Para ver este documento en español, oprima aquí.


Vieques Counterattack

by Bill Gertz/Rowan Scarborough

December 10, 1999
Copyright © 1999 THE WASHINGTON TIMES. All Rights Reserved.

President Clinton's decision last week to block the carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower battle group from training on Vieques Island has prompted Republicans to consider playing hardball with Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Rossello, a political ally of Vice President Al Gore, adamantly refused to approve even limited naval exercises. Instead of overriding the opposition, Mr. Clinton caved. Military sources said he feared the spectacle of U.S. marshals forcibly removing squatter protesters on Vieques and its effects on U.S. Hispanic voters.

Republican congressional staffers view Mr. Clinton's action as Vieques' death knell. Although more talks will be attempted with Puerto Rican officials, the sources see little chance the U.S. territory will allow the next scheduled battle group to train there in 2000.

The intransigence has staffers plotting a counterattack.

One option is a Senate floor vote on a bill from Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, that would order the Pentagon to close Roosevelt Roads naval station and other bases on Puerto Rico.

"We close down Puerto Rico," said a congressional staffer. "We think the Inhofe bill will be voted on. Basically what we have whispered in the Pentagon's ear is they're not going to listen until we do something."

Roosevelt Roads' primary function is to support operations on Vieques.

A second option is to withhold Puerto Rico's yearly defense research and development grants, a program for states that lack large research institutions.

"You could do some things if you're willing to send some signals," the staffer said. "But this administration isn't willing to do so."

The Navy says Vieques' ability to accommodate integrated land, air and sea exercises provides each battle group with unmatched realistic training before deploying to the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf. The Eisenhower's air wing will thus be in a less combat-ready state, the service says.

Self-Determination Legislation | Puerto Rico Herald Home
Newsstand | Puerto Rico | U.S. Government | Archives
Search | Mailing List | Contact Us | Feedback