In choosing a topic for this discussion, I wanted to choose something that I truly felt a passion for. Although, some of the subjected topics seemed interesting, I decided to write my argument against the Unites States usage of the small island of Vieques, Puerto Rico for military practices over the last sixty years. This is some what of a difficult argument due to the fact that the United States has indeed already vacated the island. What I intend to do is to show you that there was no reason to ruin the island over military practices. My argument will focus more on how the United States flexed their muscle through the years and decided not to vacate the island and ruin a small poor village and its habitants.
In 1938 the US Navy began using the island-municipality of Vieques, located 11 kilometers of the main island of Puerto Rico, for military practices. In 1941, during the height of WW II, the Navy initiated a campaign of forced expropriation of territory, which ultimately ended in their possession of over two thirds of the island’s land. In doing this they displaced thousands of families and seriously jeopardizing their basic means of living. The Navy set the price for the land giving the island residents very little say, if any, in the matter.
Resistance became an exercise in failure, as the Navy issued the following ultimatum: Either you accept the price set by the Navy or prepare to be evicted, by force, if necessary. The net effect of these policies was the clustering of the entire civilian population of Vieques into a small strip of land right in the middle of the island.
The Pentagon has used Vieques for numerous military exercises and war preparation. The United States colonized Puerto Rico over a 100 years ago. Ever since then we have allowed the United States to settle its troops on our precious Island and launch their missiles all over the globe. Vieques has been used as a military training facility for many American wars. In Vieques the USA trained the pilots that bombed Vietnam, Yugoslavia and Iraq. Over the years more than 6,000 planes have flown over 35,000 practice bombing flights over the Island.
The Navy has argued over the years that they were not able to find another place that offered the training facilities that Vieques did. One has to wonder the truth behind that. With all the money and power that the USA has, how could it not be able to find an island in the middle of nowhere to conduct its military training on. Furthermore, why didn’t they ever seek a new training facilities within the United States soil. Why was it acceptable to come pollute another island but not USA soil. The answer to this is very simple, the government was well aware that over the years the testing of the bombs had ruined the drinking water, killed thousands of fish and had also spread radio active waves that caused cancel. There was also the so ever present danger of miss calculating a target and injuring civilians. The government neglected all these facts through the years.
In 1999,the struggle against the U.S. Navy maneuvers intensified. This was due to the fact that David Sanes, a Puerto Rican civilian security guard died after being hit by an United State launched bomb. Shortly after that militant protests were carried out by both non-governmental organizations as well as political parties. As many as two dozen people were arrested for entering the target range trying to force a stop to the U.S. bombardment of Vieques. Several members of political parties were also under arrest, including Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. David Sanes death was a crucial moment in the fight against the Navy as it showed that the people of Vieques had been oppressed for to long and now they were willing to take matters into their own hands. Finally the world had heard the peoples crying.
Vieques has a population of approximately 9,400 inhabitants who are now suffering the long term effects of the Navy. The first long term effect that the navy has left is the destruction of the habitants main source of income: Fishing. According to Carlos Zenуn, a former President of the Vieques Fishermen Association, when the US Navy ships entered the one-hundred-foot deep waters where the fishermen had their traps, “the ships’ propellers destroyed the buoys that indicated where the traps were.” When that happened it was hard for them to find the nets. As a result, the nets stayed at the bottom of the sea for eight or twelve months, they attracted many fish that ultimately die in the traps. The US Department of Agriculture conducted a study of these traps and found that a single net collected from 4,500 to 5,000 pounds of fish in ten months. This amounts to the fact that yearly the US Navy destroyed about 140 traps. This roughly equals about 700,000 lbs of fish.
Another long term effect of the bombings in Vieques is the destruction of delicate ecosystems in the island, which supported hundreds of species of plants and animals that were killed instantly upon the direct impact of the projectiles during military target practices. Furthermore, these bombings and military maneuvers lead to serious contamination of the environment due to toxic residues. Today the people of Vieques suffer from high levels of cancer and other serious health problems. Studies carried out by the Puerto Rico Department of Health have shown that from 1985 to 1989 the rate of cancer in Vieques rose to 26 percent above the rest of PR. Lately, there has also been an increase in rare diseases, like, Scleroderma, lupus, and thyroid deficiencies.
The last long term effect that can be attributed to the NAVY’s unwanted stay in Puerto Rico is the closing of the military base Roosevelt road. The government had warned Puerto Rican authorities that if they wanted the NAVY out of Puerto Rico that they would close this base. The closing of the base means a loss of thousands of jobs and over $250 million for the Puerto Rican economy. This was a final slap in the face to the Puerto Rican people, it was as it they said you won the battle at Vieques but we won the war.
As a Puerto Rican, raised in the United States, I feel that the controversy in Vieques has badly damaged diplomatic and people ties with the United States. Who knows what the future holds for our relations. What I must say is that the Puerto Rican people should reflect back on these past hundred years and think about a sovereign future. The people of the island have been both spoon fed and depressed by the American government. This is to the point that we lack our own currency and military forces. As long as the Puerto Rican people continue to live off the United States as a step child, there is a great chance for this to happen again.
In conclusion, there was no need for the United states government to come ruin a beautiful island and infect the habitants with cancer while doing so. Although, as an American I agree with military training, that training should not come at the cost of innocent human lives. It will take hundreds of year for the physical damage that the USA brought upon Vieques to disappear, it will take eternity and beyond to erase the emotional damage.