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New York Daily News

Bronx Beep Calls Huddle On Vieques


January 23, 2002
Copyright © 2002
New York Daily News. All Rights Reserved.

Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion met with Puerto Rican leaders yesterday to figure out how to again shine a spotlight on the fight against Navy bombing exercises on Vieques .

In a 45-minute, closed-door meeting, Carrion and representatives from the Vieques Support Campaign, the Vieques Solidarity Network, Todo Puerto Rico Con Vieques and the Committee to Rescue and Develop Vieques vowed to keep trumpeting their cause.

"We have to continue the pressure to ensure that the bombing in Vieques ends immediately," said Carrion, who did jail time last summer for trespassing on the Puerto Rican island's Navy property. "It's an uncomfortable position, it's possibly an unpopular position, but it's the right position."

National political focus

The group plans to launch a letter-writing campaign to the White House calling for the immediate halt of military operations on Vieques . Members also pledged to keep pressing the Democratic National Committee and its chairman, Terry McAuliffe, for party support in Congress.

Since their fight has received considerably less attention since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the activists hope to organize a summit in Albany to put Vieques back on the U.S. agenda.

This spring, Carrion, who was arrested in May with the Rev. Al Sharpton, Bronx Democratic chief Roberto Ramirez and Bronx Assemblyman Jose Rivera, also is planning a return trip to Vieques .

For more than six decades, the Navy has carrying out bombing exercises off the coast of Vieques . Islanders have protested for years, saying the bombings have damaged natural resources and the public health of Vieques ' roughly 10,000 inhabitants. The Navy denies the allegations.

The fight to end the bombings heated up again after the 1999 accidental killing of a civilian by a stray bomb. Last year, President Bush announced that by 2003, the Navy will cease its bombing exercises off Vieques , where many troops in the war on terror were trained.

"Despite the war against terrorism," said William Gerena-Rochet of the New York-based Vieques Solidarity Network, "the people of Vieques are clear and firm on the commitment that the 60 years of bombing should stop."

Carrion added, "What we are fighting for in Vieques is as American as apple pie - protecting people's rights to live their lives out in peace. . . . We can't shy away from issues of justice and democracy and morality in difficult times - you just can't."

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