Artículo sobre Vieques............Vieques article
- Comité Pro Rescate y Desarrollo de Vieques
(Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques)
Apartado 1424 Vieques, Puerto Rico 00765
Tel. 787 741-0716 Fax 741-0358 E mail: bieke@...
2 de noviembre de 2004
Transforming Dreams into Reality: The Struggle for Vieques Continues*
by Robert Rabin
On May 1, the people of Vieques, Puerto Rico, celebrated the first anniversary of the end of the US Navy's bombardment of our land (See EF!J July-August 2003). After more than half a century of the US military's horribly destructive presence on Vieques, we celebrated 365 days without bombing and without the continued accumulation of military toxins that we believe to be responsible for our high rates of cancer. Music, vigils, prayer, ecumenical acts, poetry, folkloric dance and movies were the principal ingredients of the weekend's celebrations.
The Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques (CRDV) used the occasion to emphasize the need to continue the struggle for decontamination and the return of the people's lands, as well as for the democratic, sustainable development of Vieques. On April 30, Viequenses picketed in front of the former entrance to the US Navy's bombing range at Camp García, which is now controlled by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The new chants: "Ellos tienen nuestras playas, Fish and Wildlife que se vaya" (They control all our land, Fish and Wildlife go away) and "No queremos guardarraya, Fish and Wildlife que se vaya" (We don't want any more fences, Fish and Wildlife go away).
When military bases close, the US government often transfers contaminated lands to FWS in order to "conserve military contaminations." FWS's mission in Vieques is conservation with strict limitations on social use. Because of this, environmental cleanup will be minimal. Bird watching, for instance, mandates a soil cleanup only a few inches deep, whereas land for housing, schools and ecotourism requires a cleanup several feet deep. Our demands for sustainable development focusing on housing, schools, hospitals and tourism projects are not being met.
FWS claims that it is "taking care" of the natural resources of Vieques, including endangered wildlife. Yet it is preparing a land management plan without consulting the local community. We are demanding genuine community participation in this and all related matters.
Recently published congressional documents describe Navy plans for a superficial clean up and the fencing off-forever-of the most heavily contaminated areas. We demand an environmental clean up of all of Vieques to levels necessary for future projects of housing, education and tourism. Thousands of unexploded bombs, dangerous amounts of heavy metals, unexploded depleted uranium projectiles and uranium oxides are part of the poisonous legacy of 60 years of US militarism. We won't rest until it's all cleaned up!
Demands for a Sustainable Vieques
CRDV demands that the US government immediately recognize Viequenses' rights over our land; the removal of the FWS from the island; the creation of a Viequense corporation with the mission to preserve and protect our natural environment without weapons; that strong controls be included in the Vieques Master Plan for Sustainable Development in order to protect our lands from speculation and other inappropriate uses; community control over our lands through land trusts and land cooperatives; and active community participation in all these processes, including the total decontamination of our lands.
We propose community-controlled, environmentally and culturally sensitive development; small-scale posadas, bed-and-breakfast-type tourist development; integrated programs of fishing and agriculture; and strong legislation to guarantee that Viequenses are employed in administrative positions in tourism and other economic projects. Centers for the study of marine biology and archaeology would help promote positive tourism and further knowledge of our island and people.
Decontamination must take place under the supervision of our community, along with environmental scientists who are trusted by our people; we advocate the training of Viequenses in jobs related to the cleanup process. The founding of an International Center for Military Decontamination would allow the sharing of information and experiences in this area, as well as provide a unique tourist destination.
Scientific studies have found that Viequenses have a 27 percent higher cancer rate than the rest of Puerto Rico, and this is most likely due to high levels of heavy metals and other pollutants in the soil and water-the US Navy's toxic legacy. Therefore, we demand that the US and Puerto Rican governments provide the best possible health-care facilities to carry out testing and remediation.
Instead of the wire cutters, night-vision binoculars and sophisticated communications equipment used in the campaign to end the US Navy occupation, CRDV now operates computers, fax machines and radio transmitters to continue the work for peace-a peace that requires much more than the cessation of bombing.
During the past year, CRDV held a series of workshops on the legislation related to the cleanup process. In March, the Military Toxics Project brought activists from US communities that have been negatively impacted by the military to network with people in Vieques. Last October, CRDV and the Caribbean Project for Peace and Justice hosted representatives from groups struggling against militarism in Guam, the Philippines, Korea, Japan and the Marshall Islands, as well as indigenous groups from North America.
We achieved a major victory in February 2003, when the Puerto Rican government adopted our guidelines as the basis for its Master Plan for Sustainable Development. However, we reaffirm our position that "we cannot trust the politicians, because history does not allow it."
La Lucha Continua
La lucha continua (the struggle continues) is the theme of CRDV's Sunday morning Radio Vieques program, transmitted since August 2003 from our headquarters at the Peace and Justice Camp (PJC). Located across the street from the entrance to Camp García, the PJC was a major hub for the community organizing and civil disobedience campaign that successfully stopped the bombing. In this "post-bombing" phase, the PJC is now a center for community education and organizing around the more technical issues of environmental cleanup and health, sustainable development and transferring the land to the people of Vieques.
CRDV is keenly aware of the need to involve more young Viequenses in the struggle. In response, we began two media training projects for young people this past June. The first project involves digitalizing thousands of hours of video footage taken during the past five years. A second project in July trained a team of young Viequenses to produce and transmit one of the Sunday radio programs each month. Through these initiatives, CRDV hopes to integrate students into the work of our committee to help them develop their leadership skills, and also to help us learn from the unique and often ignored perspectives of young people.
From May 15-18, CRDV and the Vieques Women's Alliance held a two-day conference in Washington, DC, on this new phase of struggle. At the conference, "Vieques: Transforming Dreams into Reality: The Struggle Continues," 100 activists gathered to discuss the future of the Vieques movement. Two days after the conference, the movement again showed its resilience with a protest in front of the Puerto Rican legislature in San Juan, demanding that the commonwealth's Health Department fulfill its promises for services, equipment, and testing children for the presence of heavy metals. La lucha continua.
For more information, contact the Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques, POB 1424, Vieques, Puerto Rico 00765; (787) 741-0716; bieke@...; www.prorescatevieques.org.
Robert Rabin is a founding member of CRDV and spent six months in federal prison in San Juan for actions related to the campaign to stop the bombing.
* To be published in Earth First Journal
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