And finally, if you haven't already done so, as you leave, please add your name to the sign-in sheet outside.

Thank you very much.


CALDERON: Good morning ladies and gentlemen, and thank you very much, Peter, for your very nice introduction. I'm so glad you didn't read my biography because...

HICKMAN: I apologize for not introducing...

(CROSSTALK) CALDERON: ... no, no, I'm very glad because somehow it has that my husband and I have eight children, and they always applaud. I never know if it's because of the children or because of whatever...


HICKMAN: I was going to say, mayor, if I may, I didn't introduce the two gentlemen with you because I don't know who they are.

CALDERON: Well, I was just -- I was just going to say we're all here for the U.S. Conference of Mayors and Mayor -- my colleague, Mayor Juan Mahaheim (ph) from (inaudible) is also president of the association of mayors of San Juan, and Mayor Asava Beneuto (ph). We're very happy -- we're all very happy to be here.

As Peter has said, I serve as mayor of San Juan, the capital city of the commonwealth of Puerto Rico , and I'm here for the U.S. conference of mayors.

My objective today is to help and see if I can help our fellow U.S. citizens here in the states to better understand Puerto Rico and there are two specific issues I would like to speak about and share with you today very briefly.

First of all, Puerto Rico 's contributions to the U.S. and the situation of Vieques . Puerto Rico is, and has been, a very valuable partner or ally of the United States. And also there should be no doubt that the Navy's use and abuse of the small island of Vieques must come to an end. These are the two issues I would like to share about with you today.

Our current relationship with the U.S. has been a very important contribution, not just to the United States of America, but to the entire world. We have shown how two very distinct cultures, languages and history can live together peacefully in the same political family.

As you may know from 1898 until 1952, Puerto Rico was under direct control of the Congress of the United States. During those years, there was very, very big poverty in Puerto Rico and we had no political power.

However, from 1950 and 1952, the U.S. government engaged in a constructive dialogue with the Puerto Rican leaders of the time.

CALDERON: This dialogue led to the establishment of commonwealth as a compact between the people of Puerto Rico and the United States.

For many years this compact has been an example of (inaudible) statesmanship. Today it is still the only form of government that allows Puerto Ricans to retain two equally important values in our lives: our national identity as Puerto Ricans and our U.S. citizenship, which we cherish and has been a determining factor in our lives since 1917.

The declaration (ph) of commonwealth was a very important contribution to the field of political science, an exemplary (inaudible), a model of interdependence for the world of today, a very much needed model, as a matter of fact, of interdependence.

We intend to further this contribution by promoting that this relationship develops on its natural path of greater flexibility and self-sufficiency for Puerto Rico .

I would also like to speak very briefly of our economic contributions to the United States of America, because they are directly linked to commonwealth status. The main advantage of commonwealth is our political and fiscal -- excuse me -- it's physical autonomy. It has enabled Puerto Rico to emerge from very deep poverty -- the poverty we had from the first 50 years of this century -- by using our relationship to the United States to the advantage of both Puerto Rico and the United States.

CALDERON: With the support of the tax incentives that we have because of the fiscal autonomy, Puerto Rico was able to attract over 2,000 manufacturing enterprises employing over 170,000 workers. This boom in manufacturing produced an economy which become a great magnet for goods and services of the United States.

Today, Puerto Rico on a per capita basis is the number one market in the entire world for U.S.-made goods. We are in absolute terms the largest overall market for U.S.-made goods. Puerto Rico receives about 33 (ph) percent of the total imports from the United States, a market worth more than $13.7 billion annually to the U.S.-based plants.

If we use the Department of Commerce -- the U.S. Department of Commerce criteria, U.S. export sales to Puerto Rico support more than 130,000 workers here in the United States, and countless more in the service industries depend upon the Puerto Rican market for their job security.

In addition, I must say that the success stories of many American companies doing business in Puerto Rico have created billions in new wealth to American shareholders.

