2000 CPEO Military List Archive

From: vozvieq@coqui.net
Date: Fri, 12 May 2000 10:05:49 -0700 (PDT)
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: Re: [CPEO-MEF] Vieques Report
Mr Hoover's offer to discuss the Vieques issue in a factual, non-rhetorical
ground must be engaged, even if his premise, that the only way to do this
responsibly is accepting the government's position, has to be rejected.

Let's get the May 4 events out of the way so we can concentrate on more
substantial matters.

The federal law enforcement agencies performed, to their obvious relief
(after Waco and Elian), a smooth, peaceful removal of most of the
protesters, just as it was planned and anticipated by all the leaders of the
civil disobedience campaign. A large contingent of extremely heavily armed
personnel had nothing else to do but parade their deadly weapons in front of
peaceful protesters, including a considerable group of nuns, priests, and
other religious leaders.

Once out of the range of the cameras, however, captives were handed over to
the US Navy, which behaved in a different style. Men and women of all ages
were treated in spiteful ways that would shame many honorable military
officers. They were exposed to a blazing sun for hours (in my case from
10:30am to 1:30pm), denied water or shade, while Navy personnel watched and
filmed us from their shaded perches, sipping from ice-cold beverages. When
the elder began to faint out of sunstroke and dehydration, dirty containers
labeled in large letters "ABUSE FOR TEA ONLY" were passed around. People who
take medication were refused access to their medicine. Women were searched
repeatedly in an aggressive and shameful manner, unbuttoning their blouses
in front of men, and handling their breasts, and with hands moving up their
thighs and crotches. If you want independent confirmation, I'll be glad to
ask Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) to provide it. She suffered these
indignities. In the US Navy Roosevelt Roads stockade women had to urinate in
plain sight, being covered only by other captives that surrounded them,
because they were denied sanitary facilities. I was there. I saw it. All of
us saw it. And it just convinces many of us that we are dealing with an
institution that has always acted dishonorably towards Viequeans and Puerto
Ricans. These are facts and reasonable conclusions that reasonable persons
can arrive to from experiencing these facts.

The shooting range was not completely cleared. Shamefully, the US Navy is
bombing, knowing there are people in the range. Every time they claim they
have fine-combed the area and certified it as empty of people, someone else
pops-up and is detained. The most recent one, Magaly, told the press that
she felt the bombs falling close to where she was. She confirmed there are
other people in there.

Now to the nitty-gritty. I'll offer a few propositions for discussion:

1) There cannot be "peaceful coexistence" between Viequeans and the US 
The Navy's activities in Vieques cause the destruction of large sections of
the Island's ecology, and the contamination of its soils, air and waters.
This contamination seeps into the food chain, and is lifted by the
prevailing winds into the civilian areas. The Viequeans suffer from
disproportionately higher rates of cancer and other contamination-linked
diseases and abnormal conditions.

2) The US Navy has a long history --factual history, not fiction-- of
behavior that can reasonably be labeled as mendacious towards Viequeans. The
most recent example is their noncompliance (admitted by everyone from the
President, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Navy, and assorted
Pentagon top brass) of the 1983 Memorandum of Understanding they signed to
settle federal court cases brought on, separately, by the government of
Puerto Rico, and by the Fishermen's Association. When it became obvious the
case was turning against the Navy, they signed on to promises very similar
to the ones now included in the Presidential Directives. Once the case was
settled, the Navy reneged on all its written promises. There are absolutely
no guarantees in the Presidential Directives that the Navy will comply if
things go against it, in spite of the fact that the entire process is rigged
to favor it.

3) The US Navy has tried more than once to accomplish complete ethnic
cleansing of Vieques. As recent as 1962, it was very close to achieving
approval of a plan that would have moved the remaining Viequeans to Culebra
and St. Croix. (The plan included the removal of all dead and interred
Viequeans, thus gaining the morbid nickname of "Plan Dracula".) These plans
are just the tip of the iceberg. The US Navy sustains a policy of economic
and demographic strangulation of the native Viequean community, cancelling
all real opportunities for development through direct action.

4) With the Navy presence, Viequeans face the imminent danger of
"hawaiization". Americans have been moving in, slowly but steadily,
elevating the cost of the scarce land way beyond the reach of most
Viequeans. The Vieques Chamber of Commerce is an American club, and local
native business owners will tell you how they are invited to pay dues, but
are left out of policy meetings which are conducted in small, private
groups. Now the Vieques Chamber of Commerce is desperately trying to recruit
native members, since the Commonwealth government, as part of the deal with
the Navy, is planning to assign them part of the privilege of managing the
$40 million of "infrastructure" moneys. The effort is aimed at blunting the
inevitable denunciation of discrimination and favoritism.

So it can be reasonably stated that the struggle of the native Viequean
people is a life and death struggle for a hard pressed community.
Contamination kills. Economic limitations erode the native population
through emigration, and ethnic substitution is going on by well to do
Americans moving in with money and getting economic control of the Island,
and ownership of the land.

We are not the first native population to suffer this luck. Native Americans
underwent a terrible ordeal. Hawaiian natives saw how they became tourist
attractions --folklore items for the American tourist industry-- in their
own homeland. And it is not the first time otherwise decent Americans refuse
to see and admit they are agents of disruption and dissolution of living
communities in Vieques and many other places. Only that in Vieques they
--both the US Navy and the Americans who cheer them on-- will have to deal
with a persistent and increasingly militant native population that will
defend its right to survive as a healthy, peaceful community.

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