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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Vieques residents protest auction of housing lots

Protesters in Vieques said they fear further displacement of the local population, as most of the area’s residents are non-locals.

By The Star Staff

Vieques residents demonstrated in front of the island’s multipurpose center on Thursday morning to protest the auction by the municipality of 10 coveted lots.

Marlilyn López, leader of the group and a local teacher, said the high cost of the land, which ranged from $39,015 and $39.840 per lot, was prohibitive for working people in the offshore island municipality.

Protesters feared further displacement of the local population, as most of the area’s residents are non-locals. They wanted the auction to stop and alternatives to be sought so that the residents of Vieques would have the opportunity to acquire the land.

“If the land was divided into smaller pieces and the bid was for less than $39,000, local workers would have the possibility of acquiring land for their homes,” López said.

Vieques Mayor José “Junito” Corcino Acevedo said meanwhile on Thursday that the auctioning of land without a habitable structure or that has no title in the Puerto Ferro neighborhood is the continuation of a process that began in 2017 during the previous administration, and what is being sought is to reverse the development plan of that administration, which restricted the development of housing on former U.S. Navy.

“Today continues, because that is what it is, the auction process of nine plots in the area of the Puerto Ferro neighborhood, which began under the previous administration,” the mayor said. “It was done under the parameters established by that administration prior to the beginning of the process in 2017. We want our people, the Vieques people, to have greater opportunity to acquire land and develop their homes. In this auction, so far, Vieques has taken two of the plots.”

“I want to emphasize that the funds that come from these sales will be used for the hiring of a group of experts, including planners, with the purpose of reversing, with verifiable data, the old plan for the development of Vieques, which does not adhere to the reality of our island municipality,” Corcino added.

For example, he said, the United States Navy returned about 4,000 acres of land, and of that acreage, about 350 acres were destined for residential projects.

“However, the previous administration changed its zoning to an agricultural one, in essence blocking off [those acres] from being used by our people,” the mayor added.

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