CHRONOLOGY OF VIEQUES FIGHT
Chronology of Vieques fight against the Navy since April 1999
- April 19, 1999- Navy accidentally drops two 500 lb bombs over the Observation Tower that controls the bombing activity on the eastern tip of Vieques. A civilian guard on duty, David Sanes Rodriguez, died and four others were injured.
- April 21- Puerto Rican politicians unite to demand the immediate stop to the use of live bombs in Vieques by the Navy.
- April 22- A campsite is setup on Mount David by a group of young viequenses demanding the Navy gets out of Vieques.
- May 8- A second campsite is setup in Playa Carrucho by the Independence party. The president of the party, Ruben Berrios, vows to stay in the campsite until either the Navy gets out or he is arrested.
- May 11- Governor of Puerto Rico, Pedro Rosello, who is the head of the pro-statehood party in Puerto Rico, appoints a special committee to study the impact of the Navy in Vieques.
- May 26- The Navy admits to have accidentally fired 263 rounds of shells loaded with depleted uranium in Vieques. Only 57 of the shells have been recovered.
- May- The Catholic Church of Vieques sets up a campsite and chapel at Playa Yayi.
- June 10- President Clinton appoints a panel to study the impact of the Navy in Vieques and report to him by August 1999.
- June 30- Puerto Rico Special Committee reports to Governor Rosello. Thirteen recommendations included the demilitarization, decontamination and return of the land to Vieques people. The Special Committee found that the Navy did not keep any point of an agreement held in 1983 with the then Governor of Puerto Rico, Carlos Romero Barcelo. In this agreement the Navy promised among other things to reduce the bombings, reduce the use of live bombs, protect endangered species, protect mangroves, protect marine mammals, promote relations with Vieques by helping the economy, help in the installation of phones and other utilities and more. The Navy failed in all points. Particularly the one about reducing the bombings. The Navy has been know to market to NATO allies the use of Vieques as the perfect bombing place. Depending on Clinton's decision, a lawsuit might be forthcoming.
- July 4- Todo Puerto Rico Con Vieques. A march was done in front of the Roosevelt Roads base gates in Ceiba. Vieques fishermen participated by boat in the protest. The organizers claim 50,000 people attended the event but because the Navy did not allow air coverage of the march, estimates of participation are debated. People from all political, religious and civic groups showed their support.
- Week of July 12- The Navy admits to the use of Napalm, a highly deadly and toxic chemical weapon, in Vieques in 1993.
- July 15- Vieques mayor, Manuela Santiago, pro-statehood declares that
she is so appalled by all the evils of the Navy she will also endorse civil disobedience.
- July 31- Vieques people send an Ultimatum to the Navy, the President of
the United States, the United Nations and the Governor of Puerto Rico.
- August 1- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry determines that a health assessment is indeed needed in Vieques and will come to Vieques to study the claim that there is a higher than usual incidence of cancer among Vieques residents.
- August 4- Press conference in Washington by the Committee Pro Rescue and Development of Vieques brings Vieques into the national news in the mainland.
- August 11- Reverend Jesse Jackson is scheduled to visit Puerto Rico and Vieques about the Navy issue.
- August 13- Reverend Jesse Jackson visited Puerto Rico and Vieques and promised to go back to the States
and talk to Clinton, his long time friend. He said he
knows this is a test that Clinton shall pass..
- August 20- Vice President Al Gore said this week that he will
talk to President Clinton to convince him to force the
military to find an alternate place to bombing practices.
- September 22- The Sub-committee on Readiness and Management Support (this is a sub-committee of the Senate Armed Services Committee) held hearings on Vieques. Senator Inofe (R-OK) chairs this sub-committee.
- October 8- The government's key disease-monitoring agency, Agency for Toxic Substances
and Disease Registry (ATSDR), agreed to investigate claims by residents of Vieques
that nearly six decades of Navy and Marine Corps bombing practice caused a
high rate of cancer there.
- October 18- The report to the Secretary of Defense
of the Special Panel on Military Operations on Vieques
recommended the Navy leaves Vieques within 5 years and reduce the level of bombings. Published on the Defense Department's web site.
- October 19- Senate hearings about Vieques were conducted in Washington.
- October 19- On CBS' 60 Minutes, a segment about Vieques and the Navy.
- October 21- Presidential hopeful and former senator Bill
Bradley urged an immediate halt to the U.S. Navy's use of the Puerto
Rican island of Vieques for a bombing range.
- October 28- Retired Admiral Shanahan criticized the Navy's stand about Vieques being essential for their training. "These operations don't occur, in the traditional sense of the word, simultaneously," says retired Admiral (US Navy) Jack Shanahan. Navy troops don't disembark at the same beach where we have live fire, he said. "We can't continue training as in WWII."
- December 3- President Clinton makes his decision. These are the elements of the plan
(A), training on Vieques will be limited to inert weapons unless and until
a resumption of live fire training is agreed to by the people of Vieques
and the Navy.
In addition, as stated by the Department of Defense: "Further, we have decided that it is best for the Navy and the Marine Corps
to defer resumption of training at Vieques until next spring, when the
Vieques Range will be required for the George Washington Battle Group and
the Kearsarge (sic) [Siapan] Amphibious Ready Group. In the intervening
period, we anticipate that discussions about the recommended plan will
take place in Puerto Rico."
- (B), training will be reduced from the 180 days per year presently used to
90 days per year.
- (C), within five years of the resumption of training on Vieques, the Navy
will develop an alternative to that training and all training on the
island will terminate unless otherwise agreed to by the people of Vieques
and the Navy. And
- (D), a resumption of training will be accompanied by a
$40 million community development and economic adjustment program that
recognizes and offsets the burdens that the training imposes on the people
- December 3- In a show of unity, Puerto Rico's government,
opposition and chief religious leaders rejected the Clinton
administration's offer Friday to phase out military training operations on
the island of Vieques over five years.
Gov. Pedro Rossello said a message he received Friday from President
Clinton with the offer ``is unacceptable for the people of Puerto Rico and
the people of Vieques.''
- December 9- Mississippi lawyers representing 65 viequenses that suffer from cancer submitted a lawsuit for $130 millions to the Secretary of the Navy, Richard Danzing , for compensation for illness and for property devaluation caused by toxics and chemicals produced by the military practices.
- December 16- Vieques on the Negotiation Table. Puerto Rico's Secretary of State, Angel Morey, the Secretary of
the Navy, Richard Danzing, and other federal participants had
conversations at the White House about Vieques for 12
hours under a "positive" climate that for many looks like
agreement. Nobody wanted to go on record about the content of the
conversations. These conversations continued into January.
- January 18, 2000- Governor Pedro Roselló signed a law that creates the Office of the Special Commissioner for Vieques as a coordinating entity between the governments of US and PR and with the purpose of implementing the recommendations of the Special Commission about Vieques and other business related to Vieques. The Commisioner will be appointed by the Governor with the approval of the Senate and will work under the guidance of the Governor. Conversations with the White House continue.
- January 24, 2000- The Pentagon made another offer which was immediately rejected by Governor Roselló and his Vieques Working Group. The offer was for Vieques residents to choose between continued bombing with live munition in exchange for $40 million, or to choose for continued bombing with inert munition and the Navy to get out of Vieques in March 2005 and a reduction in operations at the Roosevelt Roads base in Ceiba. This offer was considered worst than the first one. Governor Roselló called for Clinton to have a more active role in the negotiations instead of just been a moderator.
- January 31, 2000- Governor Pedro Roselló accepted an offer from Clinton for the Navy to leave Vieques in May 1, 2003 if Vieques residents vote it so. See more details.