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Vieques News




Puerto Ricans Vote On Vieques
In a historic and defiant referendum organized
 by the Puerto Rican government, 68% of Vieques residents voted Sunday for an immediate end to more than six decades of Navy bombing practice on their tiny island. It was a record turnout for a Puerto Rican referendum more than 80% of eligible voters flocked to the polls yet those who want the Navy to stay were only able to muster a bare 30% of the vote.


Vieques Mayor 'Evicts' Navy
The mayor of Vieques delivered a symbolic eviction notice to the U.S. Navy's base on the island Monday, leading some 300 protesters celebrating a referendum that called for an immediate end to Navy bombing exercises.

For Vieques' Future Look to Hawaii
For decades the Navy strafed the island with gunfire. Ordnance exploded on windswept hills and bright blue reefs. After a lengthy political struggle that included arrests and illegal occupation by activists, islanders got what they
wanted. The Navy stopped bombing and withdrew from the land.

Vieques - Military Commercial Center
The MRTFB (Major Range Test Facility Base) is a set of test installations, facilities, and ranges which are regarded as  "national assets." These assets are sized, operated, and maintained for Department of Defense test and evaluation missions. However, the MRTFB facilities and ranges are also available to commercial and other users on a reimbursable basis.


 


Puerto Ricans Vote On Vieques
Vieques Mayor 'Evicts' Navy
For the Future of Vieques Look to Hawaii
Military Commercial Center
Utah Pol Blows Hot Air About P.R.
Viequenses Sue For $100M
Vieques: Symptom of a Larger Problem
Vieques: Bombs Have Killed Many Civilians

Fatal US Military Training Mishaps
El Despotismo De La Marina Yanqui En Puerto Rico
The Despotism Of The Yankee Navy In Puerto Rico

Chronology
Brief History Of Vieques
Vieques History

Simón Bolívar en Vieques - 1816
The Consequences Of The U.S. Navy Occupation
Cancer Surge On Bomb Range Island

UN Demonstration - August 25, 2001
NYC Vieques Alliance March October 21, 2000 Fotos
Todo Nueva York Con Vieques Dia De Reyes 1999 Fotos

Doña Adelfa: Presente! Palfrente Foto Archive
In Memoriam: Doña Adelfa Vera
Vieques Links



Puerto Ricans Vote On Vieques - Bush Remains Quiet
by Juan Gonzalez, NY Daily News

The people of Vieques have spoken but President Bush, the Republicans in Congress and the Pentagon brass keep hearing only what they want to hear.

In a historic and defiant referendum organized by the Puerto Rican
government, 68% of Vieques residents voted Sunday for an immediate end to more than six decades of Navy bombing practice on their tiny island.

It was a record turnout for a Puerto Rican referendum more than 80% of eligible voters flocked to the polls yet those who want the Navy to stay were only able to muster a bare 30% of the vote.

The biggest loser with less than 2% was the option already adopted by Bush for the Navy to withdraw from Vieques in May 2003 but to continue using inert bombs until then.

"It was a landslide victory," said a jubilant Roberto Rabin, a leader of anti-Navy protests during the past two years.

Some immediately sought to downplay the vote as "nonbinding" and therefore insignificant.

At the White House, Bush aides scrambled yesterday to deflect the stunning defeat for the President's plan, originally fashioned by former President Bill Clinton before he left the White House.

"These matters are not only decided by referendum, but they are decided by a variety of factors that represent a balanced approach," White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said.

The President agrees that the Vieques range must be closed, but he wants "a seamless transition so our military can be the best-trained it can be,"
Fleischer said.

Political Punishment

Conservative Republicans in Congress, meanwhile, are already threatening to punish Puerto Rico for its vote by amending the new defense authorization bill and closing all military facilities in the Caribbean commonwealth.

Now, let me get this straight.

A referendum called by the Puerto Rican government is "nonbinding" because Congress didn't approve of it beforehand. But a referendum that Congress did authorize for this coming November in Vieques, one which does not include the option that received 68% of the vote on Sunday, that one is binding.

In other words, the only referendum that counts is the one that doesn't
include what the vast majority of Puerto Ricans want.

Such is the colonial democracy that Congress has historically offered to Puerto Rico. In such a sham democracy, the votes of Puerto Ricans count only as long as Washington approves of the decision.

