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A peaceful demonstration was held at the Dique del Oeste yesterday afternoon, to protest at the presence of an American naval vessel in the Bay of Palma. It was organised by the Committee for Democracy and Social Globalisation, formed by unions, neighbourhood associations, environmental groups and political parties. They were protesting at the presence of the destroyer USS Gonzalez, which sailed into port on Monday, amid a high security alert.
She is due to leave tomorrow, but the small group of demonstrators were demanding that she leave immediately.
The Committee's spokesman, Pep Juárez, said that the ship was “an element of the aggressor and invading army in a terrorist war such as that of Iraq.” He added that it was “a war machine loaded with weapons of mass destruction,” and as a result was “a danger for residents.” Juárez called on the new socialist State government to take Spain out of NATO, and he reminded future Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero of his electoral promise to remove Spanish forces from Iraq. Juàrez had earlier slammed the decision to allow American war ships to enter the Bay of Palma “at their will,” with the consent of the Balearic Port Authority. He also criticised the large number of Guardia Civil and National Police officers mobilised during the visit, at the taxpayers' cost.
Juàrez accused acting Prime Minister José Maria Aznar of failing to keep a promise to the Balearics, that the islands would not be a base for military manoeuvres. He also accused him of submitting to the decisions of the United States.
The Committee spokesman lamented the fact that the government could not officially inspect the ship's cargo, “even knowing that it carries weapons of mass destruction.” Juarez said that the people of the Balearics “do not want and cannot accept morally” that an American ship “which has caused an illegal war in Iraq should remain in Balearic waters.” The USS Gonzalez belong to the Arleigh Burke class, one of which, the USS Cole, was subject to a terrorist attack in Aden (Yemen). She is equipped with Tomahawk missiles and the Aegis system which can intercept multiple aerial targets simultaneously. The USS Gonzalez has a crew of 303 and NBQ protection (for nuclear, biological and chemical warfare).
American ships used to be frequent visitors to the port of Palma, once the favourite liberty port of the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean.
In recent years, however, there has been growing hostility towards their presence, and other Spanish ports, such as Tarragona, now offer better facilities for the Sixth Fleet ships.