City Council Approves Vieques Resolution

The Cambridge City Council approved without contest a resolution calling upon the United States Navy to relocate from its base on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques at its meeting Monday night.

The resolution was written by Councillor Kenneth E. Reeves '72 after Harvard Students for Peace in Vieques, Now! presented the idea to him.

Mayoral elections dominated the meeting, which ended with Anthony D. Galluccio's 1:30 a.m. swearing-in as the city's top official in City Hall's Sullivan Chamber.

But more than six hours earlier, Hans S. Perl-Matanzo '01, Kimberly M. Sanchez '03 and Antonio J. Torres, a member of the National Conference for Puerto Rican Rights, spoke before the council, urging its members to pass the resolution urging the Navy to "return the land to the municipality of Vieques for civilian uses."

Perl-Matanzo said the Navy has been a destructive presence on the island since it first established a base there 59 years ago.

"The more than 30,000 residents of Vieques were forced to live in 29 percent of the island, while the U.S. Navy appropriated over 70 percent of the land to establish a live-bombing practice site," said Perl-Matanzo, who is the founder and director of the Harvard student group.

"Fifty percent of the Vieques population is unemployed and a whopping 70 percent live under the poverty line," he added.

Sanchez said the Navy's bombing practices on the island have greatly harmed the island's environment.

"Vieques has more craters per square meter than the surface of the moon," Sanchez said.

By passing the resolution, she said, the council could influence other legislators and decision-makers in the U.S. and put additional pressure on the Navy to leave the island.

Copies of the resolution will now be sent to President Clinton, Vice President Al Gore '69, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen, Navy Secretary John H. Dalton, Gov. Pedro J. Rossello of Puerto Rico and other influential officials.

Clinton agreed last month to allow Puerto Ricans to hold a referendum on the Vieques situation.

Puerto Ricans would have two options: they could vote either to let the Navy resume use of its firing range "on its own terms" in exchange for new federal financial aid or order the Navy to cease all training at its base by May 1, 2003. A date for the referendum has not been set.

At Harvard, about 60 faculty members have signed a petition calling for the withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Vieques, Sanchez said.

Those who have signed the petition include Warburg Professor of Economics Emeritus John Kenneth Galbraith, Fletcher University Professor Cornel R. West '74 and Du Bois Professor of the Humanities Henry Louis "Skip" Gates Jr.

Before the council voted for the resolution shortly after 11 p.m., Reeves added his own perspective, as he has frequently done since he assumed the role of acting chair of the council Jan. 10.

"This is a major issue nationally and internationally," Reeves said. "These emerging economies are beginning to wonder why they're entertaining this sort of destruction where people live."

"We're test-bombing in their backyards, and they're not happy about it," Reeves added.

At the time of his remarks last night, Reeves had emerged to gain a surprising lead in the mayor's race with three votes--three more than he had at the beginning of the evening. Two and a half hours later, however, Galluccio was elected as the successor to former mayor Francis H. Duehay '55 with six votes, putting a dramatic end to the six-week-long competition for the mayoralty.