Then there is this other argument, the one the Pentagon keeps repeating, that the Vieques firing range is indispensable to military readiness because it is one of the few places on Earth where U.S. troops can simulate all aspects of live combat.

Another tangle of twisted logic.

Military Superpower

We are in an age where the United States is the world's unquestioned military superpower. Our nation has now fought two wars, in Iraq and in Kosovo, where battlefield casualties to our troops were negligible. No potential enemy army in the world comes close to ours in fighting capacity or weapons technology. No other military has the stable of foreign bases, the awesome airpower or the vast number of combat troops stationed overseas that we have.

Yet some politicians in Washington keep screaming about this bogeyman of "military readiness." Such people dream, perhaps, of wars where our soldiers incur zero casualties. Such wars do not risk becoming unpopular with the American people since all the death and destruction occurs on the other side.

In this quest for the perfect war, Vieques becomes this indispensable range. The 9,300 people who live there, who risk cancer and others diseases from the bombing, who must live with environmental destruction, turn into obstacles to be overcome the moment they object. The 3.8 million U.S. citizens on the main island of Puerto Rico who dare to question our military must be taught a lesson and punished. Any democratic vote that challenges our military's
mission is automatically "nonbinding."

The message Washington keeps sending Puerto Rico is even clearer than the one that came out of Vieques this Sunday.


Vieques Mayor 'Evicts' Navy
By Michelle Faul
Associated Press Writer

VIEQUES, Puerto Rico -- The mayor of Vieques delivered a symbolic eviction notice to the U.S. Navy's base on the island Monday, leading some 300 protesters celebrating a referendum that called for an immediate end to Navy bombing exercises.

Protesters were angered by a White House announcement Monday that the Navy would leave Vieques only as scheduled in two years, despite the overwhelming vote in Sunday's non-binding referendum for an immediate withdrawal.

Protesters set an American flag ablaze outside the base, saying the Bush administration was ignoring the democratic will of the people.

"The position of the people of Vieques is clear," said Robert Rabin, an anti-Navy protest leader. "This is an issue of life or death and one cannot depend on the Navy or the president."

Later some 300 opponents of the Navy's bombing exercises marched on the base, led by Vieques' mayor, Damaso Serrano. The mayor presented the "eviction notice" to Navy personnel at the base.

Nearly 70 percent of some 5,000 voters supported an immediate end to the bombing and the Navy's withdrawal in Sunday's referendum.

Thirty percent supported the Navy remaining indefinitely and resuming bombing with live munitions. Only 1.7 percent backed President Bush's plan for the Navy to withdraw by 2003, and continue exercises with dummy bombs.

A legally binding federal referendum is scheduled for November but residents will not be given the option to have the exercises end immediately.

In Washington, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Bush was sticking by the original schedule.

"The president has always said it's very important to listen to the people of Puerto Rico, and he has," Fleischer said. "The president also believes it's very important to have a seamless transition so that our military can be the best trained it can be so we are prepared for any contingencies around the world."

The Navy says its bombing range on the tiny island off of Puerto Rico is needed to provide essential training that saves lives in combat.

The Navy has said a fresh round of exercises could begin as early as Wednesday.

Serrano warned Monday if the Navy and Bush don't stop the exercises, he will call for protesters to enter the bombing range to prevent bombing runs.

"If they don't stop the bombing we are going to ask for the people of Vieques to go inside the impact area to stop it themselves," he said.


Vieques - Military Commercial Center
http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/unframed/10/2681.html
http://www.defenselink.mil/acq/ebusiness

Contract Price - A contract entered into under subsection (a) shall include a provision that requires a commercial entity using a Major Range and Test Facility Installation under the contract to reimburse the Department of Defense for all direct costs to the United States that are associated with the test and evaluation activities conducted by the commercial entity under the contract. In addition, the contract may include a provision that requires the commercial entity to reimburse the Department of Defense for such indirect costs related to the use of the installation as the Secretary of Defense considers to be appropriate. The Secretary may delegate to the commander of the Major Range and Test Facility Installation the authority to determine the appropriateness of the amount of indirect costs included in
such a contract provision.


