Military backs away from maneuvers on protected isle

Canarian islet of Lobos is known for its diverse bird life

A military exercise that was suddenly announced inside a biosphere preserve, then just as suddenly canceled, has authorities on the Canary island of Fuerteventura scratching their heads in perplexity.

On May 8, a fax arrived at the environment department, announcing a "military exercise that will be conducted on Isla de Lobos." The issuer was a member of the Light Infantry Brigade of the Canaries.

Located north of Fuerteventura, Lobos is a small islet with a surface area of just five square kilometers. It is a protected preserve known for its diverse bird life where camping is prohibited and access restricted.

The coordinator of this natural park, Antonio Gallardo, says he is still puzzled at the Defense Ministry's plans to conduct a military training exercise in such a protected area. "And with helicopters!" he adds. A week later, however, the ministry stated that there would be no military maneuvers on Lobos, "either now or ever."

Agueda Montelongo, a PP deputy in the Canary Islands, as well as sources in the government delegation in the archipelago, now claim that "sometimes one announces things that are not done later."

Gallardo says he cannot understand why the military would pick Isla de Lobos out of the entire national territory. "We are still viewed like an inhospitable place," he says, adding that "behind the militarization of the island there are oil prospections and the tension it could generate with [nearby] Morocco."

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