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Protesting The Vieques Bombing

Cartoon Disappointing

There Are Two Solutions To Vieques Problem

Stop The Bombs


Protesting The Vieques Bombing

May 25, 2001
Copyright © 2001 THE NEW YORK TIMES. All Rights Reserved.

People who commit civil disobedience to call attention to an issue do so knowing they will have to pay a penalty. But the punishment meted out by a federal judge in Puerto Rico to the Rev. Al Sharpton and other New York politicians for their demonstrations against military bombing exercises on the island of Vieques seems excessive. Moreover, lawyers for the group have raised serious questions about due process in the hasty scheduling of the protesters' trial. These questions warrant careful review by an appellate court.

Over the last year, protesting the bombing on Vieques has become an important rite, especially among politicians in New York, where there are over a million Puerto Rican voters. After touring the lush island in April, Gov. George Pataki called for an end to the bombing exercises, as have other visitors like Fernando Ferrer, the Bronx borough president, who is running for mayor of New York City. Mr. Pataki and Mr. Ferrer, however, did not join the hundreds of demonstrators who trespassed and were arrested as protests have intensified.

In most cases, the arrests have drawn fines of $1,000 or a sentence for time served in jail. But in recent weeks the federal trial court in Puerto Rico has stiffened the penalties. The leader of the Puerto Rican Independence Party was sentenced to four months in jail, in part because of a previous conviction. Similarly, Mr. Sharpton was slapped with a 90- day sentence after prosecutors told the judge about an earlier conviction for civil disobedience in 1989 on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Others, who were jailed for 40 days beginning on Wednesday afternoon, were Roberto Ramirez, Democratic Party chairman in the Bronx; Assemblyman Jose Rivera of the Bronx; and City Councilman Adolfo Carrion, who is running for Bronx borough president. Among those still waiting for their day in the San Juan court are Dennis Rivera, a labor leader, and Robert Kennedy Jr., an environmental lawyer.

Mr. Sharpton and his crowd were charged with trespassing after climbing through a hole in the fence around the Navy base and demonstrating for about 20 minutes without interrupting any government operation. Since this has become a fairly routine event in recent months, perhaps the Navy could fix its fences.

The appeals court, in Boston, has a more difficult task. The higher court needs to take a hard look at whether the unusual swiftness of this trial allowed defendants enough time to prepare an adequate defense for a verdict that resulted in sentences that seemed disproportionate to the offense.


Editorial Cartoon Disappointing

May 21, 2001
Copyright © 2001 Allentown Morning Call. All Rights Reserved.

To the Editor:

I don't quite understand the comment being made by the May 4 cartoon by Bill DeOre. Is it that Puerto Rican ballplayers aren't in a position to protest against the Navy bombing of Vieques Island because they earn enough money in the United States to be able to purchase the island? If so, I am truly disappointed in The Morning Call.

The bombing of Vieques has been going on for 60 years. Vieques is inhabited by human beings. These fellow humans have had to live with this nightmare for 60 years. They have a greater rate of certain cancers than does the rest of Puerto Rico . They have to live constantly with the sounds of bombs. Imagine trying to put your infants and toddlers to sleep with these continuous bombings going on.

On April 19, 1999, David Sanes, a fellow human being, was killed by one of these bombs. This is funny?

While I agree that sports figures are grossly overpaid, I don't find any humor in mortality and morbidity.

God Bless America. I still believe we are a humane and compassionate people. Let's get the Navy out of Vieques and train our military on uninhabited islands.

Norma I. Villanueva, M.D.
Bethlehem Puerto Rican Cultural Association


There Are Two Solutions To Vieques Problem

May 18, 2001
Copyright © 2001 South Bend Tribune. All Rights Reserved.

Wanted: One remote island. Must be near U.S. Atlantic coast and available to be used for military exercises, including bombing and target practice. Must be uninhabited.

For several decades, the U.S. Navy has used the Puerto Rican island of Vieques as a firing range and for other military exercises. Although the island is inhabited, the Navy owns 12,000 acres at its eastern end and uses 900 of those acres as a firing range. According to the Navy, Vieques is the only place it has to perform the exercises, which are vital for training purposes.

