Category Archives: Vieques News

Vieques Cleanup: Island at Odds With U.S. Government Declaration That 400-Acre Bomb Site Cleanup Is Complete

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The U.S. government has a new fight in Vieques, the Puerto Rican island that was used as a Navy bombing range for decades.
An extensive cleanup of the eastern portion of Vieques is years from being finished, but the government says it is ready to declare work completed on a nearly 400-acre site on the western side that was used to store and detonate expired munitions.
The former storage site was turned over to the U.S. Interior Department and declared a nature reserve. Under a proposal favored by the Navy, the cleanup of the area would be deemed complete even though about 200 acres has not been cleared of munitions debris, some potentially still live.

That has sparked outrage among activists and officials in Vieques and the main island of Puerto Rico who favor a complete removal of all debris. And it has brought back some of the angry rhetoric that helped force an end to Vieques’ use as a bombing range in 2003. Read the rest of the article here.

Risking the Lives of the Unborn

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carl-pope/risking-the-lives-of-the_b_379454.html
THE HUFFINGTON POST
December 3, 2009
Carl Pope
Executive Director of the Sierra Club
Posted: December 3, 2009

For the last eight years, federal agencies charged with protecting our health were systematically discouraged or even prevented from doing their jobs. During that period, for example, the Sierra Club had to force federal agencies to act to clean up the scandalously lethal “toxic trailers” used to house Katrina victims, as well as to begin curbing the flood of toys contaminated by lead and other toxic heavy metals. California had to take the lead in curbing the exposure of children to Bisphenol-A (BPA); the federal advisory bodies that were supposed to evaluate the safety of that chemical—found in everything from baby bottles to the Nalgene water bottles beloved of backpackers—were stacked with scientists who had conflicts of interest.

Now, as the Obama administration and the new Congress dig into the toxic mess left behind, the picture is becoming even grimmer. One of the central villains of the great toxic cover-up, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), has admitted that its earlier “clean bill of health” to the island of Vieques in Puerto Rico was unwarranted. Only months earlier, the ATSDR also conceded that it had incorrectly determined that contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune, NC, posed no increased risk of cancer to adults. North Carolina Congressman Brad Miller expressed strong concerns after an investigation this spring:

It seems to have gotten into their culture to do quick and dirty studies and to be too willing to say there are no public health consequences… People should be able to count on the government to tell them the truth.

These failures have real-world consequences. In both Vieques and Camp Leujune, citizens whose health was impacted have sued the government. (Apparently, it was fear of litigation and liability that drove the ATSDR, which is an arm of the Centers for Diseases Control, to deny the obvious problem with the toxic trailers.)

Now a new study released by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) shows that infants in the United States are born with a toxic soup of industrial chemicals in their bodies. In the first such test ever specifically focused on minority populations, the EWG found more than 200 industrial chemicals, including BPA, in the umbilical chords of ten minority infants.

In addition to BPA, chemicals of concern that are passing the placental barrier from the blood of the birth mother into the developing fetus included:
…. a toxic flame retardant chemical called tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA) that permeates computer circuit boards, synthetic fragrances (Galaxolide and Tonalide) used in common cosmetics and detergents, and perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA, or C4), a member of the notorious Teflon chemical family used to make non-stick and grease-, stain- and water-resistant coatings for cookware, textiles, food packaging and other consumer products.

If these children, and millions of others whose fetal development was almost certainly exposed to these and other chemicals, suffer health consequences later in life, they obviously won’t know the source of their problem, and they certainly won’t be able to sue. This is probably the largest unmonitored and uncontrolled experiment on human subjects in history—none of these chemicals has been found safe for developing fetuses. And you can be sure that the chemical industry will fight as hard as it can to continue playing this terrible Russian roulette with future generations.

US health agency to take ‘fresh look’ at Vieques

By DAVID McFADDEN
The Associated Press
Saturday, November 14, 2009; 5:58 PM
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/11/14/world/AP-CB-Puerto-Rico-Vieques.html?ref=global-home

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A U.S. agency has overturned its 2003 research that said no health hazards were caused by decades of military exercises on Vieques, a bombing range-turned-tourist destination off Puerto Rico’s east coast.

The federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry said Friday it intends to “modify” some of its earlier research on Vieques, where the U.S. and its allies trained for conflicts from Vietnam to Iraq.

