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Why is the Navy exploding bombs in Puerto Rico? | AJ+

June 13, 2019



I'm in one of the most beautiful places in the Caribbean this is the island of Vieques which is in Puerto Rico but what you can't see are the thousands of active explosives left behind here by the US Navy that's because for decades the Navy trained for war by bombing this island and the way they're going about cleaning up their toxic mess is actually hurting the locals and the environment Puerto Rico is a u.s. territory which means residents here are American citizens but as a small island off the main island Vieques has suffered years of neglect and now with no main hospital after Hurricane Maria and little Economic Opportunity many are leaving at the same time wealthy Americans from the mainland are buying a prime real estate this house is listed for 4.5 million Wow yeah and it's worth every penny even though parts of the island are still off-limits yeah I don't want to go over there and get blown up nobody wants to go over there and get blown up that's for sure this peaceful trail I'm on is where the Navy trained for war and dropped hundreds of thousands of bombs for years today it's a National Wildlife Refuge which is ironic because it's simultaneously a Superfund site full of toxic munitions that are still littered all over the land and sea and I've actually seen signs like this that say explosive hazard everywhere until 2003 this refuge was a u.s. Navy range where the military trained for conflicts like World War two the Vietnam War and the Cuban Missile Crisis the land which makes up one half of the island is now one of the most hazardous waste sites in the u.s. the Navy's been cleaning up the remnants of their wargames by blowing up old bombs a process called open detonation which they insist is safe but some residents are concerned about the health effects from the chemicals released by each new explosion what what type of munitions are we talking about exactly that the Navy left behind here they basically used everything but the kitchen sink this is Daniel Rodriguez he's the EPA's point person in Vieques the EPA is overseeing the cleanup you can find large munitions like 2,000 pound bombs and munitions as small as 20 millimeters so you had all kind of training activities here for mortars dropped from planes shoot from boats these are munitions that were not disposed on the ground there were fire and they didn't function the Navy has admitted to using toxic chemicals in Vieques including napalm and depleted uranium the EPA lists over a dozen contaminants on the island I think that we happen to be collateral damage to the military agenda and to the federal government agenda Myrna and Ismail are local activists who spent decades trying to kick out the Navy now they're fighting for their lives I am a cancer survivor however in my family my husband passed away that was a total metastasized cancer and his problem then with the heavy metals most arsenic and uranium I have uranium all so these are your medical records from 2000 when the Navy was still here and your hair sample showed levels of mercury what do you think that was from the from their native Ismael was one of over 200 residents who were tested for mercury aluminum cadmium lead and arsenic exposure all present in high explosives except for arsenic 33% of those tested had higher levels than the EPA considers safe we have no industry here so where could all the contamination come from I believe as do most of the people here believe that is because of the military practices the bombing and the fact that they were experimenting here with non-conventional weapons the rates of cancer in Vieques are higher than the rest of Puerto Rico historically up to 27% though it's hard to track today since so many people have left the island and to get treatment patients have to travel on an unreliable ferry to the main island smell makes that trip regularly for dialysis kala kalah pilâtre de la tarde Annette Isaiah Noah muchas guarantee a NATO dia muchos infernos a no Ragusan mover se debía caper a CNN cancelin Suki mio terapia surah do terapia sutra Tommy ento porque no C at Raven event oral say a viajar porque di ya viene un nto yo se no guarantees on Oso TRO el poder regresar yo la bomba no pasar por encima loca noona no pasar por encima you've saved all of these memories from your fight against the Navy we stop computer landing we stop Imperial Army whoa one incident in particular ignited a movement in 1999 a Marine fighter jet accidentally dropped two 500-pound bombs on a navy observation post killing a local security guard and wounding 4 others in response protesters occupied the Navy base stopping them from conducting exercises for an entire year hewwo Multi please see that de apoyo an evil mundial no solamente in Porto Rico near thousand until the military forcibly cleared the encampments in 2000 president george w bush ordered the navy to leave by 2003 this was supposed to initiate a cleanup process but 16 years later locals say the cleanup hasn't been transparent or efficient how much does the Navy cleaned up and how much is left the Navy has surface clear a little bit over 4,000 acres 4,000 out of 10,000 out of 10,000 surface clear so that doesn't even include what's underground and what's in the water that doesn't include what's underground so there's a long way to go before this place gets cleaned out there is some more to go exactly when will they finish that dates varies from time to time their numbers being tossed around that could be taken to 2030 why is it taking so long it's a very risky type of cleanup when you're dealing with munitions you can't go that fast what grade would you give the Navy so far they're