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In the next few days five Navy warships will fire up to 500 rounds at Vieques.

Related Gully Stories

Vieques: Puerto Rico Under Fire
The U.S. is bombing an inhabited island. Why?

In Depth Puerto Rico
The Gully's complete coverage.

Targetting Vieques

by Toby Eglund

JUNE 27, 2000. Tomorrow afternoon, while bombs thunder down on Vieques, and protesters put their bodies on the line to stop them, President Clinton and the three leaders of Puerto Rico's biggest political parties will be at the White House talking about Puerto Rico's status.

102 Years of Limbo
Status has been a Puerto Rican preoccupation for much of the century since the United States promised to liberate it from Spain during the Spanish-American War, and colonized it instead. While Puerto Rican politicians have held periodic referendums on the island's status offering up variations of U.S. statehood, an associated commonwealth, and independence, the votes are essentially meaningless. Only the U.S. Congress is empowered to determine Puerto Rico's future.

The status summit with President Clinton may have been part of the deal struck earlier this year by the White House and Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Rosello to enable the Navy to resume bombing on Vieques. The summit bait was first tantalizingly dangled at the three Puerto Ricans in the U.S. Congress, Jose Serrano, Luis Gutierrez and Nydia Velazquez, as the reward for dropping their demand that the US Navy leave Vieques. They refused. But Rosello seems to have swallowed it.

While it may be years before any talks bear positive fruit, the losers presumably traded off in the deal are already feeling the negative consequences.

Bombs, Away!
Sunday, June 25, the U.S. Navy began their first exercises since the 1999 bombing death of Vieques resident David Sanes. In the next few days five Navy warships will fire up to 500 rounds at Vieques. Their aircrafts will drop between 550 and 830 dummy bombs. And the Pentagon, behind the scenes, will continue to press Clinton for permission to use live ammunition, citing the need for verisimilitude in training.

The bombing seems real enough to some in Vieques. As Sandra Reyes told the Associated Press, "My house is shaking, the doors shake, things on the table shake, my eardrums hurt." There is also a body of evidence indicating that even inert ordnance damages the environment by releasing lead, depleted uranium, napalm and other toxins deposited by previous bombings.

Since the warships appeared on the horizon Saturday night, 206 people have been arrested for acts of civil disobedience inside the bombing range, bringing to 362 the total of those arrested since 224 camping protesters were evicted in May.

At sea, a handful of steel bar-wielding Vieques fishermen and other Puerto Rican protesters reportedly injured two U.S. Navy sailors, though no one was hospitalized.

The Associated Press reported, however, that the reaction of the general population of Vieques was muted, perhaps as a result of "the wear and tear of a yearlong battle to oust the Navy."

Reversing Targets
Activists in the United States are also stepping up demonstrations against the bombing of Vieques.

On Sunday, as bombs began pounding the Vieques range once again, in New York City, the Gay Pride contingent of Councilwoman Margarita Lopez, a Puerto Rican lesbian, focused parade-goers' attention on the bombing by carrying a large banner calling for Peace in Vieques.

Emergency demonstrations have been called for across the United States, including one in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday during the White House status summit.

Activists also continue to plan actions for the Democratic National Convention in August, as well as a march for Peace in Vieques in Washington, D.C., tentatively scheduled for September.

Related links:

For up-to-the-minute info on Vieques protests go to Vieques Libre.

For Complete Coverage Puerto Rico

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