Vieques Movement Succeeds in Ending Naval Bombing, but Concerns Remain
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — January 12, 2003
For information contact:
Sonia Dueño, 415-939-8535
John Lindsay-Poland, 415-495-6334
The Fellowship of Reconciliation welcomes the U.S. Navy’s formal certification that it will cease bombing exercises on the populated island of Vieques, Puerto Rico by May, 2003. While we applaud this action, we call upon the Navy to address the environmental and health crisis left on the island in the military’s wake.
Navy Secretary Gordon England certified to Congress and President Bush that alternative methods and sites in Florida and North Carolina will be made available to replace the bombing range in Vieques, used by the navy for more than 60 years for training and weapons tests.
“The navy’s departure is testament to the widespread nonviolent protest organized by people of conscience, as Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Vernon Clark himself acknowledged in the navy’s certification. This protest has included massive civil disobedience by more than a thousand Puerto Ricans and their friends,” said John Lindsay-Poland, Editor of Puerto Rico Update (available at www.forusa.org/Programs/puertorico/default.html)
In addition, the FOR calls for the navy to cancel bombing in Vieques set to begin Monday and last more than four weeks. “Thousands of sailors with the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier battle group will train in Vieques for a bombing campaign in Iraq that will bring chaos to the Persian Gulf region and kill thousands of innocents,” Lindsay-Poland stated.
The Puerto Rico Health Department has revealed that cancer rates in Vieques — already 27% higher than the rest of Puerto Rico in the late 1980s — continued to rise in the 1990s. Studies show high levels of cadmium, lead and other contaminants in the island’s soil and vegetation and in residents’ hair samples.
“It is time for the U.S. Navy to clean up the mess it has made in Vieques so as to prevent more people from dying of cancer,” said Sonia Dueño, Coordinator of FOR’s office in Washington on Vieques.
The FOR, the oldest interfaith peace organization in the United States, works to resolve conflicts through nonviolence education, training and coalition-building locally, nationally and globally. FOR has supported the islanders’ efforts to oust the US Navy for five years and is organizing a health delegation to Vieques in February by environmental and health activists to address the elevated rates of cancer and contamination by heavy metals.