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“We’re Out Here Talking About Life and Death”: Reparations for Human Rights Violations in Vieques, Puerto Rico

Morgan, Ryan

From 1941-2003, the U.S. Navy used the island of Vieques, which is inhabited by close to 10,000 U.S. citizens, for war games, bombing exercises, and simulated aquatic landings. During those six decades, the bombardment of Vieques with both conventional and chemical weapons devastated the environment and created a massive health crisis. The health crisis is exacerbated by the extreme poverty on the island, much of which is also traceable to Navy policy there. Since 2003, several petitions and attempts for reparations for Vieques’ residents have been made to the Navy specifically and the US government generally, most notably a class action lawsuit in which more than three-quarters of Viequenses were named plaintiffs. Since that lawsuit’s dismissal in 2013, the question of reparations has again come to the foreground of Viequenses politics. The Navy, while conceding the facts of both the toxicity of their bombing exercises and the heightened health problems faced by Viequenses, consistently denies that there is a connection between the two. This thesis places that denial in the context of the Navy’s long-running obfuscation of its responsibilities to the Viequense people and, drawing on relevant human rights norms as well as other sources of reparation theory, argues that the Navy and US Government have a moral and legal obligation to provide comprehensive reparations to the people of Vieques.

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Academic Units
Institute for the Study of Human Rights
Thesis Advisors
Scott, David A.
Degree
M.A., Columbia University
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