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Puerto Rico warns Occupy Movement to clean up mess

April 5, 2012
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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico—Puerto Rico officials threatened the island's Occupy Movement with legal action Thursday if its supporters do not clean up a public park they occupied for five months and abandoned suddenly this week.

The group has 48 hours to respond, said Mari Batista, director of San Juan's Sports and Recreation Office.

"The amount of garbage, waste and rubble left behind is impressive," she said. "They were supposedly defending the environment, fighting for a better Puerto Rico ... what they left behind is everything to the contrary."

At least five big trucks are needed to carry away the garbage left behind, including makeshift toilets, books, blankets, tents, tables and wooden crates, she said.

The group also damaged a children's playground within the Jose N. Gandara park in the financial district of Hato Rey that at least a dozen protesters occupied last year, Batista said.

If the group does not agree to pay for the damage and clean up the park, the city will do so and charge for it, she said.

Miguel Lozada, who once served as the group's spokesman but said he no longer does, said the movement split up several months ago following differences about its goals.

"I'm perplexed that this is the outcome," he said, declining further comment.

A message left with the group's new unidentified spokesman was not immediately returned.

Batista said authorities had not interfered with the occupation or the protesters' right to freedom of expression, but she warned that future groups will face greater scrutiny as a result of the damage to the park.

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