Congress of the United States
Washington, DC 20515
June 2, 1999
Committee for the Rescue
and Development of Vieques
P.O. Box 1424
Vieques, P.R. 00765
Dear Members of the Committee:
As Members of Congress who are deeply concerned with the plight of the people of Vieques, Puerto Rico, we strongly support your efforts in Puerto Rico and in Washington, DC. to raise awareness and keep the pressure in order to achieve the "Four Ds" for Vieques: (1) the Demilitarization of Vieques, (2) the "Devolucion" or return of the land beck to the people of Vieques: (3) the Decontamination of Vieques, and (4) the sustainable Development of Vieques.
The first order of business must be the permanent cease and desist of the bombing by the U.S. Navy in Vieques. This situation has been an affront to the most basic principles of social justice and humanitarianism. The fact that the U.S. Government has allowed the U.S. military to subject an inhabited island of 10,000 to constant bombing and shelling for decades is simply unconscionable.
The relations security of the United States is ill served by putting the lives and health of 10,000 U.S. citizens at risk on a daily basis. The recent death of David Sanes and the injury to several others as a result of a bomb that missed its target in Vieques, was the chronicle of a death foretold. This tragic incident was the latest instance of a careless and irresponsible attitude by the U.S. Navy towards the people of Vieques.
The people of Vieques have had to bear too heavy and too unfair a burden for decades. They have suffered enough. The U.S. Navy must get out of Vieques so that the people of Vieques may begin the process of restoring their lives, their land, and their environment back to the normalcy and peace that too many Viequenses have never enjoyed.
We commend the effort of the Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques towards achieving these goals and pledge our continued support to their efforts and to the demands by the people of Vieques to live in peace.
Member of Congress
Member of Congress
/s/ JOSE E.SERRANO
Member of Congress
Testimony by the
COMITE PRO RESCATE Y DESARROLLO DE VIEQUES
(COMMITTEE FOR THE RESCUE AND DEVELOPMENT OF VIEQUES) before the
United States Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
GOOD MORNING, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. The Comite Pro Rescate y Desarrollo de Vieques (Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques) is a non?partisan grass?roots organization dedicated to the permanent cease and desist of the bombing by the U.S. military in Vieques, Puerto Rico, to putting an end to the military presence in Vieques, and to promoting the sustainable development of the island. The Committee was founded in 1993 by community and civic leaders in Vieques of all political ideologies.
As this Committee discusses issues related to the political status of Puerto Rico, our organization would like to bring to your attention an issue that transcends political status preferences: The occupation and bombing by the U.S. Navy on Vieques, Puerto Rico. This situation is unconscionable and must be stopped. We urge this Committee, the U.S. Congress and the Administration to do all it can to address this situation without further delay. Our land and the lives of our 9,000 residents are literally at stake here.
Around 7:00 PM (EST) on April 19,1999, a U.S. Navy pilot launched two five hundred pound live bombs from his FA?18 jet that missed their target at the bombing range in Vieques, destroying the Navy's observation post, killing David Sanes, a civilian security guard at the observation post, and injuring several others.
David Sanes' death was the chronicle of a death foretold. For decades Viequenses have been clamoring for an end to the bombings and shellings on our Island and for an end to the military presence. As The Washington Post well put it in its editorial "Island Casualty" this past Monday, May 3, David's death "is more than an isolated accident. It is the latest instance of predictable harm to the people of Vieques that goes back through decades of military neglect of island interests." The Post editorial correctly added that the military can find another site as there simply should be no bombing on a small inhabited island.
Political and religious leaders, as well as leaders and representatives of other sectors of Puerto Rican society, have spoken out firmly and consistently since the killing of David Sanes, demanding an immediate end to the bombing and the gradual end of the military presence in Vieques.
This was not the first time that the Navy missed its target. Fishermen generally complain about the great number of unexploded bombs in the coastal waters of Vieques and the destruction caused to coral reefs and other elements of the marine environment done by stray bombs from jets and ships. In October of 1993, another FA?18 fighter jet missed its target by about ten miles, dropping five five hundred pound live bombs about one mile from the main town of Vieques. Luckily, no one was killed in that incident.
Last year, during maneuvers involving Navy and Puerto Rican
National Guard troops, bullets broke windows in the Public School
Buses parked at the Public Works area of the Municipal Government
in the Santa Maria sector. Several government employees in the
area at the time had to take cover until the shooting stopped.
