Mother Jones Daily: Briefing

Bombs Away in Puerto Rico
Regime Change: It’s Good For What Ails You

Bombs Away in Puerto Rico

The commonwealth of Puerto Rico celebrates a hard won victory this week as the US Navy relinquishes its jurisdiction over the island of Vieques. The two-thirds of the island that was formerly used as a bombing range will be designated a wildlife refuge upon its transfer to the US Department of the Interior, Duncan Campbell of the London Guardian reports.

Puerto Ricans and protesters from other nations have long demanded the Navy’s removal from the island, asserting that the Navy’s bombing excercises led to environmental degradation as well as increased rates of cancer, heart problems, and other illnesses, Environment News Service reports. Protests reached a climax when a civilian guard was killed by an off-target bomb in 1999. Prominent political figures have rallied around the Puerto Ricans’ cause — Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Democratic Presidential candidate Al Sharpton were both arrested and jailed for protesting the Navy’s presence on the island.

Citizens’ groups are demanding a complete environmental clean-up of the island, and asking for funds from federal agencies to employ Viequenses in the task of providing “adequate protection and conservation of the [island’s] cultural and natural resources, translation into Spanish of all documents related to the environmental cleanup and restoration of the former Navy lands.” The Interior Department, Navy, and Puerto Ricans have yet to specify the methods for the island’s clean-up, but citizens are insisting on input in every phase of the process. Vieques was acquired by the Navy in the 1940s, and used to train for the US invasion of Grenada in 1983, the Associated Press reports.

Regime Change: It’s Good For What Ails You

With a track record stained by sanctions, rigged elections, and unemployment spilling over the 50 percent mark, Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe is a prime candidate for that new American-British tonic: “regime change.”

The military “wins” in Afghanistan and now Iraq give Bush and Blair the confidence to repeat their regime-toppling strategy all over the world. Now, with US saber-rattling against Syria fading, Zimbabwe’s turn might be up, Basildon Peta of the London Independent reports. Last week, President Bush called for replacing the thuggish Mugabe with a less objectionable member of his ruling Zanu-PF party. Once supportive of Mugabe’s rule, neighboring African leaders are reportedly swaying towards his removal from office to stop Zimbabwe from spiraling further into economic crisis.

America, Britain, and South Africa believe Zimbabwe’s current finance minister, Simba Makoni, would make a good replacement. Bush and Blair have yet to discuss their plans for Mugabe. Mugabe’s removal has long been one of London’s preoccupations but, as Peta reports,

“British ministers denied that the US plan was a payback for Mr Blair’s support over Iraq. One Government source said: ‘If there was a quid pro quo, it was on the Middle East peace process and the publication of the road-map.'”


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