Passage 70 Vieques
On Thursday,about three hundred American law enforcement agents raided the small Puerto Rican island of Vieques.
The agents removed 216 demonstrators who had been camped at a United States military base for almost a year.
No one was hurt in the action.
American Attorney General Janet Reno directed the operation to remove the protesters.
Ms Reno said the protesters would not be charged with crimes
unless they became violent or tried to re-enter the Bieques navy base.
Among those seized were two members of the United States House
of Representatives and several Puerto Rican legislators.
The demonstrators were protesting the use of the small Caribbean island
of Vieques as a United States navy training center.
They especially object to bombing exercises carried out there.
The demonstrators began their protest after a misdirected navy bomb killed a Puerto Rican civilian security guard last year.
The navy suspended exercises at Vieques after the accidental death
In January,President Clinton and the Governor of Puerto Rico
Pedro Rossello,resched a new agreement about future training.
They agreed the navy could carry out limited training until 2003
However,only non-explosive bombs could be used in the exercises.
The people of Vieques are to decide by vote whether the navy trining center should remain on the island.
Vieques has a population of more than 9,000 people.
They are American citizens as are all other Puerto Ricans.
Puerto Rico is a Commonwealth of the United States.
The people who live there receive some services from the American federal government.
However,they cna not vote in Ameican presidential or congressionsl elections.
About sixty years ago,the United States navy bought two-thirds of Vieques.
The Navy has used the area to train for every major conflict since World War Two.
There always has been some tension between the navy and the citizens who live on the island.
The navy argues there is no other place like Vieques for trainning.
It is close to the eastern coast of the United States.
Pilots and naval gun operators can train easily with United States marines as they land on the island's beach.
The navy says pilots who train at Vieques learn to drop their bombs with much more exactness than pilots who do not train there.
Opponents say the bombing exercises have damaged the environment and the health of the people on Vieques.
Protesters say Vieques is not the only place for such trainning.
After the raid,the United States navy announced that new bombing exercises
with non-explosive bombs will start again on Vieques later this month.