The agency, a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, used its own studies to conclude in 2003 that there was essentially no health risk from the bombing range – a conclusion widely criticized by academics and residents on the 18-mile-long island of less than 10,000 people.

“We have identified gaps in environmental data that could be important in determining health effects,” director Howard Frumkin said in a statement posted Friday on the agency’s Web site. “The gaps we found indicate that we cannot state categorically that no health hazards exist in Vieques. We have found reason to pose further questions.”

Frumkin, who did not specifically identify the research gaps, said the agency will take a fresh look at the issue. He also said the agency will work with Puerto Rican health officials to conduct more in-depth health evaluations and will recommend monitoring to determine if Vieques residents were exposed to harmful chemicals.

For decades, warships and planes hammered the Naval Training Range on Vieques with live rounds before it was closed in April 2003 after years of protests over environmental risks and the 1999 death of a Puerto Rican civilian guard killed by an errant bomb.

Robert Rabin, who moved to Vieques from Boston in 1980 and helped lead the protests against the bombing range, said he and other islanders had an “attitude of cautious celebration” about the agency’s announcement.

“We hope this will lead to the best possible cleanup and allow people here to receive the best health care,” Rabin said Saturday from his Vieques home. “They are using hopeful language, and this island really needs help.”

The U.S. agency reevaluated its earlier finding after being asked in April by U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman, a New Jersey Democrat who said independent studies and reports had documented a health crisis on Vieques.

The military fired and dropped millions of pounds of bombs, rockets and artillery shells, including napalm, depleted uranium and Agent Orange, on Vieques. A cleanup began in 2005 to clear thousands of unexploded munitions from the former range, which is now a Fish and Wildlife Service refuge, and the island has placed new emphasis on tourism.

Some 7,000 past and current Vieques residents have filed a federal lawsuit seeking billions of dollars in compensation for illnesses they have linked to the bombing range.

Navy’s Vieques Training May Be Tied to Health Risks

By DAVID McFADDEN
The Associated Press
Saturday, November 14, 2009; 5:58 PM
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/11/14/world/AP-CB-Puerto-Rico-Vieques.html?ref=global-home

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A U.S. agency has overturned its 2003 research that said no health hazards were caused by decades of military exercises on Vieques, a bombing range-turned-tourist destination off Puerto Rico’s east coast.

The federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry said Friday it intends to “modify” some of its earlier research on Vieques, where the U.S. and its allies trained for conflicts from Vietnam to Iraq.

The agency, a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, used its own studies to conclude in 2003 that there was essentially no health risk from the bombing range – a conclusion widely criticized by academics and residents on the 18-mile-long island of less than 10,000 people.

“We have identified gaps in environmental data that could be important in determining health effects,” director Howard Frumkin said in a statement posted Friday on the agency’s Web site. “The gaps we found indicate that we cannot state categorically that no health hazards exist in Vieques. We have found reason to pose further questions.”

Frumkin, who did not specifically identify the research gaps, said the agency will take a fresh look at the issue. He also said the agency will work with Puerto Rican health officials to conduct more in-depth health evaluations and will recommend monitoring to determine if Vieques residents were exposed to harmful chemicals.

For decades, warships and planes hammered the Naval Training Range on Vieques with live rounds before it was closed in April 2003 after years of protests over environmental risks and the 1999 death of a Puerto Rican civilian guard killed by an errant bomb.

Robert Rabin, who moved to Vieques from Boston in 1980 and helped lead the protests against the bombing range, said he and other islanders had an “attitude of cautious celebration” about the agency’s announcement.

“We hope this will lead to the best possible cleanup and allow people here to receive the best health care,” Rabin said Saturday from his Vieques home. “They are using hopeful language, and this island really needs help.”

The U.S. agency reevaluated its earlier finding after being asked in April by U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman, a New Jersey Democrat who said independent studies and reports had documented a health crisis on Vieques.

The military fired and dropped millions of pounds of bombs, rockets and artillery shells, including napalm, depleted uranium and Agent Orange, on Vieques. A cleanup began in 2005 to clear thousands of unexploded munitions from the former range, which is now a Fish and Wildlife Service refuge, and the island has placed new emphasis on tourism.

Some 7,000 past and current Vieques residents have filed a federal lawsuit seeking billions of dollars in compensation for illnesses they have linked to the bombing range.

Agency to revise studies and conclusions on military toxics and health on Vieques

10 August 2009

Press Release

Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry visits Vieques to revise its studies and conclusions on military toxics and health on the island municipality.

