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Wednesday, October 5, 2022


Virgin Islands Congressional Delegate Donna Christian Christensen has added her voice to the chorus of those opposing the U.S. Navy’s use of Vieques as a bombing range.
Vieques, a small island municipality of 9,000 people off the coast of Puerto Rico, has been the center of controversy since April, when a Puerto Rican security guard was killed in a Navy bombing mishap.
Then in May, it was revealed that U.S. Marine jets had fired 263 rounds of depleted uranium ammunition at the island firing range on March 19. Depleted uranium is to be used only during combat or approved tests and not for training.
In the months since, Puerto Rican protesters have at times occupied the range and called for the Navy’s ouster. Puerto Rico’s governor, Pedro Rossello, asked President Bill Clinton to order the Navy, which has used the island as a target since 1941, to assess its need for Vieques. The report is scheduled to be finished this month.
On Wednesday, Christensen announced that she had joined Todo Puerto Rico con Vieques, an ad-hoc coalition of groups and leaders from Puerto Rico and several members of Congress, that is calling on the Navy to close the range.
Christensen, along with Reps. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), urged Clinton and Navy officials to honor the request of Puerto Rican residents to discontinue bombing practices on the island.
"The island of Vieques is less than 30 miles from St. Thomas," she said. "A large portion of the Puerto Rican population on St. Croix comes from Vieques and still visits family members there. In light of the growing tensions on our neighboring islands arising from the recent firing of uranium-tipped shells and the death of David Sanes Rodriguez, I fully support Puerto Rico's position on closing the Naval base."
The delegate wrote to President Clinton on June 7 to express concern about possible health and environmental risks to the Virgin Islands as a result of the recent bombings.
Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg has also expressed concern about the use of depleted uranium to Shirley Ann Jackson, director of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Donastorg not only worried about the residents of Vieques, but said he was concerned that the depleted uranium could contaminate the area’s fishery, thus affecting the Virgin Islands.
In her response to Donastorg, Jackson said the NRC will conduct an independent inspection of the Navy’s recovery of any remaining depleted uranium. The Navy is scheduled to complete a report on the recovery effort in September. Following the NRC’s review, she said the agency would provide Donastorg with both sets of results.

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