doing a good job hey they're doing a good job hardly any independent studies have been carried out to examine the military's impact on the public's health the Navy consistently points to one controversial government study that concluded there's no negative impact but multiple scientists researchers and locals have seriously questioned the findings cancer is very prevalent in here this is doctor Pugin she's one of the only general physicians in Vieques I asked her why people here are more likely to develop cancer than those on the main island there must be some carcinogenic I'm higher than the rest of the island why are in Vieques all because of the bombing so if you live in Vieques there's a higher chance that you have cancer if you have cancer you cannot get treatment here and you have to go to the main island and going to the main island is is a big hardship that feels like a hopeless situation yes that's why many most of them move they find another place to live meanwhile wealthy Americans from the mainland are finding their second homes in Vieques and Culebra this is Tom he moved here from Idaho nearly 20 years ago today he is one of the most successful real estate developers on the island selling homes like these this house is listed for 4.5 million Wow yeah and it's worth every penny it's the type of place where you can be completely private you're behind walls your own one of the most prominent locations in Vieques right on the oceanfront on the cliffs it's a spectacular setting who are your typical customers for the places you sell well I always think of my customer bases people who are people who are searching for second homes or successful people so I get a large percentage of doctors for example and and lawyers professional people tom says his clients never ask about contamination from the Superfund site he also says real estate sales have rebounded after Hurricane Maria so what's like your pitch to someone who has a good amount of money from the US mainland who's like I'm thinking of buying a house on Vieques I like to show that I put my money where my mouth is that I've invested I like to talk about taxes which are very low here they're just a fraction of what you would pay for a similar home in the States how do you respond to skeptics who would accuse people like you have gentrifying vehicles and I guess we are doing some gentrifying but I really tend to focus on the positive things that we're doing for the community education is getting better animals are getting treated better we are a part of the community we're giving back and I feel like I'm the kinsey but other residents see things differently so buddy because I mean they are know that I'm worth day they live in sauna so Deana good morning morning yes this is Robert Rubin he was arrested five times for protesting the Navy he now directs the Vieques historical archives and hosts the radio show gentrification now is more a danger to the very existence of the culture and community of Vieques as we know it so you believe that after Hurricane Maria there's been more gentrification yes yes because people tend to leave people in Puerto Rico thousands of hundreds of thousand people have left when we go to the go to the United States that means they're selling their property cheap and the same is happening here people are looking for other alternatives and so they're you know the realtor speculators investors all part of the dynamics of gentrification are taking advantage of the post Maria's situation Roberts says the Navy cleanup is yet another example of locals being excluded from economic opportunities we had hoped that in the cleanup process would really mean a lot of economic benefit for the community but of the hundreds of millions of dollars that the federal government has spent on cleanup so far the greatest amount of that is going to large US corporations that are in control of the process the Navy didn't want to talk on camera in an email they defended open detonation as the safest process for the site workers handling the munitions and said the explosions posed no health risks to the public I wanted to hear what Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rocio had to say about this I'm very much committed to Vieques and I recognize all of the challenges they have in the past do you believe that the EPA and the Navy have gone about the cleanup of the contamination in the safest way possible to the citizens there it is again inherent in this colonial conversation that we found if we've had two senators and five house representatives which would be the case for Puerto Rico you would have oversized ears you would have you know a hammer in Washington to make sure that some of these things move forward unfortunately we don't whether it be you know access to clean water whether it'll be the poverty levels but we're always going to be at a disadvantage relative to the States on our last day in Vieques the Navy conducted another open detonation a fisherman caught the explosions on camera from his boat for those in Vieques who dedicated their lives to reclaiming their land the fight is far from over petroleum and era the militarization they were the contamination devolution et cetera you're a vehicle and how many of those have been met so far none zero yeah me enough that one picked up lingo yeah yeah hey guys it's Deena here in Vieques which the locals call a colony of the colony tell me what you thought about this video in the comments do you believe the Navy and the EPA when they say everything is safe here and would you feel safe living here let me know and please like this video and share it and stay tuned for my next direct from episode where I go inside Monsanto's operations in Puerto Rico they're doing a lot here

