The Netherlands: Speech by Moraima Rivera
From the Vieques Paz Peace Group

Vieques Libre -

Good afternoon,

My name is Moraima Rivera, I'm an organic farmer from Puerto Rico in the Caribbean. First of all, I want to thank you all, for being here and to the organizers for this important matter. As a native giving thanks is important for all the things, we get in life.

Receive the solidarity of Vieques Libre, Vieques Paz, Todo Puerto Rico con Vieques and the Committee of Rescue and Development of Vieques, National Hostosiano Congress and other farm and cooperative institutions. I'm here to show you our solidarity with the peace and with a world without bombs, without wars. Today I will expose our situation in Vieques the baby island from Puerto Rico. Vieques is a municipality island, same size as San Marten that for 60 years has been used as a bombing range for USA Navy practices and their abuses and damages and the position of Puerto Rico about it.

Close look at the right wing of the airplane.
Marine from all part of the world including those countries that participate in NATO go there to practice. The mothers in Vieques sing their child to sleep with the bombing songs, suffer high contamination, cancer, asthma problems, skin sickness, and the continuous sounds and vibrations. We are afraid that another mistake will kill the population. I'm here for this reason to share our problematic and available to answer your questions.

In 1941 the United States Congress approved a public law giving the USA Navy the immediate possession of the Vieques lands. They immediately started an expropriation process by means 26,000 of the 33,000 acres of Vieqenses' land were transferred to the military. Thousands of families were physically removed from the land they on which they had lived for generations and were pushed to emigrate to Saint Croix and other areas. In some cases families only had 24 hours to leave the land.

The expropriations caused the closure of Central Playa Grande and the decline of the farming based economy, which into that moment had been flourishing. Thousands of people had to emigrate in search of employment. In 1947 the plan to relocate the entire island in Saint Croix failed.

The first acts of resistance of a naval base started from that time into now. Peoples have  died, imprisoned and get sick because of it. After 60 years of resistance, on April 19, 1999, a Viequense civilian security guard was killed during a live-fire training exercise. This caused the consensus from all the sectors in the Puerto Rican society to demand that the bombing exercises and maneuvers be discontinued immediately and clean and decontaminate all the lands that they control in Vieques. During these 60 years the Navy has used the island as a training ground and munitions depot. Two thirds of the land and waters are limited to the researchers to investigate the ecological and environmental consequences of these land-use practices. It has been sixty years in front of the strongest marine and empire of the world.

To stop the reinitiation of the bombing, hundreds of Puerto Ricans and people from other countries, including North America, put their bodies to stop the bombards, hundreds have been arrested. Some were kept in jail for more than 60 days, including a Senator and a house Representative of the Independent Party. The sentences were abusive for a minor offense as a trespassing is. Activities in different parts of the United States, Chile, Colombia, England, have been celebrating to call attention to this matter. For more than a year the civilians put camps in the restricted zone into the fourth of May. When all the camps where destroyed and the activists arrested for a few hours, also a church and a small school. Religious, USA Congress people, artists, farmers, women, lawyers etc., have been arrested, also Vietnam veterans and from other conflicts.

Vieques has 9,400 inhabitants. The population has no room to grow. Vacancies are constricted to live in a narrow strip in the middle of the island, being fact, the buffer zone between the exploding bombs and the huge munitions depot. The 102 magazines in this munitions depot hold up to 4000 tons of explosive at any given time. The island could have more population but the economy cannot develop; it has been limited by the US Navy.

The US Navy generates more than $100 million a year by renting out Vieques. Including fleets from Holland, Belgium, England, Canada, Italy etc . . . Some forces from Latin America as Argentina and Venezuela have stopped sending their soldiers as an act of solidarity. Aimed at other armed forces and weapons manufacture is used as a one stop shopping site for war and testing ground for new weapons. Not only is the area used, also the sea close to the islands causing destruction, killing species from the Atlantic to the Caribbean close to Venezuela. The bombing range covers 900 acres off the Eastern tip, including the keys, lagoons, forests and beaches, also two blue lagoons and phosphorescent bays. In Cayo Conejo (rabbit cay) is the only brown pelican in Puerto Rico. In Alcatraz Rock is the nesting site for terns. Lots of whales died, turtles, fish, birds and vegetation. In 1936 there were three large lagoons, two connected to the Caribbean, and was a large species rich wetland area, coconuts and lush plantation, a lot of archeological sites, where our fathers, the natives of the island used to live in contact with the nature.

Fragments of pre-Indian Columbian pottery have also been found. Beautiful ocean dry coastal forests have been destroyed along with endangered cactus, flowers, insects and lizards, vines, palms, and grasses.

One of our preoccupations is that unexploded underwater bomb, in land all the area is full detonated. Some of the hazards and impacts are quite evident; artifact lying on the roads, in the vegetation, on top of the trees. Bombs from different countries, inside the conservation zone, lagoons dead by strangulation (cut the connection to the sea).

Three lagoons are also contaminated by debris and unexploded ordnance, craters, pieces of targets. Some areas have been bombed so long that there isn't any soil left. Years of bombing and shelling have altered the topography and covered offshore coral reefs and sea grass bed with sediment. These sediments that contain toxic substances are probably entering in the food chain in this manner. Unexploded rockets are scattered among the wastes.

