VIEQUES ISLAND, PUERTO RICO - MAY 1: Bernardo Rivera celebrates holding a Puerto Rican Flag as he walks around a burned military vehicle the former U.S. Naval Station May 1, 2003 Camp Garcia in Vieques, Puerto Rico. The U.S. Navy abandoned Camp Garcia just before midnight on April 30 with a ceremony marking the land transfer back to Puerto Rico. Hundreds of protesters then rushed onto the former Navy area, destroying vehicles, burning flags and attacking buildings. Vieques served as a practice bombing range for U.S. Navy for almost 60 years. (Photo by Gerald Lopez-Cepero/Getty Images)2003 Getty Images
San Juan, Puerto Rico – The Puerto Rico College of Physicans and Surgeons sent a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama asking him to launch by executive order the decontamination of Vieques and Culebra, islands used for decades as a testing ground by the U.S. Army, and provide adequate treatment for those harmed by the pollution.
This will "be the best substantiation of your many times expressed concern for the wellbeing of all the Latino people living in the United States," Eduardo Ibarra, head of that institution, says in the letter.
The missive dated Friday reminds Obama that an adequate and permanent cleanup was never carried out on Vieques, an island used as a practice bombing range and for experiments with live munitions, which left significant contamination.
"As is well known around the World, our pristine Islands of Vieques and Culebra were during more than half a Century utilized by the armed forces of the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to practice air to land, water to land and land to land live bombing and also, as dumping grounds for military materials," the letter says.
It goes on to say that a number of scientific studies have shown that "the population of those thin paradisiac islands have been the innocent victims of high exposure to extremely dangerous contaminants, particularly and conspicuously Mercury."
"As a direct consequence of such contamination of their environment," the letter says, "its population has shown unacceptable higher incidence and prevalence of cancer, hypertension, diabetes, cirrhosis and epilepsy."
The Puerto Rico College of Physicians and Surgeons said it had communicated this same plea to Obama on other occasions, without receiving an appropriate response.
For this institution, what is alarming is that the U.S. Navy left Vieques - located 10 kilometers (6 miles) southeast of the U.S. commonwealth's main island - a decade ago, and since then only 5 percent of the contaminants have been removed.