Puerto Rican student strike

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Mark.
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Dec 19 2010 20:02

Translations of reports on Puerto Rico Indymedia from a week or so ago

UPR on strike once more

Government establishes siege following successful strike at UPR

also

American Civil Liberties Union report

Latest updates in Spanish

Mark.
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Dec 19 2010 20:02

.

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Steven.
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Dec 20 2010 10:03

Mark, just wanted to say thanks for these great updates! Please keep them coming.

Also, did you use to have a different username here? If so, could you please message me to let me know what it was. I'm very confused now following all these name changes!

Mark.
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Dec 20 2010 10:51

Steven - I've sent you a PM. I'm glad the updates on Puerto Rico are of interest - as no one else is really posting on this thread it can be hard to judge whether people see them as useful or not.

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Chilli Sauce
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Dec 20 2010 11:30

Just for the record, I've been following the updates with interest!

Mark.
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Dec 20 2010 12:19

Thanks...

Silent march in protest at the lack of communication from the UPR administration

Mike Harman
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Dec 20 2010 12:12

I'm following this with interest as well, just don't have anything of use to add to the thread, so please keep going!

Caiman del Barrio
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Dec 20 2010 13:35
Mark. wrote:
Steven - I've sent you a PM. I'm glad the updates on Puerto Rico are of interest - as no one else is really posting on this thread it can be hard to judge whether people see them as useful or not.

Mark are you on the Anarqlat list? I made some enquiries on there and found a text apparently written by Puerto Rican anarchos arguing for an escalation of the struggle into "acción directa". I'm not entirely sure of their relation to the UPR (neither was the contact who passed me it), gonna dig some more and then start translating. I'm also interested in the similarities and differences between this struggle and the university struggles over here right now.

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Steven.
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Dec 20 2010 17:09

Yeah, if anyone wanted to post any articles related to this to our news or library sections that would be great

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Khawaga
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Dec 20 2010 17:31

Mark. I know people who do not usually read libcom have followed your updates. So please keep updates coming!

Mark.
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Dec 20 2010 23:19

Right, I'll carry on with the updates then...

Caiman del Barrio wrote:
Mark are you on the Anarqlat list? I made some enquiries on there and found a text apparently written by Puerto Rican anarchos arguing for an escalation of the struggle into "acción directa". I'm not entirely sure of their relation to the UPR (neither was the contact who passed me it), gonna dig some more and then start translating. I'm also interested in the similarities and differences between this struggle and the university struggles over here right now.

Caiman - I'm not on the anarqlat list and I don't really have any special insight into what's going on in Puerto Rico beyond what I've posted here. My initial interest came from reading this post by a Puerto Rican anarchist on alasbarricadas. The same poster has also started another more up to date thread, 'Reportaje desde Macondo...'. I'm not sure these add much information to the links in English that I've posted here but maybe it would be worthwhile either asking him some more on that Macondo thread or sending him a PM on alasbarricadas.

The political background in Puerto Rico is odd in that one of the main divisions seems to be between supporters of independence from the US and supporters of the island becoming another US state. The only flag I've noticed in photos of the student demos is the Puerto Rican flag and I'd guess that a lot of people involved would see the student movement as linked in some way to an anti-colonial struggle. Which doesn't mean that the actions being taken by the students can't go beyond some of the conscious politics. Again I'm speculating here and I don't actually know that much about the reality. There's an alasbarricadas thread on Puerto Rican independence which might give a bit of insight into the views of anarchists on the issue.

Part of my reason for posting these updates in the first place is that what the Puerto Rican students are doing and the way they are organising could serve as an example to students here of what effective opposition to rises in tuition fees can look like. One of the obvious differences is that, as I understand it, all UPR students are faced with paying increased fees as of January, and some students from poorer families may have real difficulties in finding the money. This doesn't actually sound like a particularly clever move by the Puerto Rican government, unless they were setting out to create a confrontation. I think the effect may have been to create a kind of militancy that we're more likely to see here from the school and college students who are losing EMA and will have to pay increased tuition fees rather than from existing university students. This is just my opinion from a distance though.