An unexploded cluster bomb has been found. Fire bombs have burned all the area. A lot of garbage, trucks, tanks, cranes, airplanes, all sort used equipment used as targets are "decorating" the area. More than this the invisible waste as Depleted Uranium, radioactive material. The winds take them to population. These particles inhaled can cause different types of illness, particularly cancer.

In May 1999 Military Toxic Project points in a letter to the use of the places overseas where the Navy uses the Depleted Uranium munition: Tolu Shima Island, Okinawa and Vieques. For the burns in the tank you can know that is Depleted Uranium. Samples were taken inside the target area, sampled are limestone soils were also contaminated. Napalm has burned complete area. Also find high concentrations in Arsenic, Barium, Cadmium, Cobalt, Copper, Chromium, Lead, Nickel, Vanadium, Zinc, Cyanide, High Melting Explosive, Royal Demolition. All of them fatal.

The rate of cancer in Vieques is 52% higher than the rest of the island. The presence of explosive and other substances were found in drinking water. A high incidence of lupus, asthma, Scleroderma, also incidence of telarquia, sicknesses in the kidney and heart also are higher. Children's mortality is higher. Nineteen Viequenses were found with high levels of mercury. For these reasons the consensus is US NAVY STOPS ALL BOMBING in Vieques!

The Vieques issue is a human right matter; people are killed slowly. First, they were forced to leave their land, no work, little food and contamination, people have to travel to the big island to get medical services. For 20 years babies haven't been  born in Vieques.

The Navy is still saying it cannot find a replacement place. The president of the US Bill Clinton says they will leave islands in three years after they ask the people in a referendum if the Viequenses want them to go in three years using inert bombs or stay there with live fire. A referendum asking the way, you want to be killed. We are clear that is not the first time US Navy put their hand in our internal elections. In this moment we are putting a lot of money in media and public relations. We feel the power of the Navy in all the places.

During the past 16 months of sacrifice by those engaged in civil disobedience, the militant activity of civil and political organizations been able to limit the US Navy's activities. This was recognized by unanimous resolution at the United Nations Committee on decolonization during its hearing on July 13 this year, the resolution reads as follows:

Encourages the Government of the United States, in line with the need to guarantee to the Puerto Rican people their legitimate right to self determination and the protection of their human rights, to order the halt of its armed forces military drills and manoeuver on Vieques Island, which is inhabited, return the occupied land to the people of Puerto Rico, halt the persecutions, arrests, and harassments of peaceful demonstrators respect fundamental human rights, such as the right to health and economic development, and decontaminated the impact areas.

We were invaded by the US Navy in 1898, they came shooting, destroyed our local economy and forced us to carry their citizenship to send our boys to war. We are the last colony of the Caribbean, one hundred and two years of resistance, keeping our language, our culture, our way to do things. We are a different Nation. We are a Nation. Colonialism is an offense, is a crime. How can people have a real self determination when all the system is articulated to teach the people, accept and also celebrate the colonialism as a treasure.

The political persecution of most of the democratic organization of more than a million of people by FBI and other repressive programs is a shame for the US Nation, who proclaimed its self as a guardian of human rights. We live the persecution and we know the face of the way they make human rights. Too many people went to jail just because they have a Puerto Rican flag in their house. Millions of people were killed.

In a front of Garcia Camp walls in Vieques, a group of people have remained there protesting since April 1999, Justice and Peace camp, where Viequenses stay daily watching the driving entrance, fishermen, households, youngster from Vieques are there telling the US Navy...Marine Out!!. They had to suffer the abuses, violations and see their people die silently. No money can pay the life. Also we find a lot of contradictions, even their soldiers have shown the solidarity to us...I remember the day that I was arrested, the marshal told me, hey, keep fighting, this is too beautiful an island to use as a bombarding range. It has been very hard to see a whale bleeding on the beach, touching its warm, listen the cries, see how their trucks stops on the turtle's eggs. Thousands of happy dolphins have been killed. We are now knocking to doors of environmentalists of the world, (some organizations in US receive money from the government and are scared to be in front of the marine) to peace warriors to join us in this.

Also telling to your governments not to send your young boys to get contaminated and to contaminate our baby island, not to rent the facilities. In 1966 a special bomb fell down; we knew by the rush that was a nuclear weapon, but they lie to us about it. This year  they accepted the lost of the bomb, and how they find it back. We have a lot of information in our sites.

The Navy doesn't want to leave the island. We are clear, they are going to do what they want to stay in Vieques. They are going to put all their money to win this issue. We have the reason. The braveness, our heart and the guidance of divinities. We are going to keep protesting until  they give back our land and to develop in a sustainable matter. We want a better world to live. We want a decent and healthy place to raise our children. We want the US Navy out, No more bombs and Peace for Vieques.

Today, in less than 2 hours thousand of people, from Puerto Rico, Caribbean, US, and solidarity nations around the world are going to be in Vieques doing civil disobedience. Since last night camps are people in Vieques for this demonstration. Thanks for your time, for your attention, for your work against nuclear weapons for the peace and justice.

Peace for Vieques,
Vrede voor Vieques,
Paz para Vieques!!!

Moraima Rivera
P.O. Box 1020
Ciales, PR 00638

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