For the Future of Vieques, Look to Hawaii
By Debra A. Klein


SAN FRANCISCO -- For decades the Navy strafed the island with gunfire. Ordnance exploded on windswept hills and bright blue reefs. After a lengthy political struggle that included arrests and illegal occupation by activists, islanders got what they wanted. The Navy stopped bombing and withdrew from the land.

This is not the story of Vieques, the island off Puerto Rico, but rather of Kahoolawe, Hawaii, a 45-square mile island about seven miles off Maui's coast. What happened there serves as a cautionary tale. Indeed, the controversial White House decision to order the Navy to stop bombing Vieques in 2003 could be the first spark in a long battle over how to restore the land.

During World War II, despite Kahoolawe's status as a sacred place to Hawaiians, the Navy commandeered the island for live-fire training for its Pearl Harbor fleet. Evidence of ancient cultures, from stone temples to one of the region's largest troves of adzes, tools used to trim wood, dotted the island. Many artifacts were over 1,000 years old, preserved for centuries under wild grasses and brush.

In the 1970's, Hawaiian activists organized as the Protect Kahoolawe Ohana began protesting the shelling. In 1976, some staged a daring dawn raid to occupy the island. Seven were arrested, but two eluded capture and hid out on the island for three days. By 1980, the courts granted Hawaiians permission to visit the island for spiritual services, roughly once a month. The island was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981. Finally, in 1990, President George Bush issued an executive order that stopped the bombing.

But the conflict didn't end. In 1993, Congress agreed to finance a 10-year Navy cleanup, but activists complained that the job should have gone to a more experienced branch of the military, like the Army Corps of Engineers.

It took five years for the cleanup even to begin. Circumstances unique to the island slowed the pace; hundreds of workers had to be transported onto a rocky shore without a dock or landing strip. The island's iron- rich natural soil made metal detectors an impractical way to find buried bombs. Instead, each small swatch of land had to be tediously examined by a procession of surveyors, archaeologists, brush cutters, surface sweepers and bomb technicians.

Local people complained that the Navy had squandered much of the $400 million cleanup budget on expensive helicopter transports. The Navy countered that Hawaiians took too much time building a consensus on how best to restore the land.

By 2000, the Navy had cleaned only one-tenth of the island and had to scrap its initial plan to clean not only the entire island's surface, but also one-third of the subsurface. Today, the Navy projects it will clear two- thirds of the surface and small areas of the subsurface by 2003, when Congressional financing runs out. The money will be gone, but the bombs won't. The grand plans for a cultural and historic park on the island have been drastically curtailed.

In 2003, the same year the Navy withdraws its cleanup operation from Kahoolawe, it will stop firing on Vieques. The bombs may well fall silent on that island after decades of struggle, but their echo is sure to haunt Puerto Ricans for years.


Utah Pol Blows Hot Air About P.R.
by  Juan Gonzalez
Thursday, June 21, 2001

James Hansen, a conservative Republican congressman from Utah, claimed this week that the people of Puerto Rico have a "sweetheart deal" and are living off welfare from the United States.

"They sit down there on welfare, and very few of them paying taxes," Hansen said.

It would be easy to blame these idiotic remarks on overexposure to Utah's desert sun, but unfortunately more than a few  people in our country actually believe such nonsense. So the time has come to puncture this welfare state myth once and for all. Can you handle it, Hansen?

Utah vs. Puerto Rico

Two simple facts that will blow your mind:

First, the state of Utah receives far more federal aid than does Puerto Rico!

Second, every year Puerto Rico contributes billions of dollars more to the U.S. economy than it receives in return, and this has gone on for decades. In other words, Puerto Ricans are subsidizing U.S. prosperity.

But don't take my word for it. Check the Census Bureau's own statistics. Every year, the bureau publishes something called the "Consolidated Federal Funds Report," which breaks down federal payments to individual states and territories.

The latest one, for fiscal 1999, reveals that the federal treasury spent $12.9 billion in Puerto Rico, compared with $9.2 billion in Utah. But Utah's population of 2.3 million is far smaller than Puerto Rico's 3.8 million.

Since 1917, anyone born in Puerto Rico has been a U.S. citizen, yet on a per capita basis the federalgovernment shelled out an average of $4,016 for every resident of Utah in 1999, compared with $3,416 for every resident of Puerto Rico.