Mark.
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Dec 20 2010 23:38

This is possibly slightly off-topic but here's a press report from a strike that has no connection with UPR, apart from the use of the same security company for strike breaking.

Teamsters union clash with B. Fernández y Hnos.

Quote:
Violence erupted on the third day of a strike at B. Fernández y Hnos. Inc., one of Puerto Rico´s largest liquor distributors, after private security guards disrupted a demonstration the striking workers had staged in front of the company’s gate Sunday morning.

Well before dawn, a group of workers assembled in front the gate and started demonstrating in an effort to prevent some scabs from taking several of the company’s trucks for delivery. Minutes later a contingent of Capitol Security Services guards came out wielding billy clubs and batons and started hitting the demonstrators.

“Capitol Security guards came out to where we were demonstrating and attacked us with their clubs. One of our workers had to be taken to the hospital due to contusions on his body,” Puerto Rico Teamsters Union secretary-treasurer Alexis Rodríguez said.

Later in the morning the workers retook their demonstration only to be harassed again by the security guards. This time a van with darkened windows and allegedly transporting Capitol Security guards tried to run into the picket line. Rodríguez was hit by the moving vehicle and clung to its hood until the driver stopped. During the incident workers struck the vehicle with  support beams from the tarp they had installed in front of the gate.

“This time we had to defend ourselves from the aggression by these thugs,” Rodríguez said.

Capitol Security Services is the same private police company involved in an incident at the University of Puerto Rico where another van was destroyed by students after its driver allegedly tried to run them over. Back then, Capitol Security officials had hired untrained personnel as security guards “to guarantee student safety on campus during a 48 hour stoppage.”

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Juan Conatz
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Dec 21 2010 01:07
Mark. wrote:
The political background in Puerto Rico is odd in that one of the main divisions seems to be between supporters of independence from the US and supporters of the island becoming another US state. The only flag I've noticed in photos of the student demos is the Puerto Rican flag and I'd guess that a lot of people involved would see the student movement as linked in some way to an anti-colonial struggle.

Actually, the main division is between those that are for becoming the 51st state and those who want to maintain commonwealth status. Independence gets very little support. The last plebiscite on status in 1998 ('None of the Above' won), independence got only 2% and the main party for independence lost legal status in 2008 for getting less than 3% of the vote.

Of course, once you look at university occupations and strikes, things that are more likely to involve the radical left, you'll find more independentistas. Last time I was there, all over the island, in the ghettos, in the country, etc I saw graffiti condemning the FBI for the killing of Filiberto Ojeda Ríos, leader of Los Macheteros

It's my impression that support for independence is greater among the youth, and this is reflected in some of the culture (hip-hop, reggaeton, etc). At the same time, the social democratic Puerto Rican Independence Party isn't looked to as a solution, either. So it may be that many of those who are for independence are not old enough to vote or refuse to do so.

Is anyone aware of any anarchist groups there? Outside of seeing some black bloc lookin peoples during the general strike earlier this year and hearing about some Starbucks workers wanting to connect with the Wobblies, I don't know of any. Of course, the language barrier is a factor to my knowledge.

According to their wiki page, the Socialist Workers Movement is a multitendencied organization that includes anarchists, but I'm not sure if that is true.

Mark.
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Dec 21 2010 10:49

Juan - On one of the alasbarricadas threads I linked to above a Puerto Rican anarchist has put up a link to http://www.redbetances.com/ and says, 'They are Marxists but of non-authoritarian kind. They aren't libertarians, but it's worth reading. Within these groups, as with those of the MINH [?] line, we libertarians are well received.'

I haven't seen any reference to anarchist groups as such but then I don't actually know that much about Puerto Rico.

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Juan Conatz
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Dec 21 2010 11:15
Mark. wrote:
Juan - On one of the alasbarricadas threads I linked to above a Puerto Rican anarchist has put up a link to http://www.redbetances.com/ and says, 'They are Marxists but of non-authoritarian kind. They aren't libertarians, but it's worth reading. Within these groups, as with those of the MINH [?] line, we libertarians are well received.'

I haven't seen any reference to anarchist groups as such but then I don't actually know that much about Puerto Rico.

