Statement on Puerto Rico and the island of Vieques

16 May 2000

The Socialist International is greatly concerned regarding the recent resumption of bombing exercises by the US Navy on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques and the arrest of those, including Rubén Berríos Martínez, leader of the Puerto Rican Independence Party and an Honorary President of the International, peacefully protesting against the use of Vieques for military purposes.

The International is aware that the renewed bombing involves the use of non-explosive rounds and that the Government of the United States has proposed that the residents of Vieques decide in a referendum whether the US Navy should leave the island in 2003.

However, as it did during its XXI Congress in Paris last year, the Socialist International continues to endorse the report on Puerto Rico issued by the UN Special Committee on Decolonisation on 10 July 1999, which urged the Government of the United States to cease military manoeuvres in Vieques and return the land currently occupied by the Navy to the people of Puerto Rico.

The International notes that those arrested during the removal of protesters from the bombing range on Vieques were released without charge, but that Rubén Berríos Martínez who attempted to return in order to continue protesting was re-arrested and, though again released, faces trial on trespassing charges.

The Socialist International therefore reaffirms its solidarity with Rubén Berríos Martínez and all those - in Puerto Rico, the U.S. and elsewhere - who are calling for an end to military training on Vieques and urges full respect for the rights of free expression for those peacefully resisting on the island of Vieques itself. The International also calls upon its member parties to remain alert and vigilant for any new developments in the situation there.