Exhibit on origin of Dominican people opens at Bellas Artes

Santo Domingo.– The Palacio de Bellas Artes' National Gallery presents "Immigrants," an exhibition that tells of the origins of Dominican people and it is sponsored by the nation's General Archives.

The Dominican Republic was the first Spanish colony in the New World. Its people have origins in a unique mix of African, Spaniard and Taino roots.

Source: http://www.dominicantoday.com/


Student Strike at University of Puerto Rico Enters 29th Day

SAN JUAN - In Puerto Rico, an ongoing strike by students at the University of Puerto Rico is coming to a head. Riot police have surrounded the main gates of the university and are trying to break the strike by denying food and water to students who have occupied the campus inside. The strike began nearly four weeks ago in response to budget cuts at the university of more than $100 million. Students called on the administration to reconsider the cuts and sought guarantees, such as no fee increases and no privatization of campus services.

Students initially called for a forty-eight-hour strike, but more than three weeks later the strike continues and has spread to ten out of eleven campuses. On Thursday, a mass assembly of more than 3,000 students voted overwhelmingly to continue the strike. The next day, riot police seized control of the main campus gates.

The striking students have received widespread support from professors at the university, as well as unions around the country. Crowds have gathered outside the university gates, where police have encircled the striking students inside. Parents, family members, other supporters have tried to throw bottles of water and food over the fence to support the strikers.

Source: Democracy Now


Highway Blocked As 5.8 Quake Strikes Puerto Rico

San Juan, Puerto Rico (AHN) - Puerto Rico was jolted by a moderate earthquake on Sunday morning. The 5.8-magnitude quake was centered between the cities of Moca and Anasco and damaged homes on parts of the island and caused a rock slide on a highway.

The temblor struck at 1:16 a.m. nearly four miles from the small town of Espino on the western side of the island. Nearly 63 miles away in the capital San Juan, the quake was felt in the city's high-rise buildings.

Homes on the western and northern side of the Caribbean island also reported damage. Puerto Rico's emergency management agency said a rock slide in Utuado caused debris to block a highway.

Even on the nearby islands of Vieques, Culebra, Santa Cruz, and rest of the Virgin Islands residents reported feeling the quake.

Authorities say no one was injured, however the alarms of cars, banks, shopping malls and buildings went off resulting in panic among many who misunderstood the alarms to be a tsunami warning.

Author: Ayinde O. Chase
Source: AHN News


What's Good for US Latinos May Not Be Best for Puerto Ricans

For U.S. Latinos, it would be the biggest political boost in history. Imagine suddenly gaining two Hispanic U.S. senators and six additional Latino members of the House of Representatives. Imagine 4 million additional Latinos suddenly eligible to vote for president. The gains would be much bigger than those that Latinos are likely to receive from the new census tabulations or from any gigantic voter registration campaign, even bigger than the certain Latino voter backlash that has been provoked by lawmakers in Arizona.

For U.S. Latino empowerment, nothing could match the entry of Puerto Rico as the 51st state of the union.

Yet if and when that happens, it should be because we the American people, especially our Congress, respected the will of the Puerto Rican people. It should be because they were able to choose statehood over independence and their current commonwealth status in a free and truly democratic process.

When they vote in a new plebiscite to determine the political future of their precious island, Puerto Ricans should know that our Congress is bound to respect their decision and committed to act upon it.

Anything else would be a farce, another nonbinding beauty contest, a repeat of the plebiscites of 1967, 1993 and 1998 and another huge waste of time, money and emotions. That's what has happened in the past and what likely would happen again under the latest proposed plebiscite, which is already approved by the House and bound for Senate hearings.

Those who support this plebiscite, starting with pro-statehood Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno, argue that unlike the others, which were conducted by the government of Puerto Rico, at least this one would be "authorized" by Congress. Of course, that means absolutely nada. It still would be nonbinding. Once the Puerto Rican people made their choice, Congress still could ignore them - just as it ignores most controversial matters.

If Puerto Ricans were to choose statehood, for example, many linguistically impaired, ethnically challenged and xenophobically affected Republicans would have serious reservations. They would raise all kinds of racist objections to try to prevent the island from becoming the 51st state. They would insist, as they have in the past, that Puerto Ricans should speak only English and renounce the Spanish language and culture.

And before Puerto Ricans venture into statehood, many would like some guarantees that such racist restrictions would not be imposed on them.

Unfortunately, the bill passed by the House April 29 - by a bipartisan vote of 223-169 - is so flawed that even the three Puerto Rican-Americans in Congress couldn't agree on it. Rep. Jose Serrano, D-N.Y., voted for it. But Reps. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., and Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., voted against it.

