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Vieques Dispute Continues...
(October 15, 1999)



October 11, 1999

Copyright © 1999 The Associated Press.
All Rights Reserved.



October 12, 1999

Copyright © 1999 EFE News Services (U.S.) Inc.
Source: World Reporter (TM)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Puerto Rico 's delegate to Congress has warned Attorney General Janet Reno that any effort to forcibly remove protesters from a military training ground in the U.S. territory would be a "dangerous" mistake that could lead to violence.

Delegate Carlos Romero Barcelo made the statement in a letter made public Sunday. The letter was sent to Reno last week.

"You must be aware that the situation would rapidly become very confrontational and dangerous if such attempts were to be made," Romero Barcelo said in the letter.

Protesters have occupied the U.S. Navy bombing range on the outlying island of Vieques to press Puerto Rico 's demands that the military leave. Opposition to the Navy flared after an errant bomb killed a civilian security guard at the training ground in April.

President Clinton appointed a panel to consider Puerto Rico 's demands and is expected to make a decision on the matter in the next few weeks. Protesters fear they could be arrested if Clinton decides against them.

"Such an action would play into the hands of those who are using Vieques as a tool to try to create a confrontation with the U.S. Navy and the United States," Romero Barcelo said in his letter.

NEW YORK - U.S. Vice President Al Gore supports pulling the U.S. Navy off the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, according to a column published Tuesday by the El Diario-La Prensa newspaper.

The U.S. naval base, which has occupied a major part of the island since 1941, must look for another place to conduct its operations, Gore is quoted as saying in New York's leading Spanish-language newspaper.

In his column, the newspaper's acting editor, Gerson Borrero, said that Gore offered his comments during a meeting last week with New York state senators.

"I agree, they (the Navy) should be out of there," Gore said in response to a question posed by veteran Puerto Rican Sen. Olga Mendez at the meeting last Tuesday at a Manhattan hotel, according to Borrero.

"We must look for another base for the Atlantic Fleet," said Gore, the Democratic presidential frontrunner at this point for the 2000 election.

Until his comment, the vice president did not enjoy the support of Sen. Mendez, who in 1978 became the first Puerto Rican elected to a state legislative post.

For years the residents of Vieques have battled to get the U.S. Navy to vacate the island. Their efforts intensified after the death of David Sanes last April.

Sanes, a security guard at the naval base, was killed by a bomb dropped on his work station during military maneuvers by U.S. and other Allied nations warships.

Protests by Puerto Ricans , also supported by Gov. Pedro Rossello, prompted President Bill Clinton to appoint a committee to assess the situation and report their findings before a decision was made on the future of base located in Puerto Rican territory.

The Puerto Rican government named a committee, with representatives from the island's three parties, concluded that the U.S. Navy should leave Vieques . This report was forwarded to President Bill Clinton and Gore.

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