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Following Violence, Exercises Resume… Justice Appeals Wal-Mart Ruling… Figueroa Quits Dowling For Pros…Dump Bombs But Keep Base, Says Serrano… Vieques Anti-Navy Group In Peace Caravan…PIP Resume Demands Military Land Transfer… Navy Bombs Vieques For Last Time… Archbishop Urges Respect Of Diversity In Vieques…5 Arrested On 1st Day Of Maneuvers

Following Violence, Navy Begins Third Day Of Practices

January 15, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

VIEQUES (AP) - The U.S. Navy began its third day of military practices on Vieques on Wednesday, hours after another violent incident occurred at the Luisa Guadalupe Camp. The Navy lobbed cans of tear gas at demonstrators, breaking the windows of cars. Several people on the site were overcome by the fumes.

Navy spokeswoman Lt Comm. Kim Dixon said late Tuesday that protesters throwing stones at military personnel broke one of the surveillance cameras inside the camp.

Early Wednesday, Police Superintendent Victor Rivera visited the site to meet with Luisa Guadalupe Camp spokesman Sixto Perez.

"The issue is under investigation; there are several versions of what occurred," Rivera said.

Anti-Navy groups who have camped in the area for over three years have criticized Rivera, the first chief of police to allow a pro-Navy camp near the area.

Rivera argued, however, that his visit to the Luisa Guadalupe Camp was not to respond to critics but to "reinforce dialogue."

"I’m not compromising myself with nothing else but to listen and see, if I can reach a clear position as to everything that is been told to me, so that I can speak to the other party [the U.S. Navy]," The Police Chief told reporters.

Rivera was talking with representatives from all the anti-Navy camps except for Ismael Guadalupe, who declined to speak with the new police chief.

Dixon confirmed that two rounds of tear gas were thrown to control the crowd.

One of the cans broke the window of a car on the highway. No one was severely injured, but a rookie photographer who wasn’t wearing a mask was overcome by the gas.

The incident lasted a little over an hour and was over by 10:30 p.m.

The night ended without any other major events. There were few people at either camp.

The Luisa Guadalupe Camp, named after a 1970s anti-Navy activist, has been the site of numerous violent incidents. The Navy has used, among other things, tear gas and pellet to calm demonstrators who often throw stones at them.

Both sides blame each other for causing the incidents.

The Navy will continue to hold military practices in Vieques for the remaining 26 days of the scheduled round.

The USS Theodore Roosevelt battle group is conducting what Navy Secretary Gordon England certified Friday as the last round of exercises on the Vieques target range, where practices have been held for over 60 years.

Justice Appeals Wal-Mart Case Ruling In Boston

January 15, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – As expected, the local Justice Department appealed in the Boston First Circuit of Appeals the U.S. District Court’s decision prohibiting the Puerto Rico government from continuing to obstruct the Wal-Mart/Amigo merger.

The resource filed Tuesday by Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez asks the court to suspend or halt the preliminary interdict ordered by U.S. District Court Judge Juan Perez Gimenez to allow the government to continue with the lawsuit filed in the local courts while the appeal is addressed.

"The public interest requires the halting to allow the Justice secretary to defend the Commonwealth’s interests and its effort to enforce the local anti-monopolistic laws," reads the appeal.

Rodriguez requested that the motion be addressed with urgency because the interdict impedes the government from continuing with the lawsuit for alleged violations to the anti-monopolistic local law.

"The district court has already affected the public interest because it has caused substantial interruptions in the local case," Rodriguez said.

Figueroa Quits Dowling

Michael Thier 

January 14, 2003
Copyright © 2003 NEWSDAY. All rights reserved.

Dowling junior forward Angel Figueroa left the school yesterday to pursue professional basketball. The 6-4 native of Puerto Rico led Division II with 26.2 points per game last season. He averaged 30.9 points in the first eight games this season.

Dump Bombs But Keep Base, Says Serrano


January 14, 2003
Copyright © 2003 NEW YORK DAILY NEWS . All rights reserved.

Rep. Jose Serrano applauded the Navy's decision yesterday to stop bombing the Puerto Rican island of Vieques but was alarmed that the Navy also may close a nearby base.

Navy fighter jets soared over Vieques and dropped inert bombs yesterday in what the Navy said will be its final round of nearly six decades of training exercises on the Puerto Rican island. The exercises are expected to last about a month.

