Showdown Looming in Puerto Rico Student Strike

There is no victory without a fight and we don't fight unless we have to

New York Daily News,  June 9th 2010

Juan Gonzalez

A showdown is looming in the student strike that has paralyzed all 11 campuses of the University of Puerto Rico for more than six weeks.

Late Tuesday, protest leaders rejected a 4 p.m. deadline from university President José Ramón de la Torre to cease their campus occupations and end the strike, which has kept 65,000 students out of classes since April 21. De la Torre and Puerto Rico’s Gov. Luis Fortuño warned the rebellious students they will seek court orders to have them arrested and removed.

The strike, one of the longest and biggest in modern U.S. history, has garnered considerable support from both the university’s faculty and the Puerto Rican public. Yet the mainland press ignores it. Many island residents admire the way the students have resisted massive government cutbacks to one of their most revered institutions.

This Great Recession, after all, has been a far bigger disaster for Puerto Rico than for rest of the nation.  Even before the Wall Street financial collapse, 45% of the island’s population was living below the poverty level. Since then, tourism and manufacturing, Puerto Rico’s main sources of income, have been devastated, and so have government revenues. More than 20,000 public employees have been laid off the past year by Fortuño as he sought to close a huge deficit. The unemployment rate jumped to 17.2% in April, while the pension system for public employees is nearly bankrupt. Continue reading