Vieques Libre Editorial
The struggle for peace in Vieques continues, and it is as just and
urgent today as it has ever been. The US Navy still controls most of the land
in Vieques, still may bomb at will, and still contributes to the destruction and
deterioration of the environment, ecology, economy and health in Vieques.
It is important to point out that, in
spite of what some erroneously say, there is NO mandate, from the U.S. Congress or
from the President, that the U.S. Navy has to leave Vieques. There are only
verbal "promises" by President Bush that the Navy should leave by
As President and Commander-in-Chief of
the Armed Forces, President Bush could have issued an executive order for the
cessation of bombing in Vieques So far, he hasn't. He still can.
Instead, he acquiesced to what the U.S. Congress did in late 2001, when it passed
a law that puts onerous requirements before the President may even consider
ordering the Navy out of Vieques.
In short, the current law provides that
the Secretary of the Navy, in consultation with the
Chief of Naval Operations of the U.S. Navy and the Commandant of the Marines, has to
certify that they have found one or more alternative locations that are equal or
superior to Vieques, and that those locations are immediately available. And even
if these requirements are met, and the President keeps his "word",
the law provides that the federal government (and not Puerto Rico) will retain
the lands and there is no provision for cleanup of the lands whatsoever.
In essence, the current legal status of
the Vieques situation provides for onerous requirements for the Navy's departure of
Vieques. Yet even if those requirements are met, the current legal status
provides for the land to stay in the hands of the federal government.
The current situation flies in the face
of the democratic will of the people of Vieques, and of the consensus in Puerto Rico
and among millions of allies worldwide. On July 29, 2001, the people of Vieques were given the opportunity to cast a vote over the issue
of the Navy presence on their island. In spite of all the money and undue
influence of the Navy to try to influence the results, the people of Vieques
spoke with a clear voice: 68 percent of the residents voted for the "Immediate
and permanent termination of the military exercises and bombings of the Navy in
Vieques, withdrawal of the Navy from Vieques, and cleaning and return of Viequense
lands to its citizens."
Those just demands are unmet. The
struggle for peace in Vieques continues, and so must civil disobedience, political
pressure, and other means of achieving the ultimate goal of a Vieques free from the
oppression and abuse of the U.S. Navy.