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October 24, 2002 Statement on Navy Presence in Vieques

October 24, 2002 Statement on Navy Presence in Vieques

October 24, 2002

Dear friends,

Navy spokespeople denied that they had made an official commitment to leave Vieques by May 2003 this week, in spite of an announcement by Puerto Rican Governor Sila Calderón to the contrary.

Navy spokesman David Luckett said that the letter from Navy Secretary Gordon England to Calderón last Friday was “no guarantee and no certification” of the Navy’s departure from Vieques. “Nothing has changed,” said Navy spokeswoman Dawn Cutler. “We have planning this whole time to stop training in Vieques by May 2003.” According to some military sources, England’s letter actually “scolded” Governor Calderón for supposedly not ordering Puerto Rican police to be more aggressive in preventing protesters from the entering the Vieques firing range.

Luckett’s remarks are bolstered by the fact that Navy officials have not gone to Puerto Rico to make a public announcement, nor have they released anything official to the press.

There is also speculation about what Congressional Republicans may do when Congress returns after the elections during the week of November 12.

Meanwhile, at least one Marine who participated in chemical warfare exercises on Vieques in 1969 revealed that he became sick from the exercises, which were done in secret with some troops suited up against the contamination. “I couldn’t get close to the firing area without it giving me headaches, intestinal [pain], dizziness,” said Hermogenes Marrero, then an infantryman in the Navy. Marrero said he saw tanks inscribed “112” — the code number for the chemical tests — on the Vieques beach, that had lines discharging directly into the seawater.

Action: Call the White House Comment Line to urge President Bush to put in writing his and England’s stated intention to have the Navy cease all exercises and close the base on or before May 2003, specifically through an executive order for an immediate and permanent halt to bombing and other exercises. Tel: 202-456-1111. It is open 9 to 5 p.m., Eastern time.

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