And even though only 10% of Utah's population lives below the poverty level ”compared with 65% of Puerto Rico's population”. Utah received more than twice as many Medicaid dollars from the federal government: $558 million to $219 million.

Actually, the federal transfers are not all outright grants. Payments for things such as Social Security, veterans benefits and Medicare are all entitlements the recipients have earned either through service in the military or through payroll taxes.

Subtracting those entitlements, federal grants to Puerto Rico are reduced to $7.5 billion, and $5.2 billion for Utah. That's still a lot of money. Yet it doesn't begin to compare with the vast wealth tiny Puerto Rico provides the United States.

Corporate Windfalls

The island is so small, after all, that it could practically fit inside
Utah's Great Salt Lake, yet for decades it has been the most profitable place for U.S. corporations in the world.

In 1995, for instance, U.S. companies earned $14.3 billion in profits from their direct investments in Puerto Rico, more than any other nation, and more than their combined profits in Brazil, Germany and Mexico. Those companies made such superprofits because, just like
individual Puerto Rican citizens, they are exempt from federal income taxes.

The actual amount of money Puerto Rican individuals would have to pay in federal taxes, remember, would not be that great, because two-thirds of them are at the poverty level and many would be eligible for the earned income tax credit.

Education, Stars

Another place where Utah gets far more federal money than Puerto Rico is in military payrolls and procurement.

That might explain why Hansen is so upset over Puerto Rican protests against military bombing in Vieques. Hansen should spend more time studying the facts and less time displaying his ignorance.

Utah, after all, seems to suffer from an educational deficit. In 1990, a mere 177,000 of the state's adult residents had college degrees, comparedwith 503,000 in Puerto Rico. No wonder the list of famous Puerto Ricans seems to dwarf that of poor Utah.

Utah claims such well-known natives as Roseanne, Maude Adams, the Osmonds and Butch Cassidy, the outlaw. The state's biggest native sports heroes? Former pro footballers Merlin Olsen and Jim McMahon.

Puerto Ricans, on the other hand, proudly point to world-famous cellist Pablo Casals, percussionist Tito Puente, actors Raul Julia and Rita Moreno, singers Marc Anthony and Jose Feliciano. As for sports, from Roberto Clemente to Orlando Cepeda to Juan Gonzalez and Ivan Rodriguez...  The list of stars seems as endless as the deserts of Utah.


Viequenses Sue For $100M
By Matthew Chapman on Vieques

The residents of a Caribbean island used as a bombing range are claiming more than $100m in damages from the US Navy over claims that ammunition including depleted uranium (DU) shells have caused an epidemic of cancers there.

More than a third of the 9,000 inhabitants of Vieques have been found to be suffering from a range of serious illnesses and cancers, which doctors have linked to decades of bombing by the US and the military of other countries including the British Royal Navy.

According to official Puerto Rican figures, cancer rates on the island are soaring, with the numbers of people suffering from cancer of the breast, cervix and uterus up by 300% over the past 20 years.

The court case brought by the islanders will be closely watched by the governments of Nato countries which sent troops to Kosovo and the Gulf War where the use of DU shells has been linked with leukaemia cases.

The island of Vieques is just 30km long and 6km wide and lies within sight of mainland Puerto Rico. For the past 60 years its population has been sandwiched into a strip of land in between some of the world's busiest bombing ranges.


Campaigners on the island made an order through the Freedom of Information Act to force the Navy to publicly admit it had fired DU shells onto a range on the eastern tip of the island in 1999.

The Navy said this was done by mistake after the wrong ammunition was loaded onto a fighter jet and they made efforts to recover the radioactive shell casings afterwards. But, they only managed to find around 50 of them.

Scientists, however, who have conducted soil samples on the ranges say they have found evidence of systematic bombing with DU shells going back at least a decade.

A Mississippi-based law firm John Arthur Eaves, which specialises in class action law suits involving industrial pollution, has brought together 3,600 islanders suffering from illnesses it says are linked to the decades of bombing on Vieques and the use of DU shells.

"I think $100m may turn out to be at the lower end of the scale of what we might get from the Navy," John Arthur Eaves Jr said.

"We have already spent $7m on preparing this case which we wouldn't have done if we didn't think we had a very good chance of winning."

