To: Recipients of conference
Subject: VIEQUES RANGE & TOXICS (fwd)
Date: Monday, June 09, 1997 1:35PM
/* Written 11:53 PM Jun 5, 1997 by lsiegel in igc:cpro.military */
/* ---------- "VIEQUES RANGE & TOXICS" ---------- */
From: Pacific Studies Center <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Vieques island, Puerto Rico is the site of an ongoing anti-colonial struggle against Navy bombing similar to the Hawai'ian movement that successfully halted Navy munitions training on the island of Kaho'olawe. There are two major differences. People still live on Vieques. And the Navy is still using the island for target practice. There is reported evidence of even more toxic contamination from munitions than has been reported at ranges within the 50 United States. The following two papers come to us from the Comite Pro Rescate y Desarrollo de Vieques (Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques) Apartado 1424, Vieques, Puerto Rico, 00765. - Lenny Siegel
The most alarming contaminating factor in Vieques, and also the oldest, historically, is the U.S. Navy. The fifty years that the Navy has been operating in Vieques can be classified as "a half century of environmental disaster."
The Puerto Rican environmentalist Dr. Neftali Garcia, in his work, "Historical and natural Consequences of the U.S. Navy Presence in Vieques," affirms that the military practices have produced serious destruction of the "mangroves, lagoons, beaches, coconut groves and other natural resources (...) the Navy destroyed the coco groves of Bahia Tapon, Bahia de la Chiva, Pnta Brigadier, Puerto Negro, Puerto Diablo and has begun the destruction in other areas like Bahia Salinas del Sur."
Professor Jose Seguinot Barbosa, Director of the Geography Department of the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras, in his study entitled, "Vieques, the Ecology of an Island Under Siege" (1989) maintains that "the eastern tip of the island (where the Navy carries out its bombing practice) constitutes a region with more craters per kilometer that the moon." In the same work, Seguinot states that "the destruction of the natural and human resource 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."
The Viequense chemical engineer, Rafael Cruz Perez, in an article entitles, "Contamination Produced by Explosives and Residuals of Explosives in Vieques, Puerto Rico," (Dimension, Magazine of the Association of Engineers and Surveyors of Puerto Rico, Year 2, Vol. 8 Jan. 1988) describes three sources of contamination that result from the Navy's activities in Vieques: 1) the chemical composition of the missiles' charge and the composition of the reaction; 2) the particles of dust and rock that are thrown into the atmosphere as a result of the projectile's impact or of the explosions; 3) metallic residues left by the projectiles when they fragment, as well as the scrap iron used as targets in the bombing area.
Cruz is an environmental consultant with vast experience in the field. He was an artillery officer in the US Army and worked in Vieques studying the environmental effects of the artillery practices that are conducted there. He describes the situation of Cerro Matias and other adjacent sectors (the Navy's bombing zone) like a "battlefield during the First World War, where the ground and a great part of the vegetation has been reduced to dust (...) you see the bomb fragments and pieces, as well as the bombs that didn't explode (...) scrap iron that is used as targets (...) Cerro Matias can be considered in its fundamental characteristics as a giant deposit of solid waste."
The Viequense engineer adds in his article that "according to the information provided by the US Navy, this material is never removed, instead it is detonated or simply covered over with dirt (...) As a result of the effects of the explosions, the sea breezes and natural atmospherization, the metal's are oxidized or decomposed changing in an accelerated form into products that contaminate the environment."
"In the same study we find (...) that the concentration of the contaminants (TNT, NO3, NO2, RDX and Tetryl) in the sources of drinking water in the towns of Isabel Segunda and la Esperanza, are the same or similar to those found in the ponds and lagoons in the bombing area in Cerro Matias. The study does no explain how these substances reach the water sources, located more that fourteen kilometers from the bombing area."
"It is clear from all the above," the author points out, "that components resulting from the explosions in the bombing area in the eat of Vieques are transported by diverse mechanisms toward the civilian area in the center of the island (...) In the case of the explosion of pieces of artillery, missiles and bombs, there exist various factors which directly or indirectly, increase the facility of movement of these contaminants (...) The cloud of contaminants generated by an explosion is dispersed by the effects of the prevailing winds in the explosion area (...) the fine particles become part of the atmosphere, and are transported through the air over great distances (...) we find that the effective concentration of particles over the civil area of Vieques exceeds 197 micrograms per cubic meter and therefore exceeds the legal federal criteria for clean air."
