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artículo sobre tóxicos militares en Vieques

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  • Comité Pro Rescate y Desarrollo de Vieq
    http://www.ipsnews.net/interna.asp?idnews=21751 PUERTO RICO: Bombs Away, Vieques Unearths Toxic Navy Trash Carmelo Ruiz Inter Press Service News Agency Now
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 2, 2004

      http://www.ipsnews.net/interna.asp?idnews=21751

      PUERTO RICO:
      Bombs Away, Vieques Unearths Toxic Navy Trash

      Carmelo Ruiz
      Inter Press Service News Agency

      Now that the U.S. Navy is gone, residents of the Puerto Rican island-
      town of Vieques must deal with the daunting question of what to do
      about the toxic mess caused by decades of military activity. Weapons
      tested in the firing range included highly polluting depleted uranium
      ammunition.

      SAN JUAN, Dec 30 (IPS) - Now that the U.S. Navy is gone, residents of
      the Puerto Rican island-town of Vieques face pressing environmental
      problems.

      In the last four years the island's 10,000 residents, together with
      Puerto Ricans from the main island and peace activists from around
      the world, carried out a relentless civil disobedience campaign
      against the Navy, which for decades used the island as a munitions
      depot and firing range.

      The military left officially May 1. But now Vieques must deal with
      the daunting question of what to do about the toxic mess caused by
      decades of military activity. Weapons tested in the firing range
      included highly polluting depleted uranium ammunition.

      Most of the former military lands -- which include about 80 percent
      of the island -- are now the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge,
      administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).

      Measuring 7,527 ha (of the island's total 13,355 ha), it is the
      largest wilderness refuge in all of Puerto Rico, which is a
      commonwealth of the United States whose residents have U.S.
      citizenship.

      Many who opposed the Navy presence find it particularly galling that
      the lands they struggled for have been transferred to another U.S.
      government agency, instead of being returned to the people of
      Vieques. Local fishermen complain that FWS will not allow them to
      fish in the refuge, because of the danger posed by unexploded
      ordnances.

      "This is the same agency that stood by while the Navy bombed the
      flora, fauna and wilderness, without raising a finger in protest, and
      now they're fining people for fishing crabs. This is insulting and
      completely unacceptable," declared Robert Rabin, spokesperson of the
      Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques.

      But Vieques FWS employees interviewed by IPS, most of whom are Puerto
      Ricans, stressed that they are committed to protecting the natural
      resources of the lands they administer.

      Refuge Manager Oscar Díaz said he does not want to see the lands
      destroyed by the uncontrolled construction of beachside mansions and
      tourist resorts now occurring on the main island.

      "This refuge has a dry forest. That's a treasure that must be
      preserved because 94 percent of all dry forest in Puerto Rico has
      been destroyed," added Díaz.

      In what many observers consider a bizarre twist, this wilderness
      refuge is simultaneously a toxic disaster area. Earlier this month
      the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommended that the
      lands and marine areas polluted by the Navy be declared a Superfund
      site.

      Superfund is a U.S. government programme for the identification and
      cleanup of areas contaminated with hazardous waste. Once an area is
      declared a Superfund site, the polluting party -- in this case the
      Navy -- is obligated to pay for its decontamination and restoration.

      Puerto Rico has a dozen Superfund sites.

      After the EPA recommends that an area be designated for the
      Superfund, the agency solicits comments and input from the public,
      the polluting party and other government bodies before making its
      final decision.

      Although many who took part in the Vieques struggle consider the
      Superfund designation a great victory, University of Puerto Rico
      biology professor Arturo Massol warns that the process is a
      bureaucratic litany and that 20 years can pass before any cleanup
      even begins.

      "Superfund status is no guarantee that the cleanup will be done
      thoroughly and efficiently," says Massol, who directed the only on-
      site studies of military pollution in Vieques to be published in peer-
      reviewed scientific literature.

      "Most of the money will spend years stuck in litigation or slowed
      down by administrative matters," he added.

      Massol said that if the history of Superfund in Puerto Rico is any
      guide, then not much can be expected from the Vieques recommendation.

      According to the professor, a Superfund site was designated in the
      abandoned Sabana Seca Navy base in the town of Toa Baja. In response,
      a parking lot was built over the toxic wastes, and then the EPA
      declared the problem solved and removed the site from the Superfund
      list.

      The idea that the former Navy lands should be returned to the people
      of Puerto Rico also has allies in the U.S. Congress. Congressman
      Joseph Crowley, who visited Vieques last month, told IPS that
      transferring the lands from the Department of Defence to the
      Department of the Interior is not adequate.

      "I think the lands should be transferred to the government of Puerto
      Rico. Only that will assure the people that these lands will never
      again be used for military purposes," said Crowley, who added that if
      Congress could assign billions of dollars to the reconstruction of
      Iraq, then the decontamination of Vieques is no less than a moral
      obligation.

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