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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release January 31, 2000


Today, I am announcing a course of action to resolve the impasse over United States armed forces training on Vieques. This course will give the people of Vieques the right to determine the future of the island while assuring that our training needs are met. I have received a letter from the Governor of Puerto Rico endorsing this course.

I am issuing two directives. They provide that between later this year and early 2002, there will be a referendum held on Vieques, in which the people of Vieques will be asked to choose between two alternatives. If they choose the first alternative, the Navy will cease all training on Vieques and leave the island by May 1, 2003. If they choose the second, training will continue on Vieques on terms that will be presented at least three months before the vote.

During the period leading up to the vote, training done on Vieques will be limited to non-explosive ordnance -- meaning there will be no live fire, and the Navy and Marine Corps will cut in half the amount of time they will spend training, to no more than 90 days per year, which is what we need to meet our training needs. I will also implement measures to meet the health, safety, environmental and economic concerns of the people of Vieques, and I will ask Congress to begin transferring title to land on the western quarter of the island to Puerto Rico.

I believe this plan will help resolve the impasse over Vieques in the fairest possible way, because it will meet our training needs while giving the people most affected by this decision -- the people who actually live on the island -- the ability to choose for themselves the future of their island.