Vieques Protests

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Vieques Protests

The Vieques protests took place from 1999 through 2003 on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, thirteen miles east of the main island. Since the early 1940s, the United States Navy and Marine Corps had maintained a base on Vieques for the testing of bombs and practicing bombing techniques. Locals began to protest activities at the base after the accidental death of a Vieques civilian, David Sanes, on 19 April 1999. The Vieques bombings became a flash point for those who opposed Puerto Rico's status as a commonwealth of the United States.

Locals began to engage in acts of civil disobedience on the testing grounds, eventually building encampments in the hopes of impeding naval bombing. Their cause gained international support from such well-known figures as the environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, and Guatemalan Nobel Prize Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú. On 4 May 2000, U.S. Marines forcibly evacuated the encampments in order to put an end to the protests, but five days later hundreds of demonstrators returned to the site and refused to leave until the United States announced it would vacate Vieques. In May 2003 the U.S. Navy withdrew; much of the island was designated a wildlife reserve and placed under the control of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

See alsoPuerto Rico, Geography; United States-Latin American Relations.


Grosfoguel, Ramón. Colonial Subjects: Puerto Ricans in a Global Perspective. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.

McCaffrey, Katherine T. Military Power and Popular Protest: The U.S. Navy in Vieques, Puerto Rico. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2002.

Pérez Viera, Edgardo. Victoria de un pueblo: Crónica del grito de Vieques. San Juan, P.R.: Editorial Cultural, 2002.

                                        Emily Berquist