Dr. Howard Frumkin, Executive Director of the Agency for Toxic Substance and?Disease Registry (ATSDR) – part of the Centers for Disease Control?(CDC/Atlanta), will meet in Vieques with community leaders Wednesday, August?12.

Participants in the meeting with Dr. Frumkin will include members of the? Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques (CRDV); Vieques Women’s Alliance; Restoration Advisory Board; Vieques Commerce Association; scientific advisers to the Vieques community from the University of Puerto ?Rico, Dr. Jorge Colón and Dr. Cruz María Nazario; lawyer Flavio Cumpiano,? CRDV advisor in Washington, DC.  The meeting will take place Wednesday, August 12 at 7:00 PM at the Punta Mulas Lighthouse in Isabel Segunda, Vieques.

Six years after the cessation of bombing n Vieques, this community struggles now to get the US Navy to clean up the island municipality of the military toxics left behind after six decades of war practices.  The Viequenses demand, also, that government agencies – both federal and Puerto Rican –guarantee their right to live in a safe environment and in good health.

Wednesday’s meeting in Vieques corresponds to strong criticism of ATSDR by a congressional commission that forced its Director, Dr. Howard Frumkin, to point to the need for “taking a fresh look at the 2001 studies” done by ATSDR on Vieques.

These studies indicated that Vieques’ health crisis—for instance, a 27% higher cancer incidence compared to the rest of Puerto Rico – had no relation to contamination produced by the US Navy. ATSDR studies about Vieques have been criticized by several scientists from Puerto Rico and the United States.  Members of a congressional commission—the Subcommission for Investigations of the Science and Technology Commission of the House of Representatives – have criticized ATSDR studies about Vieques and urged Dr. Frumkin to reexamine his agency’s studies and Vieques’ health situation, and to take into consideration the many scientific studies by Puerto Rican professionals and others that indicate high levels of heavy metals in the environment, the food chain and in the people of Vieques.

Community groups reject Navy practices of open-air detonation of unexploded ordnance as part of the `clean up’.  They argue that the explosion of bombs over the past two years has added to the level of contamination.  They also oppose Navy plans to burn hundreds of acres of vegetation in the ex bombing range on Vieques to facilitate location of bombs and other dangerous artifacts.

Since the ATSDR studies and conclusions were made public more than six years ago, suggesting that toxic substances dropped by the Navy on Vieques do not represent a health risk, the Navy has rested on these studies to avoid responsibility for an adequate clean up, decontamination and Vieques health crisis. The visit to Vieques by the ATSDR director coincides with the consideration in the Puerto Rico district of the US Federal Court, of a?lawsuit by seven thousand Viequenses against the Navy for health damages. Lawyer John Arthur Eaves, Jr., legal representative for the plaintiffs, will also be in Vieques this week to participate in meetings, including one with clients and others interested on Thursday, August 13 as  6:00 PM at the island’s Multi Use Center.

Contacts:
Nilda Medina 787 206-0602
Robert Rabin 787 375-0525

A New Battle on Vieques, Over Navy’s Cleanup

THE NEW YORK TIMES
August 7, 2009

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/07/science/earth/07vieques.html

By MIREYA NAVARRO

VIEQUES, P.R. — The United States Navy ceased military training operations on this small island in 2003, and windows no longer rattle from the shelling from ships and air-to-ground bombings.

Gone are the protests that drew celebrities like Benicio Del Toro and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Real estate prices and tourism have boomed: a 157-room Starwood W hotel is expected to open by December on the island, which is seven miles east of Puerto Rico’s mainland.

But Vieques, once the largest training area for the United States Atlantic Fleet Forces, is still largely defined by its old struggles. Once again, residents have squared off against the American military.

The Navy has begun removing hazardous unexploded munitions from its old training ground by detonating them in the open air. It also proposes to burn through nearly 100 acres of dense tropical vegetation to locate and explode highly sensitive cluster bombs.

But what could have been a healing process has been marred by lingering mistrust. As the Navy moves to erase a bitter vestige of its long presence here, residents assert that it is simply exposing them again to risk.

“The great majority of emergency room visits here last year were for respiratory problems,” said Evelyn Delerme Camacho, the mayor of Vieques. “Can they guarantee that contaminants or smoke won’t reach the population? Would we have to wait and see if there’s a problem?”

The cleanup comes as the local Vieques government and most of the island’s 9,300 residents pursue claims against the United States government for contamination and for illnesses that they assert are linked to pollutants released during decades of live-fire and bombing exercises beginning in World War II.

