I stand before this Court, honored by an imprisonment that dignifies. I am here as a prosecutor for Vieques, to try, under our conscience, the U.S. Navy and its defenders, whose injustice we have confronted with our militant non-violence.
In the morning hours of August 3, 2000, a Navy spokesman categorically denied the possibility of our presence in the zones they usurped from the people of Puerto Rico. In less than two hours, three fellow members of the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) and I were arrested by the Navy in that very zone, a short distance from the point known as "OP-1."
An American lad from a small town in Virginia felt compelled to explain that he was carrying out orders to arrest "the bad guys." To think that four Puerto Rican ¾ two of us, members of the Legislative Assembly representing all of Puerto Rico¾ are the "bad guys" who cannot be in Vieques, while he can, requires the twisted logic that has historically characterized US foreign policy, particularly towards Latin America, and the inalienable right of peoples, such as the Puerto Rican people, to their self-determination and independence.
From that corruption of human thinking on the part of the Navy arise false allegations of "national security" to justify land invasions and expropriations in Vieques, sanctioned by local authorities that, like Essau, sold their birthright in our homeland for a plate of lentils. The Navy feeds on such inverted value systems to contaminate our land, risk the lives of our people, and destroy peace. Such a perversion of democracy engenders monstrous persecution and jail against the only ones with a legitimate right to be in Vieques ¾ us, Puerto Ricans, and not them.
There is no greater threat to lies than the truth. The Navy claimed its war games were "safe," and they killed David Sanes, a civilian. They claimed its frequent bombings were essential for US national security; and PIP President Rubén Berríos, together with thousands from all parties, ideologies and creeds who served as human shields stopped them for more than a year, demonstrating that the bombings are unnecessary. The Navy claimed it was protecting the environment and public health, yet in the course of that year we found depleted uranium, napalm, heavy metals, toxic substances, and carcinogens filtering into the food chain and mercilessly castigating delicate ecological balances, in macabre harmony with a disproportionate cancer rate that continues to claim new victims in Vieques.
The Navy has proven Nationalist leader Pedro Albizu Campos right: they are interested in the cage, not in the birds. That is why the Navy, corrupting the system of justice, detained hundreds of Puerto Ricans for almost a whole day on May 4th, without formal charges; and then ostentatiously proclaimed the area "secure" against Puerto Ricans. And yet, in less than a week, they were confronted once more by the President of the PIP in the prohibited zone, and they had him tried and sentenced.
When Berríos served a nominal sentence in yet another moral victory over the Navy, the President of the United States summoned him to Washington to talk about Puerto Rico's unresolved status. The Navy and many of its defenders hoped this would divert public attention away from Vieques, and once more proclaimed the usurped zone, "secure" in Vieques.
And we traveled to Washington and denounced Puerto Rico's colonial status, but the Navy was unable to silence our conscience. Because on that very day, the Vice-President of our Party, Fernando Martín, together with more than 130 party members, entered the "secure" zone, and the U.S. government was forced, once again, to talk about Vieques.
The Navy then took justice hostage and, without a trial managed the indefinite imprisonment of PIP members ―anywhere between a week to almost two months. They believed that such arbitrariness would poke holes of fear in our conscience. But on August 3, a few short hours after bragging about how absolutely "secure" the cage ¾ as Albizu Campos would say¾ was against the birds, there we were: a protestant minister, a young candidate for mayor and two at large legislators, demonstrating once more that the Navy had lost the battle against truth.
Every time we have marched on the areas they have usurped, to rescue our national dignity, we have obstructed the bombings and military exercises they had planned.
The moral defeat that the Navy has been dragging about like an albatross has humiliated them and provoked their wrath. So, it further entrenched itself in the negation of democracy inherent to colonialism. In so doing, the Navy obtained the collaboration of those who by action or inaction betrayed the will of the majority of our people and the public policy of "not one more bomb" when they bowed to a Presidential Directive contrary to our will, to manipulate the judicial system at their whim. Thus they managed to impose indefinite imprisonment on us for our struggle for peace in Vieques, prior to trial.
This Court's ruling today cannot absolve the Navy of its guilt against Puerto Ricans. There will always be Puerto Ricans committed to peace. We shall continue to fight colonialism and the tyrannical presence of the US Navy and its cohorts in Puerto Rico. And it is they, the kidnappers of justice, who have demonstrated this Court's lack of legitimacy to acquit or condemn us in our Fatherland.
Our jury is the will of our people, who have already deliberated regarding Vieques. Our judge is History, which is inexorable.