Unfortunately, the Navy wore out its welcome on Vieques in 1999 when dummy bombs fell outside the target area and killed a security guard. Since then, Puerto Ricans have been agitating against use of their island for target practice and Puerto Rican Gov. Sila Calderon has urged the Navy to leave.

The issue has drawn some high-profile protesters to the island, including Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., actor Edward James Olmos and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an environmental lawyer.

The Navy, which has been using only inert bombs on Vieques for the past year, says it needs the island because the unique training it provides is vital to U.S. forces. It also says there is no place else to go.

But Calderon and other Puerto Rican representatives say the bombing poses a health hazard for island residents. A recently released study claims the bombing has also caused deterioration of the island's coral reefs. The area is also littered with unexploded shells, some of which may be leaking toxins into the water.

We are sympathetic to the Navy's need to have a place to train, and equally sympathetic to the plight of island natives. Island residents shouldn't be forced to endure unwanted bombings; the Navy should have a place to conduct exercises it considers vital to U.S. military readiness.

There are, therefore, only two possible solutions to this problem. The best solution would be for the Navy to find another island or uninhabited area where it can conduct its training exercises. Surely, somewhere, there are 900 uninhabited acres that can be used to conduct this vital training. If not, the Navy should buy the rest of Vieques , evacuate its inhabitants and conduct its tests there.



Stop The Bombs

May 14, 2001
Copyright © 2001 Michigan Daily (U. Michigan). All Rights Reserved.

(U-WIRE) ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The U.S. Navy has recently resumed military training exercises on the small Puerto Rican island of Vieques. Two years after the death of a resident resulted in the stoppage of military activity on the island, a court order is allowing the bombings to continue. The health risks, ecological damage and economic strains caused by the military presence and the will of the people dictate that the U.S. Navy should leave Vieques and find a safer place to train.

There are 10,000 inhabitants on the island, most of whom are against the military training. Civilian protests have lead to more than 1,000 arrests and more than 100 in the past week alone. The government of Puerto Rico, supporting the anti-military demands of a wide popular movement, has taken an official stance against the bombing of Vieques by the U.S. Navy; they passed a sound regulation law in hopes that it would deter the military training. The will of the people is clear and continued bombing of the island means the imposition of force against the desires of the indigenous population. This is inconsistent with the principles of democracy, in which the will of the people is supposed to take precedence. Bombing the island constitutes a military aggression and may result in a lack of credibility toward the U.S. government both in the international community as well as on U.S. soil.

Studies have indicated that the bombings in Vieques constitute a health risk to the civilians living near the site. Studies carried out by the Puerto Rico department of health indicate that from 1985 to 1989, the cancer rate in Vieques has risen to 26 percent more than it has in the rest of Puerto Rico. However, the U.S. Navy has decided to discount this evidence as analyses continue. In doing so, the Navy is degrading the value of human life on Vieques. Even if the studies prove incorrect, the Navy is obliged to take all precautions in protecting human life and should wait for outcome of the latest studies. However, regardless of the results of the studies, the primary concern of the government should be of the will of the people.

The small island supports hundreds of species of plants and animals, many of which are killed instantly upon the direct impact of the bombs during target practice. Furthermore, the bombings and military maneuvers result in high contamination of the environment due to toxic residues. In past studies, the Environmental Protection Agency has discovered high levels of pollutants and toxins in the air and soil due to the bombings.

As a result of the governmental expropriation of the most fertile land of Vieques, the economy is stagnant. The unemployment rate hovers around 50 percent; the only viable industry is fishing. However, even this is hindered by the naval presence, as the ships scare away much of the sea life and destroy many fishing nets.

In the past, the military presence in Vieques has resulted in the death of civilians. Also, there is much evidence indicating a health risk to the civilian population surrounding the military sites. In addition, the economy of the area is suffering. Most importantly, the will of the people is clear. Let Vieques live.

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