Following the Navy's April war games on Vieques and the prosecution of those who resisted, more than two dozen Puerto Ricans have served (or still are serving) one to twelve months in the federal prison on the main island. As a result, promoting community involvement in prisoner support has been a major focus of activity in the historic struggle to free the small Puerto Rican island of Vieques from U.S. Navy occupation and bombardment.
A continuous support vigil, the Pro Vieques Camp, was established last year outside the federal prison at Guaynabo, near San Juan. It's a touchstone for family and friends coming to visit the political prisoners. The camp is also a big island focus for practical support of the resistance on la Isla Nena, a struggle with broad popular approval among Puerto Ricans. Saturday evenings in front of the prison have developed into weekly solidarity vigils and sometimes cultural events to celebrate Vieques and resistance to the Navy.
People were asked to adopt a prisoner by writing, contributing to their commissary fund, creating banners and graffiti to publicize the prisoner and the cause. At a special weekend event June 1-2, at the Pro Vieques Camp, musicians and dancers from Vieques performed on Saturday, and on Sunday joined a candlelight vigil and picket in front of the prison.
On June 20, simultaneous "reflective activit[ies] for the children of Vieques and other places affected by militarism" took place in the Vieques town square and inside the federal prison.
The resisters report that other prisoners demonstrate much solidarity with the civil disobedients, passing on clothing, personal supplies, and homemade foods. Every Sunday, the priest celebrating mass in the men's unit acknowledges the political prisoners and leads prayers for peace in Vieques. The resisters and outside supporters hope to present a concert for the prison population in appreciation for its support of the jailed resisters.
Since the April bombing concluded, hundreds more yards of the chain-link fence have been removed from the barriers that cross Vieques to separate the population from the military bases at either end. In May, Amigos del Mar, a Vieques-based group of anglers and friends active in the resistance, painted "Paz para Vieques" [Peace for Vieques] on a Dutch navy ship in San Jose harbor. The Dutch had joined the recent military exercises. Police were alerted by a guard about 3:00 a.m., but by the time a speedboat was on the way, the Amigos had passed into the night.
In May, three young people from Vieques accused of throwing incendiary devices at military police had explosives charges dismissed: no evidence. And the First Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the convictions of two men arrested inside a temporary coastal Vieques security zone because notice of the closed zone was not published until several days after their alleged offense.
In addition to the Vieques prisoners listed as in prison or recently released (Inside & Out), brothers Hector Quiñones Conception and Luis Rey Quiñones Soto were arrested on Vieques April 16, and have since served sentences of 60 and 90 days, respectively.
Carlos "Taso" Zenón, President of the Vieques Fishermen Association, and his son Yabureibo Zenón Encarnación, were released on Friday, July 12, after serving six months each. The elder Zenón declared "Estamos listos para continuar la lucha... la Marina no se va la tenemos que sacar." [We are ready to continue the struggle... the Navy will not leave so we have to remove it.]
As he spoke, arrest warrants had been issued for the other Zenón brothers, his sons Pedro and Cacimar, and their friend Regalado Miró Encarnación. The Navy alleges to have identified them as the masked resisters seen but not caught along the coast of the bombing range in April.
Pedro Colón Almenas may be released to a halfway house in December to complete his sentence. The Union of Socialist Youth activist is serving one year on conviction of assaulting a ROTC official during a campus demo.
In June, the Navy announced the next round of bombardments of Vieques will begin in late August or September. The prisoners called on supporters to participate in protests and actions planned for Vieques, mainland Puerto Rico, and in the U.S. at that time.
Political pressure is building on President Bush to sign an executive order solidifying the government's pledge to cease using Vieques as a target by June, 2003.
NEW YORK WITH VIEQUES
Vieques supporters in New York, arrested on three occasions in 2001 when they took their protest to the United Nations, finally had their trial in early June. Thirty-two of 42 defendants were convicted on at least one count of disorderly conduct. Judge Stolz ordered the activists to pay only court costs and avoid more such arrests in New York City for one year.
For more information, contact the Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques, Apartado 1424 Vieques, Puerto Rico 00765, (787)741-0716, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, web: www.viequeslibre.org, and Todo Nueva York Con Vieques, 330 W. 42nd St. Suite 1985, New York, NY 10036, (212)631-4620.
Letters of support should be sent individually to Pedro Colón Almenas, #22192-069, Hiram Lozada, #25018-069, and Robert Rabin Siegal, #20374-069, at MDC Guaynabo, POB 2147, San Juan, PR 00922-2147.