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Vieques Chronology

From Staff Reports
Collaboration also obtained from EL NUEVO DIA

May 28, 1999
Copyright © 1999 ORLANDO SENTINEL

There has been a history of conflict since the Navy first arrived on Vieques during World War II. The island, a key strategic place in the United States' sphere of influence in the Caribbean, has served as training grounds for air, amphibious and ground assault maneuvers used by U.S. and foreign troops.

March 17, 1941 -- The Navy spends $35 million to build the base and training grounds in Vieques, expropriating three-fourths of the 52-square-mile island, forcing about half the population to move. The land taken by the Navy included the island's best beaches and land used in Vieques' once-thriving sugar cane and agricultural industry.

1947 -- After years of protests by workers in Vieques, the Department of the Interior issues a memorandum describing a plan to move the island's entire population to St. Croix so all of Vieques could be used as a military base.

1961 -- President Kennedy and the Department of Defense draw up a plan to eliminate the municipality of Vieques so the entire island could be handed over to the Navy. The plan was called off after protests, backed by the local government.

1971 -- Twelve people, including Puerto Rican Independence Party President Ruben Berrios, are arrested after entering Navy grounds on the neighboring island-municipality of Culebra in a act of civil disobedience aimed at getting the Navy out of that island. Two were sentenced in federal court to six months in jail, serving 31/2 months. Outrage over the arrests led to the Puerto Rico government getting involved and getting the Navy to leave Culebra in 1975.

1978 -- Vieques fishermen and relatives block military exercises with their small fishing boats, protesting the Navy's restrictions on fishing and the bombing's damage to marine life. The fishermen later filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop damage to the marine environment.

1980 -- A congressional probe of the Navy's actions in Vieques concludes the Navy should leave the island and seek another place for its bombing practices and military exercises.

1983 -- Gov. Carlos Romero Barcelo settles a lawsuit and signs an agreement with the Navy in exchange for pledges from the Navy to protect the environment and help in the island's economic development.

1993 -- A Navy pilot flying an F/A-18 Hornet jet drops five 500-pound bombs a mile away from the Vieques town of Isabel Segunda, 10 miles off his target on the extreme east of the island. Four exploded and the fifth was never found.

1995 -- Some 60,000 people march in San Juan protesting the Navy's plan to install a radar transmitter in Vieques with a receptor in Lajas in the southwest of the main island of Puerto Rico.

1997 -- Four Dutch and Belgian warships dock in the public beach of Sun Bay on Mother's Day. Dozens of fishermen drove them out after a two-hour struggle where the sailors threw metal objects and sprayed pressure hoses on the small fishing boats.

1999 -- Two jets drop 500-pound bombs during target practice, missing their mark by three miles. One hits an observation post, killing security guard David Sanes Rodriguez and injuring four others.

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