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Sunday, December 4, 2016
Calls for end to US bombing of Caribbean island
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 Catholic peace campaigners have been gathering at the United Nations over the past few days, to call for an end to American military exercises on a Caribbean island. They are asking the Human Rights Commission of the UN to prevent the resumption of bombing on Viequez Island in Puerto Rico, planned for 13 June. Tonight, (Monday) the Archbishop of San Juan, Roberto González, will be appealing on behalf of his people in a talk at 7pm at St. Patrick's Church (279 Central Avenue, Albany). The American navy has been using the tiny island for military practice since the 1940s. A spokeswoman for the islanders said:"Sixty one years of military activity in Vieques have taken an intolerable toll on our island's environment, economy, and the health and lives of our people. The accumulation of lead, cadmium, mercury, depleted uranium and napalm and other metals, including plutonium and other toxic chemicals, has created an extremely unhealthy and often lethal environment that not only threatens Vieques, but also the rest of Puerto Rico, and the life and health of the people across the Caribbean basin. She said: "The U.S. Government's continuing Naval actions in Vieques constitute a blatant violation of human rights. For this reason, we call for the U.N. to take action to end this violation." Last week a Federal judge in Puerto Rico handed out jail sentences of up to four months for trespass charges to prominent figures including: the Reverend Al Sharpton, New York assemblyman José Rivera, Bronx County Democratic party chairman Roberto Ramirez, and New York City councillor, Adolfo Carrión. More than 150 others, including environmentalist lawyer Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., actor Edward James Olmos, U.S. congressman Luis Gutierrez, labour leader Dennis Rivera are also awaiting sentence. Over the past year 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. In recent months the Catholic Church has lead the campaign asking the Americans to leave. Several churches have sponsored workshops on peaceful civil disobedience to train demonstrators in these tactics. In April, protesters attending an outdoor Mass were tear gassed by the US Navy. The Archbishop said at the time: "For humanitarian and moral reasons the U.S. government should cease immediately and for always, the bombings in Vieques." The American Navy have confirmed that they plan to resume bombing practices on 13 June - in spite of an announcement three weeks ago by President Bush that the Navy need to find an alternative to Vieques. Last year, bombings were suspended briefly while the church held the beatification ceremony for the person who is likely to become Puerto Rico's first saint: Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, who died in 1963.
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