miércoles, mayo 04, 2016

A Vieques op-ed I wrote in early 2000

U.S. Naval Installations Map, Vieques Island, Puerto Rico

> Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero 
> Millions of Americans learned in the first week of May (2000) 
> that there is an island in the Caribbean Sea named 
> Vieques, and that it is the site of a peaceful, 
> nonviolent struggle against the most powerful military 
> apparatus in the world. 
> On May 4th, hundreds of U.S. marshals, FBI agents and 
> Puerto Rican riot police came to this idyllic 
> island-town of Puerto Rico to remove hundreds of 
> protesters that were camping in lands that the U.S. 
> Navy uses as a firing range. 
> The Navy occupied 26,000 of Vieques's 33,000 acres in 
> 1941, and has since then used those lands not only for 
> target practice, but also for naval maneuvers, 
> amphibian landings, munitions storage and toxic waste 
> disposal. 
> In April of last year a stray bomb killed a civilian 
> security guard working in the firing range. That was 
> the last straw for the residents of Vieques and for 
> concerned citizens from all over Puerto Rico. For more 
> than a year, protesters, which included members of 
> religious, student and peace organizations, camped in 
> the range in order to serve as a human shield to 
> prevent the bombing from resuming. 
> Civil disobedience? Who's really being disobedient 
> here? The Puerto Rico Bar Association determined that 
> the United States government is violating its own laws 
> in Vieques, including the Endangered Species Act, the 
> Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the National 
> Environmental Policy Act and the much-celebrated 
> Executive Order on Environmental Justice, signed by 
> president Clinton himself; as well as international 
> commitments, like the United Nations Charter, the 
> Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the 1992 
> Rio Declaration. 
> Defenders of the Navy are quick to claim that the only 
> obstacle to solving the Vieques crisis is the 
> protesters, who are allegedly seeking a confrontation 
> that will worsen the U.S.'s relations with Puerto 
> Rico. They point out that Clinton proposed a 
> referendum in which the island-town's residents will 
> decide whether or not they want the Navy to stay. 
> Let's take a closer look at this referendum. Vieques 
> residents will have to choose between two options: the 
> Navy stays or goes. But if they vote for the Navy's 
> departure, it will stay for three more years, 
> practicing with inert non-explosive ammunition for 90 
> days a year. Plus the Navy gets to determine the 
> parameters of the referendum, even its date. 
> The people of Puerto Rico do not want the Navy to stay 
> three more years or even three more hours in Vieques. 
> They want its immediate and permanent withdrawal. 
> Nothing else will do. 

> The Navy has no credibility in Vieques. In 1983 it 
> signed a memorandum of understanding with the 
> government of Puerto Rico in which it committed itself 
> to help protect Vieques's environment and help with 
> its economic development. Last year the Navy admitted 
> that it had not honored the promises it had made in 
> the memorandum. In any case, how many treaties with 
> Native Americans has the U.S. government honored? 
> What if this time the Navy breaks its word "by 
> mistake"? It admitted last year that it had tested 
> depleted uranium ammunition in Vieques, but claimed 
> hat it had done so by mistake. The death of that 
> security guard last year was also a mistake. The 
> bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade was also a 
> mistake. And the downing of an Iranian civilian 
> airliner in broad daylight on international airspace 
> over the Persian Gulf in 1988 was also a mistake. How 
> many more mistakes or "mistakes" will have to happen 
> before the U.S. government understands that its 
> military is not wanted in Vieques, not for one more 
> day? 
> And why is the military supervising this referendum? 
> In a democracy, the military is supposed to stay 
> awayfrom politics, especially electoral politics. 
> Would Americans tolerate the Pentagon intervening in 
> elections? 
> Why are Vieques residents the only ones allowed to 
> vote in this referendum? Isn't this a matter of 
> concern to all Puerto Ricans? Imagine if a foreign 
> power were to occupy Oregon and Americans in the other 
> 49 states were told to butt out and mind their own 
> business. Americans shouldn't have to tolerate 
> something like that for a second. 
> If an injustice were to take place in Alabama, for 
> example, it would be a matter of concern to all 
> Americans, not just to those living in that state. 
> Therefore, all Puerto Ricans should be able to vote on 
> the future of Vieques. 
> Why a vote at all? Did the Navy hold elections to 
> occupy Vieques? Did it even ask for permission when it 
> evicted thousands of its residents in the 1940's? Did 
> the U.S. hold elections when it invaded Puerto Rico 
> and its warships bombed San Juan in 1898? 
> The Clinton directive on Vieques has been described in 
> the media as a deal that the President made with 
> Puerto Rico governor Pedro Rosselló. It is not a deal. 
> It is an order of the President of the United States 
> to the governor of a colony with no voice or vote in 
> Washington. 
> There are some who call the protesters anti-American. 
> But the opponents of the Navy presence in Vieques are 
> no more anti-American than the 19th century 
> abolitionists or the 20th century civil rights 
> movement. 
> Americans living in the fifty states must make it 
> clear to president Clinton that he must do the right 
> thing as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and 
> order the Navy to end its training activities in 
> Vieques immediately and permanently, and clean up the 
> toxic mess it made there. If the Navy doesn't like it, 
> that's just too bad. In a democratic republic, the 
> civilians are in charge, not the military. At least 
> that's what we were all taught in school. 

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