Skirmishing over the bombing continued yesterday with police detaining five protesters who broke through a Navy fence in an attempt to thwart the maneuvers.

But Serrano, the South Bronx Democrat who has been a leading spokesman for ending the bombing, called the possibility that the Navy may close the Roosevelt Roads Naval Station on the Puerto Rican mainland "a threatening situation."

"Nobody said they wanted the military out of Puerto Rico , they just want to stop the bombing. That's 3,000 jobs, and it's putting the island in a very nervous state right now," Serrano said.

The Roosevelt Roads Naval Station is one of Puerto Rico 's largest employers, with more than 3,000 employees and an estimated yearly contribution of $300 million to the island economy.

Serrano said there is one more battle to be fought over Vieques.

"Once the Navy leaves Vieques , I think the real battle is going to begin to convince Congress to put the money up to clean up the bombing range. . . . After 60-odd years of abusing Vieques , this was the only right thing to do," he said.

Anti-Navy Group In Vieques Caravans For Peace

January 14, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

VIEQUES (AP) - Over 100 cars, and an average of four people inside each of them, participated Monday evening in a caravan dubbed "Caravan for Peace" around the island municipality’s main roads.

The tense moments that were expected to occur when the caravan passed in front of pro-Navy demonstrators never occurred.

Caravan organizer Myriam Soba described the event as a "success," given the short amount of time in which it was organized.

Anti-Navy demonstrators carrying Puerto Rican, Vieques, and white flags, honked their horns, flashed their lights, and shouted every once and awhile "Navy out."

A red pick-up truck with six to eight people inside is played musical instruments to an improvised tune singing "The Navy leaves and so will the pro-Navy."

Amid allegations by pro-Navy demonstrator of rumors indicating stones and eggs would be thrown to them, police agents formed a human chain that shielded the close to 30 demonstrators lead by Vieques resident Luis Sanchez.

Sanchez in an aggressive attitude that bordered on yelling at the media said his people had only counted 80 vehicles and thus called the event a "disaster" given the 9,500 residents of the island.

However, not all island residents are allowed to drive because they don’t have the required age to do so.

Following the caravan, anti-Navy demonstrators marched around the area located outside Camp Garcia, while the pro-Navy followers continued to play "God Bless America" on a speaker system.

PIP Demands Transfer Of Military Land To Puerto Rico

January 14, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) leader Ruben Berrios on Tuesday urged for the beginning of a broader campaign to achieve the transfer of the U.S. Navy land in Vieques to the Puerto Rican people.

The PIP president urged Gov. Sila Calderon to seek an amendment to the federal law that transfers the military land to the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Berrios said the efforts will also be aimed at seeking to clean the land that has been used by the military for more than 60 years.

He explained that one of the objectives is seeking an amendment to the congressional law to prevent that the land be returned to the Defense Department.

"With the amendment authorizing the transfer of the land, they will secure that the land never be used for military training," the PIP leader said.

Berrios indicated that there is joy among party members, but not satisfaction with the announcement.

He warned that the current federal law that transfers the land establishes that if necessary, the land may be transferred again to the Defense Department.

The new law establishes that 12,000 acres that are being used by the Navy as a firing range would be transferred to the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The previous law repealed by Congress established that less than 3,000 acres would be transferred to the Department of the Interior and 9,000 acres would be co-managed by the Vieques municipality and the Puerto Rico central government.

Navy Bombs Vieques For Last Time

By Ian James

January 14, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

VIEQUES, Puerto Rico · Fighter jets soared over Vieques dropping inert bombs Monday in what the Navy says will be its final round of nearly six decades of training exercises on the island.

F-18s began dropping inert 25-pound bombs on a bombing range shortly after authorities detained five protesters who broke through a fence in an attempt to thwart the maneuvers.

One man shouted "Peace for Vieques!" as guards handcuffed him and led him away.

Luis Angel Torres of the pro-independence Socialist Workers Movement warned that three other protesters were hiding on Navy land and would try to put themselves near the line of fire.

"The light can be seen at the end of the tunnel," he said. "The people's struggle has forced them out."

The Navy announced last week that it would abandon Vieques in May and move training to other bombing ranges in Florida and elsewhere on the U.S. mainland. The Navy says it also could close nearby Roosevelt Roads Naval Station, one of

Puerto Rico's largest employers with 4,800 employees and an estimated yearly contribution of $300 million to the economy.

