UNESCO CHAIR ON PEACE EDUCATION
UNIVERSITY OF PUERTO RICO
STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF PEACE FOR VIEQUES
The UNESCO Chair on Peace Education at the University of Puerto Rico, issues this statement in support of peace for Vieques.
- The UNESCO Chair on Peace Education is a multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary education project that promotes reflection and action for a culture of peace and human rights at the University of Puerto Rico.
- The United Nations declared the year 2000, as the International Year for a Culture of Peace, paving the way for the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World (2001-2010).
- Based on these initiatives, the UNESCO Chair on Peace Education has produced a Puerto Rican Agenda for a Culture of Peace. This agenda includes participating in the wide social movement in favor of peace for the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico.
- In February 2000, the UNESCO Chair on Peace Education distinguished the people of Vieques for their exemplary struggle in favor of peace and human rights, in the Third Annual UNESCO Peace Education Conference.
- Vieques is an island municipality of Puerto Rico. It is located to the south east of the main island, with a territorial extension of 18 x 3.5 miles (29 x 5.6 kilometers). Since 1938, the United States Navy has used the island of Vieques for military practice, occupying two thirds of the land, forcing its residents to migrate or live in the central strip of the island. Vieques has a population of approximately 9,400 inhabitants.
- Sixty years of military presence in Vieques have resulted in economic stagnation, impoverishment for the majority of people of Vieques, widespread ecological destruction and contamination. Military practices have contaminated the soil, water, air, and vegetation with heavy metals and toxics such as: copper, lead, mercury, cadmium, and arsenic. Napalm and reduced uranium have been tested in Vieques. The people of Vieques suffer from high levels of cancer (27% higher than in the rest of Puerto Rico). The infant mortality rate has increased dramatically over the past 20 years, and the overall mortality rate is much higher than in Puerto Rico. Recent studies demonstrate that the heart and cardiac systems of fishermen and children in Vieques have been affected by sound waves associated with military bombing.
- The United States Navy advertises and leases the island of Vieques for the training of military personnel from other countries, promoting the proliferation of arms and armamentism world-wide.
- In April 1999, David Sanes, a civilian working for the US Navy in Vieques, was killed when a bomb was accidentally dropped by his observation post. Even though resistance and opposition to the presence of the US Navy in Vieques has been present for decades, this incident sparked unprecedented investigations and public outcry for the cessation of all military activity in Vieques. The vast majority of the people of Puerto Rico, including elected officials of the three political parties, religious and civic leaders are supporting the widespread movement of peace for Vieques. The United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization, members of the United States Congress, the United States National Council of Churches, Nobel Peace Prize winners Rigoberta Menchú, Oscar Arias and the Dalai Lama, and world renowned artists and athletes, among many others have expressed their solidarity with peace for Vieques.
- Since 1999, over one thousand persons have participated in peaceful civil disobedience, trespassing the US Navy controlled land in Vieques, in support of no more bombing. The composition of this group is representative of the diverse nature of the population supporting this movement, including: elected officials, teachers, university students and professors, priests ministers and nuns, housewives, artists, workers, doctors, among many others. United States citizens known for their trajectory in the promotion of civil rights have also participated, including Rev. Alan Sharpton, actor Edward James Olmos, and environmental lawyer Robert Kennedy. The US Navy has used unnecessary restraint and force, and has engaged in brutal and dehumanizing treatment while arresting and processing those involved in civil disobedience. In addition, some have been incarcerated for weeks pending trial. Several have been sentenced to severe unwarranted penalties of months in prison, after being found guilty of the petty offense of trespassing. These actions by the United States Federal Court in Puerto Rico violate fundamental principles of due legal process and equal protection under the law contained in the United States Constitution and the Constitution of Puerto Rico.
THE UNESCO CHAIR ON PEACE EDUCATION:
- SUPPORTS THE IMMEDIATE AND PERMANENT CEASE OF MILITARY PRACTICE IN VIEQUES, THE DEMILITARIZATION OF VIEQUES, THE DEVOLUTION OF ITS LAND, THE DECONTAMINATION OF ITS TERRITORY FOR SUSTAINABLE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT SO THAT THE PEOPLE OF VIEQUES CAN LIVE IN DIGNITY AND IN RESPECT OF THEIR HUMAN AND CIVIL RIGHTS.
- REITERATES THAT THE CHILDREN AND YOUTH OF VIEQUES, LIKE ALL CHILDREN AND YOUTH OF THE WORLD, HAVE A RIGHT TO LIVE, GROW, AND BE EDUCATED IN AN ENVIRONMENT THAT PRIVILEGES AND PROMOTES THEIR HEALTH, HISTORICAL-CULTURAL HERITAGE, AND INTERGENERATIONAL HARMONY.
- ACKNOWLEDGES THE LEGITIMATE RIGHT OF PEOPLE, IN PUERTO RICO AND ELSEWHERE, TO DEFEND AND PROMOTE HUMAN RIGHTS. EXPRESSES SOLIDARITY WITH THOSE WHO HAVE PROVIDED AN EXAMPLE, TO PUERTO RICO AND THE WORLD, OF THE POSSIBILITIES FOR CREATING A CULTURE OF PEACE BASED ON PEACEFUL YET FIRM ACTIONS IN FAVOR OF JUSTICE, DIGNITY, AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN VIEQUES.
- CLAIMS FAIR AND JUST TREATMENT, FOLLOWING DUE LEGAL PROCESS, FOR THOSE PARTICIPATING IN CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE; RESPECTING THE DIGNITY AND INTEGRITY OF THOSE, WHO OBEYING THEIR CONSCIENCE, STRUGGLE TO OVERCOME THE VIOLENCE OF ARMS IN VIEQUES.
Further information on Vieques and groups working in favor of
peace in Vieques may be found in the world wide web at
Cátedra UNESCO de Educación para la Paz
Decanato de Asuntos Académicos
Universidad de Puerto Rico
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00931-3444