Spring 2002     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  next year.

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.