Friday, March 02, 2012

I remember a really stupid thing I did back in 1999. Some friends and I were camping on the island of Culebra, off the coast of Puerto Rico. Culebra used to be a US military base (like Vieques) until 1975 when the residents of the island successfully managed to have them removed. The military left, and left behind all of their undetonated charges, their tanks and other good things like that. We knew this, but that didn't stop us from taking a "three hour hike" - which actually turned into 8 hours - around the island's tip. We did run across undetonated charges. We saw lots of other things, too, which were heartbreaking. We also heard the military tests on Vieques that killed Daniel Sanes. We heard them and didn't know yet what they were. But there we were, across the water. Hiking through US military detritus.

And now that the military has moved off of Vieques, destroying the local ecosystem and causing conditions that increased health problems for the local residents, they want to move to the neighboring island of Santo Domingo - Kiskeya - and they want to set up a military base on the isla Saona.

Here are some facts (garnered from the change.org petition):

Saona Island is home to several endemic, threatened, or endangered plant and animal species (Abreu & Guerrero 1997), most notably the Hispaniolan Parrot (Amazona ventralis) and the Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata). the Hispaniolan Parrot is categorized as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN 2010), Currently, the Hispaniolan Parrot is categorized as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN 2010), while the Hawksbill Turtle is categorized as Critically Endangered by the same entity.

Over 112 bird species have been found, 8 species are endemic to the island, 11 species endemic to the Caribbean; including the White Crown Pigeon declared as extinict by the International Union for Nature Conservation (IUCN). Amongst other species of animals in danger of extinction, you can also find the Manati on the Island of Saona.

It is also of extreme importance to highlight that every year, between December and April, around 3,000 humpback whales come to breed in the warm waters off the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. Until recently it was believed that only 85% of Atlantic humpback whales are born in Dominican waters and return annually to mate and reproduce. But a recent study revealed that all populations of the North Atlantic come to breed in our waters.



My heart is breaking. I couldn't handle the base in Vieques. I remember crying as we climbed over a ridge and spotted a field of abandoned tanks in Culebra. Why does the US need a military base on Isla Saona?

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