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
Although they did not say so to their constituency, Rossello's team
had long abandoned hope for an immediate stop to the bombing. With
the term reduced from five years to three, the proper Congressional
assurances in place, and the force of a Presidential Directive behind
them, they felt this was as reasonable a compromise as possible.
The Directive, Rossell— proclaimed, was "a fair and positive basis
for resolution of a long-standing and complex issue."
He was denounced
on the floor of Puerto Rico's Senate the next day. Sila Calderón,
a member of the Burgos Commission who had recently become the opposition's
candidate for Governor in the November 2000 elections, was especially
severe. The wave of popular revulsion also grew more emphatic, cresting
a few weeks later when 100,000 demonstrators followed the calls
of religious leaders into the streets. It was one of the largest
rallies in the island's history.
The viequenses refused to accept
what they saw as Rosselló's betrayal, and the bombing range
has been occupied more or less continuously ever since. Exercises
have been postponed several times. According to the Navy, islanders
have also launched almost two thousand lawsuits and an action against
the use of depleted uranium, which was also condemned by the UN.
The Directive was turned into law by Congress. There was one significant
change, though it was not much noted at the time: Should the referendum
go against the Navy, its lands would be ceded not to the GSA but
to the Department of the Interior. This meant that the land, and
whatever polluting agents lie within it, would be even further removed
from any comprehensive clean-up.
A possible reason for this move was offered by Senator Frank Murkowski
of Alaska, chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
"The Navy has polluted Vieques, and I don't know if it
can ever be cleaned up," he said. "If those lands
are turned over... the Navy would be exposed to endless liability."