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CNN Today

Navy Warships Loom Off Vieques as Protesters Remain Camped on Bombing Range

Aired May 2, 2000 - 2:05 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: It sounds like David versus Goliath: On one side, the FBI and the U.S. Marines. On the other, several dozen demonstrators who continue this hour to occupy an American bombing range on a tiny island off Puerto Rico. But apparently not for long.

Today, Navy warships loom off the coast of Vieques and helicopters are flying overhead. But at last report, there was still no move by federal marshals to clear about 50 activists from a dozen makeshift camps. At a regular briefing within the past half hour, a Pentagon spokesman refused to offer details on plans for the operation.

Joining us for more on this story is CNN's Juan Carlos Lopez. He's on Vieques -- Juan.

JUAN CARLOS LOPEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, people here believe that the night will be the night when marshals will raid this camp site. There are at least 14 different sites occupied by protesters who believe the Navy should leave Vieques.

Now, things have gone on as usual today on this tiny island. People have gone to work, schools are open, but there is a lot of tension in the air. People are very nervous. They not only see the Navy ships circling the island, but also smaller vessels transporting equipment to the bomb range where the U.S. military has been going during the past two weeks.

Now, the people at the range have been saying that they will not resist arrest, that they will be peaceful, but that if they are arrested by the federal agents, that more people will come in. That's probably when the thousand or so marines who are aboard those ships will come into effect and will prevent people from going near this bomb range now.

People say that it's been 60 years, that they've endured the bombings for the past 60 years and that they're tired of it. Other people believe that the Navy's presence in Vieques is very important to the economy of the island and they should stay. So this is a problem that will not be solved soon. If things go as were agreed by -- in January between the governor of Puerto Rico and President Clinton, then the referendum should be called so people will decide what will happen on this island. But for today, there is a lot of tension on what may happen with the protesters in the bombing route.

ALLEN: Juan Carlos Lopez, reporting for us from Puerto Rico, thanks.

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