Given the history of grievances, many locals are aghast that the Navy’s methods involve burnings and detonations whose booms can be heard in some residential areas, setting people on edge. They have spoken out at public hearings and in legislative resolutions.

But Christopher T. Penny, head of the Navy’s Vieques restoration program, said the unexploded bombs are too powerful to be set off in detonation chambers. And he said that experiments to cut through the dense vegetation with a remote-control device had not had much success.

Environmental Protection Agency officials who are overseeing the project say that such on-site detonations are typical of cleanups at former military training ranges. Jose C. Font, an E.P.A. deputy director in San Juan, says they pose no threat to human health as long as limited amounts are exploded each time, the wind is calm and air quality is monitored constantly.

In 2005 the training ground was designated a federal Superfund site, giving the E.P.A. the authority to order a cleanup led by the party responsible for the pollution.

The unexploded munitions lie on 8,900 acres of former Navy land on the eastern end of the island, including 1,100 acres of what was once the live impact area. The E.P.A. says the cleanup could take 10 years or more.

Workers are using historical records, aerial photography and high-power metal detectors to locate the munitions before cutting through the foliage and detonating them. So far, the Navy says, it has identified 18,700 munitions and explosives and blown up about a third of those.

The E.P.A. says that the hazardous substances associated with ordnance that may be present in Vieques include TNT, napalm, depleted uranium, mercury, lead and other chemicals, including PCBs.

Residents’ concerns about the cleanup are heightened by suspicions of a link between the contaminants and what Puerto Rico’s health department found were disproportionately high rates of illnesses like cancer, hypertension and liver disease on the island.

In 2003, the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, which assesses health hazards at Superfund sites, concluded that levels of heavy metals and explosive compounds found in Vieques’s soil, groundwater, air and fish did not pose a health risk.

But this year the registry agency said it would “rigorously” revisit its 2003 finding, and its director, Dr. Howard Frumkin, plans to visit Vieques on Wednesday to meet with residents.

Puerto Rico’s legislature, meanwhile, has asked President Obama to keep a campaign promise to “achieve an environmentally acceptable cleanup” and “closely monitor the health of the people of Vieques and promote appropriate remedies.”

Most contested here is a Navy request to the E.P.A. and the Environmental Quality Board in Puerto Rico to allow the controlled burn to clear vegetation and find bombs. The risk of accidental explosions, the Navy says, is too high for workers to do it by hand using chainsaws, machetes and trimmers.

“The issue is safety,” said Mr. Penny of the Navy. Many residents complain that they have not received enough information to feel reassured. Among them are a group that gathers on most evenings in a plaza of sand-colored buildings anchored by the church in Isabel Segunda, Vieques’s main town.

“We hear they are taking out bombs, but we haven’t been informed of what exactly is coming out of there and whether there’s more contamination when they get it out,” said Julio Serrano, 57, who works at the airport as an operations supervisor. “We need to be told clearly what’s in there.”

Yet some experts on military cleanups suggest that, rather than focusing on any short-term air quality problems, residents might consider the possibility of an accidental explosion that is years away.

“The real risk is that there’s no technology available that would guarantee that they’ve removed every piece of ordnance,” said Jacqueline MacDonald Gibson, an assistant professor of environmental sciences and engineering at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill who has studied the risks of adapting former training ranges. “There’s no way to make that land safe for reuse unless it’s very restrictive.”

Other battles loom. Most of the 26,000 acres the Navy used to own on the eastern and western ends of Vieques — making up about three-fourths of the island — have been turned over to the Department of the Interior, which plans to maintain the land as a wildlife preserve.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has already opened up small portions of the area to the public as a wildlife refuge that includes gorgeous undeveloped beaches where sea turtles like the loggerhead and hawksbill nest.

But Mayor Delerme Camacho said that once the cleanup is over, Vieques’s residents want to be able to use the land for housing and ecotourism, too. Already, those eager to build have staked out makeshift claims with signs on trees within a chunk of 4,000 acres transferred by the Navy to the municipal government.

Though fishermen can now catch red snapper and yellowtail unfettered by the Navy’s target practice, and visitors have discovered the rural charms of a place where horses roam freely on the roads, Vieques still has high rates of poverty and lacks a full-fledged hospital.