I would also want to mention very briefly our culture as an important contribution. In 1898, the island already had an extremely vibrant and uniquely Puerto Rican national identity.

CALDERON: It had drawn from the best elements of the Spanish, African and Native Indian cultures. This identity is expressed in an everyday Spanish language, through literature, music and in our daily living through our family-centered system of values, religion and customs.

This culture, which is vibrant and over 100 years, has been also enriched by our close relationship with the United States of America. But this has only been possible because we have been able to maintain our separate national identity and have not been assimilated into the American identity.

In addition to this unique cultural heritage, the (inaudible) political system that we have created jointly with the United States and the contributions of our people to strengthen the American economy, there's one other significant contribution I want to highlight today, and I refer to our contribution to national security.

The blood of thousands of Puerto Ricans has been spilled alongside their American brothers and sisters in every war or conflict during the 20th century. These brave souls have paid with their lives defending the same principles of freedom and democracy that Americans cherish. Currently, nearly 40,000 U.S. citizens from the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico serve in the armed forces. Puerto Rico is the number one jurisdiction on a per capita basis in terms of recruits into the armed services.

These contributions on the economic level, in the cultural level, in the political level help place Puerto Rico in the proper context when we look at its political relationship with the United States. And these contributions are also a reminder than when we talk about Vieques , the island of Vieques , the issue of Vieques and Puerto Rico , we're talking about a very valuable partner of the United States.

CALDERON: For almost 60 years, the 9,000 U.S. citizens of Vieques have endured daily live ammunitions bombing by the Navy. The results are appalling, not to say shameful: a higher cancer rate than anywhere else in Puerto Rico , unprecedented environmental desecration and degradation, permanent acute fear among the entire population by the constant noise of the bombs exploding just eight miles away. The people of Vieques also have been condemned by the Navy to live in poverty. Instead of contributing to the economic development of Vieques , the Navy has obstructed its potential development and progress. Among similarly sized islands in the Caribbean, Vieques is the poorest of all.

Every day we learn more about the health hazards inflicted by the Navy on the population of Vieques . The discovery of the Navy's secret use of depleted uranium and napalm on the beaches of Vieques has confirmed our worst fears. No community in the United States would allow anyone to measure its contributions to national security by gauging their level of submission to this kind of bombing.

The Navy claims that they have a military necessity for use in Vieques , but the Navy has totally failed to explain how they can conduct training in the Pacific without a facility like Vieques .

CALDERON: To me, this is not a conflict of our military preparedness or of our national defense objectives. To me, this is an issue of a human rights and moral resolve.

Vieques has united Puerto Rico like no other event in contemporary history. Puerto Rican , across all social (inaudible) and political lines have formed an unprecedented consensus and have determined that the bombing must end now and that the land occupied by the Navy must be returned to the people of Vieques.

We have learned in this controversy many lessons. One that has troubled many in Puerto Rica -- and that should perhaps also trouble the American public -- is the influence of the military establishment in the civilian and elected government of the United States of America -- as President Eisenhower so wisely warned in his late years.

The White House must exercise its leadership firmly to prevent the Navy from continuing to dangerously encroach upon its authority.

We want -- and this is our purpose -- to raise domestic and international awareness of the injustice and the increase and also increase support for the Vieques cause.

Yesterday I thanked the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Mayor Wellington Webb of Denver, because he asked President Clinton at my request to end the Navy's presence in Vieques .

CALDERON: The time has come for the Navy to leave Vieques , to clean the land and to return it to its people.

In closing, the people of Puerto Rico and the United States have been great partners in progress, democracy and also in innovation, political innovation. And I wanted for there to be no doubt that we accept with honor our obligation to contribute to the national security of the United States. But bombing the island of Vieques and putting at risk the lives and well being of 9,000 human beings is too high a price to pay.

Let us not confuse contributions with injustice and honor with submission. Vieques can no longer be the Navy's laboratory for military experiments. We have passed the point of no return with the death of David Sanes last April. For the sake of moral justice, it is time to bring this conflict to an end.

