Saturday, October 30, 1999

In the Military


Puerto Rico protest
like Kahoolawe’s

By Gregg K. Kakesako


Recent protests over the Navy's live-fire practice on the island of Vieques in Puerto Rico is reminiscent of the arguments that led to the 1994 closure of the Target Island of Kahoolawe.

Training on Vieques, where 9,000 people live, was halted after a Marine Corps F/A-18 strike fighter dropped a pair of 500-pound bombs on an observation post a mile and a half off target, killing a civilian guard on April 19. Vieques lies eight miles east of the main island of Puerto Rico.

Since his death, a small band of protesters has occupied a portion of the Vieques range, which is littered with dozens of unexploded bombs, artillery shells and grenades. The Navy has let the protesters stay, hoping to avoid arrests.

Puerto Rican Gov. Pedro Rossello's chief of staff insists there will be no further live-fire training and that the range will be returned to civilian use only. He will be in Washington, D.C., Monday to discuss a presidential panel's recommendation that the Navy resume limited live-fire training on the 51-square-mile island, but leave within five years.

The outcome of Monday's talks will determine whether Army Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the four service chiefs will travel to San Juan to discuss the matter.

The Navy, which controls about two-thirds of the island, contends there is no adequate alternative site for such training, and the presidential panel supported that conclusion.

The 45-square-mile Kahoolawe in ancient Hawaii was a place of refuge. Used by the military for 50 years as a bombing range, Kahoolawe was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991 after the bombing was halted in 1990 as a result of protests by native Hawaiians.

Beginning in the late 1970s, activists repeatedly occupied the island to protest the bombing. More than $280 million has been set aside for a program designed to rid the island of ordnance and restore native species.


The Pentagon is exploring a ban on ATM surcharges on all U.S. military bases.

Such a ban would add momentum to a consumer movement to get Congress or state legislatures to prohibit the fees. San Francisco isn't waiting; citizens there will vote next week on a ballot resolution banning all such charges.

Consumers are generally charged at least $1 if they use ATM machines operated by financial institutions where they don't have an account.

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