US Navy Leaves Vieques After 60 Years of Bombing
Indymedia.org May 8, 2003
The US Navy bombing tests and military practice on the island of Vieques, Puerto
Rico, has ended. On May 1, citizens in Vieques celebrated the first day in over 60
years without a US Navy bombing run.Puerto Ricans of Vieques objected to the US
Navy's presence across many other ideologically divisive issues regarding the US.
Until recently, the US Navy owned over two-thirds of Vieques. When the US bought
this land in the 1940s, many families and farmers were forced out of their homes and
off their lands to make way for military exercises, which began in 1947.Bush
announced that the Navy would leave Vieques in June 2001, and it is widely accepted
that it was the success of the protest movement that led to the this decision and to the
US Navy's withdrawl.
While resistance to the Navy's military exercises was ongoing, it was not until 1999,
when a civilian security guard was killed by a bombing accident, that popular
resistance began to have a lasting effect on US policy.Many problems remain in
Vieques, however. Environmental destruction and unexploded ordinances ravage the
land. The land has not been returned to the people of Puerto Rico, rather, it has been
transferred to the US Department of Fishing and Wildlife, so that an environmental
assessment can be obtained. Early Puerto Rican estimates have produced a figure of
$400 million necessary to clean up the land used by the US Navy, but only $23 million
has been allocated so far.