COMITE PRO RESCATE Y DESARROLLO DE VIEQUES
Apartado 1242 Vieques, Puerto Rico 00765
787 375-0525 787 741-7878 robert.rabin@...
4 de julio de 2009
Compa�er@s solidari@s con la lucha por la justicia y la paz en Vieques:
A continuaci�n un comunicado sobre la contaminaci�n miliar, la salud de
nuestro pueblo y el reclamo al Gobierno de los Estados Unidos a compensar a
nuestra gente por tantos abusos y atropellos durante medio siglo de
ocupaci�n y destrucci�n militar en Vieques.
La Red de Valores Americanos (American Values Network) es un grupo de fe que
trabaja a favor de los derechos humanos y la justicia. Esta nota se
relaciona con el reclamo de 7mil viequenses ante el tribunal federal por
compensaci�n para ameliorar la grave crisis de salud entre nuestras familias
causada, en gran medida, por el bombardeo, los t�xicos militares y la
estrangulaci�n econ�mica que result� del control militar sobre 2/3 del
patrimonio territorial de Vieques.
Friends of justice and peace on Vieques:
Following is a comuniqu� about military contamination, the health of our
people and the petition to the US Government for compensation for so many
years of abuses and violations during half century of military occupation
and destruction in Vieques.
The American Values Network is a faith based group that works on issues of
human rights and justice. This note is related to the claims of 7 thousand
Viequenses before the Federal Court for compensation to alleviate the health
crisis among our families caused, in great measure, by the bombing, military
toxics and the economic debacle resulting from military control over 2/3 o
AMERICAN VALUES NETWORK
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Contact: Rachel Johnson
rjohnson@americanva luesnetwork. org703-807-1839IT IS TIME TO END THE PAIN
ON VIEQUES, THE PUERTO RICO SENATE AND HOUSE ALONG WITH THE UNITED NATIONS
Keeping Campaign Promises Concerning Vieques is a Life and Death Issue
WASHINGTON, DC � The Senate and the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico,
as well as the United Nations, have given their voices and full support to
the citizens of Vieques in their struggle with disease, contamination and
neglect from the United States Navy.
"The people of Vieques, Puerto Rico are United States citizens. In fact,
their young have provided one of the highest percentages of volunteerism for
the U.S. military," said Burns Strider, President of the American Values
Network. "Yet, they struggle with disease, illness, contamination, birth
defects and many other tragic problems arising from the toxic contamination
caused by more than six decades of naval bombardment and other military
exercises on their island."
The people of Vieques have filed claims against the Navy in federal district
court in San Juan to address the numerous health matters affecting the
residents of this island municipality.
To the surprise of many, the Obama Department of Justice responded with a
motion to dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. This
decision means that the US government is in fact asking an American judge to
deny American citizens -- as it is the case of the people born in Vieques, a
municipality of Puerto Rico -- their day in court and the opportunity for
the case to be addressed on its merits.
The U.S. government claims "sovereign immunity," an archaic principle
derived from the Middle Ages when the King would say he could do no wrong
because what he does is ordained of God.
Fortunately, earlier this week, the Puerto Rico House of Representatives
unanimously approved a resolution urging President Barack Obama to instruct
the appropriate agencies to take the necessary steps to address both the
health claims of the residents of Vieques and the environmental situation of
The actions taken by the Department of Justice have raised numerous concerns
among activists and community leaders regarding the administration' s
commitment to provide fair compensation to the Viequenses. This is
particularly relevant given that many of these community leaders actively
supported Obama during both the primary and the general election.
Furthermore, many of the victims feel puzzled by the way the new
Administration is responding to the Vieques claims since as a candidate,
President Obama made a commitment that his administration would "promote
appropriate remedies to health conditions caused by military activities
conducted by the U.S. Navy on Vieques" and even sent surrogates and advisors
to Vieques to campaign on his behalf.
In fact, the resolution passed by the Puerto Rico House of Representatives
includes a clear reminder to the Administration about the contradictions
between the DOJ's actions and Obama's promises when it states that:
"...lawyers from the U.S. Department of Justice have filed motions based on
the `Federal Tort Claims Act' asking the judge to dismiss the case for lack
of subject matter jurisdiction. This is contrary to the spirit of the
promises made, as well as to the notion of access to justice deserved by a
people that were subject to sacrifices in the interests of the national
security for so long."
This House Resolution comes on the heels of another resolution unanimously
approved by the Senate of Puerto Rico, which recognizes "the contributions
and sacrifices that our brothers and sisters of Vieques, have made in the
interests of the national security of the United States of America, as well
as the lasting effects of more than sixty years of military exercises
endured by the residents of Vieques" and asks President Obama "to provide
appropriate remedies for health conditions of the people of Vieques that
could be related to the military activities conducted by the U.S. Navy."
In addition, the Senate resolution notes that in the past "the United States
of America has compensated both foreign nationals and U.S. citizens who have
endured injuries and/or damages comparable to those suffered by the U.S.
citizens of Vieques."
According to the Senate Resolution, "it would be in the best interests of
the United States of America to address the losses and ongoing medical and
economic needs of the U.S. citizens on Vieques, which could be resulting
from the U.S. Navy's long bombardment and contamination of the island" and
that the "the fastest, fairest, and most efficient way to correct the
injustice and health crisis is for the U.S. government to resolve the claims
pending in the US District Court in San Juan as well as those pending for
the Municipality of Vieques before the Secretary of Navy."
Moreover, the President of the Puerto Rico Senate, Thomas Rivera Schatz,
wrote a letter to President Obama urging his "intervention and attention to
the health issues affecting thousands of disenfranchised U.S. citizens in
the island municipality of Vieques, Puerto Rico."
As Puerto Rico Senator Jorge Su�rez, of the Popular Democratic Party, aptly
put it in his July 1st letter to President Obama, there are many people that
"hope and trust that you will heed this call, that you will take the
necessary steps to allow for the compensation of the affected Viequenses,
and that you will thus finally take swift action to put an end to the health
crisis among the U.S. citizens of Vieques, people who have borne a very
heavy burden in support of our rights and freedoms."
As a result of more than six decades of bombings, at least four generations
of American citizens in Vieques have now been exposed to toxins and heavy
metals with devastating medical consequences. Numerous scientific studies
have revealed that the rates of serious illnesses among Viequenses,
including cancer, hypertension and diabetes, far exceed those on the main
island of Puerto Rico. As pointed out by the President of the Puerto Rico
Senate, Thomas Rivera Schatz, "in spite of this, nothing is being done by
Federal authorities to address the major health problems suffered by our
fellow Americans in Vieques. They have borne a very heavy burden in defense
of our national security. Even though the bombings stopped in May 2003, they
continue to suffer from the toxic chemicals and heavy metal hazards that are
the legacy of decades of bombing and military practices in Vieques."
But those are not the only two allies of Vieques. A Special Committee of the
United Nations recently approved a resolution urging the government of the
United States to complete the return of occupied land and installations on
Vieques Island and "expedite and cover the costs of the process of cleaning
up and decontaminating the impact areas previously used in military
exercises through means that do not continue to aggravate the serious
consequences of its military activity for the health of the inhabitants of
Vieques Island and the environment. "
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