Ismael Guadalupe, 65, a retired teacher and leader in the long resistance to the Navy’s operations here, said that while the training is over, the fighting continues. “As one of our sayings goes, `If we had to eat the bone, now we should be able to eat the meat,’ ” he said.

Discutida la situación actual de Vieques

Por Jorge Luis Burgos
EL VOCERO
17 de julio de 2009 04:00 am

http://vocero.com/noticia-27164-discutida_la_situacin_actual_de_vieques.html

Los efectos en la salud de los residentes y los estragos en la naturaleza provocados por los contaminantes tóxicos dejados por la Marina de los Estados Unidos en la isla de Vieques, así como la solicitud de “inmunidad soberana” (basada en el precepto el gobierno no hace daño), en respuesta al caso Juanita Sánchez vs. Estados Unidos de América, donde siete mil viequenses reclaman daños provocados por el gobierno federal, fueron algunos de los temas discutidos ayer, en una mesa redonda que realizó la Red Americana de Valores en el marco de la celebración Octogésima Convención Nacional de la Liga de Ciudadanos Latinoamericanos Unidos (LULAC), en San Juan.

Entre los participantes estuvieron presentes, Evelyn Delerme, alcaldesa de Vieques, Pedro Marín, representante de la asamblea estatal de Georgia, Radamés Tirado, ex alcalde de Vieques, Javier S. Cuebas, de la Red Americana de Valores y María Vizcarrondo directora de la Oficina del Comisionado Residente en Puerto Rico.

Delerme ofreció un panorama conciso de las condiciones en que se encuentra su municipio a 10 años de la salida de la Marina. La Ejecutiva municipal destacó que entre los temas recién discutidos públicamente está el relacionado a la limpieza con quema a campo abierto, donde informó su completa oposición a ese mecanismo.

“Le solicitamos a la Marina que revisaran las estadísticas del Departamento de Salud con relación a cuántas personas acuden a recibir servicios en el centro de salud, donde verán que el porcentaje mayor está relacionado a enfermedades respiratorias. Así que esa es nuestra justificación para oponernos a ese proceso de limpieza, que de hecho es demasiado lento”, dijo.

Delerme lamentó que la industria más idónea para su municipio es el turismo, sin embargo, “gran parte de ese desarrollo no se ha podido establecer por causa de los contaminantes existentes en las lagunas que son los criaderos de los peces, lo que casi los ha hecho inexistentes. Cuando se cerraron las lagunas, y se bombardearon las playas sólo se logró matar los ecosistemas, y hoy tiene unas consecuencias desastrosas para nosotros”.

Asimismo, el ex alcalde Radamés Tirado indicó que “el acto de ocupación de la Marina ha sido un vil acto criminal que me llevó a la Isla a sufrir la migración más grande que haya visto. De sobre 12 mil se cayó en 7 mil habitantes. Casi la mitad se fue. De ahí en adelante nunca pudimos lograr que nuestra isla volviera a ser lo que era antes”.

Por su parte, Cole, de la firma Eaves Law Firm, que representa al municipio y a los viequenses, sostuvo que el reclamo que mantienen en el Tribunal Federal gira en torno a que se indemnice a los siete mil afectados incluidos en la demanda.

Al momento, el gobierno federal radicó un recurso donde solicitan que se desestime el pleito legal aludiendo “inmunidad soberana” del Estado, que establece el principio de que “el gobierno no hace daño”.

“Lo que nosotros exigimos en el Tribunal está basado en el reclamo de que los viequenses tengan su día en corte”, sostuvo Cole. Por su parte, Marin denunció la lentitud de los procesos de limpieza de los contaminantes y bombas activas que aún existen en las costas de la isla que tiene como resultado la paralización del crecimiento de su economía y la crisis en que se mantiene a los viequenses que al momento no han sido compensados.

“Cómo es posible que en Vieques, un paraíso natural que no tiene ni una fábrica que emita contaminantes al aire, y no tenga un desarrollo económico evidente, sus residentes tengan grandes padecimiento respiratorios, la principal causa de crisis de salud de ellos”, ripostó.

Vieques pide acción a Luis Fortuño

sábado, 4 de julio de 2009
Prensa Asociada

http://www.primerahora.com/diario/noticia/otras/noticias/vieques_pide_accion_a_luis_fortuno/313992

El Comité Pro Rescate y Desarrollo de Vieques (CPRDV) solicitó hoy, sábado, al gobernador Luis Fortuño que se haga eco de las resoluciones aprobadas por el Senado y la Cámara de Representantes pidiéndole al presidente estadounidense Barack Obama que busque soluciones a los problemas de salud en la isla municipio.

