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EFE News Service

U.S. Navy And Puerto Rican Gov't Begin Talks On Vieques

April 25, 2002
Copyright © 2002
TEFE News Service. All Rights Reserved.
Distributed via COMTEX News

Washington - The Puerto Rican government and the U.S. Navy have begun talks to clarify their differences with regard to military exercises on the island of Vieques .

Officials from the two sides met Wednesday at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in Maryland and discussed how the Navy could "minimize environmental damage" if bombing exercises continue in Vieques , Puerto Rican Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez said at a press conference.

Rodriguez said the Puerto Rican government agreed to submit a detailed list of guidelines the Navy should follow during military exercises in Vieques .

According to Rodriguez, the Navy has an unspecified period of time to respond to the document.

Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila, Puerto Rico 's delegate to Congress, added that the Navy's reaction to the report would be an opportunity to better understand the military's position.

Acevedo Vila said, however, that Puerto Rico 's policy "was unchanged as far as the need for an end to the bombing exercises, but that in making the decision the Navy should comply with Puerto Rico 's environmental laws because these carry constitutional weight."

Although Rodriguez called the dialogue with the Navy cordial and frank, he did not rule out "other avenues" in the event the talks failed.

The Puerto Rican government was represented by Hermenegildo Ortiz Quinones, the president of the Puerto Rico Planning Board; Juan A. Frau Escudero, special assistant to the justice minister; and legal advisers Donald Elliot and Christopher A. Cole.

Lt. Cmdr. Sue Steward, an environmental specialist, was the Navy's representative.

Problems arose when the Planning Board denied the Navy permission to carry out bombing exercises in Vieques , claiming they were causing irreparable damage to the environment.

Federal laws grant U.S. states and territories the legal authority to implement their own environmental measures.

The Navy, however, ignored the Planning Board's ruling and continued the bombing exercises, as well as simulated search-and-rescue missions.

Rodriguez said that as soon as the Navy responds to the document, "we'll know which course of action we should take."

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