The scientific studies confirm what every Viequense knows from experience: that the presence and activities of the US Navy result in an environmental crisis with serious consequences fro the human and physical geographic health. An obvious solution will be to end the overwhelming source of contamination in Vieques: US Navy out of Vieques!
(Robert Rabin, Vieques Historic Archives 1992
Translation to English by US/Puerto Rico Solidarity Network for publication in Puerto Rico Update)
In October of 1992, on the Island of Vieques, Puerto Rico, U.S. Navy pilots conducted the first bombing in ten years using live napalm. Napalm contains an incendiary material and gelatinous phosphorous that burns everything around it and adheres to skin. Between 1963 and 1968, the Unites States dropped nearly one hundred thousand tons of napalm on Vietnam. Just one ton of this combustible gelatin will burn a surface area equivalent to one and a half football fields in seconds.
Due to recent studies that show that water deposits in the Esperanza neighborhood are contaminated with residues from explosives used by the Navy during bombings on the eastern part of Vieques, residents fear that the use of napalm will aggravate the situation. Traces of the explosive, TNT, were found in the water in Esperanza. According to the study carried out the chemical engineer Rafael Cruz Prez, published in the magazine, Dimension, of the chemical engineers guild of Puerto Rico, the Navy has created a gigantic solid waste zone on the eastern part of Vieques. Puerto Rican scientists and environmentalists are trying to determine the ecological impact of the napalm bombing. During a period of two weeks of practice the Navy, besides napalm, dropped twenty tons of live bombs over the target area of Vieques. The island of Vieques is 33,000 acres large of which 26,000 are occupied by the Navy.
According to the newspaper, El Navegante, published by the Navy at the Roosevelt Roads base, seven "Intruder" bombers attacked targets in Vieques. A spokesman for the Navy indicated that it "costs the squadron only half as much to fly to Puerto Rico as to travel to the West Coast (California) to bomb", saving money on gas. It also said that there is "no need to wait on line for access to the bombing area" and that "two weeks (of practice in Vieques) is the equivalent of two months of training at the Cherry Point, North Carolina base.
The people of Vieques have suffered more than half a century of abuse under the US Navy, which expropriated three quarters of the island in the 1940's. Since then Vieques has been a victim of both economic as well as physical destruction.
Over there fifty years the Navy has carried out bombings and other military practices on the eastern part of Vieques, a zone which before the military presence provided the means of survival for thousands of families. Large stretches of coconut, mangroves with rich supplies of crabs and other fish, salt mines for local use and export, large and small sugar farms like those at Campana, Ensenada Honda and Campo Asilo made the eastern part of the island crucial for the economic and social life of the people.
During the 1970's Vieques' fishermen, with the support of a large sector of the people on the island as well as on the big island, mounted a strong and well organized offensive to end the bombing and began the process of rescuing lands from the Navy's grasp. That struggle of men and women "fishing for their dignity," bore important fruits. This heroic gesture broke the veil of silence and fear that the Navy and their "stooges" had tried - and are still trying today - to impose on the people of Vieques.
The militant protest on water and land against the Navy's presence that were organized between 1978 and 1980 attracted world attention to this small island. The theme of Vieques was discussed in local and world press and was heard in the White House (in Washington and San Juan) and in the United Nations.
The pressure by the Viequense/Puerto Rican people forced the U.S. Congress to carry out a series of public hearings in 1980 to investigate the Navy's activities in Vieques. After much testimony by prominent Navy and US government officials, functionaries of the Puerto Rican government, - including then governor, Carlos Romero Barcelo - and members of the Vieques community both for and against the Navy's presence, the U.S. Congressional Committee delivered its opinion that the Navy should abandon the island of Vieques and look for another place to carry out its maneuvers.
The Cold War has ended, and according to President Bush, we live in a "new world order." Nevertheless, the Navy has not left Vieques, but rather continues to control three-quarters of the island, strangling any possibility for real growth, and continues massive ecological destruction of the island. For Bush, a "new world order." For Vieques, the same old bombings. How long?