“El Comité exhorta al gobernador Luis Fortuño a expresarse con el mismo reclamo de justicia al presidente Obama a favor de la salud y el bienestar del pueblo viequense”, señaló en un comunicado su portavoz, Robert Rabin.

La organización cívica agradeció la solidaridad legislativa con los habitantes de Vieques en momentos en que hay una demanda ante el Tribunal Federal en la cual unos 7,000 viequenses “reclaman justicia y paz a través de compensación por tantos años de sufrimientos causados por la presencias y las actividades de la Marina de Guerra de Estado Unidos en la isla municipio”.

La resolución senatorial solicita al presidente Obama que provea “remedios apropiados para las condiciones de salud del pueblo viequense que pudiesen estar relacionadas a las actividades militares llevadas a cabo por la Marina de los Estados Unidos de América”.

La medida destaca que la causa de Vieques ha recibido el respaldo de numerosos grupos cívicos y organizaciones religiosas, incluyendo el Caucus Hispano del Congreso, la Liga de Ciudadanos Latinoamericanos Unidos, la Asociación Nacional de Funcionarios Latinos Elegidos y Nombrados, el Consejo Nacional de la Raza y la Red de Valores Americanos.

Mientras, la resolución de la Cámara pide a la administración Obama que “tome acción de manera urgente para instruir a las agencias pertinentes que se tomen los pasos para atender en sus méritos los reclamos del pueblo viequense sobre su condición ambiental y de salud”.

La Marina estadounidense realizó prácticas bélicas en Vieques por más de 60 años y tuvo que salir de la pequeña isla en mayo de 2003 tras una campaña de desobediencia civil desatada tras la muerte de un guardia viequense en 1999 por una errática bomba lanzada desde un avión.

Resolución sobre la contaminación de Vieques por la Marina estaunidense

ESTADO LIBRE ASOCIADO DE PUERTO RICO

16 ta    Asamblea,  1 ra Sesión

Legislativa Ordinaria

SENADO DE PUERTO RICO

R. del S. 499

19 de junio de 2009

Presentada por el señor Rivera Schatz

Referida a

RESOLUCIÓN

Para solicitar al Presidente de los Estados Unidos de América, Hon. Barack H. Obama, que reconozca los sacrificios de los ciudadanos americanos residentes en la Isla de Vieques, Puerto Rico, en pro de la seguridad nacional de los Estados Unidos de América y solicitar que provea remedios apropiados para las condiciones de salud del pueblo viequense que pudiesen estar relacionadas a las actividades militares llevadas a cabo por la Marina de los Estados Unidos de América.

EXPOSICIÓN DE MOTIVOS

Es deber reconocer las contribuciones y sacrificios que han realizado nuestros hermanos y hermanas residentes en la Isla de Vieques, en pro de la seguridad nacional de los Estados Unidos de América, así como los impactantes efectos de más de sesenta años de ejercicios militares que han padecido los residentes de Vieques.  Asimismo, hay que tener presente que los Estados Unidos de América han compensado tanto a extranjeros como a ciudadanos americanos que han sufrido heridas o daños similares o comparables a los sufridos por los ciudadanos americanos en Vieques.

En el año 1941 la Marina de los Estados Unidos de América tomó control de 23,000 acres de la Isla Municipio de Vieques, utilizándolos como el principal lugar de entrenamiento en el Océano Atlántico para maniobras por aire, mar y tierra hasta su cierre en el año 2003.

Gracias a los sacrificios hechos por los ciudadanos americanos en Vieques, durante más de seis décadas, miembros de nuestras Fuerzas Armadas fueron entrenados en dicha Isla, mientras que las necesidades económicas y sociales y las preocupaciones de seguridad de los residentes de la misma no fueron adecuadamente atendidas por el Gobierno Federal.

La Marina de los Estados Unidos de América y las fuerzas armadas aliadas llevaron a cabo regularmente ejercicios en Vieques por espacio de más de seis décadas, empleando casi todo tipo de municiones disponible a las fuerzas navales para uso en aire, mar y tierra desde la Segunda Guerra Mundial, excepto armas nucleares.

Posteriormente, en febrero de 2005, la Agencia Federal de Protección Ambiental incluyó la Isla de Vieques en la lista nacional de prioridades del programa de “Superfund” (lugares abandonados que contienen desperdicios peligrosos).

