In a recent military report made
available to the local press,
USARSO is now headquartered in
That possibility excites the peace
“As believers in a culture of peace, we trust that the Buchanan base, as well as all other Puerto Rican lands under military occupation, will be returned for the use and enjoyment of all Puerto Ricans,” she added.
Because the country is under U.S. control, all military presence in Puerto Rico is American. That presence includes controversial naval manoeuvres in the island-town of Vieques. The last three years have seen a prolonged and untiring civil disobedience campaign to make the U.S. Navy leave Vieques.
Closing military bases and converting their facilities to civilian use will be good for the Puerto Rican economy, assures Hector Pesquera, co-chairman of the Congreso Nacional Hostosiano (CNH), a pro-independence organisation.
Pesquera uses the 8,000-acre Roosevelt Roads naval base as an example. Roosevelt Roads, in the town of Ceiba on the eastern tip of the island and within sight of Vieques, is the biggest American naval base outside the continental United States.
Its deep bay, nine docks and long airport runway, would present stunning opportunities to develop tourism, according to Pesquera.
“With the Navy’s withdrawal from Roosevelt Roads, a whole new universe of opportunities will open up for Ceiba and Puerto Rico,” he says.
And closing Fort Buchanan “would present a magnificent opportunity for housing, so necessary in the San Juan metro area”, argues the Hostosiano leader. “It has infrastructure for recreational, sports and educational centres, as well as green areas. We’re talking about 700 acres right in the middle of the metropolitan area.”
USARSO’s stay in Puerto Rico was rather short. It arrived in 1999 after having to leave Panama. The Torrijos-Carter Panama Canal Treaties, signed in the late 1970s, required the United States to remove all military facilities from Panamanian soil by 2000.
It leaves now as part of the
reorganisation of the armed force’s unified commands
following last year’s terrorist attacks on
Northcom’s “area of responsibility” will include Canada, Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
The other four unified commands are
Economist Jose Alameda says Puerto Ricans need to overcome commonplace notions about the alleged economic benefits of military bases. “The fundamental purpose of military bases is military and not economic, for which reason their effects on the community’s economy are lateral, incidental and marginal.”
“No community or nation has ever reached
superior levels of development through military bases,
no matter the number of jobs, income and purchases
that they carry out,” wrote
The economist referred to four U.S. General Accounting Office studies in downsizings and closures of military bases carried out between 1988 and 1995, which concluded that all communities studied were capable of absorbing the economic losses.
He specifically mentioned California’s
You can blow out a candle,
but you can’t blow out a fire.
Once the flame begins to catch,
the wind will blow it higher.
· Peter Gabriel
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