The Santa Clara University Human Rights Clinic in California published a report titled Stranded. Implications for Human Rights of an Inadequate Transportation System between the Islands of Culebra, Vieques and Puerto Rico.
The main finding of this report is that the lack of a reliable maritime transportation system between Puerto Rico and the islands of Culebra and Vieques violates international human rights law.
The report, which is currently only available in English, includes an annex that contains key talking points for discussions between activists and the government of Puerto Rico and an annex that describes the human rights that residents of Culebra and Vieques have related to the theme of maritime transport.
According to the report, the boat system that connects the approximately 10,000 residents of the municipality islands of Culebra and Vieques with the main island of Puerto Rico is characterized by frequent and long delays, unforeseen cancellations, maintenance problems and last-minute schedule changes. time. This situation presents a series of challenges for residents that affect the enjoyment of their basic human rights, including the rights of access to education, health care and economic development without discrimination.
The director of the legal clinic, Francisco Rivera, explained that “sick residents do not know if they can attend their medical appointments. Students don’t know if they will make it to their classes. Business owners don’t know if they will receive their shipment of goods for the day. Residents do not know if they will arrive on time to do their errands or if they will be able to return home that same day; others face health risks when their prescriptions don’t arrive on time. Regardless of their personal circumstances, the lives of all the residents of Culebra and Vieques are marked by a large-scale unpredictability that threatens their lives and their fundamental rights ”.
This report is the result of a comprehensive investigation conducted by the Santa Clara University Human Rights Clinic between Fall 2019 and Fall 2020.
Based on the experience of the Clinic, this report performs a legal analysis of relevant international human rights law, in light of the facts collected by law students. Additionally, this report reflects first-hand interviews conducted by the clinic with residents of Puerto Rico who have been affected by the problems of public shipping. The Legal Clinic traveled to Culebra in October 2019 to observe the shipping system and the controversy surrounding it, conduct interviews with residents, and gain an objective understanding of the impact the shipping system has had on the lives of residents. of the island.
This report includes testimonials provided at a Community Forum hosted by the clinic in Culebra to facilitate understanding of the various challenges posed by the lack of adequate shipping for island residents. The personal testimonies of Vieques residents were collected through news articles and social media where numerous members of these communities expressed their concerns about the transportation system.
The objective of this report is to use an international human rights framework to analyze the lack of reliable access to maritime transportation between the main island of Puerto Rico and the municipal islands of Culebra and Vieques. By providing an appendix that outlines legal arguments and talking points that can be used by residents and activists, as well as recommending changes to laws and policies, the report aims to improve Puerto Rico’s public shipping system in a way that protect human rights.
The report highlights Puerto Rico’s legal obligation to protect, respect, and guarantee applicable international human rights law, including the right to access medical care, the right to education, the right to employment, and economic development. the right to live where you choose and the right to access public transportation without discrimination.
The report makes several recommendations for the government of Puerto Rico, including:
- Maintain and enforce adequate passenger and cargo boat schedules that are tailored to the individual needs of each island.
- Ensure adequate access to medical care for the residents of the islands, including sufficient emergency medical transport and medical facilities.
- Ensure access to public education for island residents, including access to special education for students with disabilities on the islands.
- Take steps to help promote the economic development of the islands.
- Ensuring that the use and management of the maritime transportation system adequately protects island residents from the health risks posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.