Thank you very much. These are my remarks and I will most happily answer any questions that you may have.

HICKMAN: Thank you very much, Mayor Calderon.

Before we go to questions, those of you standing in the back, there are some empty seats up here if you'd like to take them.

We're open for questions. And please give your name and affiliation when you ask them.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: What's the latest on the negotiations with the White House?

CALDERON: Well, the office of the governor was negotiating or talking or in a dialogue directly with the White House. It also include representation of the Navy. And it seemed that progress was achieved. And at some point the -- some ships from the Navy opposed the progress that had been achieved by the representatives of the president and of the same Navy.

CALDERON: And then the White House asked them to present a counter-offer. The counter-offer they presented, I think it was last Friday, a week ago, it was, how shall I say, it was a step backwards.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) referendum?

CALDERON: Well, it included a referendum, but it was a step backwards from what the White House had initially proposed. So we of course rejected it. We want the White House to assume a more proactive and just exercise its authority over the Navy.

QUESTION: What about the Navy discussions (OFF-MIKE)?

CALDERON: Well, the secretary of state of Puerto Rico came up, has just arrived, to represent the governor and start conversations again at the White House.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) working group ever offered any alternative to using Vieques to the Navy or in any of the discussions has the Navy ever discussed any alternative sites?

CALDERON: Let me just say there has been -- just for background -- there have been two working groups. The first working group was (inaudible), I've been part of both, representing the Popular Democratic Party. The first working group had the assignment to analyze what was happening and come up with a recommendation for public policy in Puerto Rico , which we did.

CALDERON: And our recommendation was that the Navy cease its military practices immediately, return the land, clean the land and certain other aspects.

Then, this second group was formed and its assignment is to promote that public policy here in the States, in the public opinion, which I'm doing right now. We do it separately and we do it as a group. But we're not negotiating directly for the government. The governor of Puerto Rico through his secretary of state and himself directly is negotiating for the people of Puerto Rico , or speaking for the people of Puerto Rico .

QUESTION: I was just going to bring it back to the other issue. Will the loss of the tax credit force changes down the road in terms of bringing more of the mainland visitors or keeping mainland visitors?

CALDERON: Definitely, I think that was a terrible step backwards. We lost -- and I am afraid to say because of ideological reasons -- what was a fantastic advantage for us when it was proposed that the tax incentives be taken away from Puerto Rico as part of a balancing-of-budget process. It was an extremely unfair proposal as the budget was being balanced on -- by costing Puerto Rico thousands and thousands of jobs when this section was eliminated, which we call Section -- I mean which was called Section 936 of the IRS.

CALDERON: What happened is that we lost the consensus that we had had up to now where all the political parties had been able to unite behind the 936 incentives. This time the New Progressive Party, which is in power opposed it because, of course, that sets us apart from -- and farther away from statehood, and since it did not receive that backing which was needed, it was eliminated. It was very, very (inaudible) for Puerto Rico .

Of course, that does not mean we can not recapture other incentives that are similar in the future or that it cannot be substituted by other incentives. We're going to need them. I will propose them in my platform and I will push for them because the only way we can incentivize -- is that a word? -- our economy is by having that kind of special laws that will attract investment to Puerto Rico .

QUESTION: I want to go back to the negotiations with the White House. What's going on today? What are the positions -- what are the bargaining positions today when you (OFF-MIKE)?

CALDERON: Would you repeat the question, sir? The bargaining position or what's going on today?

QUESTION: What's going to happen today in terms of discussions with the...

CALDERON: Well, I don't know what's going to happen because it depends on a process that will take place there and...

QUESTION: Is there any room for negotiation at all?

CALDERON: I see -- well, we have been very -- we have been very firm on our position in order to advance what we want.

CALDERON: Because the unfairness of what has happened for the last 60 years (inaudible) the lack of knowledge that -- of that situation, not only by the U.S. public, but even by Puerto Ricans who are so near, has come to the -- has brought us to the conclusion that this just has to stop, this has to stop.

