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Friday, December 2, 2016
America to withdraw from Vieques
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¬†Campaigners are celebrating, following President George W Bush's announcement that the United States is to end its controversial naval bombing exercises on the tiny Puerto Rican island of Vieques by May 2003. Speaking after his talks with European Union leaders in Sweden yesterday, Bush said: "My attitude is that the navy ought to find somewhere else to conduct its exercises. For a lot of reasons. One, there's been some harm done to people in the past. Secondly, these are our friends and neighbours, and they don't want us there." The decision is a great relief for the local people who have protested against the US navy's presence for years. The navy began using the island for military practice in the 1940s. Residents say that the activity has taken a great toll on the environment, economy, and the health of the population. They say the accumulation of lead, cadmium, mercury, depleted uranium and napalm and other metals, including plutonium and other toxic chemicals also threatens the rest of Puerto Rico, and the life and health of the people across the Caribbean basin. In recent months the Catholic Church lead the campaign asking the Americans to leave. Several churches have sponsored workshops on peaceful civil disobedience to train demonstrators in these tactics. More than 1,200 people have been arrested for taking part in peaceful demonstrations - among them four bishops as well as dozens of priests, nuns, and other religious leaders. Two weeks' ago, the Archbishop of San Juan, Roberto GonzŠlez, came to New York to appeal on behalf of his people while campaigners held a vigil at the United Nations. The New York Times reports that some campaigners have said they will continue to protest until until the Navy halts all manoeuvres at Vieques. "If they're saying 'we will continue bombing till 2003,' that would be unacceptable," said Representative Jose E. Serrano, a New York Democrat who was born in Puerto Rico.
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