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Navy Denies Invasive Probes

Berrios Criticizes Calderon Over Status

Constitutional Autonomy Questioned

Muriente Thanks Alarcon

52 Now Jailed

Congress Hears Of Vieques Abuses

Court Reinstates Death Penalty


Navy Denies Invasive Vieques Probes

June 7, 2001
Copyright © 2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Navy denied security officers used invasive search methods on protesters arrested during recent bombing drills on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques.

Officers may have frisked the people they arrested, but ``there were no body cavity searches and we're aware of no strip searches,'' a Navy spokesman, Rear Adm. Stephen R. Pietropaoli, said Thursday.

``It is a necessary element of detaining individuals who've broken the law that you maintain some control. Therefore, they are searched, they are handcuffed,'' he said.

Pietropaoli contradicted the accounts given Tuesday by about a dozen protesters taken into custody during the April drills.

Responding to allegations that security officers made racial insults during the arrests, Pietropaoli said the ``Navy doesn't see this as a Hispanic issue.''

``We support the right of those people ... who want to express their political opinions about the importance of Navy training in Vieques,'' he said. ``When it goes beyond protest and goes into law breaking we'll have to implement the same procedures we've used in the past.''


Berrios Criticizes Calderon Over Status

June 7, 2001
Copyright © 2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - Puerto Rican Independence Party President (PIP) Ruben Berrios said he was upset with the attitude assumed by Gov. Sila Calderon on the issues of Vieques and the island's political status.

Berrios accused the governor of denying Puerto Ricos' colonial reality and the link between the status issue and the problems on Vieques.

The PIP president added that the political subordination that Calderon insists in denying, based on the so-called bilateral agreement of 1952, has been evident in the two recent decisions by federal courts on applicability of the death penalty in Puerto Rico, and the decision of granting immunity to the U.S. Navy to extract water from the Rio Blanco in Naguabo.


Island's Constitutional Autonomy Questioned

June 7, 2001
Copyright © 2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - Puerto Rican Bar Association President Jaime Ruberte said the decision of the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston on the applicability of the death penalty on the island demonstrates the Commonwealth's lack of powers.

Nevertheless, Ruberte said in published reports that the status would not be part of the defense arguments to be presented by the Bar Association as one of the groups that opposes the decision.

"There's no doubt that it demonstrates Puerto Rico's lack of decisional powers, but we will continue to present a neutral position, since there's diversity of opinion on the status issue," Ruberte added.

The death penalty was abolished on the island in 1929 and in 1959 the U.S. Congress approved the Commonwealth Constitution, which Bill of Rights establishes that there will be no death penalty.


Muriente Thanks Cuban Official For Vieques Support

June 6, 2001
Copyright © 2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

HAVANA (AP) - A Puerto Rican independence leader gave the president of Cuba's parliament a big hug and a Puerto Rican flag, along with thanks for the communist government's support of the fight against military exercises on Vieques , a small island off the U.S. territory's coast.

"If there is a human being who our people respect and love it is 'Companero' Ricardo Alarcon," said Julio Muriente, of the New Puerto Rican Independence Movement. "We very much appreciate your solidarity."


Fifty-Two Now Jailed For Protesting In Vieques

June 6, 2001
Copyright © 2001 EFE News Service. All rights reserved.
Source: World Reporter (TM)

San Juan - A total of nine people were sentenced in court on Tuesday to jail terms of between 16 days and four months for trespassing on U.S. Navy lands on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques .

With this last group, arrested and tried for entering restricted bombing ranges to act as "human shields" and prevent the military exercises in Vieques , the number of people jailed for participating in the campaign of civil disobedience against the Navy training missions rose to 52.

U.S. Judge Juan Perez Gimenez also sentenced the group to a year of probation.


Congress Hears Of Vieques Abuses

Tamara Lytle, Washington Bureau

June 6, 2001
Copyright © 2001 Sun-Sentinel. All rights reserved.

The U.S. Navy physically abused and humiliated protesters trying to stop bombing practice on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques , according to a congressman, a priest, a famous actor and local politicians.

They brought their stories Tuesday to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus hearing on the Navy's treatment of protesters arrested on April 28.

Lawmakers vowed to hold formal hearings with testimony from Navy officials.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., said he was kept handcuffed for more than 20 hours -- even when he needed to go to the bathroom and even while on a boat being taken back to the main island of Puerto Rico.

State Sen. Norma Burgos talked about being searched four times even though the protesters were accused only of trespassing, a misdemeanor.

Actor Edward James Olmos said he and many others were forced to kneel in a gravel-strewn area where rocks punched painfully through his jeans.

And the Rev. Nelson Lopez, wearing his clerical garb, said he was tear-gassed, pepper-sprayed and hit with rubber bullets.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Katherine Goode said there was "no basis" to charges the Navy used excessive force. All protesters were treated with dignity, she said.

"The security folks did an outstanding job in handling a very difficult situation. There were a lot of people breaking the law that day," Goode said in a telephone interview from the Navy's Roosevelt Roads base in Puerto Rico.


Court Of Appeals Reinstates Death Penalty In Puerto Rico

June 5, 2001
Copyright © 2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

BOSTON (AP) - The federal death penalty does apply in Puerto Rico, even though citizens of the island cannot vote in federal elections, the U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Salvador Casellas ruled in July 2000 that the federal death penalty could not be allowed in Puerto Rico because citizens do not have a voice on the issue since they cannot vote in federal elections.

He also ruled the federal statute that allows for the death penalty contradicts Puerto Rico's 1952 constitution, which does not allow executions.

The appeals court rejected the defendants' argument as political, not legal.

"There is no disagreement that Congress has the power to apply the federal criminal laws to Puerto Rico. With that power, of necessity, comes the power to set the penalties for violations of those laws," the judges wrote.

"Indeed it would be anomalous for Congress to grant the people of Puerto Rico American citizenship and then not afford them the protection of the federal criminal laws," the opinion read.

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