We understand there has to be a transition period, we understand the Navy has an investment and can just not pick up and go, but we definitely do not want any more bombing of any kind there and we definitely want to have definite date and with definite guarantees that whatever we -- and this is what has been lacking in the two proposals -- whatever we agree upon will be done.

Because in 1983 the Navy signed an agreement of understanding with the Puerto Rican government and they just didn't comply. So there's no credibility in Puerto Rico , as we see, from the Navy's point of view -- I mean from the Navy's side. So we want dates and we want guarantees.

QUESTION: The Navy was supposed to send a representative (OFF-MIKE) down to Puerto Rico , I believe (OFF-MIKE).


QUESTION: Has he...

CALDERON: No, they decided not to do it. They decided not to do it. Public opinion is so negative at this point, I suppose they decided -- the governor announced he was not going to go to his swearing in. And they, I think they decided to postpone that or I don't know if they just decided not to do it at all.

CALDERON: But he hasn't gone down.

QUESTION: So there's been no Navy representative down on Puerto Rico ?

CALDERON: Well, we have the usual ones who are there in Roosevelt Roads and Vieques and all over, but not a special person for that. A special commission was named, but it already completed its assignment.

QUESTION: Do you have any fear when you're talking about guarantees that the next president would turn around and completely do away with anything that is finally settled? And what are some of the things that you're doing to try and avoid that particular...

CALDERON: Well, we're insisting that this has to be either an executive order or perhaps much better, a decree of the court or legislate or whatever has to happen. The more final, the more firm the document is, the better for us. We would like if possible to take this to court also and be able to come to (inaudible).

QUESTION: You mentioned in your speech the unique relationship that Puerto Rico enjoys with the United States and on fiscal autonomy. And in response to a question from the Hartford Courant, you mentioned that you have lost (inaudible) incentives because of action by Congress. Could you elaborate on the fiscal autonomy that Puerto Rico enjoys?

CALDERON: Yes. The fiscal autonomy means that within our relationship, our political relationship of commonwealth, the way it was designed, we deal with our own internal fiscal matters.

CALDERON: And we do not pay taxes. And -- federal taxes I mean. We pay a lot of taxes in Puerto Rico . We do not pay federal taxes. Our economy simply cannot assume it because of its level of poverty. And this fiscal autonomy has allowed us to seek from the U.S. Treasury Department certain incentives for investments in Puerto Rico . Those tax incentives have allowed us up to now to attract U.S. capital to come to Puerto Rico and create many, many jobs. And that has only been possible because of our commonwealth status.

QUESTION: As a follow-up, in Puerto Rico you have preferred not to touch the issue of status, while you are discussing it here before the National Press Club and the national media. Why do you prefer to discuss it at this...

CALDERON: No, I'm not discussing the issue of status as a future development or any kind of proposal. I'm just -- it has come up because as part -- because it's our relationship and explaining two facts here or two important topics which I've tried to convey in the brief time I have. First, the contributions we have made to this relationship. And secondly, specifically the issue of Vieques .

The status issue comes out as natural because it's part of the conversation, but I'm not making any proposals. Whenever I make a proposal for the development of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico which will be part of our political platform will be done first and foremost in Puerto Rico , not here.

QUESTION: Besides your work this past week with the mayors, have you personally been involved in any negotiations with U.S. officials on the Vieques issue?

CALDERON: First of all, I just arrived yesterday because of the snow. And secondly...


CALDERON: No. As part of a group, we maintain our coherence and we have delegated on the governor of Puerto Rico, and indeed he has assumed his responsibility to speak for all of us.

CALDERON: So, we're not negotiating individually or being in a conversation in the (inaudible). We do not -- we cannot do that. We just do our own work as a group and individually to convey the position of Puerto Rico , which I hope I've done here with you today. That's our obligation. We do not enter conversations individually.

QUESTION: When I worked with (inaudible) it seems to me that I remember something about there being a time limit on the incentives. Is that not true?

