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Vieques Votes to Boot Navy and Bombing

July 30, 2001|From Reuters

VIEQUES, Puerto Rico — Residents of Vieques voted Sunday to ask the U.S. Navy to end its bombing exercises on their Puerto Rican island and leave immediately.

In a nonbinding referendum on an issue that has gripped Puerto Rican politics, about 68% of islanders voted to ask the Navy to clean up and return the land it has controlled for 60 years, according to preliminary figures from the State Elections Commission.

About 30% of about 5,900 voters opted for the Navy to stay.

Nearly 2% backed a third option which would allow the Navy to train with inert ordnance until May 1, 2003--a compromise put forward by President Bush.

Puerto Rico Gov. Sila Calderon, speaking to reporters in San Juan, said: "The Vieques people made their decision today and they spoke clearly. This was the united voice of a people."

A federally binding referendum is scheduled for Nov. 6. It will give voters the option of deciding whether the Navy should stay until 2003 or indefinitely in exchange for $50 million in aid and benefits.

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