Para ver este documento en
español, oprima aquí.
THE PITT NEWS
Tiny Island Takes A Stand Against U.S. Bombs
by Michael J. Mazza
January 18, 2000
Copyright © 2000 THE PITT NEWS. All Rights Reserved.
I doubt that many Americans have heard of Vieques. This tiny
Caribbean island, home to more than 9,000 residents, is located
off the coast of Puerto Rico and has been the site of intense
U.S. military training for more than 50 years.
But this military tradition may be ending soon. Protests over
the U.S. Navy's bombardment of the tiny island have intensified
since a training accident in April 1999 caused the death of civilian
security guard David Sanes and the injury of four others. Outraged
protesters soon began camping out on the embattled area and calling
for the United States to cease using Vieques for target practice,
much to the consternation of military officials who view the island
as an irreplaceable training site.
Opponents of the bombardment of Vieques have been joined in
their efforts by some high-profile figures, including U.S. Sen.
Charles Schumer, first lady (and Senate candidate) Hillary Rodham
Clinton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Even singing sensation Ricky
Martin has voiced opposition to the bombing of Vieques. According
to the MTV Web site, the Puerto Rican heartthrob told the newspaper
El Mundo, "Puerto Rico is united in this cause, and I'm part
President Clinton has been unsuccessful in his efforts to reach
a compromise in the controversy. In December 1999, he announced
that the bombardment of Vieques would resume this year, but at
a reduced rate and with dummy bombs.
He also proposed phasing out training on Vieques entirely within
Clinton's plan was rejected by Puerto Rican Gov. Pedro Rossello,
who announced at a San Juan news conference that he could not
accept a proposal that included the resumption of military maneuvers
As a military reservist of Puerto Rican heritage, I can sympathize
with both sides of this passionate debate. On one hand, supporters
of military readiness argue that Vieques is an essential component
in training. Criticizing the cessation of training on the island,
U.S. Sen. John Warner fumed. "This will mark the first time
in our nation's over 200-year history that America and its territories
have knowingly turned their backs on the responsibility to properly
and fully train those who go forth in harm's way to protect our
I've trained with live ammunition, and I know that allowing
troops to handle such material without proper instruction is potentially
disastrous. But opponents of training on Vieques argue that bombardment
of the island has already resulted in disaster. One Web site (www.viequeslibre.org)
alleges that the Navy presence on and around Vieques has both
economically crippled and ecologically damaged the island. The
"Vieques Libre" site also cites studies indicating that
environmental contamination caused by the bombing has led to high
levels of cancer and other health problems, such as pediatric
asthma, in the residents of Vieques.
Yes, American military personnel need the best training. But
what -- or who -- are we as a nation willing to sacrifice in order
to meet this objective? The objections raised by the opponents
of bombing on Vieques should be carefully considered.
I find myself further disturbed by the fact that this bombing
is being carried out against an island whose residents, because
of the commonwealth status of Puerto Rico, have no vote in Congress.
Although my ancestry is Puerto Rican, I grew up on an island --
Long Island, N.Y., to be specific -- where residents do
have voting representation in the national legislature. You can
bet that if the Navy decided to launch explosives at some of Long
Island's affluent enclaves, the outrage would shake the halls
So I call upon all Americans to hear the cry of Vieques. History
will judge us harshly if the mightiest of nations tramples upon
this tiny island under the pretense of national defense.
Mike Mazza would like to dedicate this column to all of
the Puerto Rican women and men who have selflessly defended this
country as members of the U.S. armed forces.
Michael J. Mazza, a native New Yorker of Puerto Rican heritage,
is currently a PhD student at the University of Pittsburgh.
He writes a weekly column for the campus newspaper, "The
Pitt News." The above editorial is about the controversy