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HomeAbout NBHRNViequesU.S. military considering return to Vieques

U.S. military considering return to Vieques
U.S. military considering return to Vieques
By CB Online Staff
March 19th

Testimony at U.S. Senate committee hearing signals interest by military to return to island municipality in a limited capacity

SAN JUAN (AP)_ Six years after protesters were able to get the U.S. Navy out of Vieques, military authorities are considering a return to the island municipality.

In a testimony before the U.S. Senate this week, military authorities said the island is in an ideal location to expand the nation’s reach in the Caribbean and could potentially play a role in air surveillance or the war against drugs.

The U.S. Navy’s exit in 2003 was considered a victory by a significant part of the Puerto Rican population. The military exercises carried out on the island were considered harmful to the island’s environment and to the health of its 9,000 inhabitants.

However, Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi said Thursday the Puerto Rico government is open to establishing a low-impact military presence in Vieques.

Pierluisi, part of a new political administration in favor of Puerto Rico becoming the 51st state of the U.S., said the island has a “moral obligation,” of contributing to the nation’s defense.

“I am sure most of our people are more than willing to continue helping the U.S. Special Forces in any reasonable way that doesn’t include bombing our rare but valuable natural resources,” he stated in a declaration sent to the Associated Press.

The U.S. started military maneuvers on Vieques’ eastern coast in 1948 after obtaining 25,000 cuerdas (one cuerda is equal to 0.97 acres), about a third of the island municipality.

In 1999, protests against the military presence on the so-called Isla Nena grew in intensity after a bomb accidentally killed David Sanes, a Vieques-born security guard posted at an observation tower.

In 2001, then-U.S. President Bill Clinton announced the U.S. Navy would finish its maneuvers in Vieques. The Navy finally exited the island municipality in May 2003.

During his testimony before the Senate’s Armed Forces Committee  Tuesday, Northern Command chief Gen. Victor E. Renuart Jr. said the island could contribute to the national defense, “in a limited capacity.”

“We want to work with the Navy and the National Guard to see how we can take advantage of some of the systems and equipment that are still on the island of Vieques,” Renuart said.

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