Chaos in Puerto Rico

Posted May 17, 2010

The decision of the Puerto Rican government, under governor Luis Fortuño, to proceed with its plan of mass firing public employees and spending cuts to public education is a major social and economic error that will only serve to deepen the current crisis in Puerto Rico. The government’s plan aims to boost the privatization process of the basic services on the island. This will directly affect thousands of Puerto Ricans and will hit the marginalized sectors of society the hardest. There are already 30,000 public employees that have been or will be fired from their jobs!

The local colonial administrations, including those who support statehood and those who support the so-called commonwealth, are to blame for how the Puerto Rican working class is being strangled by high taxes, the imposition of a sales tax, and the privatization of our Puerto Rican national assets. Above and beyond all of this, some United States labor unions, wanting to globalize their business ventures, have set up shop on the island by negotiating the constitutional rights of the workers and raiding the local labor struggle. After the general strike on October 15th, 2009, the struggle has been spearheaded by the students of the public university system, beginning with the Rio Piedras Campus of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR). Now, almost the entire public university system on the island has joined them. After a vote for a 48 hour strike on April 21st and 22nd, the UPR students declared they would continue with the strike until their demands are met, despite police abuse. The current government will not negotiate and declared an administrative closure of the university that led the Puerto Rico Police to clash with the striking students.

The main reasons for the strike are: 1) to oppose the privatization of the public university system, 2) to denounce the financial mismanagement of the University’s budges that led to a deficit of $2,000,000, 3) to oppose the administration’s refusal to open its accounting books – we demand transparency, 4) to oppose the elimination of tuition waivers for athletes, artists, actors, musicians, and other students of high academic achievement, and 5) denounce the politicization of the democratic university decision-making process and the restriction of the student participation in this process.

Various labor, political, and community groups have united to hold a general strike on Tuesday May 18th – in solidarity with the student strike, and to repeal the mass firings in and privatization of the Puerto Rican public system. Luis Fortuño’s government has pushed the island into chaos.

In New York City, we are not going to stay silent while this happens in Puerto Rico.

The Red de Apoyo a los Trabajadores de Puerto Rico / Puerto Rican Workers Support Network in NYC is calling for all to stand in solidarity with the student and labor struggle in Puerto Rico.