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Puerto Rican Party Leader Detained

May 10, 2000

VIEQUES, Puerto Rico (AP) _ Puerto Rico’s Independence Party leader was detained inside the Navy’s Vieques island range today in the latest stage of his civil disobedience campaign to stop Navy bombing.

Ruben Berrios and another activist, Jorge Fernandez Porto, entered the range before dawn, planning to walk directly to the bombing area inside the range to force their arrests. Within hours, they were detained by U.S. Marines.

``I don’t know if I’m under arrest,″ Berrios shouted from inside the main gate of the navy’s Camp Garcia. He and Fernandez were sitting on a bench, surrounded by military personnel, before being taken further into the base by U.S. Marshals.

Navy spokesmen at Roosevelt Roads Naval Station in Puerto Rico, which administers the Atlantic fleet range, and the Marshals Service in San Juan had no immediate comment.

Independence Party Senator Manuel Rodriguez Orellana said that if arrested and charged, Berrios will refuse to defend himself ``because we don’t recognize the moral authority of the (federal courts) in Puerto Rico,″ he said.

In San Juan, a U.S. magistrate issued arrest warrants for two activists who protesters claim are inside the range. Brothers Casimar and Pedro Zenon are accused of assault for allegedly throwing rocks at personnel at the range on March 18. If convicted, the brothers could face up to 10 years in prison.

Berrios, 60, had camped on the Navy range here for nearly a year, helping lead the protests before he and 223 others were removed in a federal operation that began last Thursday.

Those removed from the range were released without being charged, but anyone re-entering it faces tough penalties: up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine under an order issued by President Clinton.

U.S. Navy warplanes dropped ``dummy″ bombs _ bombs with no live munitions _ at the training ground Monday, fulfilling a Navy pledge to resume operations.

A former Puerto Rican senator and law professor educated at Oxford and Yale, Berrios participated in a similar civil disobedience campaign on Vieques’ sister island of Culebra that eventually prompted the Navy to leave in 1975, and was jailed briefly in 1973.

Protesters occupied the Navy’s Atlantic fleet range on Vieques in April 1999 after civilian security guard David Sanes Rodriguez was killed by stray bombs.

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