Testimony of Ismael Guadelupe Ortiz
My name is Ismael Guadalupe Ortiz. I am 35 years old. All my life
I have lived in Vieques. For the past 13 years I have been a high
school teacher in the public school system of Vieques.
Many years ago, I began to fight for the right of my Viequense
brothers to live in peace. Since 1978 I have been one of the directors
of the Crusade to Rescue Vieques. This organization, that includes
Viequenses of diverse political ideologies, religious philosophies
and various social positions, have carried on their shoulders the
responsibility to unite in order to be most effective in our struggle
against the US Navy. When I speak of the struggle against the US
Navy in Vieques, and what the presence of this armed force represents
on our land, I am speaking of something concrete.
The violation of our land by the US Navy began before I was even
born. When I was born, La Isla Nena was already physically occupied
and divided by this Navy that today presumes to bring us here as
Today, I come here not as the accused, I come as the accuser. I
accuse the US Navy and the court of the US in Puerto Rico, of conspiring
to commit against all Viequenses, one of the greatest abuses ever
brought against a people in our America.
I am not exaggerating. I accuse the US Navy and its legal arm,
the Federal Court, of expropriating and throwing into the street,
thousands of human beings that live on these lands, and that now,
this Navy claims is theirs. Who are the witnesses that I will call
to prove my accusation? To begin with, my own parents were victims
of this expropriation. To continue, I call hundreds of Viequenses
who are still alive to attest to how it was in the 1940s. Women
who had to give birth in cane fields, because the birth coincided
with the passage of the bulldozers that were knocking down their
houses. Of men and women who woke up without a piece of land to
cultivate for their or their family’s sustenance.
I am not going to limit myself to generalities and damage to property.
I am going to talk of lives, of precious Viequense lives that have
been lost, and continue to be lost, as a consequence of the abuses
and crimes of the US Navy on our island of Vieques. I personally
know and remember more than a dozen Viequenses who died or were
assassinated at the hands of drunken Marines or by bombs left on
our land by this Navy who today I accuse as a criminal. All Viequenses
remember the death of Chulto Legrán, a twelve year old boy,
victim of one of the many bombs that the Navy left on our soil.
This occurred in 1953. The elders tell us how the body of Alejandro
Rosado was found on the lands occupied by the Navy, buried with
his head down and his feet up. This occurred in the early 1940s.
The assassination of Felipe, Francis, Christian in April 1954 is
still fresh in our memory. The elders tell us about the deaths of
Anastasio and Domingo Acosta, father and son, victims of the Navy’s
bombs. Juan Maysonet, Helena Holiday and many more form links in
the chain of victims, of flesh and blood, and of names and surnames.
We remember also the so called riots of 1952, 1958, 1964 and 1968
that were no other than hordes of drunken marines who fell upon
our civilian population like savages.
All these crimes have gone unpunished. The criminals roam free,
and not this court or any other court has judged them. Nonetheless,
today you judge me for getting together with my brother Viequenses
in the Crusade to Rescue Vieques to fight against these injustices
committed by the North American Navy in my island of Vieques.
In addition to these crimes against individuals, there is the collective
crime against the 8,000 Viequenses that live on this island. They
have taken 26,000 of the 33,000 acres that we had for our economic
development and have prohibited us from fishing in our waters, the
source of sustenance for hundreds of Viequenses, and our free air
and land transportation has been impeded by this North American
Navy that occupies our territory by force.
Viequenses are a people imprisoned between two bases, between the
storage of explosives and bombing and shooting that little by little
takes thousands of Viequenses away from their island in a forced
We could continue speaking about the serious problems caused by
unemployment, of an education system that offers nothing to children
and young Viequenses, but I will not go on.
Suffice to say, that as a Viequense, as a Puerto Rican and as the
father of two children, I feel legitimately proud to be at the side
of my people at this time. That my children will be able to say
that I am a prisoner because I do not want Vieques to be for them
what it was for me. That I do not want for them, or any other child
of my small island, to be a land bombed and shot at wildly at the
whim of foreigners. That I do not want for them to have a drunken
marine corps, humiliating and abusing them on their own land. That
for my children and for their little friends, the abuses of today
will be a thing of the past, or perhaps a lesson in a schoolroom
about what happened in Vieques and never to let it happen again
anywhere else. This is why I fight.
My crime is to walk on the land where I was born and have lived
all my life. My crime is to fight along with my Puerto Rican and
Viequense brothers against the abuses and injustices the United
States Navy represents. It is for these crimes that I am being tried
in this court that represents the interests of the government of
the United States in Puerto Rico and consequently the interests
of the Navy of that government. This is the same court that some
days ago decided that the right of the Navy to shoot and to bomb
is more important than the right of 8,000 Viequenses to live in
peace. This foreign court has no moral or legal authority to judge
me. As a Puerto Rican, I will not find justice in the court of the
invader that today attacks my people.
This court can today send me to prison, but outside remain thousands
who will continue the struggle, which is the struggle of the all