Gutierrez argued that the legislation had been rushed through the House without clearly defining the options that would be offered to Puerto Rican voters, and Velazquez argued that it was skewed to favor the statehood option. Serrano, while recognizing some flaws, supported it because, he said, at least it began a process that could lead to the decolonization of the island.

Some background: Under the commonwealth status, approved by Congress in 1952 as a transitional arrangement, Puerto Ricans on the island are American citizens who are subject to federal law but don't enjoy all the rights of citizenship.

They serve in the U.S. military, often with remarkable courage, but cannot vote in presidential elections. They pay no federal income taxes, but their voice in Congress is limited to a single nonvoting delegate to the House.

A task force established by President Bill Clinton and revived by President George W. Bush five years ago recommended that unlike previous plebiscites, a new one should be conducted in two parts. First, Puerto Ricans would have to decide on whether they want to remain under the commonwealth relationship with the United States. If they voted for change, a second plebiscite would give them only two options, statehood or independence.

It seemed like a sound idea, especially because it nudged the Puerto Rican people to make a tough decision they have been avoiding, a decision with only two choices instead of three. Puerto Rico's commonwealth status, now 58 years old, never was meant to be permanent. Most Puerto Ricans acknowledge that sooner or later, they will have to move on to another arrangement. Yet when they had a choice of being a commonwealth, a state or independent in the three previous plebiscites, they clung to the commonwealth they claim they must let go.

The deadlock could be broken, some thought, with the two-plebiscite process suggested by the Bush panel. Yet others argued that because independence always ranks a low third among the three options, the two-plebiscite process would favor statehood. And their argument was so strong that the idea was stalled during the Bush years. When it was resuscitated again this year, as the Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2010, it still called for two rounds of voting, but it had three options in the second round - statehood, independence or free association, a poorly defined third option that involved sovereignty while maintaining some sort of association with the United States. In other words, they had managed to preserve the commonwealth option without calling it commonwealth.

But that wasn't enough. Because this new third option was clearly a farce and no one could explain what it would entail, amazingly, commonwealth was reintroduced as a fourth option! It was an amendment introduced by Republicans in a clear attempt to derail any movement toward statehood in Puerto Rico, and now we have a bill that is full of contradictions.

The amendment completely nullifies the intent of the two-round voting process. Now Puerto Ricans can reject commonwealth in the first round and still end up supporting it in the second. If commonwealth is still an option in the second round, why bother having a first round?

Every few years, the Puerto Rican people are taken on this emotional roller-coaster ride created by nonbinding plebiscites with more than two options. And like all riders of roller coasters, they always end up exactly where they started, clinging to commonwealth.

Unless the Senate corrects the many flaws in the House bill, Puerto Ricans are already in line for another emotional ride to define who they are as a people. And the rest of us U.S. Latinos are going to have to wait until they are given a fair chance to define their destiny.

Puerto Rican statehood could be great for U.S. Latinos, but only if Puerto Ricans really want it, Congress learns to respect their right to self-determination and they all agree to demolish the multiple-choice plebiscite roller coaster.

Author: Miguel Perez
Source: Creators Syndicate


Bolivian President Evo Morales to Deliver Results of People’s Conference on Climate Change to UN Sec Gen Ban Ki-moon

New York – Today, President Evo Morales of Bolivia will personally present UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon with the conclusions of the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of the Mother Earth, which was held in Cochabamba, Bolivia from April 20th to 22nd, 2010. Some 30,000 people hailing from over 150 countries attended the Conference, which offered governments and civil society groups a rare chance to work together to address climate change.

Bolivia’s first indigenous president will be joined in New York by delegates from around the world who were active at the conference, including: Nnimmo Bassey (Nigeria) and Asad Rehman (UK) from the organization Friends of the Earth, Yoon Guem Soon (South Korea) and Tomás Balduino (Brazil) of Via Campesina, Meena Raman (Mayalysia) of Third World Network, Jeremy Osborn (USA) of 350.org, Tom Goldtooth (USA) of the Indigenous Environmental Network, Enrique Daza (Colombia) of the Hemispheric Social Alliance, and Maude Barlow (Canada) of the Blue Planet Project.

Following the meeting with Ban Ki-moon, Morales will hold a press conference in the Dag Hammarskjold Library Auditorium of the United Nations at 1pm. He and the international delegates will later share the conclusions reached in the People’s Accord of Cochabamba with developing countries in a briefing to the G77 and China.

Last week, the Bolivian government submitted the People’s Accord to the UN body that deals with climate change negotiations in the form of an official contribution to the debates taking place under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Among the most important aspects of the People’s Accord are a project for a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by developed countries for the 2010-2017 period, a draft Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth, a proposal for a global referendum on climate change, and recommendations for the creation of an International Climate and Justice Tribunal. Information is available on the conference website: http://cmpcc.org

Source: www.boliviaun.org


The Poisoning of Puerto Rico

The U.S. Navy left Vieques, but for many, the cancer remains.

