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News ::
Report from Vieques, Puerto Rico (english)
11 May 2003
I arrived at 2 a.m. on May 1, 2003 in Fajardo in the area to go to Vieques. Many people had already gathered in a spirit of militant solidarity....
May 1, 2003
First of 3 part Report from Vieques, Puerto Rico
by Frank Velgara
I arrived at 2 a.m. on May 1, 2003 in Fajardo in the area to go to Vieques. Many people had already gathered in a spirit of militant solidarity. The camaraderie was evident. By 6:00 a.m.the area was filled and at 9:00 a.m. we boarded the boat to
Vieques. As we arrived at Vieques, we saw people already gathering to march to Camp Garcia for a rally and program.

Thousands marched, chanting with militancy, affirming the victory of the people of Vieques and Puerto Rico while expressing clear determination to continue alongside the Viequenses and the people of Puerto Rico until the contamination is cleaned up, the lands are returned to the people, economic development is achieved and reparations are won.

There were also many signs and chants against the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. Marchers expressed solidarity with the Cuban revolution and against any US military intentions towards Cuba.

Marchers came from California, New York, Connecticut, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Chicago, just to name a few. The march was lead by the organizations from Vieques: Committee for the Resecue and Development of Vieques and the Peace and Justice Camp, The Vieques Womens Alliance, the Coalition For May 1-4 Events in Vieques followed by those arrested in civil disobedience, the Vieques Diocese, Todo Puerto Rico with Vieques, the Socialist Front, the PIP, the NMIP, El Congreso Hostosiano, the Vieques Support Campaign, unions, and other civic and political organizations.

The demonstration also passed by a statue of Angel Rodriguez Cristobal, a martyred leader of the Vieques struggle. In 1979 at a protest inside the restricted military zone of the island Cristobal was among several people who were arrested. After being sent to the federal prison facility in Tallahassee, Florida, Cristobal was discovered dead hanging in his cell. As the marchers passed the statue they chanted loudly, "PRESENTE!"

At the main rally held about 12:30 p.m., among the speakers were Ruben Berrios, Ismael Guadalupe, Carlos Zenon, Miriam Soba, Che Paraliticci, Damaso Serrano, Padre Nelson. I spoke as a representative of the Vieques Support Campaign.

I was very moved by the extremely warm and enthusiastic reception the crowd gave as I was called to the stage representing the VSC and the desires of the Puerto Rican community in the US. It is a memory I will always cherish. It is
worth noting that there were no politicians among the invited speakers.

The Vieques Support Campaign message was clear and concise: Presente! We are proud to be here enjoying the first major advance of the people of Vieques in the ongoing struggle to rid that island of the military presence. We will continue to
struggle alongside of the people of Vieques and all Puerto Rico. Our solidarity and support will continue. The people of the world are with Vieques and all Puerto Rico, just like many in Puerto Rico are in solidarity with the people of Iraq and all those who fight against U.S. military aggression abroad and repression at home. Boricuas of conscience will fight on. We do so knowing that today, it is Vieques, tomorrow it will be Puerto Rico.

The struggle for Vieques is fundamentally for self-determination and independence for Puerto Rico, that is, against US imperialism. The VSC message was very well received and was interrupted by applause throughout my presentation.

After the rally we marched into the grounds of Camp Garcia to reclaim it as a liberated zone. The activities at Camp Garcia all afternoon were followed by a people's concert for Vieques. Among the performing artists at the concert were El Topo, Roy Brown, Andy Montaņez, Haciendo Punto en Otro Son, Zoraida
Santiago, Voz Profetica, and at least 20 others who played until about 1:30 in the morning. Thousands filled the area and chants of "Vieques Si Marina No!" filled the streets.

Although the people of Vieques and all of Puerto Rico achieved a partial victory, it is nevertheless a victory, which is why militant activities in celebration are expected to continue for some time.

Vieques Without The Navy! Implement the 4 D's!
Today Vieques, Tomorrow Puerto Rico!
USA Out of Puerto Rico!

(Frank Velgara - co-coordinator of the Vieques Support Campaign)
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