Vieques, Puerto Rico/NO TO THE SPECULATORS
- Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques
PO Box 1424 Vieques, Puerto Rico 00765
Tel. 787 741-0716 Fax 741-0358 E mail: bieke@...
Special Report from the Peace and Justice Camp
30 August, 2003
NO TO THE SPECULATORS
Since May first, we have received many messages expressing concern about speculators and foreign economic interests that seek control our lands. Articles published recently in the US press decribe the situation and warn of this serious threat. We respond here to two articles in particular published in the New York Times. On July 26, the NYT published a piece by John Todd, ''ecologist'' from Vermont, titled: "A Golden Opportunity for Vieques to be Green". Todd criticizes two Puerto Rican Government projects - one touristic the other for fishermen - both in the area of Esperanza. He claims both projects threaten the bioluminescent bay, sea turtles and other elements of nature. He argues the government should support the "... several eco-tourism projects under way or planned for Vieques ... whose builders are trying to be sensitive to their surroundings ..."
Todd does not mention in his article that he is part of an international consortium based in New York that plans a mega hotel complex for Vieques - precisely in the area of Esperanza. Here's a segment of the description of his project, Sun Bay Resort:
''......a first class resort on the Southern shore of Vieques ... a quasi-deserted Caribbean island ... The Sun Bay Resort will include both real estate and hotel development ventures ... acquiring approximately 500 acres of land bordering a spectacular natural reserve near the village of Esperanza; building and marketing a wide spectrum of residential condos, from artist studios to ranch houses ... a 200-room, beach front hotel; a 75-cabin, ecological village; a 45-room hilltop inn; and a 40-room golf club hotel ... several restaurants, bars and clubs, an 18 hole golf course, marina facilities, river pools, health and beauty spas, sailing, scuba and equestrian schools, a botanical garden, riding paths and polo fields." (Taken from, Project Description, Sunbay Resort Development. January 1999)
Another article -- ''After the Bombs, Retrofitting Paradise'' -- written by Raul A. Barreneche and published in the NYT on August 28, also merrits our attention. For Barreneche, the principal figures in our struggles and the development of our island are others: Robert Kennedy and Rev. Sharpton in the protest (no mention of the over 1000 Puerto Ricans - the highest percentage of which were Viequenses - who made great sacrifices in the intense struggle to end the military destruction here). Nor are the names he relates to development very ''indigenous'': Hix, Chitnis, Gayle, Wright, Lewis and Wielgus.
For him - and for many foreigners ''interested'' in the future of Vieques, the Viequenses are invisible. And when they are mentioned, the comments are often negative and racist. For example, from Barreneche's piece we offer the following passages:
" ... an atmosphere of anti-gringoism among some islanders as well as resistance to off-island investors by the mayor of Vieques, Dámaso Serrano. ''
"The mayor is absolutely impossible to deal with," a New York-based landowner said.
"We need more people with brains and money, because the people here aren't going to do it ... They'd rather spend money on a status-symbol car than invest in the future of the island."
Both articles point to the urgent need to stop land speculation by powerful, outside economic interests, prepare local legislation in defense of coastal zones and other Vieques resources and mobilize our community to fight for sustainable development in the hands of our people.
The recent establishment of the Community Coalition for Sustainable Development is a very positive step in this direction. The struggle to control our economy will be fierce and against great odds - as was the struggle to end the military presence. We stopped the bombing and we can also stop the speculators and others who would try to take advantage of this blessed island that belongs, by natural right, to the next generations of Viequenses.
Peace is more than the cessation of bombing: the struggle continues