38 Comments

  • Reply Dena Takruri June 13, 2019 at 9:53 am

    Hi everyone, I'm glad you're here watching our latest Direct From episode. Do you know anything about Vieques? This history did not come up at all in any of my classes growing up. Let me know in the comments, and be sure to catch my next episode next Tuesday about what Monsanto is doing in Puerto Rico!

  • Reply starkistuna June 13, 2019 at 9:53 am

    Te vez Super Myrna! sigue la lucha!

  • Reply angel cruz June 13, 2019 at 9:53 am

    USA Bomb testing, agent orange,vaccines, medications, medical equipment and the economy is nasty they want debs for the island.

  • Reply MmeDefarge (Expose NYC Meth Labs) June 13, 2019 at 9:53 am

    Crisis Capitalism in action.

  • Reply stickpeoplerule100 June 13, 2019 at 9:53 am

    Damn, the reporter is beautiful 😍😍😍

  • Reply notgonnapay June 13, 2019 at 9:53 am

    Vieques, Puerto Rico – Bikini revisited.

    I’m surprised so many people still aren’t aware of this.

  • Reply Roberta Neilan June 13, 2019 at 9:53 am

    End American Colonialism. Immediately cut Puerto Rico out of the US nation and give them total independence! Let them control their own country. They are NOT American citizens. They are Puerto Rican. SET PUERTO RICO LOOSE. Free Puerto Rico. End American colonialism.

  • Reply Ramon Rivera June 13, 2019 at 9:53 am

    Tierra demas hay en puerto rico pa que sigan viviendo hay

  • Reply James Pulpy June 13, 2019 at 9:53 am

    👌👌👌👌👌

  • Reply rodzpb June 13, 2019 at 9:53 am

    Thank you so much for spreading the word on this unfortunate event.

  • Reply Alexander Ramos June 13, 2019 at 9:53 am

    WOW 😥

  • Reply franco luis sotomayor June 13, 2019 at 9:53 am

    Share!!

  • Reply franco luis sotomayor June 13, 2019 at 9:53 am

    Gracias AJ! 🇵🇷✌🏻❤️🔥

  • Reply Borincano V June 13, 2019 at 9:53 am

    Malditos gringos

  • Reply JohnnyTheWolf June 13, 2019 at 9:53 am

    Maybe the Vieques inhabitants should start trolling the US government by having the toxic area renamed to "Donald Trump".

  • Reply srikanth sarjanaa June 13, 2019 at 9:53 am

    Dina ur awesome

  • Reply Rafael Capó June 13, 2019 at 9:53 am

    I live in PR and regularly visit Vieques. The biggest problem is how many are emigrating and the impact of airbnb. You should have interviewed common people, less educated, to see their perspective. Good work though!

  • Reply j G June 13, 2019 at 9:53 am

    Do a documentary about Fukushima and its effects of radiation on Asia Canada the United States Hawaii Australia Etc Fukushima nuclear power plant 3 nuclear meltdown on March 11th 2011

  • Reply Handoko Davidson June 13, 2019 at 9:53 am

    Why nobody is investing the property in Alaska ??

  • Reply CHewEe Choo June 13, 2019 at 9:53 am

    pls come to Hong Kong and let the rest of the world know what’s happening Pls Pls Pls.

  • Reply tim h June 13, 2019 at 9:53 am

    CAUSE WE CAN

  • Reply Golden 47 June 13, 2019 at 9:53 am

    Let me tell you why because Puerto Rico is a territory of USA not part of the USA. They just use that part of the land to experiment shit

  • Reply Josue Ortiz June 13, 2019 at 9:53 am

    Also not to be negative Nancy but honestly statehood really won’t fix the problem here. If Hawaii isn’t a perfect example of that I don’t know what is.