"If they abandon Vieques and Roosevelt Roads, it will destroy the economy," said pro-Navy activist Luis Sánchez, who set up a small encampment topped with U.S. flags outside the range's fences.

At a larger, established anti-Navy camp paces away, about 30 demonstrators joined hands and prayed, saying they hope the Navy honors its pledge to leave this year.

For the military, the training assumed particular importance as the United States considers war with Iraq. About 8,000 sailors were participating in the exercises, many of them to prepare for deployment to the Mediterranean.

Fighter jets bound for Vieques took off from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, one of 10 ships involved in training that could last up to a month.

Opponents say the bombing has stunted the island's economy, poisoned the environment and harmed the health of the island's 9,100 residents, all of which the Navy denies.

Activists say they will now turn their attention to pressing for a thorough cleanup of the Navy lands, which comprise one-third of the island.

[Not everybody protesting on Monday wanted the Navy to go. A small group of Navy supporters staged their own rally.

``We're here to send a clear message to Washington they still have allies here,'' said Jose Julio Diaz, a 52-year-old statehood activist from San Juan.]

Archbishop Urges Respect Of Diversity In Vieques

January 13, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – In the midst of the tension generated by the resuming of military exercises of the U.S. Navy in Vieques, due to the presence of pro Navy activists Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez Nieves on Sunday urged respect for all groups present in the island municipality,

"We have to safeguard the possibility of diversity and disagreement in our democracy, wherever it might come from," the religious leader told The Associated Press during the event dubbed as "Caminata por la Paz y la Vida por Vieques", held in Puerta de Tierra on Sunday.

Questioned regarding the attitude of pro Navy activists that insists on the permanency of the Navy on the island municipality and who established a camp near the anti Navy camp, Gonzalez Nieves said they both have the right to protest.

He urged both groups to prevent any thing that might provoke tension, confrontation or conflict.

"Conflict only leads to more conflict and we want to celebrate our democracy, but we have do it respecting each others rights," the Archbishop said.

Five Arrested On First Day Of New Round Of Military Maneuvers In Vieques

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

January 13, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

VIEQUES – The first day of the last scheduled round of U.S. Navy military practices in this island municipality target range developed without major incidents but with the detention of five demonstrators who broke into U.S. Camp Garcia early Monday morning.

U.S. Navy spokeswoman Lt. Comm. Kim Dixon told Associated Press that battle group Theodore Roosevelt began its practices around noon with a round of air-to-land practice in which inert ammunition was used.

At the same time anti-Navy group leaders alleged on Monday that demonstrators were trying to reach the target range inside US Camp Garcia in order to halt military practices.

Socialist Movement Spokesman Luis Angel Torres identified those people as pharmacist Angel Quiles, UPR Law School Student Council President Israel Medina and education student Javier Sterling.

No official notice from the U.S. Navy as to the presence of the three demonstrators had been received by Monday afternoon.

Meanwhile, demonstrators from pro-Navy and Anti-Navy groups continued to develop throughout Monday in their respective improvised camps located near the entrance of Camp Garcia.

Police Superintendent Victor Rivera affirmed on Monday that his force will not remove the two-day old Pro-Navy camp established only feet away from the Justice and Peace Camp established in the area for the past three years.

This despite Vieques Women’s Alliance Spokesman Myriam Soba blaming him in the event of any violent incidents that might occur.

"Let it be clear that organizations in favor of the cause for peace in Vieques make you responsible for any incident that occurs in this area because we have been working here for three years with three superintendents and none of them have allowed pro-Navy leaders to establish themselves so close in such a provocative manner," Soba said.

Rivera in his characteristic peaceful manner told Soba that it should also be clear that both sides should have a discipline committee that should be aware and prevent any incidents.

"Let it be clear that the respective groups that participate and express their right to freedom of public expression have discipline committees and as much or more responsibility than the same superintendent to permit both to be here," Rivera said.

Justice and Peace Camp leader Robert Rabin also reminded Rivera that one of the pro-Navy demonstrators behind the camp is Jose Julio Diaz who offended the people of Vieques, and many residents of Puerto Rico, when he described the parents of deceased cancer patient child Milivy Adams as conniving people.

Rabin said Diaz’ presence is a mere cause for indignation among residents of Vieques.

Rivera however, insisted that both sides have the right to freedom of expression.

An anti-Navy car caravan is scheduled to take place on Monday afternoon and should pass in front of the pro-Navy camp side for which tension could ensue.

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