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May 1: Activists wave the Puerto Rico and Vieques flags on top of the former Navy checkpoint.

May 7, 2003
VIEQUES, PR: Celebrate the Struggle

by Erin Kindy

"The struggle continues," activists from the Puerto Rican island of Vieques told members of the April 29-May 5 CPT delegation who came to help them celebrate the end of U.S Navy bombing there.

Since the 1940s, the military has used most of the small island for military exercises, including practice bombing runs. On May 1, 2003, after years of nonviolent protests by the people of Vieques and their supporters, the Navy turned their land over to the Department of the Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service.

Vieques citizens and supporters say that the departure of the Navy does not mean peace has arrived for the island. "The struggle for decontamination will be harder than what we have seen so far," said one activist. Viequenses are demanding that the US Navy help clean up of the toxic mess its bombing runs have left on the island. They would like the clean-up to be worked at from a sustainable development perspective that would allow them to be part of the solution. Some suggest that Vieques be used as a site to test new technologies for weapons clean-up that could then help clean up other contaminated zones around the world. Much of Vieques used to be agricultural land and now its residents hope the land can again be used again to grow things. They also hope that tourists will begin coming to enjoy the beauty of the island.

Member's of unions, participants from the church, from political parties and civil society all joined to celebrate the Navy's departure. The CPT delegation accompanied them as they marched from the town square of Isabel II to the gate of the former US Navy base Camp Garcia, now renamed "Zona Libre Primero de Mayo." Participants raised the Puerto Rican flag, the flag of Vieques and a white flag of peace to fly over the former Navy gate area.

"I'm inspired by the events of this week and the persistence of people here as they continue the struggle," said CPT delegate H. A. Penner.

Members of the April 2- May 5 CPT delegation to Vieques were: Marc Becker, Madison, WI; Erin Kindy, Tiskilwa, IL; Bob Patterson-Watt, Kitchener, ON; H.A. Penner, Akron, PA; and Rich Williams, Great Neck, NY.

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