  • Reply Josue Ortiz June 13, 2019 at 9:53 am

    Was the whole “education getting better” thing a joke? You know they don’t even have a university on the island not to mention the amount of funds that are being cut from the mainland public university system. You guys should go deeper on the topic of higher education in the island as well. I’m currently a university student in UPR ( University of Puerto Rico) and even thought the cost is lower than that of your average US university, the income of the average Puerto Rican is still not enough for the planned raise on tuition. Originally a credit was $56,. It’s expected to be $157 by 2023. Also they planned on closing some of the campus, even though low income students usually rely on those since they can’t pay $600 a month for a place to rent. I’ve even encountered people who have to do sex work to even get by, since Puerto Rico also lacks a good public transportation system and you pretty much rely on a car for everyday life, so that way they can pay for their car, gas money and rent. To top it off, the private universities are expected to raise their own tuition cost to stay above the public system.

  • Reply henry pagan June 13, 2019 at 9:53 am

    Puerto Ricans have always been collateral damage to the good old USA the defenders of freedoms.

  • Reply gladbandanna June 13, 2019 at 9:53 am

    Dena Takruri rocks!

  • Reply slangnocturno June 13, 2019 at 9:53 am

    Americans fought the Spaniards to supposedly free Puerto Ricans from the "European subhuman brute's" oppression.Funnily enough at the time of the Spanish-American war Americans were lynchings blacks and massacring Native Americans and neither of the latter had civil rights.

    So they helped Puerto Ricans escape the Spaniard grip to become second class citizens with no rights still live in poverty and are still oppressed to make it worse their land just being used as a military dumping ground which slowly kills it's inhabitants of cancer and gentrifies their land so the colonizer can have the life they can't have.Does it sound like if Puerto Rico is better off as a U.S colony or did they just continue the Spaniard's colonial ways??? 🤔

  • Reply Pepins Spot June 13, 2019 at 9:53 am

    I remember the stories of people that lived there during the military exercises. Houses with cracks and ornaments falling off the walls because of the detonations on the other side of the island!

  • Reply Claudia Claudia June 13, 2019 at 9:53 am

    Smart white people

  • Reply Claudia Claudia June 13, 2019 at 9:53 am

    Aww so the rich created the storms to make the poor people move to the ghetto of NYC and then they move in and build the beach front mansion…

  • Reply Baldeep Dhindsa June 13, 2019 at 9:53 am

    @AJ+ please do a video about Sikh genocide.

  • Reply MightiestArm June 13, 2019 at 9:53 am

    Great video, I think it's bullshit that wealthy people can just move in where so many Puerto Ricans have left

  • Reply Greg Lachcik June 13, 2019 at 9:53 am

    I'd live there looks beautiful, knock off vice ass sheeeee

  • Reply jrukawa11 June 13, 2019 at 9:53 am

    Lol, $4.5M, buying the house or buying those ammunition in the ground

  • Reply larroyo 1973 June 13, 2019 at 9:53 am

    What a stupid title! The navy hasn't bombed in over a decade!

  • Reply Pauly June 13, 2019 at 9:53 am

    I think I’m going to knowingly move to where the military tested nuclear bombs in Nevada, build a house there & complain about the radiation levels. That way, Al Jazeera will do a story on my plight.

  • Reply Sara Santiago June 13, 2019 at 9:53 am

    I live in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I consider myself first Puerto Rican. I do believe is not safe to live there..but it is a beautiful place to visit. I have gone there : only once, when I was small. I think the US Navy was very abusive in what they have done, only seeing and looking into their side of things. Vieques is too small to bomb: just too small and yes…I agree: it was abusive. I would also explore it's economy and history….What are the options they have….for the economy? That would be another interesting angle, because the island is so and so small. Buen dia, Lara Tejera !!! I will send the link to reporters that I have contacted.

  • Reply Danny Davis June 13, 2019 at 9:53 am

    despicable, and it's reminiscent of what happened in Bikini Atoll. I wouldn't be surprised if the Rotshchilds are behind it. they are evil, along with the bilderbergs, nwo/illuminati and the gov'ts.

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