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Block Resumption Of Bombing Tests On Vieques, NCC Urges Clinton

            June 20, 2000, NEW YORK CITY – President Clinton should exercise his authority as Commander-in-Chief and block the resumption of bombing tests on Puerto Rico’s Vieques island, National Council of Churches General Secretary Bob Edgar said today, disturbed at reports that the tests would resume June 21. 

            The Rev. Dr. Edgar led a six-member delegation to Puerto Rico June 1-3.   The delegation brought back to a June 12 meeting with White House staff a request from Puerto Rico’s church leaders for a meeting with President Clinton about Vieques. 

            “The President has met with Puerto Rico’s governor and with the Marines, but he has not talked with Puerto Rico’s spiritual leaders, who are the moral authority and who have the trust of the people,” Dr. Edgar reported. 

            “Puerto Rico’s mainline and evangelical Protestant, Roman Catholic and Pentecostal church leaders have joined forces in an unprecedented ecumenical coalition against continued use of Vieques for U.S. military exercises,” he said.   “Their message is unanimous: ‘Not one more bomb in Vieques.’” 

            Dr. Edgar said the delegation was impressed by the “depth of the Vieques people’s commitment to non-violent protest for peace, including their willingness to enter the bombing range in acts of civil disobedience that have continued, even after the May 4 eviction of protestors.” 

            Puerto Rico’s church leaders also have declared “immoral” the terms of a proposed plebiscite – agreed upon by the government of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Navy and President Clinton -- offering the people of Vieques a choice between two alternatives – for U.S. military exercises on Vieques to continue for three more years, or to continue indefinitely.  No “option” is offered for an immediate cessation of the bombing. 

“As people of faith, we deplore the resumption of bombing,” Dr. Edgar said.  “It is clearly against the will of the people, an unconscionable violation of the civil and human rights of citizens of a free and democratic society.” 

-end-

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