Last Sept. 22, many international civic groups, including five Korean civic groups, staged a demonstration in front of the White House in support of the Vieques islanders. What is at issue over Vieques Island of Puerto Rico?
The island of Puerto Rico, which is American territory, lies 9.6 km southeast of Cuba. The island is noted for it beautiful coral reef and thick forest.
After the U.S.A. defeated Spain in 1898, Puerto Rico changed hands a from Spain to the U.S.A. The American Navy has used Vieques as a bombing range since 1941, enforcing the habitants of Vieques to move to one fourth of the island. Since joint military drills with other NATO groups in 1978, the Navy issued a fishing embargo that has deprived Viequense islanders of an important means of livelihood. It was the first case of the Viequense, who are dispossessed of most of their island, demonstrating against the U.S. Navy.
The latest demonstration arose from a U.S. Marine corps jet dropping two 500-pound bombs on a residential area, at which some residents were either killed or injured on April 19. Also, some people have endured severe radiation intoxication symptoms for a year or more, because the Navy discharged pollutants including uranium, aluminum, and lead on a residential district. Such accidents have frequently occurred since 1941. These things made the Viequense rise up in opposition to U.S troops.
On Thursday May 4, at 5:30 A.M., the federal government began to arrest Vienquenses who had occupied Viequese shooting range for one year to prevent bombing and shelling of the island.
Similar protesting rallies against U.S. military forces were simultaneously held in the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Okinawa and South Korea. At Maehyang-ri, South Korea, about 3,200 villagers are exposed to the harassment of constant extreme noises, fatal accidents from errant bombs and shells and environmental contamination by the U.S. Army.
"Korea and the U.S. made little progress in their negotiations on the revision of the Status of Forces Agreement. Negotiators are not resolving other issues such as environmental regulations and labor rights for the hundreds of South Korean workers hired by the U.S. military," said Choi Jae-hun, an activist of the Korea House for International Solidarity, which had joined in the rally in front of the White House.
"We will also make every effort to achieve our goal of freeing Maehyang-ri form the U.S. Army through international cooperation such as the Vieques demonstration,?he added. It is reported that demonstrations directed at Station U.S. military bases are happening all over the world. And their status will be challenged until the U.S. abandons them.
Kim Jung-yoon firstname.lastname@example.org
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