[fla-left] Vieques protesters in for long haul (fwd)

Michael Hoover hoov at SPAMfreenet.tlh.fl.us
Sat Dec 18 08:18:33 MST 1999

forwarded by Michael Hoover

> Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero
> (Puerto Rico, December 16 1999) It's been almost eight
> months since the protest began. But far from losing
> enthusiasm, the protesters are now more numerous and
> more determined.
> They are peacefully occupying lands in the island-town
> of Vieques that have been used by the United States
> Navy for target practice for almost sixty years.
> During World War Two, The Navy forcefully took over
> most of the island's 33,000 acres.
> On April 19, a stray bomb from a U.S. fighter jet
> killed a Vieques resident who was working as a
> security guard in a Navy observation post.
> That was the last straw for the 9,400 Vieques
> residents, most of whom had opposed the Navy's
> presence all along.
> Since that day, Viequenses, as Vieques residents are
> called, and supporters from the main island of Puerto
> Rico have been camping out in the Navy firing range.
> They have served as a human shield and have prevented
> target practice from resuming on this island.
> In the months that have passed, the protesters have
> built a dock, a church and a school. They are even
> building a dance hall to celebrate Christmas and New
> Year's.
> The Vieques cause is overwhelmingly popular among
> Puerto Ricans of all political beliefs. The P.R.
> government, run by the right-wing New Progressive
> Party, officially opposes the Navy's presence in
> Vieques.
> All political figures, in both right and left, support
> the protest with varying degrees of enthusiasm.
> Supporting the Navy is now considered political
> suicide.
> On December 3, U.S. president Bill Clinton proposed a
> compromise solution for the Vieques conflict.
> According to Clinton's proposal, the Navy will bomb
> the island only 90 days a year and no live ammunition
> will be used. And the Navy will leave in five years,
> but only if it finds a suitable place to move its
> activities. The proposal also includes a $40 million
> compensation to the people of Vieques.
> Practically all of Puerto Rican society has found
> Clinton's proposal to be unacceptable and insulting.
> Clinton's position "does not fulfill the expectations
> that we had for the people of Vieques", said P.R.
> governor Pedro Rosselló in a press conference with
> community leaders of the island-town. Both Rosselló
> and anti-Navy groups agree that not one more bomb
> should be dropped on Vieques.
> "They think they can buy the people of Vieques and buy
> the consciences of the people of Puerto Rico" said
> Manuel Rodríguez-Orellana, spokesman of the P.R.
> Independence Party, referring to the $40 million.
> "It's insulting because that's something the Navy does
> with people they consider inferior."
> The Macheteros, a clandestine revolutionary group that
> advocates Puerto Rico's independence from the U.S.,
> have vowed to attack American military installations
> if the Navy resumes target practice on Vieques.
> If the Navy drops any more bombs on Vieques "we'll
> reserve the right to throw bombs too, and the
> 'federales' (U.S. authorities) know we are serious",
> said Machetero leader Filiberto Ojeda in a television
> interview last week.
> "We will act according to our possibilities and in a
> revolutionary manner", said Ojeda, who went
> underground in 1990 after escaping from the custody of
>  U.S. law enforcement authorities.
> The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation offers
> $500,000 for information leading to Ojeda's capture,
> thus making him one of the most wanted men anywhere in
> U.S. territory.
> Puerto Rico-born U.S. congressman Luis Gutiérrez, who
> visited the camps last week, vowed to engage in civil
> disobedience if bombing resumes.
> "They are the most powerful navy in the world, but we
> have the spiritual power to embarrass them
> internationally, if we remain clear and persistent",
> said Gutiérrez, who represents a district in Chicago.
> He also pledged to organise pro-Vieques activities in
> Chicago, which has a large Puerto Rican community.
> "Since the Navy arrived here, we've had nothing but
> death, destruction and sorrow. All we are asking for
> is to be allowed to live in peace, without our
> children having to hear the sound of bombs", said
> Mercedes Perea, a 73 year-old Viequense.
> The Navy intends to resume its target practice and
> training maneouvres in Vieques in late February or
> early March. The protesters are determined to prevent
> this, even if their civil disobedience gets them
> arrested and sent to American prisons.
> Ruiz-Marrero is a Puerto Rican journalist and a
> Research Associate at the Institute for Social
> Ecology.

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