Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume 2, Number 43 December 1 - 7, 2002 Quezon City, Philippines
Military in Puerto Rico, An Occupying Army
can support testimony given by Mary Anne Rodriguez that the United States Navy
in Vieques regularly releases pepper spray onto peaceful demonstrators.
It is very hard for those of us who have lived, perhaps next
to a military facility inside the US, to imagine the different face of the US
military in Puerto Rico.
US military down in PR is an "occupying army" and conducts itself as
such. Puerto Rico, although linked to the US by passport and citizenship,
maintains its own national heritage -- which is very distinctly Latin -- Afro
Caribbean. While many Puerto Ricans
have been happy with the benefits of the relationship with the US and wish to
maintain it, Puerto Rico has never voted for statehood, nor is there an English
language station on the radio.
was in PR for four months, reading the Pulitzer Prize winning "San Juan
Star" in disbelief, learning the story of the abuse of Vieques, as I
listened to the long time US residents down there and the great controversy over
Vieques. Finally, I became
convinced after the massive arrests in April of 2001 with the 'groping' of
Puerto Rican Senators by Navy personnel and allegations of grave abuse.
went down in June to get arrested and see the insides of Camp Garcia for myself.
The "dog kennel" which many have described as the holding pen,
would house great hordes of huge dogs. It is old, certainly, and of course, it
did have a brand new roof on it by June, after Bobby Kennedy and Al Sharpton and
just about everybody who was anybody was coming to get arrested.
(I was lucky enough to share the cell with Mrs. Jesse Jackson).
was NY chic for a while but now that we have the "never ending war"
many of the politicos have deserted
the cause -- fearing that they might be termed "UnAmerican" -- (I do
not include Bobby Kennedy in this as he is a dedicated environmentalist and
suffered greatly for his witness). Yet,
what has been done to Vieques and the residents there is the most horrible blot
on our nations history -- right up there with the Trail of Tears and Hiroshima.
(the United Staters) took this land at gunpoint - before their was a
constitution in place -- from an island that we captured from the Spanish during
the Spanish American War. We have
been using it for live target
practice for 60 years. For years,
our government had a policy in place to try to simply get the people to leave --
abandon their lands and heritage -- so they could just bomb away -- but the
Vieques people simply will not go. They
have withstood up to 270 days PER YEAR of bombing and shelling -- not only from
our own military but from allies as well -- the US used to rent Vieques out to
population -- which was originally close to 30,000 but is now just under 10,000
(no hospital, no employment, and the Navy took 2/3 of the land for its own use)
-- has been served up a deadly concoction of napalm, Agent Orange, depleted
uranium, and VX nerve gas.
appears that many of the vegetables may be contaminated with heavy metals.
Every household now reports
a cancer death. Over 1000 barrels
of unidentified toxins are stored in barrels in 35 feet of water off the coast
-- among unexploded bombs. The
barrels are rusting -- gee -- it could be nerve gas -- who knows? The Navy says it has lost the records of what is in the
None of these people are enlisted veterans. They have no medical benefits as veterans. They have no jobs from the military -- no retirement plans, no ancillary industries. Even if they successfully stop the bombing in May of 2003 -- without a massive clean-up campaign, it may well be that the "killing fields" that the military has made of Vieques will continue to kill the residents long after the bombing stops. Yet not one single military exercise in the last 60 years every went forward before it was "practiced" on Vieques. These are the most unrecognized and under-served 'veterans' in all of the United States.
was sitting with a group of about 100 people -- including grandmothers and
children -- after my release on bail -- with our backs to the gates of Camp
Garcia -- watching a video -- when we were gassed.
whatsoever. The police said later
that the Navy said that someone threw a rock over the fence. Well,
the fence surrounds 19,000 acres. So
why gas the Camp?
astonishes me is that the people of Vieques and Puerto Rico have been able to
maintain such a deeply spiritual
and heartfelt non-violent resistance for all these years.
It is a great privilege to be able to sit at the Camp table with them.
The San Juan prison is lovely and clean -- the court room is packed with
resistors -- there is a constant vigil camp outside the prison.
next "exercises" are scheduled for January -- anyone wishing to take a
midwinter vacation at government
expense should consider the San Juan Prison. I myself am contemplating a second
stint but I will have to raise enough money to get there and pay someone to stay
with my dogs and take care of things at the home front -- have to make sure that
there is enough of a public witness to justify the expense.
I was considering taking pledges -- like one of those "walk- a-
thons" -- i.e. who would pledge $1 a day for my going to Prison for Peace
-- this would help bring publicity to the cause of Vieques.
Any one care to join in this campaign?
in the world is the resistance to the power of the United States Military as
impressive as it is in Puerto
Rico. We should all go down there
for training. May God bless them and keep them.
la Marina. Paz Para Vieques