CALDERON: Yes. There was -- there were time limits to the incentives according to where the plants, where the manufacturing plants were established. If it was in areas where there was no poverty, the length of time of the incentive would go to 25, 30 years. If it was less poverty according to the income levels it was less. You could reapply, though.

QUESTION: Follow up on that question about your agenda here, will you be traveling to Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers about the Vieques (inaudible) Puerto Rico ?

CALDERON: Yes, I am. As a matter of fact, I will be going to Congress this afternoon. And I will be seeing Senator Tim Johnson. I will be seeing Senator Jack Reed. And I will be seeing Senator Blanche Lincoln, this afternoon.

QUESTION: The Republic of Georgia -- when I work in Georgia, many times before it was attaining independence (OFF-MIKE) state, people were very close to the united states (OFF-MIKE) happy to be part of state -- independent state in united state. When I came to United States I noticed Puerto Rico people -- 50 percent want to be in the States, 50 percent want independence. What is your attitude to this (OFF-MIKE)?

CALDERON: First of all, the independence advocates only get three percent, at least in my last poll, which ended yesterday. They get no more than five percent in the last 10, 15, 20 years in their --the people of Puerto Rico have reaffirmed over and over their desire to have a political relationship with the United States.

We're all U.S. citizens. We cherish our citizenship, but we also cherish and want to protect our Puerto Rican identity -- our customs, our language, our culture.

So the majority of Puerto Ricans , who want to maintain that permanent political relationship with the United States, want to do so in the form of commonwealth, which is the one I advocate, because that status allows us both things. We can remain in a political and economical relationship with the United States, and at the same time we can protect our identity and our culture. This has served us well, and I hope I have given you some examples that it has served also the United States very well, because we have contributed and will continue to contribute economically, culturally and in the common defense of the United States.

QUESTION: In your conversations today with members of Congress, is there -- is the subject of a possibility of closing Roosevelt Roads as -- as you know that there's a proposal to close Roosevelt Roads if Vieques -- if the Navy has to leave Vieques . And what kind of an impact that would have on the island and whether that's even on the (OFF-MIKE).

CALDERON: I'm glad that came up because the mayor of Cieba is here, and Cieba is where Roosevelt Roads (inaudible) has a particular vested interest in that issue. Those have just been rumors and threats that we do not accept in Puerto Rico . We -- our position is that Roosevelt Roads will not close. I'm sure that is the -- also the position of the Navy.

Roosevelt Roads has a huge investment. There's a huge investment in Roosevelt Roads that really can survive by itself without the relation to Vieques . And Roosevelt Roads is also a very important strategic area for drug enforcement for the southern part of the hemisphere, so there is -- you know, we're not worried about that. Of course, all kinds of threats and arguments are coming out by advocates of the Navy staying in Vieques , but we will remain firm in our position.

QUESTION: Did you try and schedule a meeting with Senator Inhofe?

CALDERON: No, I haven't.


CALDERON: No, I haven't. His position is already known.

CALDERON: I don't think, at this point, he has any objectivity by his public comments. I think he has become an advocate of the Navy.

QUESTION: On November 29th, you had an open letter to President Clinton published in "The San Juan Star." And in it you said that Puerto Ricans have always been committed to our common defense with the United States. Are we to take that to mean that you feel that the defense of Puerto Rico and the U.S. is different or...

CALDERON: No, no. We have a common defense. Part of --commonwealth status is based in four basic principles: Common currency, common defense, common citizenship and common defense. We do have a common defense. And that's part -- it's in our constitution.

So I was reaffirming our commitment to that public defense, and what I have tried to convey today is that our commitment to public defense has been proven over and over by our involvements in the conflicts, by the deaths of our sons and daughters and by their bravery in the different conflicts, and we will continue supporting and being part of that common defense. But that this issue of Vieques should not be taken, as some people have tried to do in public opinion, as our lack of commitment to public defense. This is an issue of human rights, justice and of moral resolve and will.

