Vieques to Close But the Struggle Continues
The Navy will permanently close its Vieques base on May 1st, bowing to public pressure after the outpost became a magnet for protests against the long arm of the U.S. military. But befitting a tiny island in the eye of a storm, Vieques will grapple with the Navy's legacy long after the base is closed.
Residents of Vieques, population 9,500, say environmental contamination and medical ills will plague the island for years in what many here characterize as a modern-day form of American imperialism. "The people of Vieques have suffered enough. Their land has been taken away. The fauna and the water have been poisoned," said Philadelphia City Councilman Angel Ortiz, who is Puerto Rican and a vocal opponent of the military operations, "The Navy is leaving, but they are leaving behind poison in the ground and the sea." The Navy admit they tested 24 napalm bombs on Vieques in 1993 and in 1999, they accidentally fired 267 DU bombs at the island.
Dr MacKenzie, director of Vieques' only hospital, said she had seen perplexing cases, including cancer patients who have non-metastasized tumours, many patients with kidney failure, and many children with high levels of heavy metals in their blood. "These are not normal medical conditions. There's only one industrial plant on the island, so it can't be that," she said. The Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques have organised an amazing series of events from the 1st-4th May to push the US Navy to take responsibility for the decontamination of Vieques. Events include a Peace and Justice camp, concerts, vigils, a 'rap for peace' and the placing of a large cross on the bombing range.
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Page last updated: January 28, 2003