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Nation's Oldest and Largest Latino Civil Rights Organization Calls Relief Measure on 20th Anniversary of U.S. Navy's Departure Long Overdue

May 4, 2023
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Washington, DC - The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) announces its full support for proposed legislation by U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Senator Roger Wicker (R-MI) calling for a $1-billion-dollar recovery and redevelopment act for Vieques, Puerto Rico. This legislation marks a significant step forward, addressing the long-standing grievances of the people of Vieques, who have suffered immensely from the U.S. Navy's bombing and military exercises on the island.

LULAC President Domingo Garcia emphasizes, "LULAC supports the three-point plan proposed within the framework of this landmark Menendez-Wicker bill. The legislation seeks to compensate affected victims, invest in the island's healthcare infrastructure, and conduct ongoing academic studies to reduce toxins in the soil, seas, and food sources. This comprehensive approach is vital for the safety and well-being of present and future residents of Vieques. It may not be an easy task, nor will it happen overnight, but we must begin now because we have ignored the people of Vieques for far too long."

Vieques off the coast of Puerto Rico, endured years of relentless bombing operations and training actions by the U.S. Navy, leaving a trail of devastation in its wake. The residents of Vieques have paid a heavy price for the extensive contamination caused by using napalm and uranium, which continues to impact their beautiful island. The proposed funding in this measure will provide critical medical and psychological assistance to the people of Vieques, who desperately need and deserve support.

"LULAC calls upon all lawmakers to support this critical legislation," says Lydia Medrano, LULAC national vice president for the Southeast. "It is an opportunity to rectify past injustices, prioritize the health and well-being of the people of Vieques, and ensure a better future for the island's residents. Together, we can pave the way for healing, recovery, and justice," she adds.

LULAC welcomes the proposed legislation by Senator Menendez and his unwavering support for the people of Vieques. It is time to acknowledge the tremendous suffering experienced by the residents due to the U.S. Navy's presence. Moreover, their island's contamination has severely affected their health and well-being. We urge bipartisan support for the swift passage of this legislation and call upon President Biden to expedite its signing into law once approved.

The urgency of federal funding relief for Vieques is further underscored by the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017, which destroyed the island's only health center. This legislation represents an important step towards justice by compensating those who have suffered for generations through no fault of their own. America has the opportunity to do the right thing and rectify this historical injustice by providing humanitarian relief and rebuilding Vieques' healthcare infrastructure.

Vieques served as one of the Navy's prime training sites from the 1940s until 2003. Over 60 years, the island was subjected to extensive bombing, with an average of nearly 1,900 tons of explosives dropped annually between 1983 and 1998 alone. This relentless bombing campaign resulted in severe contamination of the marine and land areas, which has spread far beyond the island region.

“I remember when the civil action of Puerto Ricans and Viequenses across party lines, fighting together, achieved what nobody thought was possible; we got the Navy out of Vieques,” said Nina Valedón, President of the Public Policy Commission of the Zonta Club of Caguas, Puerto Rico. “More than 20 years have passed, and we are still fighting for the well-being of the Viequenses. This project is an important step toward the right path. We need to address this situation urgently. The lives of the women, the youth, and the elderly population in Vieques are still at risk every day, and our environment is still suffering. We thank LULAC for its support, and we encourage Congress to act without any more delays,” added Valedón.

Scientific data to date have revealed alarming health disparities among Vieques residents, including significantly higher rates of cancer, cirrhosis, hypertension, diabetes, and other diseases linked to exposure to heavy metals associated with munitions. The suffering endured by the people of Vieques demands urgent attention and action.

The support for the $1 billion recovery and redevelopment act for Vieques aligns with LULAC's core mission of advocating for the rights and needs of marginalized communities. The people of Vieques have endured decades of suffering, and it is time for the government to step up and provide the necessary resources for their recovery.

The proposed legislation not only addresses the residents' immediate medical and psychological needs but also recognizes the importance of investing in the island's healthcare infrastructure. Hurricane Maria's destruction of the only health center further highlights the urgency of rebuilding and strengthening healthcare facilities on the island.

"Additionally, the legislation emphasizes the importance of conducting ongoing academic studies to evaluate the extent of contamination and develop strategies to reduce toxin levels in the environment," says Mari Corugedo, LULAC national vice president for youth. "This commitment to scientific research is crucial for understanding the long-term effects of military activities and ensuring the safety and well-being of present and future generations in Vieques," adds Corugedo.

The historical context of the Navy's presence in Vieques cannot be ignored. The island served as a prime training site for the U.S. military for years, subjecting its residents to relentless bombing and military exercises. The severe contamination caused by using napalm and uranium has had far-reaching consequences, resulting in alarming health disparities among the population.

LULAC commends Senators Menendez and Wicker for their bipartisan efforts in proposing this legislation. It is a testament to their commitment to justice and recognition of the importance of addressing the needs of the people of Vieques. We urge all members of Congress to rally behind this bill and provide the support necessary for its swift passage.

Furthermore, LULAC calls upon President Biden to prioritize signing this legislation into law once Congress approves it. The people of Vieques have waited long enough for justice and relief. Our government must act swiftly and decisively to rectify the historical injustices inflicted upon the residents of Vieques.

"LULAC stands firmly with the people of Vieques in their fight for justice and recovery," says Garcia. "We will continue to advocate for the passage of this legislation, working alongside our partners and allies to ensure that the voices of the marginalized are heard, and their needs are addressed. It is time for America to do the right thing and support the people of Vieques. By investing in their recovery, we can begin to right the wrongs of the past and build a more just and equitable future for all," concludes Garcia.




The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is the nation's largest and oldest Hispanic civil rights volunteer-based organization that empowers Hispanic Americans and builds strong Latino communities. Headquartered in Washington, DC, with 1,000 councils around the United States and Puerto Rico, LULAC's programs, services, and advocacy address the most important issues for Latinos, meeting the critical needs of today and the future. For more information, visit https://lulac.org/