Rolando Garcia, one of the plaintiffs on the island is a father-of-two, who is only 32 but looks nearer 50.

"I had never heard of uranium before this," he said, "but now it looks like it might kill me."

His test results show him to be contaminated with a bewildering range of heavy metals, the most worrying to him being uranium.

He thinks he may have been exposed when he worked on the bombing range, maintaining military buildings.

Every hair on his body has dropped off and he now walks in slow shuffling steps, making a tremendous effort just to cross his living room.

Yet there are others on the island showing high levels of uranium in their bodies who have never been on the bombing ranges themselves.

They are thought to have picked up heavy metals blown off the bombing ranges by the strong easterly winds which regularly sweep across this island.

Although the Navy maintains that several hundred DU shells would not be enough to constitute a health hazard, scientists claim to have found signs of far greater use of the ammunition.

"They say the shells were used on target tanks on one particular spot on the bombing range," said Jorge Fernandez, an environmental expert on the mainland of Puerto Rico.

"But when we made soil samples we found nine separate spots, all over the hundreds of acres of this bombing range, which showed significant levels of uranium."


Vieques: Symptom of a Larger Problem
JOSE E. APONTE/Washington D.C

Much has been said and written concerning the Vieques Island naval controversy, which Mary McGrory writes about in her April 26 column. But what has been conspicuously left out of this debate is the root of the problem, namely the unresolved nature of Puerto Rico's political status.

The impasse between the government of Puerto Rico and the Navy has been a public relations nightmare for the people of Puerto Rico. It has created the perception that the nearly 4 million U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico are an unpatriotic bunch. But what about the people who live near the Dahlgren Navy base in Virginia? They have complained about noise levels, damage to their homes and other factors. Are they unpatriotic as well?

Until Puerto Ricans cease to be disenfranchised American citizens and Puerto Rico becomes either a state or an independent republic, confrontations over issues like Vieques will continue to occur.


Vieques: Bombs Have Killed Many Civilians
Iván Ramos Soler

The U.S. Navy claims that the accident on April 19, 1999, which killed a civilian in Vieques, is the only casualty that it has caused on the Island. In making this statement, the Navy is, once again, covering up the truth about its dangerous activities in Vieques.

For example, the Navy is concealing the tragic accident in which four boys stepped on a bomb that was carelessly left in Vieques after a military drill in 1952. The details of this accident are narrated in full herein as seen through the eyes of several children caught in the explosion. In investigating these tragedies, it has also been discovered that several other similar accidents have occurred in Vieques. Unfortunately, very little has been done to uncover the circumstances surrounding some of these other casualties.

The accident, suffered by Jesús Chuito Legrand, Frank Santiago, Miguel Miguelín Legrand and Luis Campeche Campos Encarnación, after stepping on a mortar bomb, left a strong mark in the minds of many other children who lived in Vieques at the time. Many of those children are now influential community leaders and activists who oppose the Navy presence on the Island.

The accident occurred when a group of four boys were playing near a small dairy farm owned by Pedro Felix, in an area in Vieques formerly known as Bastimento. There was another group of three older boys, who were also in the area of the accident but were not injured. Carlos Zenón, who is now one of the leaders of the movement to oust the Navy from Vieques, was one of
these older boys who was in the vicinity of the accident.

Witnesses recall that they heard a loud explosion coming from the Bastimento area. Most assumed that the explosion was part of a military drill because, even though no maneuvers were supposed to take place that day, it is common for the Navy to conduct exercises without warning the civilian population. Several minutes after the explosion, Zenón heard wailing sounds and cries coming from a bushy area nearby. He advanced, with his brother Julio and another boy named José Vidal Lucas, towards the area were the sounds were coming from. He found the four younger boys, Frank, Miguelín, Campeche and Chuito, lying on the ground, covered with blood. Apparently one of the four boys had stepped on an explosive left on the ground by the Navy, setting it off.

Zenón recalls that he saw the body of Chuito Legrand lying face down on the ground, shivering and swinging its arms. He approached the body of the boy and flipped it face-up, in order to be able to see his face. When he turned the body around, Chuito’s skull opened, dripping blood and, spilling its encephalic matter on the ground. Although Chuito’s body was still
moving at the time, Zenón knew immediately that his friend would not survive the explosion.

