ON THE ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF THE U.S. NAVY'S DEPARTURE FROM VIEQUES, PUERTO RICO
(Extensions of Remarks - April 29, 2004)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E709-E710]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




ON THE ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF THE U.S. NAVY'S DEPARTURE FROM VIEQUES, 
                              PUERTO RICO

                                 ______
                                 

                        HON. ANIBAL ACEVEDO-VILA

                             of puerto rico

                    in the house of representatives

                        Thursday, April 29, 2004

  Mr. ACEVEDO-VILA. Mr. Speaker, 1 rise today to commemorate the one-
year anniversary, this Saturday, May 1st, 2004, of the U.S. Navy's 
departure from the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico.
  Puerto Ricans have played a pivotal role in the national defense of 
the United States. The people of Vieques, Puerto Rico, in particular, 
bore over 60 years of bombing with everything from napalm to depleted 
uranium. In the 1940's, about two-thirds of their land was occupied by 
the U.S. Navy to make way for a bombing range on the eastern part of 
the island and a weapons depot on the western part of the island.
  The movement to get the U.S. Navy out of Vieques was in existence for 
many years. But the tragic death of Viequense David Sanes Rodriguez on 
April 19, 1999 as a result of two stray bombs dropped on the 
Observation Post in Vieques, contributed to galvanize the movement 
beyond partisan affiliations and political ideologies. That struggle 
reached its fruition with the U.S. Navy's departure from Vieques on May 
1, 2003. It is important to note that the Navy has recently indicated 
that the replacement training scenario for the Atlantic Fleet is as 
good if not better than the training conducted on Vieques. This 
realization is well received by those who called for the cessation of 
training on Vieques.
  The victory in Vieques is a victory first and foremost of the 
Viequenses. Yet it is also a victory of Puerto Ricans in the Island, in 
the U.S., and of many non-Puerto Rican elected officials, civic, 
community, labor and religious leaders and activists who participated 
in the struggle, organized marches, rallies, and lobbying initiatives. 
Many were arrested for peaceful civil disobedience in support for peace 
in Vieques.
  I am proud to say that many of my fellow Members of Congress 
participated in this important initiative for peace in Vieques. For 
instance, on March 8, 2001, 110 Members of Congress signed a letter to 
President Bush calling for the immediate and permanent cessation of 
military practices in Vieques.
  Mr. Speaker, I would like to place the March 8, 2001, letter from 
these 110 Members of Congress to President Bush into the Record at this 
time. On behalf of the people of Puerto Rico, I thank these Members of 
Congress for their support for peace in Vieques, and I urge them and my 
other colleagues to join me in working towards finishing the 
inconclusive agenda for the people of Vieques. The immediate task at 
hand is ensuring the adequate, full and prompt clean up and 
decontamination of the lands and surrounding waters of Vieques.
  Although the Navy has left Vieques, much remains to be done before 
the residents of Vieques have the peace and justice they deserve. When 
the Navy left Vieques and transferred the lands on the eastern part of 
Vieques to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service a year ago, the people of 
Vieques finally were free of the bombings that so disrupted and 
affected their peace, health, well-being and livelihood. That 
achievement is a testament to the resilience and perseverance of the 
Viequenses and their allies. That resilience and perseverance is now 
needed to make sure that the lands are fully and promptly cleaned up 
and decontaminated. The legacy of contamination and health crisis in 
Vieques must end.
  The Governor of Puerto Rico, Hon. Sila Calderon, has requested that 
Vieques--and the island of Culebra--be included in the National 
Priorities List under the Superfund law. That request is currently 
under consideration by the Office of Management and Budget. Once the 
relevant areas are designated for clean up and decontamination, the 
necessary funds must be appropriated to make sure that the clean up and 
decontamination is conducted fully and promptly. Unnecessary delays in 
the clean up process and insufficient funding would only exacerbate the 
health crisis suffered by Viequenses.
  Mr. Speaker, as we commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Navy's 
departure from the beautiful island of Vieques, we are proud of the 
victory achieved by the Viequenses and their allies in a peaceful 
struggle for peace and justice for the close to 10,000 residents of 
Vieques. At the same time, we are mindful that the agenda for complete 
peace and justice in Vieques is still inconclusive. We will continue to 
work towards completing this agenda. I am counting on my colleagues' 
support in doing so.