La Agencia Federal de Protección Ambiental ha reconocido que la tierra, el mar, las plantas y los animales de Vieques, las fuentes tradicionales de sustento para las personas de la Isla durante generaciones, pudiesen estar contaminadas con sustancias peligrosas.

Asimismo, se ha encontrado que los ciudadanos americanos en Vieques sufren de una incidencia más alta de enfermedades, que los ciudadanos que residen en la isla de Puerto Rico, incluyendo una tasa de cáncer de 30%, una tasa de hipertensión de 381%, una tasa de enfermedades del hígado de 95%, una tasa de diabetes de 41%, y un 33% más de nacimientos prematuros o bebés de bajo peso.

Es un hecho innegable, que los ciudadanos americanos en Vieques han sufrido más de seis décadas de bombardeos y exposición a peligrosos tóxicos ambientales y químicos en nombre de la preservación de nuestra seguridad nacional.  En respuesta, los ciudadanos americanos en la Isla de Vieques han radicado una serie de recursos legales contra la Marina en la Corte de Distrito Federal en San Juan, solicitando compensación por las enfermedades surgidas como resultado de la contaminación tóxica de la Isla Municipio.

Como candidato, el Presidente, Hon. Barack H. Obama, hizo un compromiso de que su administración “promovería remedios apropiados para las condiciones de salud causadas por las actividades militares llevadas a cabo por la Marina de Estados Unidos en Vieques.”

La pronta resolución de los reclamos relacionados a la salud hechos por los ciudadanos americanos en Vieques contra la Marina de los Estados Unidos de América, ha recibido el respaldo de numerosos grupos cívicos y organizaciones religiosas, incluyendo el Caucus Hispano del Congreso (CHC, por sus siglas en inglés), la Liga de Ciudadanos Latinoamericanos Unidos (LULAC, por sus siglas en inglés), la Asociación Nacional de Funcionarios Latinos Elegidos y Nombrados (NALEO, por sus siglas en inglés), el Consejo Nacional de la Raza (NCLR, por sus siglas en inglés) y la Red de Valores Americanos (“American Values Network”).

Existe una petición del Comisionado Residente de Puerto Rico, Pedro R. Pierluisi, y el Congresista Alan Grayson del Estado de Florida, ante el Subcomité de Supervisión e Investigaciones del Comité de Ciencia y Tecnología de la Cámara de Representantes del Congreso Federal, solicitando una audiencia de dicho Cuerpo Legislativo en Vieques.  Dicha solicitud busca estudiar más detalladamente la crisis de salud de los residentes de dicho Municipio.

El año pasado, asesores y representantes del entonces candidato presidencial, Hon. Barack H. Obama, incluyendo la Congresista Linda Sánchez del Estado de California, visitaron a Vieques y se reunieron con líderes cívicos y comunitarios, para hablar sobre el tema de la salud en la Isla, comprometiéndose a que como Presidente, el Hon. Barack H. Obama, atendería esa situación.

RESUELVESE POR EL SENADO DE PUERTO RICO:

Sección 1.- El Senado de Puerto Rico reconoce las extraordinarias contribuciones y sacrificios realizados por los residentes de la Isla de Vieques, en aras de la preservación de nuestra seguridad nacional durante un periodo de más de seis décadas.

Sección 2. – El Senado de Puerto Rico reconoce que es parte de los mejores intereses de los Estados Unidos de América, lidiar con las pérdidas y las continuas necesidades médicas y económicas de los ciudadanos americanos en la Isla de Vieques, que pudiesen estar relacionadas con los bombardeos de la Marina de los Estados Unidos de América y la contaminación en dicha Isla.

Sección 3.- El Senado de Puerto Rico reconoce que la manera más rápida, justa y eficiente de corregir esta injusticia, así como la crisis de salud, es que el Gobierno de los Estados Unidos de América resuelva los reclamos de los ciudadanos del Municipio de Vieques ante el Secretario de la Marina de los Estados Unidos.

