United States v. Zenon – Puerto Rico – CCR Docket 1985-1986

In 1974 the United States Navy moved its military bombing range in Puerto Rico from the island of Culebra to the island of Vieques; this severely restricted the activities of many Vieques residents who made their living from the fishing industry. Island residents and others organized protest actions, pointing out that Navy bombing practice would adversely affect the fishing industry and upset the area’s deli­cate ecological balance.

In January 1980 the Navy’s bombing practice was stopped by a peaceful protest in which 11 small fishing boats entered the restricted target area and prevented the tests. Present in those boats were Carlos Zenon, president of the Vieques Fishermen’s Association, and Pedro Saade, one of its law­yers. After the demonstration, Zenon and Saade were arrested.

A U.S. court found the two guilty of trespassing and gave them the maximum sentence of six months in prison. The CCR, along with the Instituto Puertorriqueno de Derechos Civiles, appealed the conviction. The case was remanded for further hearings to allow Zenon and Saade to show that the regulation they allegedly violated was invalid; this was because the Navy had not shown that the target practice was harmless to the fishing industry.

The defendants have filed a motion to dismiss. The government filed a motion for summary judgment. Both are pending.

Michael Ratner, Margaret Ratner , with Jose Antonio Lugo and CCR cooperating attorneys Peter Berkowitz and Pedro Varela, lnstituto Puertorriqueno de Derechos Civiles, and Gregorio Lima