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Vieques Link To Kuwait Tragedy?

Schumer, Clinton Seek Bombing End

Navy To Transfer Land

Arias Joins Protesters

Vieques Issue To Be Presented Before UN

Cancer Cases To Be Tracked

Bills Aimed At Limiting Blue Ribbon Powers


6 Die In U.S. Jet Bombing Accident In Latest Tragedy To Befall Navy


March 13, 2001
Copyright © 2001 The Times Mirror Company. All rights reserved.

WASHINGTON -- A Navy warplane on a training exercise in Kuwait accidentally dropped a bomb on a group of military observers Monday, killing five U.S. troops and one New Zealander. Five other U.S. military personnel and two Kuwaitis were injured, authorities said.

The accident may bring calls from the Navy and its supporters for renewed use of its large live-fire ammunition training range on the small island of Vieques , off southeastern Puerto Rico .

Because of increasing opposition among Puerto Ricans , Navy carrier battle groups have recently been unable to conduct live-fire exercises at Vieques before departing for regular deployments in Europe and the Middle East.

A Navy spokesman, Capt. Joe Gradisher, said there is "a possibility" that the absence of such live-fire training contributed to the accident in Kuwait.

Military officials insist that the Navy must continue to train with live ammunition to be fully prepared for war.

"We have to train just like we fight," said Lt. Col. Joe Lamarca, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla.

While bombing accidents are rare, the Navy was forced to interrupt its use of the Vieques range because of such an accident two years ago. On April 19, 1999, two Marine jets accidentally bombed a lookout post at the Vieques training ground, killing one civilian. Four other people were injured, including three civilians.


New York Senators Ask Defense Secretary To End Bombing On Vieques

March 13, 2001
Copyright © 2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

WASHINGTON - New York Sens. Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday sent a letter to the Pentagon calling for a permanent end to bombing on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques .

The letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld comes just a day after a U.S. Navy bombing exercise in Kuwait killed five American servicemen and a New Zealand Army major. A U.S. training run on Vieques in 1999 left a Puerto Rican civilian dead.

An aide to Schumer said the latest mishap had nothing to do with the letter.

The issue of what to do with Vieques has become a hot-button issue in New York politics, because of the state's large Puerto Rican population.

Hispanics are the largest minority group in New York City and the state is home to about 1.3 million Puerto Ricans.

Clinton spoke out against the bombing on the campaign trail. Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls Andrew Cuomo and H. Carl McCall have also voiced opposition. Dennis Rivera, one of the state's most powerful labor leaders who was born in Puerto Rico , held a party to thank Pataki for intervening with fellow Republican Bush.


Navy To Transfer Land To Vieques In May

March 13, 2001
Copyright © 2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - The U.S. Navy will comply with the federal law that establishes the transfer to Puerto Rico of 8,000 acres of their property on the western end of Vieques on May 1.

"We will comply with the land transfer," said Navy spokesman Greg Smith in published reports.

Smith added that the Navy will begin to invest $40 million in projects throughout Vieques to improve the quality of life of the Viequenses.


Arias Joins With Anti-Navy Protesters

March 12, 2001
Copyright © 2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Former Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, on Sunday joined anti-U.S. Navy protesters who want the military to leave its prized bombing range on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques .

Arias attended a Mass on Vieques officiated by Archbishop of San Juan Roberto Gonzalez Nieves, an outspoken opponent of Navy bombing on the island of 9,400 residents. Then Arias traveled with a car caravan of anti-Navy activists, in which protesters estimated about 100 cars participated.

"Really, among all the many needs humanity has today, to initiate an arms race is not one of them," Arias said in an interview Sunday on local television.

The Navy has been using the Vieques range since the 1940s and says it is vital for national defense. Anti-Navy activists have claimed it creates a health risk, which the Navy denies.


Vieques Issue To Be Formally Presented Before UN

March 12, 2001
Copyright © 2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN - Five Puerto Rican jurists will request the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee to issue a resolution condemning the violation of the Viequenses' rights by the U.S. Government and its Navy.

Fermin Arraiza, the delegation's spokesman, explained that the request will be presented during a formal presentation next week before the Human Rights Committee in Geneva, Switzerland, where they will also ask that the resolution order the immediate and permanent cease of military practices in Vieques.

The delegation will also ask that a "special secretary" be assigned, and if possible, a group of scientists from the World Health Organization to investigate in Vieques the effect that the exposure to uranium has on human beings.

The Navy has confirmed launching 263 missiles lined with uranium on the island municipality on February 1999. Federal and island laws prohibit the firing of this type of missile on the island municipality that the Navy uses for military practices since the 1940s.


Cancer Cases To Be Tracked

March 11, 2001
Copyright © 2001 Orlando Sentinel. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Gov. Sila Calderon last week announced an ambitious program to bring the island's cancer statistics up to date within five months. The island will spend $1 million to update the statistics, which have been collected but not compiled for 10 years. Puerto Rico also will bring cancer statistics on the outlying island of Vieques up to date, and the government will seek out Vieques residents who have emigrated elsewhere to track their rates of cancer. Critics say years of bombing with live ammunition on the U.S. Navy range in Vieques have created health problems including high rates of cancer.


Two Bills Filed Aimed At Limiting Blue Ribbon Committee Powers

By Proviana Colon Diaz

March 11, 2001
Copyright © 2001 PuertoRicoWOW News Service. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN – Gov. Sila Calderon's Blue Ribbon Committee continues to cause controversy as two legislators filed Friday separate bills aimed at limiting the group's powers granted by the executive order.

The bills were filed by lawmakers from opposite political parties - New Progressive Party Rep. Melinda Romero and Popular Democratic Party Rep. Jorge De Castro Font.

Arguing that the committee, composed of private citizens to investigate government transactions, had similar powers to those of the Commonwealth Comptroller's Office, Romero filed legislation aimed at preventing such overlapping.

If approved, the legislation would prohibit the creation of independent groups to investigate government transactions, as those powers are granted to the comptroller by the Constitution.

"This is especially applicable when the members of such a committee are private citizens who are not ruled by the Government Ethics Law and have private contracts with government offices through their relatives or employees," Romero said.

The legislator's statements are similar to those expressed earlier this week by Commonwealth Comptroller Manuel Diaz Saldaña, who said the powers granted to the Blue Ribbon Committee should be redefined.

Following another of Diaz Saldaña's recommendations, De Castro Font filed legislation aimed at requiring all members of executive created committees to file financial statements and be ruled by the Government Ethics Law.

De Castro Font said by not requiring the committee members to comply with the Government Ethics Law, Calderon's administration was failing her campaign promise of a "transparent government."

"If they are such honorable people that have served the island so well, then why would they oppose to be subjected to the scrutiny of the Government Ethics Law?" De Castro Font said.

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