The Mayor of Vieques has not received an explanation from the
Navy about either of these recent "accidents", and probably
will never receive much information about the killing of David
Sanes. Vieques is an island municipality of Puerto Rico, six
miles southeast of the main island. 72% of its population of
approximately 9,000 live below the poverty level. The Municipal
Government reports over 50% unemployment. Studies by the University
of Puerto Rico School of Public Health indicate that Vieques suffers
a 27% higher cancer case rate than
the rest of Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rico Legislature approved legislation ordering an epidemiological study to determine the causes of the higher cancer rate. People on Vieques, environmental and health experts throughout Puerto Rico, relate the abnormally high cancer rate to the environmental degradation caused by U.S. Navy and NATO bombing (the Navy "rents" Vieques to NATO and other countries for bombing practice) on this small Caribbean Island.
Since the 1 940's, the U.S. Navy controls 3/4 of Vieques' 33,000 acres. The western end is used as an ammunition depot while the eastern third is a bombing and maneuver area. Military expropriations in the 40's caused a social and economic crisis that lasts to this day. The Navy controls the shortest economic point between Vieques and the main island (the Puerto Rico Ports Authority must use an 18 nautical mile route instead of the six mile route controlled by the military). The Navy controls the highest points on the island, the best aquifers and most fertile lands, extensive white sand beaches, and hundreds of archaeological sites.
Large scale ecological destruction is the result of over half a century of bombing and experimentation with new weapons systems. In his study titled "Vieques: The Ecology of an Island Under Siege", Professor Jose Seguinot Barbosa, Director of the Geography Department of the University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras, explains that "the eastern tip of the island constitutes a region with more craters per kilometer than the moon." Professor Seguinot Barbosa adds that "the destruction of the natural and human resources of Vieques violates the basic norms of international law and human rights. At the state and federal level the laws pertaining to the coastal zone, water and noise quality, underwater resources, archaeological resources and land use, among others, are violated."
Chemical engineer Rafael Cruz Perez, in an article titled "Contamination Produced by Explosives and Residuals of Explosives in Vieques, Puerto Rico" (published in Dimension, Magazine of the Association of Engineers and Surveyors of Puerto Rico, Year 2, Vol. 8, Jan.1988) points out that ". . Chemicals from the bombing (TNT, NO3, NO2, RDX and Tetryl) are transported by diverse mechanisms toward the civilian area. . .We find that the effective concentration of particles over the civilian area of Vieques exceeds 197 micrograms per cubic meter and therefore exceeds the legal federal criteria for clean air."
Fishermen have for decades struggled to get the Navy to stop bombing and leave the island. Giant military ships destroy fish traps and bombing and other maneuvers impose severe restrictions on fishermen's entry into some of the best fishing areas around the island. On numerous occasions fishing boats have been damaged by naval gunfire and fishermen have been severely hurt by exploding bombs close to their fishing activities.
The Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques has begun to articulate, with the assistance of experts from Puerto Rican universities and international organizations, a vision for the future social and economic development of a Vieques freed from the Navy.
Our Committee recommends the creation of a land trust to keep and maintain the lands rescued from the Navy in the hands of the community of Vieques. Our Committee also recommends the establishment of a continuing education and training program in order to adequately empower the community of Vieques to manage its own resources, including but not limited to, its hotels, restaurants, agricultural projects, small factories, and scientific and environmental projects. The goal is to ensure the sustainable development of Vieques by Viequenses, for the benefit of Viequenses and those who visit our beautiful island.
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, this is a historic
moment for the people of Vieques. We ask the United States Congress
to take a historic step in ending more than half a century of
crude and persistent violations of the basic human rights of the
people of Vieques, Puerto Rico. Help put an end to the military
presence in Vieques. We demand peace and request that you give
us hope for peace in our island in the new millennium.
Lola Rodriguez do Tio
i Despierka Borinqueno
gue han dado la senal !
i Despierta de ese sueno
que es hora de luchar !
A ese llamar patriotico
j No arde bu corazon ?
i Ven! Nos sera simpatico
el ruido del canon.
y nuestro machete
nos la dara
gue nos espera ansiosa,
ansiosa la libertad
i La libertad, la libertad !