Coral Rosa, 16, who was born with "blue baby syndrome," is one of 7,000 plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the U.S. government. (Photo courtesy of Jacob Wheeler)

Vieques, Puerto Rico -- On March 31, retired Sgt. Hermogenes Marrero was told during a visit to the Veterans Affairs (VA) outpatient clinic in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, that he didn't have cancer -- or at least, his official VA computer file no longer showed any record of cancer.

But Marrero was not relieved. He had been diagnosed twice before with colon cancer and suffers today from a dozen other illnesses, including Lou Gehrig's disease, failing vision, a lung condition that keeps him on oxygen around the clock, not to mention tumors throughout his body. The terminally ill and wheelchair-bound, 57-year-old veteran immediately suspected that the U.S. government had manipulated his medical record.

Marrero is the star witness in a lawsuit filed in 2007 against the U.S. government by Mississippi attorney John Arthur Eaves on behalf of more than 7,000 residents of the picturesque, yet heavily polluted, Puerto Rican island of Vieques. From 1941 until 2003 the U.S. Navy operated a base here, conducting bombing runs and testing chemical weapons for use in foreign wars, from Vietnam to Yugoslavia to Iraq.

The three-quarters of Vieques' population listed as plaintiffs in the suit blame the billions of tons of bombs dropped by the Navy on Vieques' eastern half, and the toxic chemicals released into the water, air and soil during that period, for their physical and psychological illnesses. Viequenses today suffer 30-percent higher cancer rates than other Puerto Ricans, 381-percent higher rates of hypertension, 95-percent higher rates of cirrhosis of the liver and 41-percent higher rates of diabetes. Twenty-five percent more children die during infancy in Vieques than in the rest of Puerto Rico.

Early in World War II, when fortunes looked grim for the Allies, the U.S. Navy occupied three-quarters of Vieques, which sits eight miles from the Puerto Rican mainland, moved one-third of its population to the nearby Virgin Islands, and planned to relocate the entire British fleet there in the event of a German invasion of England. Instead, Vieques became the U.S. testing ground for nearly every weapon used during the Cold War.

Though Marrero spent only 18 months on Vieques during his tour in the early 1970s, the Special Forces Marine suffers today from many of the same medical conditions as the local population. The Puerto Rican native, raised in Queens, N.Y., arrived on the island in 1970 with the task of guarding the vast array of chemical weapons the Navy stored and tested there. Marrero was exposed to toxics, including napalm and Agent Orange -- which at the time he thought was weed killer. He developed massive headaches, bled from his nose, and suffered nausea and severe cramps. "I witnessed some of the most awesome weapons used for mass destruction in the world," Marrero says. "I didn't know how dangerous those chemicals were, because it was on a need-to-know basis."

Today Marrero waits in the city of Mayaguez in western Puerto Rico for his chance to testify in court against the U.S. military for poisoning the people of Vieques and U.S. soldiers based there.

"These are American citizens, yet we violated their human rights," says the humbled former Marine. "This would never have been allowed to happen in Washington or Seattle or Baltimore."

The king can do no wrong

Before John Arthur Eaves' lawsuit can be heard, however, it must first be approved by the First Circuit Court in Boston after the suit was rejected on April 13 by federal judge Daniel R. Dominguez, who sits on the U.S. District Court in San Juan. Eaves will officially appeal the case to the First Circuit Court early this summer. But the U.S. Navy has invoked sovereign immunity, a strategy that comes from the monarchic period when kings were immune from being sued. Unless a federal judge in Boston rejects sovereign immunity, no scientific evidence will ever reach the courtroom.

"The U.S. government wants the case to be dismissed -- the 'king can do no wrong',' " says Eaves. "We claim their actions should not be protected under sovereign immunity, because when the government steps outside its discretion, its actions are no longer protected. We know that in at least one year the Navy violated the Environmental Protection Agency's [EPA] standards 102 times."

Washington rejects allegations that the Navy's activities on Vieques poisoned residents -- even though the government has admitted the presence of napalm, agent orange, depleted uranium, white phosphorous, arsenic, mercury, lead and cadmium on the former bombing range. In February 2005, the EPA identified Vieques as a Superfund site, which placed the cleanup of hazardous sites in federal hands.

In its defense, the U.S. government cites a controversial 2003 study by the Centers for Disease Control's Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). But Arturo Massol, a biologist at the University of Puerto Rico who has studied toxic contamination on Vieques, calls the ATSDR study unscientific, if not outright criminal.

"A battalion of researchers came here and used poorly designed scientific experiments to conduct a political assessment that intentionally covered up reality," Massol says. "The Navy is gone, but these agencies should be charged as accessories to murder because preventative policies could have been established after 2003."

