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THE NATION

Vieques Mayor Brings 'Eviction Notice'

July 31, 2001|Associated Press

VIEQUES, Puerto Rico — The mayor of Vieques delivered a symbolic eviction notice to the U.S. Navy's base on the island Monday, at the head of about 300 protesters celebrating a referendum that called for an immediate end to Navy bombing exercises.

Protesters were angered by a White House announcement Monday that the Navy would leave Vieques only as scheduled in two years, despite the overwhelming vote in Sunday's nonbinding referendum for an immediate withdrawal.

Protesters set an American flag ablaze outside the base, saying the Bush administration was ignoring the democratic will of the people.

"The position of the people of Vieques is clear," said Robert Rabin, an anti-Navy protest leader. "This is an issue of life or death and one cannot depend on the Navy or the president."

Later about 300 opponents of the Navy's bombing exercises marched on the base, led by Vieques' mayor, Damaso Serrano. The mayor presented the "eviction notice" to Navy personnel at the base.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Bush was sticking by the original withdrawal schedule.

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