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Wednesday, February 2, 2000

Accord on bombing
of Puerto Rican isle

Bullet The issue: An agreement has been reached between the federal government and Puerto Rico in a dispute over the practice bombing of Vieques island.
Bullet Our view: Training is essential to military preparedness and should not be compromised.

WHILE the military in Hawaii tries to cope with challenges to its training sites -- Kahoolawe has been lost and Makua Valley operations were suspended 16 months ago -- a similar struggle is being fought on the opposite side of the country over the little Puerto Rican island of Vieques.

Puerto Ricans have long objected to the Navy's practice bombing on Vieques but the controversy fully erupted after a civilian guard was killed by an errant bomb dropped by a Marine Corps plane last April, forcing a suspension of operations.

Now it appears that the Navy can resume training on Vieques at least temporarily as the result of an agreement between the federal government and Puerto Rican Gov. Pedro Rossello, the Associated Press reports.

Under the plan proposed by President Clinton, a referendum would be conducted next year among the residents of Vieques on two options: resumption of training operations by the Navy in exchange for federal financial aid, or requiring the Navy to cease all training by May 1, 2003.

That is two years earlier than the Navy has indicated it was willing to give up the range. The Navy insists there are no acceptable alternatives to Vieques as an Atlantic training site.

If Vieques residents vote to let the Navy resume full-scale training, the administration will ask Congress to provide an extra $50 million in aid for housing and infrastructure improvements.

In December, the Navy announced what it thought was agreement with Rossello to resume training on Vieques this spring using dummy bombs. But the deal fell through.

The latest agreement was similar except for the offer of an extra $50 million in economic assistance should the referendum vote turn out in the Navy's favor.

In Clinton's original offer, which stands, he will request $40 million for special aid to Puerto Rico once the Navy has resumed training on Vieques. The money would finance the construction of a commercial ferry pier and terminal and projects to help commercial fishing.

A remaining question is how the government will remove protesters who have been camped out amid unexploded ordinance on the Vieques bombing range.

In Hawaii, activists illegally occupying Kahoolawe succeeded in calling attention to their cause and launching a movement that eventually forced the Pentagon to relinquish the island. It is now being cleared of unexploded ordinance.

At Makua Valley, opponents have used less provocative tactics but have succeeded in shutting down operations at least until an environmental impact study is completed. The Army complains that 25th Infantry Division soldiers have been forced into extra duty hours to use the training facilities that are still available, which could hurt morale and retention.

Hawaii has long hosted a large military establishment, which has benefited not only the country but the economy of the islands. But if the military is forced to give up training areas, the readiness of forces based here could be impaired. Some units could be transferred to areas with better access to training sites.

War is not kind to people or to the environment, and military training can have its costs, too. But national security -- and the training it requires -- must not be compromised.

Vincent Marino

VINCENT "Vinny" Marino considered himself one of the luckiest people on Earth. Just as fortunate, though, are many of the drug addicts who came under his wing and benefited from the lessons Marino learned in conquering his own addiction. Marino, 61, died Monday at a holistic treatment center in San Diego, Calif., after a three-year battle with liver cancer.

Marino became embroiled in crime on the streets of New York City's Little Italy before his teens and began taking heroin at age 14. As chronicled in his two autobiographies, "Vinny" and "Journey from Hell," Marino spent five years in prison and went through various drug-treatment programs. He finally overcame his heroin addiction and became a counselor himself in a Phoenix House drug-treatment facility.

Marino began work at a Hawaii drug-treatment center 29 years ago but bolted after six weeks to found Habilitat in a two-bedroom Kailua house. Within a short time, Habilitat was treating up to 150 addicts at a time on the former Bigelow estate on Kaneohe Bay, its present location.

Marino complained about "hassles" with various government agencies, on which Habilitat relied for financial support, until it became self-sufficient in 1982. He developed a construction, painting and landscaping business with the labor of Habilitat's drug-treatment clients to make ends meet.

The use of lively morning meetings, instructional seminars and confrontational encounter sessions produced a recent cure rate of 53.6 percent, compared with a national rate of 17 percent for drug-treatment facilities, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

Hawaii has Marino to thank for establishing one of the country's most effective drug-treatment programs. Habilitat has been run by Marino's wife, Vicky, during his illness. She will strive to maintain the success that he achieved.

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John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

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