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Spanish conquistador’s statue toppled in Puerto Rico ahead of king’s visit

San Juan, Jan 24 (EFE).- A statue of Juan Ponce de Leon, a Spanish explorer and conquistador who was the first governor of Puerto Rico, was toppled on that United States commonwealth early Monday ahead of a visit by Spanish King Felipe VI.

Efe observed that the statue was badly damaged after being brought down from its pedestal by unknown vandals in Plaza San Jose, a downtown square in San Juan, the Caribbean island’s capital.

The fall left the steel statue broken in half, with its base and legs severed from its upper section.

But San Juan Mayor Miguel Romero told local media after visiting the plaza that the statue, which was erected in the 19th century, will be repaired and reinstalled on its pedestal later on Monday.

The act of vandalism occurred just a few hours before the arrival in San Juan of Felipe VI, who on Monday began an official visit to Puerto Rico aimed at commemorating the 500th anniversary of San Juan’s founding, honoring the legacy of Spain’s centuries-long presence on the island and bolstering bilateral trade ties.

The San Juan Municipal Police is trying to determine who was responsible for the incident, which occurred in the pre-dawn hours of Monday.

Romero, who had extended the invitation to the Spanish king, said an investigation is under way that will include reviewing footage from nearby cameras.

The official, who told local media that taxpayer funds will be allocated to fix the statue, blamed the act of vandalism on “some criminal” and said he doesn’t understand what message the perpetrators were trying to send.

Romero said the toppling of the statue would not have any impact on Felipe VI’s visit, adding that “the king perhaps isn’t even aware of these kinds of things.”

“We’re going to put it back up today. People can protest. They can express their opinions. What shouldn’t occur are criminal actions,” the mayor said.

The king on Monday kicked off a brief official visit to the island with an agenda that includes a reception at the Casa de España private social organization in Old San Juan, not far from Plaza San Jose.

Felipe VI’s visit is partially aimed at deepening cultural ties but especially at balancing out a trade relationship that is tilted in favor of the US commonwealth.

Born in the northwestern Spanish town of Santervas de Campos in April 1460, Ponce de Leon also is known for leading the first official European expedition to Florida (now a US state). EFE


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