News from Puerto Rico

CORALations corals at
Thu Apr 22 07:13:23 EDT 1999

	Decided to post this article forwarded to me on the web since many friends
from the States have told me it is not receiving much press. We have been
told the bomb hit on the opposite side of the island than where target
practice usually takes place. Some misconceptions we have heard from State
side friends include Vieques as being uninhabited actually has around
9,000 residents, hoteliers and fishermen. I have also heard that people
think this is only happening because of Kosovo. U.S. has been using islands
in PR for military target practice since the end of the Spanish - American
war. When we are working with scientists on reefs in Culebra we are
constantly hearing explosions from Vieques. At least one stranding of an
endangered marine species has been attributed to these maneuvers although
we suspect is difficult to accurately document impact from
underwater shock in warm areas where animals decompose rapidly.  I have
personally seen bombs dropped on Vieques from a neighboring island as small
mushroom clouds float up from the impact in the dust. I have also seen
night time explosions of  what looks like yellow balls of gas light up the
beaches where endangered Giant Leatherback Sea turtles nest. Local
fishermen have been complaining about impacts to coral reefs for years to
no avail. Scientists have documented a zero recruitment rate for corals in
areas of impact on an adjacent island which was previously used for similar
	In the States it is not uncommon to see noxious factories placed in poor
neighborhoods, or toxic waste dumps placed in poor neighborhoods. The poor
community of Vieques and it's biologically diverse natural heritage has to
put up with military target practice (U.S. also leases this area out to
other countries for war games) and now the very tragic death of one of its

> From: PRenbreve at
> To: PRenbreve at
> Subject: Bombardeo en Vieques: un muerto y 4 heridos; vecinos en
> Date: Tuesday, April 20, 1999 3:30 AM
> > _______________________
> Errant Bombs Kill 1 in Puerto Rico
> SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (April 19) -- Two U.S. Marine jets dropped bombs on
> lookout post at a remote training ground in Puerto Rico on Monday,
> one 
> civilian and injuring four people. 
> The two F-18 jets based on the USS John F. Kennedy aircraft carrier were
on a 
> night training run over Vieques, an island off the coast of Puerto Rico,
> about 
> 7:30 p.m., said Roberto Nelson, spokesman for Roosevelt Roads Naval
> The Navy base operates the training ground in the U.S. territory. 
> Their bombs missed a target area and landed near the post where four
> contractors and one military observer were working. The blasts killed one

> contractor 
> and injured the other people, though the Navy would not release their 
> conditions. 
> ``They were just in the area, doing their job, when this unfortunate
> occurred,'' 
> Nelson said. ``We empathize and sympathize with the family of the
> and 
> we will do a full investigation to see what happened here.'' 
> The injured were flown to the Roosevelt Roads Navy base hospital, about
> miles 
> away. 
> Nelson said the Navy would not identify the victims until family members
> been 
> notified. 
> He said it was not unusual for airplanes to do bombing at night at the
> Police and Civil Defense officials on the island of Vieques said they 
> received a 
> call from a security guard in the area asking for ambulances soon after
> explosions. 
> The U.S. Navy controls about 75 percent of Vieques for military maneuvers

> and weapons storage. The island is 21 miles long and four miles wide,
> about eight miles east of Puerto Rico. 
> Residents oppose the use of live munitions there, saying the frequent 
> explosions 
> disturb fishing grounds and have thwarted the island's efforts to attract

> tourism. 
> Opponents of the U.S. military presence on the island said the accident
> confirmed their worst fears. 
> ``What happened is what for years they have been saying was going to 
> happen,'' 
> said Robert Rabin, who manages the Conde de Mirasol local history museum.
> `Vieques lives under the continual danger that this type of situation
> happen
> if the Navy makes a mistake in its bombardment from ships and
> But Nelson defended the training ground's importance, noting that most of
> Navy and Marine aircraft involved in the Kosovo conflict trained there. 
> ``All of those pilots who are in Kosovo have dropped live ordnance in 
> Vieques,''  
> Nelson said. ``That is the importance of Vieques in this (Kosovo) 
> operation.'' 
Mary Ann Lucking
corals at

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