Vieques Votes to Boot Navy and Bombing

From Reuters

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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