If the Bomb Hits San Juan

September 25, 2007

(The War Resister's League and Vanguardia, a "rebel" group of Popular Democratic Party members, have begun cooperating in the circulation of petitions calling for the removal of nuclear weapons from Puerto Rico. The presence of nuclear weapons has brought the question of "civil defense" to the island and has raised the question of Puerto Rico's relation to the nuclear-free zone of Latin America and the Caribbean.)

"La defensa civil no es defensa!" This phrase appeared recently on a picket sign at the gates of Fort San Cristobal in Old San Juan. Inside the fort a meeting of high government officials twas taking place to determine what resources would be available in Puerto Rico following a nuclear attack.

The participants in the protest, lead by Reverand Thomas Dorney, a Roman Catholicpriest from Senldfario San Ildefonso in Aibonito, called the meeting of the officals "absurd" and claimed that there would be no survivors if a nuclear bomb exploded on the island, Colonel Rafael Montilla, director of Civil Defense and Emergency Planning, called the demonstrators "misguided" and claimed that there would be some survivors.

Thus a controversy of considerable importance was brought to the attention of the people of Puerto Rico. Newspapers, radio, and television have presented some aspects of the controversy. But it is necessary to consider the question of civil defense and nuclear weapons in Puerto Rico in greater detail.

Montilla* said that the goal of Civil Defense is to persuade each citizen to build at least one family shelter. Ideally each individual should have his own shelter, according to Montilla. If a bomb were dropped on Florida, the people of Puerto Rico would then be protected from the resulting fallout.

Critics of Civil Defense say that some of the proposals for surviving a nuclear attack are an insult to peoples intelligence. Alfred E. Kuenzli, a leader of the local War Resisters League, objected to a statement in a Civil Defense pamphlet being distributed in Puerto Rico. "The suggestion that you should throw yourself on the ground when the bomb falls is fantastic," Kuenzli said.

"The position of the War Resisters League", according to Kuenzli, "is that the only defense against nuclear war is to do away with war itself. We regard the denuclearization of the Caribbean and Latin America as an important step in that direction.

We hope that ultimately there can be a nuclear-free world in which we can all find some of the serenity that Munoz Narin and others have talked about," Kuenzli said. Another leader of the War Resisters League, Luis Nieves Falcon, said that it should be possible to include Puerto Rico in the nuclear free zone by way of an affirmative vote in the Commonwealth Legislature. "Several decisions by the Suprerme Court have established the fact that Puerto Rico belongs to the United States but is not part of the U.S.," said Nieves Falc6n. "Therefore it is theoretically possible for the Commonwealth to have sufficient autonomy to declare itself a part of the nuclear free zone and to remove the nuclear weapons." "As a practical, political matter," Nieves Falcon continued, "the consent of the U.S. probably would be required."

Nieves Falc6n pointed out that the U.S. has taken the position recently, in the United Nations, that Puerto Rico has a high degree of autonomy as a self-governing commonwealth. "It would be inconsistent for the U.S. to deny Puerto Rico the right to be included in the nuclear free zone if that is what the majority of the people want," Nieves Falc6n said.


"In the evening of 24 April 1965, Task Group 44.9, the Caribbean Ready Group, had completed re-embarkation from Vieques Island, Puerto Rico, one of the 6th Marine Expeditionary Unit into the six ships of the Ready Group. The USS Ruchamkin (APD-89), Wood County (LST-1178), Raleigh (LPD-1), Fort Snelling (LSD-30), Rankin (AKA-103) and Boxer (LPH-4) were anchored south of Vieques. On board were the 3rd Batallion of the Sixth marines, Marine Medium Helipcopter Squadron 264, the headquarters of the Marine expeditionary Unit, a provisional marine air group, and some force and division attached units with tanks, Ontos, LVT's, artillery, etc. Altogether, 131 officers and 1,571 marines were assigned to the 6th 11EU. On board too were the 214 officers and 2,737 men of the ships.

About midnight of the 24th, word was received alerting the group to the potentially dangerous situation in Santo Domingo. Early next morning the Boxer was moved to Roosevelt Roads (also in Puerto Rico, ed.) to top off with aviation gasoline and black oil. from a report on the Dominican Republic operation by Capt. James A. Dare, USN. in U.S. Naval Institute-Proceedings Dec., 1965

Tags: Puerto Rico, civil defense, nuclear threat

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