Church leaders in Puerto Rico have pledged that the United States Navy will not have the last word about the future of the small Caribbean island of Vieques.On May 4 squads of armed US agents removed more than 200 protesters from a US Navy bombing range on the island. The presence of the protesters, many of whom had been on the Navy land for more than a year, had prevented the US military from using the bombing range on the 21-mile-long island. Vieques, located east of Puerto Rico, is home to 9000 residents, as well as the bombing range, which occupies land seized by the US Navy in 1941 and has been used ever since for a variety of military maneuvers and target practice. Residents claim the military activities disrupt fishing, prevent economic development, and cause a cancer rate almost twice that of the rest of Puerto Rico.The protesters were detained for several hours and transported to Puerto Rico where they were finally released without charges. They were warned, however, that if they again trespassed on Navy-controlled zones of Vieques they could face 10 years in prison and fines of $250,000. Several prominent church leaders were among those detained. They pledged more resistance in response to the Navy's promise to resume within weeks its military exercises on the island. "If the Navy resumes bombing, hundreds of people will return to the restricted zone," Bishop Juan Vera of the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico, told ENI in a telephone interview. Bishop Vera was detained about 5 a.m. at an "evangelical obedience camp" set up by Puerto Rico's Protestant churches at the southern end of the Navy's bombing range. Several Catholics were arrested at their camp about 650 feet away.Bishop Vera said the US agents were polite ...1
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