So I was just commenting -- I wrote that letter because I had seen Eli Weisel the night before. I was here in the States -- and actually I was in New York. I think it was after Senate hearing. Eli Weisel was a speaker of the millennium at the White House, and he was speaking about freedom and human rights and the human dignity of all -- of everybody. And I was just, as the president, was very moved. The first lady was there, also.

CALDERON: He gave a very -- as he usually does -- a very moving and dramatic speech, Mr. Weisel. And I was -- it moved me to write him to let him know that there were -- you know, it was not only in the concentration camps where these horrible things happen. That there were also 9,000 -- there were 9,000 U.S. citizens right here in the Caribbean who, over 60 years, have been living in a small portion of land sandwiched between an ammunition depot and a fire range. Completely unable to live with no -- absolutely no involvement, no economic opportunity for them, no jobs, no respect.

The land -- I saw it as part of the committee, has been violated. I might say raped. It was the most beautiful, beautiful island I've ever seen. It's much more beautiful than Puerto Rico , if I may say. The lands are absolutely -- I mean, the beaches, and the sea, the water is absolutely transparent. And there's a dignity in those human beings that has to also be respected. And that's what moved me to write the open letter.

MODERATOR: Do you have a question on this point?

QUESTION: You said that you allow the transmission (ph) from the Navy before they leave Vieques . Why were you allowing that transmission (ph) of automobile (OFF-MIKE)?

CALDERON: It's not so much that I would have allowed it. I think that it has to be allowed because they have an investment there, and we cannot just expect them to -- and that's the consensus in Puerto Rico, we can not expect them to just pick up and leave.

CALDERON: But we do not want any more bombings, period. No more bombings. And we want dates of when this land will be transferred to us. We want to know how the clean-up is going to take place, of the terrible things that have happened -- the clean-up of the environment that will happen; who will pick up the tab, which I think has to be the Navy; when is this going to happen; and what guarantees do we have that this is going to be a final decision from the United States of America.

QUESTION: How often -- in other words, the land would stay in the Navy's control. They'd have to take care of it even though they couldn't use it for any kind of maneuvers or...

CALDERON: Well, we would like it to be given back to us. I think we have a right and the Vieques people have a right to it if it isn't going to be used...

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) period -- that increment period you're talking about...

CALDERON: Well, it depends on the terms of the agreement. Is it going to be cleaned up and they're going to -- I know when the Panama Canal was transferred, there was a clean-up process because I talked to the man -- the person -- a very wonderful gentleman who manages the canal and how the U.S. contracted firms -- or Panama did and the U.S. paid for the clean up.

But no more bombing, no more military exercises, and we want the land back and we want dates and guarantees.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) annual training or the bombings (OFF-MIKE)?

CALDERON: Excuse me?

QUESTION: Any other training other than bombings or...

CALDERON: Well, I -- you know, I'm not an expert in military matters and I -- you know, I don't want to go into that kind of details. I'm sure all those things could be talked out. I don't know. I just -- it depends on what the agreement and what the dialogue comes to. But we don't want -- we do not -- we are very firm. We do not want any more military exercise or ammunitions of any kind.

QUESTION: Yes, is the (OFF-MIKE) not been in favor, or have expressed your opposition to going to the courts to resolve this issue? At this point, do you think that that might be the only...

CALDERON: No, no. I was not in a position. What we all agreed upon was that we would go to the courts when we think that we have a standing. And when we think -- when the government thinks -- when I say "we", I mean, the government, which represents us, thinks that the opportune moment to go.

So, you know, again, the secretary of justice determines that. And it's not for me to say when to go to the -- what was agreed by the governor and by the government of Puerto Rico to postpone the legal action even though the governments are ready to continue promoting dialogue, and conversations, which I think is a rational way to solve it.

QUESTION: If Puerto Rico were an independent nation with sovereign rights for Puerto Rico , as two senators and six representatives, do you think the issue of Vieques would be like it is today?