The bombing range on eastern Vieques was indisputably subjected to more than 60 years of non-indigenous chemicals, Massol says. There are no other sources of industrial pollution on the island. Those toxic metals accumulated in the biomass of plants and were eaten by grazing cows and fish. Once pollution reached the vegetation and the base of the food chain, it was transferred into humans. Massol and other independent scientists found that Vieques animals had 50 times more lead and 10 times more cadmium than animals on mainland Puerto Rico.

Under President Barack Obama, however, the U.S. government has shown signs of changing its tune. A U.S. congressional investigation last May into Hurricane Katrina trailers contaminated with formaldehyde accused the ATSDR of colluding with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to "deny, delay, minimize, trivialize or ignore legitimate health concerns." When the Vieques case resurfaced, a team of ATSDR scientists began re-examining environmental health data on the island.

On Feb. 12, 2008, during his heated primary campaign against Hillary Clinton, then Sen. Obama wrote a letter to Puerto Rican Governor Acevedo Vila, stating that, were he to be elected president, "My Administration will actively work with the Department of Defense as well to achieve an environmentally acceptable clean-up ... We will closely monitor the health of the people of Vieques and promote appropriate remedies to health conditions caused by military activities conducted by the U.S. Navy on Vieques." Yet today, the Obama White House remains silent on the issue.

Living in the line of fire

Nanette Rosa, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, remembers what daily life was like in the Vieques village of Esperanza when the Navy airplanes took off from the island's west coast and flew overhead to drop bombs in the east.

"When the wind came from the east, it brought smoke and piles of dust from where they were bombing," Rosa says. "From January until June, they'd bomb every day, from 5 a.m. until 6 p.m. It felt like you were living in the middle of a war."

Her neighbors in Esperanza developed breathing problems and skin rashes. Then in 1993, Nanette traveled to the port town of Fajardo to have her fourth child, Coral. The girl weighed only four pounds and doctors diagnosed her with "blue baby syndrome" (a result of high nitrate contamination in the groundwater, which decreased her oxygen-carrying capacity). Doctors in San Juan performed a colostomy on Coral, and when she was six-months-old, they found eight tumors in her intestines and stomach. The day before Coral's first birthday, Nanette was told to celebrate because this would be the baby's last.

Instead, in January 1995, Nanette sold her new house for a $600 plane ticket and flew to Brooklyn to seek help. Doctors at Kings County Hospital removed half of Coral's intestines and stomach, which saved her life. Broke and without financial support, Nanette spent three months sleeping on a bench in the hospital.

Miraculously, Coral is alive today and about to turn 17. Her cancer is in remission, but doctors recently found three lumps in one of her breasts. Coral's younger sister Ainnanenuchka, 14, has been diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma (cancer in her blood and bones), and part of her leg was removed and implanted in her chin.

"I'm 100 percent confident that the lawsuit will succeed, because the Lord told me so," says Nanette, now 38 and a Pentecostal optimist. "I read in the Bible that every damage caused to the Earth has to be repaid."

And if the lawsuit doesn't succeed?

"I leave it in God's hands. If I have to go to jail, it's worth it to save my daughters' lives."

[Note: The lawsuit was recently dismissed, with prejudice, by Judge Daniel Dominguez of the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, who sided with the U.S Justice Department in its contention that the case should not be seen on its merits because of "sovereign immunity".]


Author: Jacob Wheeler
Source: In These Times


Thousands call for Nuclear Disarmament in New York

Taino and Mohawk representatives among the thousands at nuclear disarmament rally in New York City

New York, NY (UCTP Taino News) – About 10,000 activists from around the world mobilized in New York City on Sunday, May 2nd 2010 to call for “real progress” toward global nuclear disarmament. During a rally held in Times Square and a march to the United Nations participants called for an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as a nuclear free future. The lead contingent of the march included survivors of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, government officials, and representatives of the indigenous Mohawk, Navajo, Aymara, Cherokee, Tlingit, and Taino Nations.

The day of action culminated with a International Peace and Music Festival held at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza across from United Nations headquarters. Over 50 organizations displayed their literature and networked with the thousands of people who attended. There was a tent where people had the opportunity to talk with survivors of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In addition, Sakue Shimora, a survivor of the bombing of Nagasaki, spoke from the main festival stage.

Among the diverse musicians and storytellers performing at the festival were members of the Cacibajagua Taino Cultural Society and Taino Iukaieke Guainia. In addition to presenting Taino songs honoring the Earth, the group linked the struggle in Vieques to the global disarmament agenda. The Taino also urged those in attendance to support the upcoming Spiritual Run for Peace and Dignity to be held in Puerto Rico, July 2010.

The rally, march, and festival coincided with the start of the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) being held at UN Headquarters this month. The NPT is a landmark international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament.

UCTPTN 05.03.2010