Rosie Roads Faces Economic Hardships
I know I really shouldn't laugh about this, but I can't bring myself to feel too sorry for Puerto Ricans who complain about the Navy closing the base at Roosevelt Roads.
A year after the Navy left Roosevelt Roads Naval Station, taking with it 6,000 jobs and an estimated $300 million annually, Ceiba is struggling as businesses close, unemployment rises and residents leave the town of 18,000.
An ambitious plan to turn the empty base into a cruise ship dock, commercial airport, tourist resort and light industrial park cannot get under way until an environmental study is completed.
Roosevelt Roads was a support base for American invasions of the Dominican Republic in 1965, Grenada in 1983 and Haiti in 1994. But its main purpose in recent years was to oversee bombing exercises on nearby Vieques island. The exercises provoked protests that contributed to the American decision to end maneuvers on Vieques in 2003 and close Roosevelt Roads a year later.
Officials said about 2,000 troops and civilian personnel left the area, and some 1,000 private contractors lost their jobs on the base.
Some Puerto Ricans, especially the island's vocal pro-independence movement, celebrated on April 1, 2004, after the base closed. But others worried about the impact on the economy and on communities like Ceiba, located at the gates of the former station in eastern Puerto Rico.
I visited there in 1991, and it was, to be honest, not a very good base. There should have been more people aware that if Vieques was closed, Rosie Roads would go too.