CALDERON: Well, it might -- no, I think it probably would be the same because there are different areas in the States where bombings have taken place; where huge disputes have come about; where time --it has taken a lot of time to resolve them; where clean-up of the environment has also -- has also started.

CALDERON: So I think this is a matter that has happened before in United States. Actually different cases are pending right now. Some are in court, some are in discussion. But this is a very dramatic case definitely.

QUESTION: Could I toss something up quickly? You were talking about the possibility of court cases. Did you say that documents are already...

CALDERON: The secretary of justice in Puerto Rico , the attorney general, has been working on the different possible legal actions, and that's of public knowledge, that the government of Puerto Rico might take in different situations when the time comes. The governor has expressed repeatedly that they're ready for different alternatives to an accord on this matter.

QUESTION: Do you think that Puerto Rican community (ph) in the country has been sufficiently responsive to the rest of Puerto Rico ?

CALDERON: I think we in Puerto Rico -- you mean on this issue? I think we in Puerto Rico have to be more aggressive and proactive in coming to the States and bringing our message, and promoting our position, and letting the public opinion know where we stand and what is happening.

I think most common U.S. citizens, and it may include many Puerto Ricans , do not know that the World War II has not ended for an island in the Caribbean. And I think that World War II is still going on there, except that the people who are there do not have a way to defend themselves. They're not armed. They don't have any equipment to defend themselves. They're the victims of this exercise, and I think it's not so much that the Puerto Rican community, because their leaders have been very active, is I think we have to be more proactive in Puerto Rico , coming here and putting forth our position so that everybody knows and that the word spreads.

And that's what I'm trying to do today.

MODERATOR: Any more questions? Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) government (OFF-MIKE) decides that on the issue of Vieques (OFF-MIKE) what is going to be your position if, you know, thousands of people go over there, you know, to exercise civil disobedience?

CALDERON: Well, as you may know, what Lenore (ph) is talking about is that civil disobedience is being exercised by certain segments of the Puerto Rican community as a means of being there and...

QUESTION: Avoiding?

CALDERON: Avoiding. Thank you so much.

CALDERON: And avoiding the resuming of the -- the resumption of the exercises. We have adopted a position that civil disobedience is an accepted way of complaining, of putting your voice forth when human values or human rights have been violated.

And I think if -- as a last resource, if the bombing is -- it is decided to resume the bombing, what's going to happen is that many, many people in Puerto Rico will be going to civil disobedience definitely. That will be our last resource.

QUESTION: That means suppose the government agrees to inert bombing, and the Navy agrees to leave in five years at a certain time and, you know, the legal -- it gets legally binding that they have to leave at this time, would you agree -- would you be in agreement that the Navy can do inert firing if they say they're going to leave at a certain time, and it's made...

CALDERON: Well, I can not be in agreement to that because that's not the position we have adopted as a public policy. If, at some time in this process, the government decides to recommend a different position, we would all have to discuss it and particularly the people of Vieques will have to express themselves. But I do not -- I can not, at this time, tell you that I would agree on that.

QUESTION: But (OFF-MIKE) the governor will say that the public policy is not concerned whether there'd be -- a possibility of inert firing -- inert fire -- public policy does not say that there should be no more bombing.

CALDERON: Oh, yes it does. I know because I was part of the committee.

QUESTION: Yes, but he said that it doesn't...

CALDERON: I -- no, I haven't heard that. I haven't heard that.

QUESTION: I think he did.

CALDERON: Well, not when I was there.


CALDERON: It's difficult to get that kind of anticipated opinion because we are standing together in a very firm position: No more military exercises with ammunitions of any kind.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) the idea of referendum on the people of Vieques ?

CALDERON: I think it -- under the correct circumstances, if what is put forth to them, is a -- it's put together in a way that's fair. And it has been accepted by the government of Puerto Rico , and there's consensus on all the parts, I think democracy is to be exercised.

But certain conditions would have to be there for a referendum to take place. For example, the way they propose it now and this proposal is completely unacceptable.

