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U.S. Navy Tried to Rig Vieques Referendum

U.S. Navy contract documents, detailing U.S. Government payments of $1,699,830.00 to a public relations firm known as The Rendon Group have been uncovered by Judicial Watch. Their purpose? Influencing the outcome of a public referendum held on Puerto Rico.

The 2001 referendum concerned the proposed closure of the Vieques Bombing Range. The U.S. Navy sought to continue using the range for live-fire combat training. Tasks for The Rendon Group included: ‘...organise local leaders to build grassroots communications support...ensure the integrity of the voting process...and develop methods and tracking procedures to increase support among citizens’.

Opponents of the Navy garnered 68 percent of the vote, which drew 80.6 percent of the island’s 5,893 registered voters. The Navy spent approximately $358 per referendum voter in their failed

bid to continue using the range. In February 2003 the Navy ceased operations at the Vieques range and moved operations to Florida and elsewhere in the United States.

The Rendon Group is a self-described “global strategic communications consultancy” that has been paid more than $40 million by the U.S. Defense Department since 9/11. Media reports have also tied The Rendon Group to a Pentagon funded Internet site called “Empower Peace,” targeting American school age children, teachers and schools in what purports to be a “grassroots” peace movement.

Judicial Watch was forced to file a FOIA lawsuit against the Defense Department on February 25, 2005, following 11 months of stonewalling by the Government over a lawful open records request concerning The Rendon Group’s involvement in U.S. Government funded “information operations” and “perception management” activities.

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Page last updated: January 28, 2003