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Clinton Hopeful of Vieques Accord: Must Stop Treating
Puerto Rico as U.S. Colony
November 5, 1999
Copyright © 1999 US NEWSWIRE. All Rights Reserved.
WASHINGTON -- Following is a transcript of interview of President
Clinton Nov. 4 by Telemundo:
Q Vieques, sir. The U.S.S. Eisenhower is scheduled to begin
exercises December 1st off the coast of Puerto Rico in Vieques.
Will you approve the use of live fire?
THE PRESIDENT: Before that happens, I hope and believe there's
a chance that we will reach an accommodation between the Navy
and the government and the representatives of Puerto Rico.
Let me say, as I've said before, I think the fact that there
was an agreement made back in 1983, that then the Navy and the
Defense Department regularly and flagrantly ignored, treating
Puerto Rico as if it were still a colony, is really at the root
of all this.
I think that, as you know, that the Pentagon has a point, in
the sense that if you look at what we had to do in Kosovo, for
example, or what we had to do earlier in Bosnia, they need to
be able to train, they have to be able to do live-fire training
somewhere. They need to be able to fly over water. We also have
to do landings. You know, when we restored the democratically-elected
government of Haiti, thank God there was no violence, but there
could have been. And we have to practice, you know, how do we
approach on the shore?
On the other hand, we don't want to be in the position of jamming
down the throat of Puerto Rico, and the people and the elected
officials of Puerto Rico, one bad memory after another of a longstanding
relationship where we didn't honor our commitments.
So what Secretary Cohen has tried to do is take the security
report he got -- saying, you know, we need to use Vieques for
five more years -- and the reality of the feelings of the people
of Puerto Rico and the positions of the leaders. And we're trying
hard to work through both of those in a way that there can be
I think the most important thing is we get out of this treating
Puerto Rico as if it were literally, for these purposes, a colony
of the United States. It is not a colony. And if -- you know,
I think the Congress should give them an authoritative vote on
whether they want to be a state or continue commonwealth status.
I mean, the last vote they had was very close, narrowly for commonwealth,
but it wasn't a sanctioned vote by the Congress.
So I have done as much as I could to try to restore the integrity
of the relationship between the people and the government of Puerto
Rico and the United States. And so for me, because I'm the Commander-
in-Chief, and I also have heavy representatives to ensure the
preparedness and the integrity of our armed forces -- there's
a reason we lost no pilots on Kosovo. It's because they train
hard, and they're careful. And we try to save lives.
So this is a very difficult decision. But I believe there is
an agreement which can be made here, which respects the legitimate
interests both of the people of Puerto Rico, particularly those
that live on Vieques, and the national security interests of the
Navy. And so they're trying to get there. And before I answer
the specific questions, I'm going to give them a chance to get
there. We've got about a month, and we're going to work hard at