Chuito was a vivacious seventh grader who always played around Vieques with his shirt off, as if he were enjoying his last days in a tropical Eden. His skin was really tanned, like copper recalls Angel Guadalupe, another well known Vieques activist, and his eyes were impressive, because they were green or hazel, and made a nice contrast with his skin color.

The three other boys involved in the explosion suffered serious injuries also. Frank, Miguelín and Campeche were strewn across the field, bleeding profusely. Zenón ran to a dirt road nearby, and signaled a Navy jeep to stop. I didn’t know English, but when the sailors saw my hands covered with blood they knew that it was serious. The Navy men followed me to the place were the boys were lying on the ground. They immediately radioed for help and several rescue helicopters were flown in from the Roosevelt Roads Naval Base in Ceiba, recalls Zenón who was one of the oldest boys in the group.

The day after the explosion, life, in the otherwise quiet Island, came to a stand still. The men from Roosevelt Roads confirmed what many, already suspected: Chuito was dead. I will never forget that day. I was about nine years old. When the news came in, I was on the baseball field playing short stop, recalls Ismael Guadalupe, a fiery Vieques leader who has lead
numerous civil disobedience campaigns to stop the bombing of the Island. I even remember the clothes that I was wearing that day. It was a white shirt that was too big for me. Undoubtedly, the explosion that killed Chuito has played an important role in my development as an activist.

The other three boys caught in the explosion were maimed for the rest of their lives. Miguelín, Chuito’s brother, suffered permanent injuries in one of his arms. Several bomb fragments were lodged inside Frank’s body, causing pain and discomfort throughout his adult life. Campeche was paralyzed for many months and had difficulty walking many years after the bomb smashed his legs.

Although Chuito’s death moved the people in Vieques, his story did not receive much attention from the news media in Puerto Rico. Political repression was widespread in those days and many were going to jail for openly criticizing the United States dominion over Puerto Rico. For example, Puerto Rico’s National Poet, Francisco Matos Paoli was imprisoned in 1951 solely because he uttered four subversive speeches.

Due to this atmosphere of political persecution, the people of Puerto Rico were not fully aware of the large number of casualties caused by the Navy in Vieques. A careful review of the history of Vieques shows that Chuito’s death was not an isolated incident and that many similar tragedies have gone unreported.

In the early 1940’s, Anastasio Acosta and his son Domingo were killed when the hoof of the horse that they were riding struck and detonated an explosive. In the 1960’s, a stray bullet fired by a sailor during target
practice killed Elena Holiday. In addition, hand grenades left over by military men have caused several accidents on the Island. In the early 1970’s, a young girl lost several fingers when a group of children, who
were playing on the beach, accidentally detonated a rusty hand grenade.

Similar accidents also occurred on the neighboring Puerto Rican Island of Culebra, where the Navy conducted military training until 1975. In 1940 a child died in Culebra from a grenade explosion. In another similar accident, Alberto Peña García, a fifteen year old child, died when a grenade exploded in his hands. Issac Espinosa lost an arm, also as a result of a grenade in 1914. In 1940, Vicente Romero lost an arm in a similar incident.

In 1964, Sixto Colón lost his right eye from the explosion of a weapon abandoned by the Navy. Moreover, a bomb that was mistakenly dropped at the observation point in Culebra killed nine Navy officers in April of 1946.

Unexploded ordnance and, stray bombs and bullets were a serious problem in Vieques throughout the 1990’s and are still a problem today. After the fatal accident in April of 1999, journalists from all over the world photographed hundreds of unexploded bombs scattered all over the Island evidencing the Navy’s continuous disregard for the safety of children like Chuito. Stray bullets have also been a problem in recent years. On one occasion, several stray bullets hit motor vehicles from the Department of Public Works in Vieques. Fortunately, no one was injured in this incident.

Not all the victims of the Navy have died directly from bombs and bullets like Chuito. Many have died by the criminal acts of drunken sailors and authoritarian Navy officers. The people in Vieques still remember when an
elderly man named Mapepe Christian was brutally killed by a gang of drunken sailors. They also remember the murder of Urbano Rosario and the fatal
shooting of a twelve year old boy named Esteban Correa, who was killed by a Navy officer right in front of the gate to Camp García.

