Vieques Marks 10 Years Since Closing Bombing Range

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Vieques Marks 10 Years Since Closing Bombing Range

WASHINGTON - May 1st is the 10th anniversary of the closing of the U.S. Navy bombing range in Vieques, Puerto Rico. For six decades prior to 2003, approximately one trillion pounds of explosives were dropped on Vieques by the U.S. military, NATO, and other military allies in practice exercises.

After decades of protest and a campaign of non-violent civil resistance that began in 1999 and included the arrests of over 1,500 people, the Navy was forced to close the bombing range on May 1, 2003. Peace-loving people had defeated the most powerful military force in history without firing a single shot.

Presidential candidate Barack Obama wrote to the Governor of Puerto Rico in 2008: "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 that promise remains unfulfilled. The Navy's presence and the environmental disaster it created continue to afflict Vieques. The arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, and aluminum in the bombs are also found in hair samples of 80% of the people living on Vieques, who suffer at far higher rates than on the main island from cancer (30% higher than Puerto Rico), cirrhosis of the liver, kidney failure, hypertension (381%), diabetes (41%), birth defects, stillbirths, and miscarriages.

A broad coalition of organizations in Vieques, in the rest of Puerto Rico, and in the United States has formed to petition the Pentagon, Congress, and the President, gathering signatures online, http://act.rootsaction.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=7743 , and advancing demands for:

"Health Care -- Provide a modern hospital with cancer treatment facilities, early screening and timely treatment for all diseases. Create a research facility to determine the relationship between military toxins and health. Provide just compensation to people suffering poor health as a result of the Navy's activities.

"Cleanup -- Fund a complete, rapid cleanup of the land and surrounding waters, still littered by thousands of bombs, grenades, napalm, Agent Orange, depleted uranium and other explosives left by the Navy. Cease the ongoing open detonation of unexploded ordnance. Guarantee community participation in the cleanup; train Viequenses as managers, administrators, and scientists, and foster Viequense companies to do the work.

"Sustainable Development -- Support the Master Plan for Sustainable Development of Vieques which promotes agriculture, fishing, eco-tourism, small guest houses, housing, collective transportation, archaeology, and historic and environmental research, among other things.

"Demilitarization and Return of the Land -- Close the remaining military installations still occupying 200 acres of Vieques. Return to the people of Vieques all land still under the control of the U.S. Navy and the federal government."

RootsAction.org is an online initiative dedicated to galvanizing Americans who are committed to economic fairness, equal rights, civil liberties, environmental protection -- and defunding endless wars. http://rootsaction.org

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Action for a Progressive Future (the organization that runs RootsAction) is a nonprofit, progressive, public policy advocacy group that will engage citizens in the democratic process and help make sure legislators hear their voices.

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