The island-municipality of Vieques, Puerto Rico now has its first community radio station, Radio Vieques 90.1 FM [es], a non-profit project created thanks to the efforts of the people of Vieques, with the help of people in solidarity with them on the main island of Puerto Rico and in the United States. Together they were able to use a cooperative model to create what will be a valuable tool for the environmental struggles of the so-called “Isla Nena”, or “Girl Island”.
The island of Vieques suffered over 60 years of use as a United States Navy military base and an area for bombing exercises. In spite of the fact that the people of Vieques suffer an incidence of cancer that is 31% higher than the rest of the country [es], the United States government recently denied that there is any connection between the high incidence of cancer and the bombings.
Robert Rabin, director of the radio station, said the following, as reported by El Post Antillano (The Antillean Post) [es]:
Radio Vieques será una herramienta clave para adelantar las luchas en la región por la descontaminación, la devolución de las tierras, a favor de la salud y por un desarrollo sustentable para nuestra gente y las próximas generaciones. Será también un espacio de comunicación entre la población y las entidades que bien le sirven a ésta.
Radio Vieques will be a key tool in moving forward the regional fights for decontamination and the return of lands, in favor of health and sustainable development for our people and the next generations. It will also be a space for communication between the people and the organizations that serve them well.
In 2001, President George W. Bush ordered that the Navy leave the island, due to unprecedented activism in Puerto Rico, and the arrests of hundreds of people from all social and political backgrounds for participating in civil disobedience against the Navy. In 2003 the Navy withdrew completely and the military base was closed, but the land that it occupied went to the United States Department of the Interior, remaining in the hands of the federal United States government. Ten years later, the people of Vieques are still waiting for the United States government to carry out its responsibility of cleaning the land contaminated by the Navy.
The campaign to raise money to create the station had a large presence on the Internet for several months. An album was created using the platform Artists for Media Diversity, an organization dedicated to supporting community radio stations through the creation of virtual albums. Artists from Willie Nelson to Calle 13 contributed songs to help raise money. Radio Vieques also has a solid presence on Facebook [es] and it recently began to enter Twitter [es] territory as well.
The campaign to raise money continued on Saturday, July 20th, with a radio marathon transmitted by Radio Isla 1320 AM [es] from 10:00 a. m. to 12:00 p. m. on the radio, and until 3:00 p. m. on the Internet, Puerto Rican time (U.S. Eastern).