Toxic materials present in the Navy’s bombs and weapons have caused the cancer rate in Vieques to skyrocket. Due to the use of toxic substances by the
Navy such as napalm, uranium, chromium, mercury, lead and cadmium, the people of Vieques suffer from a cancer rate that is 27 percent higher than the rest of Puerto Rico. These persons who are dying of cancer in Vieques are, like Chuito and his friends, victims of the Navy's military practices.

Therefore, it is disingenuous for the Navy to claim that there has only been one casualty in the sixty-year history of its bombing range. To date only some casualties, such as the one suffered by Chuito and his friends, have been documented. Many others are currently being investigated with the hope that the findings of such investigations will expose to the world
what the people of Puerto Rico already know: the suffering of the people of Vieques and the arrogance and moral turpitude of their military oppressors.

The author is a member of Todo Connecticut con Vieques he can be reached at:

ivanr67@hotmail.com


Fatal US Military Training Mishaps

A look at some fatal, non-combat military accidents in the past decade:

2001:

- March 3: A plane carrying members of a National Guard engineering crew on a training mission crashes and bursts into flames, killing all 21 people on board.

- Feb. 14: Two Army helicopters collide and crash during a night training exercise near Honolulu, killing six men.

- Feb. 9: The submarine USS Greeneville crashes into the Japanese fishing vessel Ehime Maru while conducting a rapid-ascent drill. Nine are killed.

2000:

- Dec. 11: A Marine MV-22 tilt-rotor Osprey crashes in a heavily wooded area near Jacksonville, N.C., killing four Marines.

- Aug. 2: A 21-year-old Marine dies and a midshipman is injured when they are trapped between two five-ton trucks during a nighttime training accident near Camp Pendleton, Calif.

- April 8: A Marine MV-22 tilt-rotor Osprey crashes at the Marana Northwest Regional Airport about 15 miles
northwest of Tucson during a training exercise, killing 19 Marines aboard.

1999:

- Dec. 29: American soldier is shot and killed during a
routine training exercise in Kuwait.

- Dec. 9: A CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter on a training flight crashes 15 miles off the San Diego shore, killing seven Marines from Miramar Naval Air Station.

- April 19: Two Marine jets drop bombs on a lookout post at the Vieques training ground in Puerto Rico. One civilian is killed. Four others are injured, including three civilians.

1998:

- Sept. 3: Two helicopters from Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., collide in a remote mountain range near Area 51, killing 12 crewmen. The helicopters, from the 66th Rescue Squadron, were practicing rescues.

- Feb. 3: A Marine EA-6B Prowler severs a cable holding a gondola on a ski lift in northern Italy. The 20 people inside are killed.

1996:

- Nov. 22: Ten Oregon-based crewman are killed when all four engines fail on an HC-130P cargo plane. The Air Force plane was on a training mission over the Pacific about 40 miles off the coast of Cape Mendocino, Calif.

- June 18: Two Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters collide near Fort Campbell, Ky., just before the soldiers are to descend to a mockup of a downed helicopter and "rescue" soldiers pretending to be injured. Six people are killed and 30 injured.

1994:

- March 23: An F-16 fighter jet collides with a C-130
transport at Pope Air Force Base, N.C., killing 23
paratroopers.

1992:

- Dec. 1: Two military cargo jets collide near Harlem, Mont., after refueling during a training flight and crash, killing all 13 aboard.

- Oct. 30: An Air Force helicopter plunges into the Great Salt Lake, killing 12 people and injuring one. Everyone on board the MH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter was from Hill Air Force Base in Utah.

- July 20: An experimental V-22 tilt-rotor Osprey plunges into the Potomac River while trying to land at the Marine Air Station at Quantico, Va., killing three Marines and four civilians. The Pentagon finds a combination of a flash fire, engine failure and a failed drive shaft are to blame.

- Feb. 9: A Kentucky Air National Guard C-130 transport plane slams into a motel and restaurant in Evansville, Ind. Five crew members and 11 people on the ground are killed.


