Vía Verde opponents arrested in White House protest
Monday, 05 September 2011

Alexis Massol from the environmental grassroots organization Casa Pueblo holds a Puerto Rican flag in Saturday’s demonstration in front of the White House. (Photo Courtesy/Reynaldo Pabón)

 

Washington D.C. -  Puerto Rican environmental activists were arrested Saturday afternoon after taking their protest against the Fortuño administration's controversial Vía Verde gas pipeline to the White House.

 

Among the protesters arrested by city police were Casa Pueblo founder Alexis Massol González and his son, Arturo Massol Deyá, who participated in the demonstration on White House grounds, organized by the group New York Against The Gas Pipeline, which includes Puerto Ricans from that state as well as from Virginia and Connecticut.

 

"We still don't know the whereabouts of Alexis and Arturo Massol, as well as that of the other [protesters] who were arrested there [and were] identified as Carlos de León and David Galarza", professor Vivien Mattei, a spokeswoman for the Adjuntas-based Casa Pueblo, said in a press release. The environmental and community organization has spearheaded the fight against the proposed 92-mile gas pipeline that would cut across Puerto Rico.

 

Before he was arrested, Massol González recalled his last visit to the U.S. capital in 2002 to receive the Goldman Prize, given to outstanding environmental leaders throughout the world.

 

"In 2002 I came to receive the Goldman [Prize] and elevate to international prominence the situation that Vieques was going through due to the U.S. Navy [bombing] practices there," he said. "Today I come here in solidarity with the indigenous peoples of this nation who face the threat of an oil pipeline and to demand that President Obama keep the pledge he made during his last visit to Puerto Rico."

 

The threat Massol González made reference to is the construction of a pipeline to transport crude oil from Canada that would cross the northern and central United States and reach the southern coast. The energy megaproject is known as Keystone XL.

 

"In Obama's visit [to Puerto Rico], and through an interagency report, he pledged to develop our economy through an immediate transition to renewable energy [sources] and an emphasis on ecological tourism," Massol González said. "It's now a contradiction for his government, through the U.S. Corps of Engineers, to even consider evaluating a gas pipeline for Puerto Rico.

 

"The president must keep his word," he added.

 

Massol González called on fellow Goldman Prize recipients to show their solidarity with Puerto Rico and urged islanders to save their patrimony.

 

"It's time for the heroes and heroines of Puerto Rico to save our waters, our forests and our people," he said. "Now is the moment to develop actions and make sacrifices that, with creativity, define the defense of our geographical fatherland," said the environmental leader, who in the 1970s and 1980s led the struggle against plans for strip mining in the roughly 873-acre Adjuntas forest that is today managed by Casa Pueblo.

 

"What's going on here is the same struggle that's going on in our island and it's the same one being waged in all corners of the Earth in rejection of fossil fuels," he said. "The world is clamoring for a change. We, the majority, are proposing renewable alternatives that allow us, as humanity, to a just and sustainable development."

 

David Galarza, spokesman for New York Against The Gas Pipeline, said that the Keystone and Vía Verde pipelines represent "death and destruction for North america, Puerto Rico and the whole planet." He said that people must be willing to stand up and assume risks, including being arrested, to "defend the only Mother Earth we have."

 

"I'm doing this in the nation's capital and I would do it in Puerto Rico at any moment," he said, calling on "all to do the same."

 

 

At the same time this protest occurred in the federal capital, the Casa Pueblo Technical and Scientific Commission met with scientists and experts in environmental law to evaluate the inconsistencies in the biological opinion issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Mattei said in a press release.

 

Source:  Inter News Wire Service, Puerto Rico Daily Sun

 

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