Myrna Pagan

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					    Myrna Pagan
    Comittee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques

    We are united in an effort to make PEACE in a world
which is in an extraordinarily dangerous moment. The
United States of America is at war, a war against world
terrorism, the enemy is everywhere, and everything in
its command will be used to defend the United States.
What are the limits? The Bush administration appears to
be deliberately ambiguous as to ruling in or out the
use of nuclear weapons. The weapons of mass destruction
are not ruled out. We must say no to the use of nuclear
arms and military escalation. We must suggest
alternatives to those policies which depend on superior
weapons power and political domination. Ours are the
voices which must be heard at this moment. Voices which
call for change from policies of destruction and
retribution to a more enlightened response of non-
violence, perseverence and noble purpose. We meet here,
East and West, to inform, support and inspire each
other in our struggles for peace and justice. The
people of Vieques have a real contribution to make here
for we have learned much in the past six decades of
military occupation. We know how difficult it is to
stand up to the major military power of the world and
demand recognition of our human and civil rights to
life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We face the
issue of national defense as superior to the rights of
a community of 9,400 American citizens. How dare we
make demands for a safe environment where the health of
our people is foremost and the possibility of economic
development a reality? We know that sixty years of war
games on our tiny island have wreaked irreparable harm
on our land, destroyed marine resources, contaminated
our air, thwarted our economy, and of utmost
importance, poisoned our people with toxic heavy
metals. We dare to denounce the presence of the U.S.
Military in Vieques and we demand that they stop
bombing our island, clean up the contamination and go
so that we can salvage the remains and create a new,
better world for our children. This and future
generations are our inspiration to persevere in the
struggle. To us the rights of every man, woman and
child are to be respected and protected. Vieques is a
21 mile long, 4 mile wide, strategically located
Caribbean island in the archipelago of Puerto Rico.
According to the U.S. Navy it is the "Crown Jewel" of
their Atlantic defense system... the shooting gallery
and sea to land, air to land bombing practice range for
the U.S. and it's NATO allies. It is part of Roosevelt
Roads, the biggest Naval installation in our
hemisphere. In 1940 the exigencies of World War II gave
the U.S. military the green light to take over our
little island, in one stroke thousands of Viequenses
were dispossessed and removed from their land... more
than two thirds of the land was fenced off by the
military and the displaced populace was forced to make
a life sandwiched in between the Camp Garcia Weapons
Training facility to the East and the Naval Ammunition
Storage Depot to the West... bombing and non-
conventional weapons testing upwind of the populace and
storage of a full range of arms to the other side.
Until recently Vieques was considered uninhabited and
this concept conveniently fostered by the military.


    For decades the destruction of environment, social
well being, economy and health of the people continued
unchecked. The impact range and the Camp Garcia base
was off limits to our government agencies. The Navy
issued or didn't issue, at will, environmental impact
statements. The situation was so overpowering that in
its arrogance of dominion the U.S. Navy established a
web site where it invited military contractors and
foreign countries to rent its land and sea weapons
ranges in and around Vieques: the moderate tropical
climate is ideal for training exercises. Cancellations
due to inclement weather are very rare. The inner range
is a multi-purpose target complex located on the
eastern portion of Vieques island encompassing 10,800
acres and the surrounding airspace and waters. It
consists of the eastern training area, amphibious
beaches, small arms range, a live impact area, and
practice minefields..... ONE STOP SHOPPING YIELDS HIGH
RETURN ON INVESTMENT..." Business was booming and the
U.S. Navy was making 80 Million dollars a year renting
out Vieques to its allies to come and bomb, test non-
conventional weapons and enjoy extensive,
unconstrained, encroachment free, controlled air and
sea space. Nowhere did they mention that Vieques is
inhabited. The civilian population was disregarded
unconscionably in the sale of the utilization of
Department of Defense facilities... "easier, faster and
cheaper than ever before". Then came the one bomb that
changed Vieques history... on April 19,1999 an errant
bomb exploded at the Navy's O bservation Post during
maneuvers and David Sanes, a civilian security guard
was killed. News spread like wildfire and decades of
resentment and indignation surfaced in affirmation of
opposition to the Navy's presence and abuse. The safety
of the people of Vieques became high priority, finally
the people of the 紕ig Island" and the Central
Government joined us and supported us in our outcry
against the Navy's presence. The protest struggle which
for years received scant notice now became the cause of
the majority. We would see our big island brothers
become conscious of our history of expropriation and
what it meant to be occupied and abused by military
power to the degree that cancer is 27% higher than in
Puerto Rico, our death rate is 50% higher, our
unemployment rate hovers around 60%, and our people
have been subjected to the effects of toxics from live
bombing explosions, testing with napalm, and even the
use of depleted uranium... which the USN denied for a
long time until it was forced to admit same. By October
19,1999, four months after David Sanes death, our
Governor Pedro Rossello in a statement before the U.S.
Senate Armed Forces Committee declared: ・Never again
shall we tolerate abuse of a magnitude and scope the
likes of which no community in any of the fifty states
would ever be asked to tolerate. Never again shall we
tolerate such abuse: not for sixty years, not for sixty
months, not for sixty minutes." But, to the dismay of
the people of Vieques, in a sharp about face from this
stance, the P.R. Government made a deal and what we
ended up with was the Clinton Directives which called
for a Referendum in which among other unacceptable
terms the people of Vieques would vote for bombing with
inert bombs or bombing with live bombs... inert unti
May 2003 or live for all time. To enhance their
position there would be a 40 million dollar prize for
inert and an additional 50 million if we vote for live
bombing... the money to come directly to Vieques. The
Government of Puerto Rico, under new Governor Sila
Calderon, held a "Creole referendum" on July 29 of this
year in which the people of Vieques voted for an
immediate cease-bombing, the return of its land and
after clean up the departure of the USN... million
dollar booty and all. The seventy percent victory of
the referendum was totally ignored and the on again,
off again Federal Referendum which is opposed by all...
USN, PR government, Congress, and Viequenses, et al, is
still on the books as required by law... but just
recently has been postponed from the original 6
November 2001 date to 25 January 2002. The DOD does not
want to establish precedent where a civilian population
is given the power to vote on the activity or
permanence of the military on their soil.


    Our struggle took the path of peaceful civil
disobedience and in the months after David Sanes・death
we saw the concensus of opinion, and the active
participation of all ranks of our society marching
together in protest against the Navy: men, women and
children entering the bombing range, the support of
religious and political people from here and abroad in
building camp sites, disrupting military maneuvers,
bravely setting themselves up as human shields against
the bombing of Vieques. News people from all corners of
the globe covered the struggle and were there to record
the arrest of thousands and the imprisonment of the
protesters by the Federal Government. (Our Mayor is
still encarcerated.) The people of Vieques were in
control of the bombing range for a year... the bombs
were silenced. The civil disobedience seemed to be
turning the tide, the image of the world's greatest
defender of democratic principles was suffering greatly
with the exposure of its colonial abuse of Puerto Rico
and the civilian population of the little island whose
name people could now pronounce. Vieques finally had a
human face. What will happen now that the world has
changed after the World Trade Center tragedy? America
speaks of a different kind of war waged in different
ways with different weapons. Will this new war erase
the face of Vieques? Our cause is just, our survival as
a people is foremost in our minds, we cannot surrender
our values and our lives when the US has other places
they can use for training. We will continue our
peaceful civil disobedience to stop the bombing of
Vieques, clean up our environment and take control of
our lives and our right to prosper as a people. And we
will live as an example for all peoples of a more
enlightened way to make PEACE NOT WAR.

				
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