Cancer Surge On Bomb Range Island
By Matthew Chapman on Vieques
BBC NEWS
Sunday, 4 February, 2001, 07:53 GMT

The residents of a Caribbean island used as a bombing range are claiming more than $100m in damages from the US Navy over claims that ammunition including depleted uranium (DU) shells have caused an epidemic of cancers there. More than a third of the 9,000 inhabitants of Vieques have been found to be suffering from a range of serious illnesses and cancers, which doctors have linked to decades of bombing by the US and the military of other countries including the British Royal Navy.

According to official Puerto Rican figures, cancer rates on the island are soaring, with the numbers of people suffering from cancer of the breast, cervix and uterus up by 300% over the past 20 years. The court case brought by the islanders will be closely watched by the governments of Nato countries which sent troops to Kosovo and the Gulf War where the use of DU shells has been linked with leukemia cases.

The island of Vieques is just 30km long and 6km wide and lies within sight of mainland Puerto Rico. For the past 60 years its population has been sandwiched into a strip of land in between some of the world's busiest bombing ranges. Campaigners on the island made an order through the Freedom of Information Act to force the Navy to publicly admit it had fired DU shells onto a range on the eastern tip of the island in 1999.

The Navy said this was done by mistake after the wrong ammunition was loaded onto a fighter jet and they made efforts to recover the radioactive shell casings afterwards. But, they only managed to find around 50 of them. Scientists, however, who have conducted soil samples on the ranges say they have found evidence of systematic bombing with DU shells going back at least a decade.

A Mississippi-based law firm John Arthur Eaves, which specialises in class action law suits involving industrial pollution, has brought together 3,600 islanders suffering from illnesses it says are linked to the decades of bombing on Vieques and the use of DU shells. "I think $100 million may turn out to be at the lower end of the scale of what we might get from the Navy," John Arthur Eaves  said.

"We have already spent $7m on preparing this case which we wouldn't have done if we didn't think we had a very good chance of winning."

One of the plaintiffs on the island is father-of-two Rolando Garcia, who is only 32 but looks nearer 50. His test results show him to be contaminated with a bewildering range of heavy metals, the most worrying to him being uranium.

"I had never heard of uranium before this," he said, "but now it looks like it might kill me."

He thinks he may have been exposed when he worked on the bombing range itself, maintaining military buildings. Every hair on his body has dropped off and he now walks in slow shuffling steps, making a tremendous effort just to cross his living room. Yet there are others on the island showing high levels of uranium in their bodies who have never been on the bombing ranges themselves. They are thought to have picked up heavy metals blown off the bombing ranges by the strong easterly winds which regularly sweep across this island. Although the Navy maintains that several hundred DU shells would not be enough to constitute a health hazard, scientists claim to have found signs of far greater use of the ammunition.

"They say the shells were used on target tanks on one particular spot on the bombing range," said Jorge Fernandez, an environmental expert on the mainland of Puerto Rico.

"But when we made soil samples we found nine separate spots, all over the hundreds of acres of this bombing range, which showed significant levels of uranium."

Campaigners also claim to have identified target tanks dating back as far as 1991 which contained shell holes characteristic of the DU ammunition's ability to burn smoothly through armour rather than rip it apart like conventional ordnance. The US military as a whole has maintained that there is no evidence to link the use of uranium in weaponry to any illnesses among troops.

"Stories of cancers and illness are just part of a campaign of misinformation by those opposed to our presence on the island," said US Navy Commander John Carerra.

"We are talking about very small amounts of depleted uranium and we have done our utmost to make sure it is cleared away."


LINKS

El Nuevo Día Interactivo
Noticias De Última Hora
Y Archivo De Todos Sus
Artículos Anteriores

Palfrente
Vieques Vive
Vieques Libre

Women Of Vieques
U.S. Navy Web Site
Renacer Viequense
Hip Hop For Vieques
Stop The Bombs 2000
Visit To A Small Island
El Nuevo Día Interactivo
Independencia.Net (PIP)

Vieques Humane Society
American Friends Service Committee
Vieques Arrests & Fotos (El Nuevo Dia)

Daoudc@aol.com
Vieques2000@hotmail.com
ViequesSupport@worldnet.att.net
TNYVieques@aol.com
(Todo Nueva York ConVieques)



 

 

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Campaign To Release The Remaining Puerto Rican  Prisoners
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http://www.PetitionOnline.com/Faltan6/


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