                                Congress of the United States,

                                    Washington, DC, March 8, 2001.
     Hon. George W. Bush,
     President of the United States of America, The White House, 
         Washington, DC.
       Dear Mr. President: For the last 60 years the U.S. Navy has 
     been conducting military operations in two-thirds of the 
     island of Vieques, Puerto Rico. From the beginning, such 
     operations have caused concern because of their consequences 
     on the people, the environment, and the economy. The tragic 
     death on April 19, 1999 of David Sanes-Rodriguez, a Vieques 
     resident, during a training exercise, brought to the 
     forefront of the Puerto Rican national and international 
     communities the health, environment, and the violation of 
     human and civil rights of the residents of that Island.
       The People of Vieques have a mortality rate 40 percent 
     higher than that of Puerto Rico, a 27 percent higher risk of 
     dying from cancer, and a 70 percent higher risk of dying from 
     diabetes. At the same time, Vieques' natural resources and 
     environment have been seriously damaged by the continuous 
     bombing and shelling, which have left heavy toxic metals in 
     the environment. The island's economy has also been affected 
     because Vieques has not been able to develop to its full 
     potential as a direct result of the U.S. Navy's presence. In 
     sum, the situation of Vieques has become an issue of health, 
     environmental protection, and human and civil rights. In 
     spite of all of these concerns, the U.S. Navy is determined 
     to continue using Vieques for bombing exercises.
       This issue has transcended political party and ideological 
     lines in Puerto Rico. Leaders from all sectors of society 
     agree that the bombing and shelling must end. At the same 
     time, in the United States, the Senate of the State of New 
     Jersey, led by. the Republicans, approved a resolution, by 
     unanimity, requesting the immediate cessation of the 
     bombings. Governor Donald DiFrancesco (R-NJ), and Governor 
     George Pataki (R-NY) have also stated their support for this 
     effort.

[[Page E710]]

       Today, the vast majority of the Puerto Rican society favors 
     the immediate and permanent cessation of the bombings and 
     shellings. Past Presidents of the United States, under 
     similar circumstances, have ordered the immediate and 
     permanent cessation of military operations in other 
     locations. For instance, in 1975, President Gerald Ford, by 
     an Executive Order, terminated the use of the island of 
     Culebra for military purposes. Likewise, President George 
     Bush, on October 22, 1990, directed the Secretary of Defense 
     to discontinue the use of the island of Kaho'olawe for 
     bombing and target practice.
       Your fellow Americans are seriously concerned about the 
     ailing health, the violation of human and civil rights of the 
     Viequenses, as well as the impact on their environment and 
     natural resources. Under the Constitution of the United 
     States, you have the authority to call for the immediate 
     cessation of the bombing and the shelling that are affecting 
     these rights. Therefore, the undersigned urge you to order an 
     immediate and permanent end of the bombing in Vieques.
           Respectfully,
       Anibal Acevedo Vila (D-PR), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Jose 
     Serrano (D-NY), Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), Ed Pastor (D-AZ), 
     Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX), George Miller (D-CA), Charles Rangel 
     (D-NY), Edolphus Towns (D-NY), Patsy Mink (D-HI), Neil 
     Abercrombie (D-HI), Bobby Rush (D-IL), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), 
     Edward Markey (D-MA), Hilda Solis (D-CA), Major Owens (D-NY), 
     Mike Honda (D-CA), Sam Farr (D-CA), Elliot Engel (D-NY), 
     Cynthia McKinney (D-GA), Carrie Meek (D-FL), Eva Clayton (D-
     NC), Louis Slaughter (D-NY), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Nita 
     Lowey (D-NY), John Larson (D-CT), Juanita Millender-McDonald 
     (D-CA), Brad Carson (D-OK) Mark Udall (D-CO) Tom Udall (D-
     NM), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Charlie Gonzalez (D-TX), Donna 
     Christensen (D-Vl), Danny K. Davis (D-IL), Albert Wynn (D-
     MD), Xavier Becerra (D-CA), Joe Baca (D-CA), Robert C. Scott 
     (D-VA), Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX), Anthony D. Weiner (D-NY), 
     Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Sanford D. Bishop Jr. (D-GA), 
     Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH), Robert 
     Underwood (D-GU), Rod Blagojevich (D-IL), Sherrod Brown (D-
     OH), Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Karen 
     McCarthy (D-MO), David Phelps (D-IL), Nick Rahall (D-WV), Eni 
     Faleomavaega (D-AS), Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), David Bonior (D-
     MI), Howard Berman (D-CA), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), William 
     Jefferson (D-LA), Dale Kildee (D-MI), Sen. John Corzine (D-
     NJ), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Jesse L. Jackson Jr. (D-IL), Bob 
     Filner (D-CA), William Lacy Clay (D-MO), Ted Strickland (D-
     OH), Lane Evans (D-IL), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Robert Brady 
     (D-PA), Jim McDermott (D-WA), John Olver (D-MA), Lois Capps 
     (D-CA), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Sen. Charles 
     Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Alcee L. 
     Hastings (D-FL), Melvin Watt (D-NC), Bennie Thompson (D-MS), 
     Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), James E. Clyburn (D-SC), James 
     McGovern (D-MA), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), John Conyers Jr. (D-
     MI), Martin Meehan (D-MA), Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Barney 
     Frank (D-MA), Jerry F. Costello (D-IL), Diana DeGette (D-CO), 
     Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), Michael McNutty (D-NY), Joseph 
     Crowley (D-NY), Gene Green (D-TX), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), 
     Earl Hilliard (D-AL), Maxine Waters (D-CA), James Oberstar 
     (D-MN), Janice Shakowsky (D-IL), Nick Lampson (D-TX), Bill 
     Delahunt (D-MA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), William 
     Lipinski (D-IL), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Thomas Allen (D-ME), 
     Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-MI), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), John 
     LaFace (D-NY), Lynn Rivers (D-MI), Robert A. Borski (D-PA), 
     James A. Barcia (D-MI), Chaka Fattah (D-PA).

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