Obama Must Live Up To Campaign Pledge On Vieques Cleanup

The Huffington Post
Brendan DeMelle
Environmental activist

Posted: June 24, 2009

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brendan-demelle/obama-must-live-up-to-cam_b_219928.html

President Barack Obama should instruct his administration to fulfill his campaign pledge to clean up the Navy’s toxic mess in Vieques, Puerto Rico, and to help the victims of Vieques who suffer from a suite of health problems caused by the military’s 50-plus year bombardment of the island.
Back in February 2008, candidate Obama wrote a letter to then Governor Anibal Acevedo Vilá and the people of Puerto Rico in which he promised to “actively work” to clean up Vieques and to help those suffering from the health effects of toxic heavy metals, chemicals and radioactivity associated with the Navy’s use of Vieques for target practice and live-fire training since World War II.

Obama wrote: “My Administration will actively work with the Department of Defense as well to achieve an environmentally acceptable clean-up of the former U.S. Navy lands in Vieques, Puerto Rico. We will closely monitor the health of the people of Vieques and promote appropriate remedies to health conditions caused by military activities conducted by the U.S. Navy on Vieques.”

But so far, the Obama Administration has not lifted a finger on the issue, leaving the people of Vieques with no relief other than the promise of winning an ongoing lawsuit against the Navy and Defense Department which could take years to work its way through the courts – time that many ailing Viequenses cannot afford. Many have already died waiting, and those who require radiation treatments and other cancer medicine have to make a long, painful trip to the island of Puerto Rico or to the U.S. every time they need treatment because there are no adequate facilities to treat them on Vieques, Puerto Rico’s poorest municipality.

Given the Obama administration’s recent declaration of a public health emergency in the asbestos-contaminated town of Libby, Montana, and the recent admission by the government that Camp Lejeune’s toxic tap water may have caused cancer and birth defects among the 75,000 Marines and their families who were exposed at the North Carolina base, it is high time for the government to do the right thing for the people of Vieques.

In the case of Camp Lejeune, former Marines were dubbed “poisoned patriots” for enduring years of exposure to the contamination, a label that certainly fits the people of Vieques. And in declaring the health emergency in Libby, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson described “a tragic public health situation that has not received the recognition it deserves by the federal government for far too long,” a statement equally relevant to the situation in Vieques.

Scientific tests of the land have confirmed the presence of depleted uranium, Agent Orange and napalm, and testing of Vieques residents revealed dangerous levels of heavy metals including mercury, arsenic and lead. Yet, in the six years since the Navy abandoned the island, progress on cleaning up the Navy’s mess has been excruciatingly slow and attention to the health crisis among residents nonexistent.

In March, Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL) told a subcommittee of the House Committee on Science and Technology that the federal government has neglected the health crisis in Vieques, and highlighted the grim health statistics that clearly document the consequences of the continuing toxic exposure endured by Viequenses. Compared to residents of Puerto Rico, residents of Vieques have a 30% increased chance of cancer, a 73% increased chance of heart problems, a 64% increased chance of hypertension, and a 58% increased chance of diabetes. A May 2001 study looking at the hair of residents in Vieques found that 73% of the subjects were contaminated with aluminum and 30% of children under ten showed toxic levels of mercury. Other heavy metals such as lead and cadmium were also found in high proportions.

“One of the most important jobs that government has is to protect people. And here we have before us a clear case of failure,” Rep. Grayson said.

Adding insult to injury, the Navy recently obtained a permit to burn more than 200 acres of vegetation on the contaminated island in order to reveal unexploded bombs and other ordnance, which it would then explode on site, further contaminating the island’s residents who live downwind. The Vieques Municipal Legislature recently reaffirmed its objection to the Navy’s plan, but the Navy intends to follow through with the burning and open detonation of unexploded bombs, unless the Obama EPA steps in to stop it.

President Obama should instruct all relevant federal agencies to live up to his stated commitment to address the health crisis in Vieques immediately, pursue an “environmentally acceptable” clean-up for Vieques, and work toward a fair and complete resolution to the ongoing litigation. Attorney General Eric Holder can play a major role by instructing Justice Department lawyers to abandon the Bush Administration’s use of the “sovereign immunity” defense to deny responsibility for the contamination of Vieques.

Hiding behind the old English colonial ideology of “The King can do no wrong” smacks in the face of equality and justice for all – ideals our country was founded upon, and which President Obama promised to restore. This administration must relegate the archaic defense of “sovereign immunity” to our nation’s Hall of Shame along with unequal suffrage, slavery, and all other forms of discrimination endured by those who believed in America’s principles but were denied equal protection.

Any attempt to escape moral responsibility for the cleanup of Vieques will hinder efforts to restore our legacy as a leader in the eyes of the world. The people of Vieques have sacrificed greatly for our nation. They deserve swift justice.