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Puerto Ricans oppose radar at Lajas

By Maritere Arce, el diario/La Prensa, New York City, 10 October 1995

Translated and edited by Toby Mailman

El Valle de Lajas, a peaceful agricultural area in Puerto Rico, is the scene of a battle between Puerto Ricans and the U.S. Marines over the installation of radar to detect drug contraband.

The U.S. Marines are planning to install a series of 327 pairs of aluminum antennas which would extend a mile and a half through El Valle, at a cost of $9 million and with an annual budget of $2.4 million. These antennas would work together with a transmitter on the island of Vieques [ed: where there have already been many problems because of the armed forces bomber testing on the island].

The transmitter would be located on land similarly expropriated expropriated from the municipality of Vieques, located in the north eastern part of the country. This expropriation is the cause of similar continuous protests by the residents of Vieques. The project is planned to go into effect in 1997.

The project was original thought of during the cold war by the Raytheon Company of Massachusetts in order to detect low-flying Soviet bombers.

The opposition is based on various points: For some this action would be an abuse of the people by not giving them any control over their lands; the owners are concerned about how they will make a living if they are obligated to sell their lands to the marines, and many are worried about the effect the [radar] waves will have on the health of the 25,000 inhabitants of El Valle.

The opposition stand in spite of the fact that the marines would lease the lands at a market value of $200 to $300 an acre, have made assurances that there will be no harmful effects on the inhabitants' health, and that they would allow the inhabitants to cultivate the rest of the lands in El Valle. It seems that those who support the project are in the minority, particularly in Lajas.

At the moment the proposal is frozen, since hearings on the matter have been postponed by the Environmental Quality Board.

(el diario/La Prensa, NYC, 10/10/95)