Vieques struggle vs. Navy
'Patriot Act' aimed at protesters
By Berta Joubert-Ceci
Before Sept. 11, the struggle to oust the U.S. Navy from
Vieques in Puerto Rico received international solidarity. After
hundreds of thousands had marched in the streets there, and
Vieques became an issue in New York's annual Puerto Rican Day
parade, even luminaries and famous politicians from the U.S.
had to go to Vieques and if possible get arrested doing civil
Many of those voices are now silent, however. The terrorist
U.S. "war on terrorism" and its justification of "homeland
defense and security" preclude them from showing support to
this just cause.
Tell that to Milivi Adams, whose tiny four-year-old body
battles five different cancers, believed to be a result of
military waste contamination. Or to the hundreds of children
whose behavior is impaired by bombing noise and fear. To the
women who cannot deliver their babies in their own land.
Tell that to the thousands who suffer from heavy metal
poisoning, heart diseases and many other illnesses believed to
be related to the war exercises. And to the youth who have to
emigrate, leaving their loved ones, because there are no jobs,
no future for them on the island of Vieques. And also to the
fishing workers who cannot feed their families when U.S.
battleships are in their waters.
This is the time when the people of Vieques and all of
Puerto Rico need the most complete and unconditional
solidarity. The notion that political dissent is "unpatriotic"
makes the struggle against the Navy a very difficult one.
'Patriot Act' used against activists
There are new threats against the anti-Navy activists as a
result of the recently passed "Patriot Act." Antonio Benazar,
president of the Puerto Rican Civil Rights Commission, says
that "the dispositions under this law are so broad that they
could be applied against the anti-military demonstrators. Under
the law's definition, if you get into Camp García [the
restricted Navy shooting range on Vieques], it could be
interpreted as putting a life in danger in order to change a
policy of the U.S. government." And, under the new law, that's
A recent dangerous move by the colonial government in Puerto
Rico shows its acquiescence to its Washington/Pentagon bosses.
Sila Calderón, the current Puerto Rican governor--who
won the elections based on her anti-Navy, pro-Vieques
platform--recently named a new police commissioner. His
credentials indicate that he will make sure the "Patriot Act"
definitions apply to Vieques activists.
He is Miguel Pereira, an ex-military officer and previous
federal prosecutor who happens to be married to Marlene Hunter,
the director of the FBI in Puerto Rico.
His commitment to go after the movement is revealed in a
statement to the media about youth who wear masks while cutting
the range fence to allow people planning civil disobedience to
get into the territory. "Wearing a mask cannot be tolerated,
since this is a felony. If you wear a mask in order to commit a
crime, even if it is a less serious crime, you are committing a
Pereira also threatened all activists who might be
considering entering the restricted areas. He vowed that the
police will take action when any "property is destroyed and if
anybody attempts to intrude into the restricted areas in front
of the state police."
This is a clear change of policy. Before 9/11, the Puerto
Rican police did not arrest demonstrators in the civilian areas
or in the restricted naval zone. U.S. military personnel or FBI
agents made all the arrests.
This new attempt to stifle dissent in Puerto Rico can go
beyond the Vieques struggle. It is a dangerous precedent that
goes against the civil rights of the general population, and in
particular against the pro-independence movement. Once again
independentistas are targeted as "subversive" and/or
"traitors," in a way reminiscent of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s
when police and FBI systematically persecuted and kept secret
"carpetas"--records--of suspected independentistas.
But the struggle for peace for Vieques is not only for the
people of Puerto Rico. Peace for Vieques is also peace for
Latin America, the Caribbean and the world. Eighty percent of
the U.S.-NATO pilots who brought devastation to Yugoslavia
trained in Vieques, as well as the crew of one of the aircraft
carriers in the current war against Afghanistan.
Some of the surveillance and counter-revolutionary maneuvers
against Colombia are launched from Vieques, where
Over-the-Horizon Radar built by Raytheon is supposed to trace
every movement of the Colombian guerrillas.
The organizations leading the struggle against the Navy in
Vieques need support. Donations of money and materials are
needed to carry out the next round of civil disobedience.
Contact: Comite Pro Rescate y Desarrollo de Vieques at Apartado
1424, Vieques, Puerto Rico 00765; telephone (787) 741-0716, fax
(787) 741-0358, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reprinted from the Feb. 7, 2002, issue of
Workers World newspaper
This article is copyright under a Creative
Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
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