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U.S. Bombs on Vieques

Puerto Rico Protests Condemn U.S. War Games

Revolutionary Worker #1008, May 30, 1999


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The Puerto Rican people are suffering casualties from the NATO war on Yugoslavia. On the early evening of April 19, two Marine F/A-18 Hornets from the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy dropped two bombs on an obseration tower--during U.S. war games on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques--killing David Sanes Rodriguez instantly and injuring four other people.

The two pilots who killed David Sanes were training for deployment to the Balkans. After repeated questioning, the U.S. military finally confirmed that 80 percent of the U.S. ships and jets waging war on Yugoslavia have trained in Vieques.

The Caribbean island of Puerto Rico has been held as a colony since it was occupied by U.S. troops over a hundred years ago. In addition to exploiting Puerto Rican people in the fields and factories, the U.S. imperialists turned their island into a "stationary aircraft carrier" for their military. U.S. bases in Puerto Rico have been a staging area for repeated invasions, a storage depot for weapons, a nerve center for intelligence, radar and covert activities, and a training ground for international aggressions.

Vieques is a 22-mile-long island off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico that was taken over by the U.S. Navy during World War 2. It has been used as a target range for training bombers and naval artillery. Two thirds of Vieques is now a Navy base. On the western part of the island is one of the Navy's largest ammo dumps. The eastern part of the island has been systematically pounded and polluted as the Navy's bombing range. The North Atlantic Fleet Weapons Training Facility there is one of the largest live weapons training grounds in the world.

There have been years of intense struggle by the Puerto Rican people of Vieques against the Yankee occupation of their land. Thousands of people have been forced off the island, leaving 9,000 people behind. They are now confined to a thin six-mile strip of land between the two large naval reserves on each end of the island. War games and bombardment have destroyed much of the fishing in surrounding waters, taking away the livelihood of many people remaining there. The Navy itself only employs 99 civilians on the island and unemployment is about 50 percent. Many residents blame their unusually high cancer rate on Navy ecological contamination.

Outrage over the Killing of David Sanes

The death of David Sanes struck a deep nerve across the island of Puerto Rico. Once again, the U.S. military was using Puerto Rican soil in an unjust war and once again the Puerto Rican people had paid a bitter price under U.S. domination.

Activists quickly decided to trespass onto the Navy base on Vieques and refuse to move--protesting the killing of David Sanes and the Navy's occupation of Puerto Rican soil and waters. The "People's Zone" encampments have grown to about 40 people. The Navy denounced the activists for "trespassing" and warned that they were camping on land dangerously contaminated by military ordinance (which is itself an act of self-exposure by this toxic Navy). In one support action, over a thousand protesters gathered on the island to support the encampments and protest the killing of Sanes. Fishermen from Vieques have brought supplies to the encampments and have defiantly sailed into "forbidden waters"--challenging the Navy's claim to the seas surrounding Puerto Rico.

The U.S. ruling class is very much on the defensive: The notoriously pro-military and pro-imperialist Puerto Rican governor Pedro Rossello even felt compelled to call for a permanent halt to live weapons training at Vieques. The Navy offered lame apologies and called off live ammunition training temporarily--hoping things will calm down so that they can press ahead with their war training and their plans to expand the Vieques bases with new radar installations.

Free Puerto Rico! U.S. Navy Off Vieques!

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