Successive governments have treated Vieques and it younger sister, Culebra, with sluggishness for decades. It does hurt to see the persistence problems easy to solve, but in the case of the island municipalities, those problems became complicated over time. It is time to give these people the special treatment they need and deserve.
Many of us wonder why is it so complicated to develop a reliable maritime transport system for these two island municipalities, which is one of the main and, at the same time, simpler problems of these people? Is Puerto Rico the only country in the world that needs a ferry system to transport citizens, tourists and goods to other parts of its territory?
Doesn´t it sometimes seem that the government difficulties to establish a reliable maritime transport system in Vieques and Culebra go beyond unbelievable limits?
The last setback was the relocation of the Fajardo terminal –where it had operated for decades- to Ceiba. The change was requested for a long time, especially by the Viequenses, to whom the new route reduces travel time to less than half. But the move abruptly ripped these residents from their main point of contact with the isla grande, and the change did not meet all expectations.
Besides, boats are still insufficient, especially when the islands, where tourism represents one of their main economic activities, have to receive many visitors. There are also no reliable schedules and, when it rains, the Ceiba terminal floods and becomes a swamp.
Viequenses and Culebrenses warned about this the very first day. But authorities paid no attention until tourists, who were stranded on New Year´s Eve, posted complaints in English on social media.
Vieques and Culebra face problems similar to those of the rest of Puerto Rico, such as crime, unemployment, poverty and difficulties in accessing health services, among many others. However, the main problem is that it all gets complicated in Vieques and Culebra due to transportation problems, since residents, unlike those who live in other parts of the island, cannot move easily from one place to another looking for better alternatives.
Viequense Marcelino Quiñones described the problem to El Nuevo Día like this: "We have never ever had any benefit from the central government for more than 60 years, and until now. What we receive is mistreatment, bad transportation, bad services, increase in cancer incidence, dramatic. They have always tried to hide these statistics."
But that is precisely what authorities seem to have never understood: since they are islands separated from the big island, Vieques and Culebra have special characteristics that make them unique municipalities.
Therefore, they need a special treatment that local authorities were never willing to grant. It is not even require something costly or with very elaborate plans.
To start with, what they need is not unattainable, they simple need sensibility to understand that they are vulnerable communities and with particular characteristics, communities that compassionate people, like Puerto Ricans undoubtedly are, should never abandon