Heaven and Hell
II. Cancer and Other Worries
III. Ni una bomba más
IV. The Pentagon's Report
V. Negotiations with Clinton: The
VI. Behind Closed Doors
VII. "Endless Liability"
VIII. As Long As it Takes
Behind Closed Doors
At the end of December, everyone resumed
talking -- behind closed doors, to the frustration of the viequenses.
The activists had long ceased trusting Rossell—. "We were concerned,"
said lawyer Flavio Cumpiano, "that the final deal would be a replay
of the December third offer."
By then, the island's environmental
activists had finally succeeded in getting the Environmental Protection
Agency to look into drinking-water contamination from the Navy's
open-pit ammunition "cook-offs." It would soon issue a lengthy indictment
denying the Navy permission to continue such practices.
the EPA was not party to the negotiations was cause for concern.
"We in Vieques are familiar with Navy lies," activist Stacie Notine
explained. "And the idea that people would be negotiating with the
Navy and not talking about oversight was an obvious failure to us.
We were also concerned by Rossell—'s talk about Ôno live ordnance,'"
she went on. "Because the continuation of any exercise was understood
by us to mean that we'd lost the battle -- in a political negotiation."
In the endless back-and-forth between Secretary Morey, the White
House, and the Navy over three- versus five-year departure dates,
or live versus inert ordnance, no one on either side had negotiated
a clean-up schedule for the highly-polluted eastern end of the island.
In the weeks to come, the military worked closely with the White
House to build support in Congress for Clinton's initiative. Navy
Secretary Richard Danzig, Robert Tyre, Secretary Cohen's Chief of
Staff, Chief of Naval Operations Jay L. Johnson, and Vice Admiral
Robert Natter were duly dispatched to the Hill. "All those people
were on board before we reached the agreement," said a high-placed
source in the Puerto Rican delegation. "That was very important
On January 25, 2000, the Navy submitted a proposal to
the White House. It wasn't much different from the Rush Report,
or the deals that had been offered in November and December. They
offered the people of Vieques a choice between two options: a resumption
of live-fire exercises for ninety days a year (which would net the
viequenses $40 million in supplemental aid and return of western
lands); or the resumption of bombing with inert ordnance for five
years, after which the Navy would leave. But if the citizens chose
the second option, operations on Roosevelt Roads would be cut back,
and the land would be turned over not to the people of Puerto Rico,
but to federal agencies,who may or not have been compelled to clean
Rossell— immediately called the proposal "a step backwards."
Clinton endorsed it.
On January 31, the president issued his
"Directive." It preserved all the concessions the Navy had offered
-- a ninety-day bombing schedule, inert ordnance, pull-out in three
years, some clean-up, $40 million, a health study, western land
transfer and construction projects -- and sweetened the deal with
another $55 million if the viequenses allowed the Navy to stay indefinitely.
The Directive also specified that, should the Navy lose the referendum,
its land would be turned over to the General Services Administration,
which is in the business of selling off federal property.
What Clinton's Directive did not contain, however, was any reference
to the strongly-stated will of the Puerto Rican people. What they
had fought for so hard -- an immediate end to the bombing -- would
not be on the ballot. The Commander-in-Chief had spoken: it wasn't