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Puerto Rico Marks Bomb Anniversary

April 19, 2000
Copyright © 2000 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All Rights Reserved.

VIEQUES, Puerto Rico (AP) -- A year after David Sanes Rodriguez was killed by stray bombs from a U.S. warplane, mourners on Wednesday laid flowers at his grave and demanded the Navy's eviction from a live-fire range on this Puerto Rican island.

Fists raised, dozens of people shouted: ``Out with the Navy! Long live a free Vieques!''

Sanes, a security guard, was killed on April 19, 1999, when two 500-pound bombs dropped by a Marine Corps F-14 missed their target on the Vieques island live-fire range.

Elsewhere in Puerto Rico, protesters held vigils and church services.

About 25 activists, who on Tuesday occupied San Juan's 16th-century Fort San Felipe del Morro, a U.S. national historic site, left peacefully Wednesday after taking down an American flag and leaving a Puerto Rican flag at half staff. There were no arrests.

In Washington, protesters urged President Clinton to close the range permanently.

Sanes' death was also remembered with a church service and a minute of silence at Roosevelt Roads, the sprawling U.S. Naval Station in Puerto Rico which administers the Vieques range. At noon, all vehicles and all ships in the harbor came to a stop, the airstrip was closed and the base chapel bells tolled.

Sanes ``died while serving in the defense of our nation and we honored him with an appropriate ceremony,'' said Navy spokesman Lt. Jeff Gordon.

``The history of Vieques is going to change because of David,'' ex-Mayor Radames Tirado said. ``In our sorrow, we can be happy because his death has given us a year of peace.''

Related article: Vieques Faces Uncertain Future

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