QUESTION: How would you -- what would you say to (OFF-MIKE)?

CALDERON: Well, I don't want to, you know, the governor is in a conversation with the White House about these. I cannot be giving anticipated recommendations because it's not in my place to do this publicly.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) I mean, if you were the governor, would you talking (OFF-MIKE)?

CALDERON: Let me tell you, I think this has been a very tough problem and one that shouldn't be politicized. This is a problem that -- the same as poverty, those are -- these are topics and things that should be kept away from politics -- from partisan politics. Unfortunately, it's easier said than done. My position has been to back the governor of Puerto Rico fully even though we do not -- are in the same party. We -- I back him fully up to now because he is doing the hard job. And he has done it with courage and we back him fully.

QUESTION: And you also agree with the governor that the White House should -- call from -- take a more proactive role in making a decision on...

CALDERON: Definitely. We talked about a little before you came. The White House has to assume its responsibility. The president is the commander in chief. He is supposed to give orders to the Navy. And he has to make a decision at some point in time. On the other hand, it's better that it takes time and it's a good decision, than it's a fast decision and it's a bad decision for us.

So, right now, we're in the good position (inaudible) military exercises have been suspended. So, let's leave him the space for them to continue their dialogue and their conversation. QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) decision in Puerto Rico (OFF-MIKE). With respect to the Puerto Rican community in the United States it has been politicized. And I was wondering your impression as to what would be the impact on the U.S. and Puerto Rican policy itself (OFF-MIKE)?

CALDERON: Well, definitely with the election coming up, and the effort we want to make in propagating our position here in the States, more and more Puerto Ricans and Hispanic communities are going to be aware of what is happening. And I'm sure it's going to -- if this keeps going on, it will become an issue of campaign in Hispanic communities and Puerto Rican communities.

Was that your question?


QUESTION: Two weeks ago, (OFF-MIKE) members of your (OFF-MIKE) criticized the White House for politicizing the issue, offering a quid pro quo to solve the problem. Do you still feel that they're doing that? And as it had been reported in the Puerto Rico press, the discussion of a presidential commission to solve this status issue, would you favor that commission? And would you -- who would you appoint as part of that commission representing the commonwealth?

CALDERON: Yes. I stand by original position, but I haven't heard about that in the last couple or two or three weeks. You know, we never heard about that any more, either talking about it --creating a presidential commission behind the back of the three political parties or in collusion with one party, I am against it.

Any decision, any process that is going to be started on the political status has to be done including the three main political parties. This is something that we have to achieve a consensus on procedure before we can go into substance. And the great failure that the statehood party had in the plebiscite (ph) last year was that they developed a process in which there was no participation whatsoever, no recommendations were accepted, and it was imposed on the Puerto Rican people, and that's why you had the interesting result of a political consultation where one was "none of the above."

QUESTION: What would you tell the American people who might say, "Look, we want our armed forces to be as ready as they can be for anything that comes up, and right now there is no other place for the armed forces to get ready, according to the military people who are the ones who judge the readiness and that"? How could you tell the American people, Well, you know, still, we have to stop the bombing (OFF-MIKE)?

CALDERON: Well, very easy. They haven't answered (AUDIO GAP) that Vieques is indispensable to their training.

CALDERON: At this point, almost a year has gone by without using Vieques , nothing has happened, number one. Number two, some military -- some militaries who have been in the service in very high-ranking positions have expressed themselves, who have been in the -- the name of the person escapes me right now -- but has expressed themselves -- General...

STAFF: Admiral Shannon (ph).

CALDERON: Admiral Shannon (ph) was in charge of Vieques -- has expressed himself for the record that Vieques is not indispensable. They have not answered the question why the Pacific forces do not have one integrated place and yet they're supposedly well-trained also. There are many questions that have not been answered. So we really do not believe that this is an argument that holds water.

MODERATOR: Any more questions?

CALDERON: Well, thank you very kindly. Thank you very much.

MODERATOR: That's it.

CALDERON: Thank you.

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