Andrés Thomas Conteris
1804 S Street, NW
Washington, DC 20009
Tel. 202-232-1999

An open letter to President Clinton
25 July, 2000

Dear President Clinton:

I write to you appealing to your conscience and requesting that you take time to meet personally with the religious and peace movement leaders of Vieques, Puerto Rico.

Leaders of Vieques from the United Methodist Church, the Catholic Church, the Alliance of Vieques Women, the Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques and others have requested that you give them audience. They would like to explain to you face to face why they insist that the U.S. Navy must permanently stop bombing, a position supported by the vast majority of the people of Vieques, 88.5% according to a recent poll.

The religious and peace movement leaders would like to have a dialogue with you. They want to make a case for Demilitarization of their island, Decontamination of all the toxic pollution resulting from the military exercises, Devolution of the land that was forcibly expropriated during World War II and Development of their economy and environment. You have given ample opportunity to the representatives from the U.S. Navy to make their case to you personally. You have also consistently denied meeting personally with those most affected by the ongoing bombing. I ask you to reconsider this position and promote reconciliation by meeting with the leaders of the people of Vieques.

Your current policy, offering a referendum to the people of Vieques on a date to be determined by the U.S. Navy, which does not include the option for voters to express their desire for an immediate and permanent cessation to the Navy bombing, is not acceptable.

The people of Vieques and their supporters have expressed their opposition to the Navy presence with a campaign of active nonviolence including letter-writing, marching, picketing, risking arrest, spending time in the courts and doing jail time for civil disobedience. Many are still in prison for their prophetic nonviolent actions. There have also been four public initiatives for peace in Vieques involving fasting since May 4, 2000.

I was on the bombing range on Vieques on May 4, 2000 when the FBI and U.S. Marshalls removed the peace encampment that held vigil for over a year. Instead of turning myself in, I, like others, decided to go into hiding to continue to serve as human shields in the hope that the bombs would not fall. Despite the fact that the Navy was aware of the presence of protesters in the restricted area, the bombing recommenced even while I and others were still there. This has happened repeatedly since that time and is absolutely unconscionable.

This morning, at 6:00am, over twenty representatives from churches, popular movement organizations and people of faith and conscience began a rotating fast in front of Camp Garcia, the entrance to the bombing range on Vieques. They are appealing to your conscience so that you grant a long-requested meeting with the peace movement and religious leaders of Vieques.

In Washington, DC, we have also inaugurated a fast today asking that you reconsider your hard stance on refusing to meet with the leaders of Vieques. Members of a number of organizations and religious groups will participate in this rotating fast.

I am a part of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, a faith-based organization that seeks to resolve conflicts nonviolently. The FOR has worked for many years on the demilitarization of Puerto Rico through the Task Force on Latin America and the Caribbean. I am also a lay missioner with the United Methodist Church whose leadership in Puerto Rico has taken a strong position against the bombing in Vieques. I have decided to enter into an open-ended, liquid-only fast (juices with calories) appealing to your conscience so that you grant the long-requested meeting. This fast will become a liquid-only, no-calorie (water with some non-caloric salts, electrolytes, vitamins, minerals, etc.) if the Navy resumes the massive bombing exercises. This type of fast will continue indefinitely until you grant the meeting with the religious and peace movement leaders of Vieques.

Our witness is called Fast for Justice and Peace in Vieques, Puerto Rico: An Appeal to the Conscience of President Clinton to Meet with the Leaders of Vieques. We will hold a press conference in Lafayette park at 12 noon today and a prayer vigil and peace witness every evening from 5:00pm to 8:00pm.

Mohandas K. Gandhi called fasting the "prayer of a soul in anguish." It is the final stage along the path of an ever intensifying nonviolent witness. Indeed, those of us moved to fast are in deep anguish over the death of David Sanes on April 19, 1999 during a Navy bombing exercise. We are alarmed at the escalating cancer rates and other deleterious health effects on Vieques because of the bombing, and the rising repression by police, military and judicial authorities against peace activists on that tiny island. We are anguished over the threat that the bombs will continue to fall and we are filled with hope knowing that when we act together we can bring change.

Fasting for Justice and Peace,

Andrés Thomas Conteris
Member of the Task Force on Latin America and the Caribbean
Fellowship of Reconciliation

Fast for Justice and Peace in Vieques, Puerto Rico
Daily Vigil in Front of White House, 5:00-8:00pm
Until President Clinton meets with Vieques Leaders

Telephone and write (fax) the White House and express your repudiation of the President's decision. Please ask your colleagues in elected office, in the leadership of political parties, churches, community organizations, etc., to urge President Clinton to meet with the Vieques leaders.

President William J. Clinton, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW Washington, DC 20500 - Tel. 202-456-1111

John Podesta - White House Chief of Staff María Echaveste - White House Deputy Chief of Staff
Phone: (202) 456-6797 Fax: (202) 456-1907 Phone: (202) 456-6594 Fax: (202) 456-6703

Jeffrey Farrow - Co-Chair, "White House Interagency Working Group on Puerto Rico"
Phone: (202) 456-5179 - Fax: (202) 482-2337

For general information on Vieques:

Puerto Rico Index