Vieques: Worth Every Bit of Struggle
Description: In the 1940s, the United States Navy expropriated much of the Caribbean island of Vieques, Puerto Rico, and constructed a weapons testing and training site. Evicting dozens of families, the Navy built hundreds of bunkers to store the weapons on the western end of the island. On the eastern end, it created a target area to detonate them. For almost 60 years, the citizens were left wedged on only 23 percent of the island, sandwiched between a weapons depot and a bombing range. But, the struggle against the Navy didn't achieve widespread support until April 1999, when two misfired bombs killed a civilian. This death ignited the simmering anger of islanders and shed a harsh new light on a host of economic and environmental problems. Over the next four years, almost 1,500 people would be arrested for using their bodies as human shields to prevent military exercises. On May 1, 2003, the Navy ceased all testing and training on the island. The Navy's departure, while a huge victory, was only the first step in a complicated process of demilitarization, decontamination and development of a community long assaulted by the US and perennially neglected by the Puerto Rican government.
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