Puerto Ricans Protest US Bombing Practices on Vieques


Delegation to speak to Dutch Members of Parliament

From 17-25 April, Puerto Rican peace activist Moraima Rivera, a delegate of the Comité Pro-Rescate y Desarrollo para Vieques and the pro-independence group Congreso Nacional Hostosiano, will be touring the Netherlands to speak to various NGOs and members of parliament. She will be making an urgent appeal to the Dutch government to cancel its support of US target practice bombing on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques.

The Netherlands Vrede Comite voor Vieques, the Transnational Institute and XminY and will be hosting the delegate. On Saturday, 20 April, these same organisations will host an evening of solidarity with the people of Vieques, including a film documentary on the current struggle against the US military. This event will take place at the Filmhuis Cavia, Van Hallstraat 52 at 19:00.

Background

Ignoring the demands of local politicians, civilians, church groups and environmentalists to cease military exercises, the US Navy resumed target-practice bombing on Monday, 1 April 2002 on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques in the Caribbean. A week later, Mayor of the Vieques island municipality Dámaso Serrano joined peace activists and pro-independence groups in calling for an end to military practices and demanding that the US Navy leave the island.

Since 1 April, 14 demonstrators have been arrested. This adds to the hundreds of local and international peace activists, including US Congressional Representatives, who were arrested throughout last year while attempting to penetrate the heavily guarded Naval base. This week, US Naval guards used tear gas against pacifist demonstrators. Both mainstream and local independent sources have reported that Naval guards have been continuously raiding the three civilian peace camps set up by local NGOs.

On Wednesday, 10 April, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Rigoberta Menchú Tum met with Dámaso Serrano while on tour in Puerto Rico. Menchú called upon the United Nations to intervene in the crisis and expressed her solidarity with the struggle for the self-determination of Puerto Rico. The oldest standing colony of the world, Puerto Rico has been a US territory since the end of the Spanish-American War in 1898. Puerto Ricans are considered to be US citizens, but have neither voice nor vote in the US Congress and are not allowed to participate in US presidential elections. They are eligible, however, for drafting in case of US war or military operations.

Puerto Ricans have been struggling against the US military presence since 1946, when the Navy expropriated thousands of homes and occupied two-thirds of the island of Vieques. But it was the murder of David Sanes that sparked the new movement against the US military and NATO. David Sanes was killed on 19 April 1999, when a Naval plane accidentally dropped a bomb on the compound where this civilian worked as a night watchman. Since then, fisher unions, environmentalists, physicians, archaeologists, pro-independence groups and local Church leaders have joined forces to pressure the local government to become more vocal in protesting the US military presence. This movement also gained momentum after scientific research conducted by the US government revealed that the presence of uranium and depleted uranium (DU) shells were most likely the cause for high cancer rates in Vieques. DU was used in NATO strikes in Kosovo during the 1990s.

Vieques has been used as a training camp for US Marines in rehearsals for military interventions since the Korean War. Napalm, used in the Vietnam War, was first tested on the island of Vieques during the 1960s. Currently, Vieques is used as a launching base for US military forces headed towards Colombia in the so-called War against Drugs and by NATO forces in the “war against terrorism”.

For more information, please contact TNI Communications Officer Antonio Carmona Báez at [email protected] Originally from Puerto Rico, Mr. Carmona Báez can provide details on Moraima Rivera’s visit and answer general questions about Vieques.

TRANSNATIONAL INSTITUTE

Paulus Potterstraat 20

1071 DA Amsterdam – The Netherlands

Tel: + 31 20 662 88 08 | Fax + 31 20 675 71 76

Antonio Carmona Báez [email protected]

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