HINH = Hostosian National Independence Movement

Yeah, I'm familiar with that site. For some reason I thought it was affiliated with the Socialist Workers Movement, but apparently it is actually the organ of the HINH, which itself was created out of some groups that emerged out of the ashes of the Puerto Rican Socialist Party.

Puerto Rico, like most of the world, had its labor movement primarily organized by anarchists and syndicalists in the beginning, and these tendencies dominated the labor movement probably right up to the Russian Revolution.

There's some articles in the library: http://libcom.org/tags/puerto-rico

Also, there's a book called Worker's Struggle in Puerto Rico that is mostly translations of various documents from 1900s-1960s relating to the labor movement. The stuff about the FLT (Free Federation of Workers) especially is interesting, because socialists and anarchists like Luisa Capetillo were heavily involved with this union.

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Chilli Sauce
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Dec 21 2010 20:09

Admins,

Just of curiosity, how many hits does Libcom get from Puerto Rico?

Is there folks registered in Puerto Rico (can you check that?), who might be able to give a first-hand account if contacted?

Mark.
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Dec 21 2010 23:15

Smoke bombs hurled as police take over campus

Quote:
More than 16 persons were arrested and eight police officers were wounded during the melée at the University of Puerto Rico to protest the $800 tuition fee. Four students were also injured during the arrests.

UPR deans call for police exit, order in strike

Quote:
Tensions boiled over on Monday when student strikers tossed smoke bombs into classrooms at the Río Piedras campus and sought to enforce solidarity for the stoppage among a deeply divided student body.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that at least 17 people had been detained as students at the largest public university in the Caribbean clashed with police during an indefinite strike over the new $800 fee.

[…]

Meanwhile, the president of the main union at the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority called Tuesday for members to mobilize to support the UPR strikers.

“Workers can’t allow our sons and daughters at the UPR to be massacred. Their just claims and fight for democratic rights must find more solid support among the Puerto Rican working class,” said Ángel Figueroa Jaramillo, head of the Electrical and Irrigation Industry Workers Union (UTIER by its Spanish acronym).

“We have no doubt that the tools of repression being used against the student struggle will be the same ones against us workers when we take to the streets to improve our living and working conditions,” he said.

Photos

Police Violence at the Universidad de Puerto Rico Strike

Quote:
The strike continued today at the University of Puerto Rico. At the Facultad de Ciencias Naturales on the Rio Piedras campus, heavily armed police clashed with students protesting the new $800 tuition hike. Protesters marched through the building clapping and chanting to try to enforce the strike -- according to some news reports, they also used smoke bombs to force those inside to evacuate. At this point, the riot cops, which had been standing more or less on the sidelines, stepped in to shut down the protest. Police attacked indiscriminately with batons and tear gas, by the end of the day arresting at least twenty protesters and beating some as they lay on the ground. One of the arrestees, Germaine Ramia, had her left shoulder dislocated by a police blow. Despite the heavy police presence, protesters fought back, throwing rocks at the police, apparently popping the tires of a police car and, if we choose to believe the official police statement, injuring eight officers.
Mike Harman
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Dec 22 2010 01:53
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Admins,

Just of curiosity, how many hits does Libcom get from Puerto Rico?

Not a lot, 129 visits in December so far, 67th on the list between Kenya and Peru... News articles usually get more casual traffic than forum posts due to the way search engines handle them (google news etc.), so would likely be the best option if you wanted to include a call out for contacts.

We can't currently segment traffic stats by logged in/out but I think the capability is there.

Caiman del Barrio
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Dec 22 2010 02:00
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Is there folks registered in Puerto Rico (can you check that?), who might be able to give a first-hand account if contacted?

I have a potential contact, will email...

Caiman del Barrio
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Dec 22 2010 21:02

OK my contact got back in touch with me. It was a group email given on a couple of pamphlets I got sent arguing for the escalation of the UPR struggle. They appear to be an anarchist group - with somewhat insurrectionary tendencies - based on campus.

They send their apologies for not having sent a more recent pamphlet (I have 2 older ones), explaining that the police presence on campus has impeded their internet access. Today was the first day in a while that one of them had been able to check his emails! I invited them to post on here, but the spokesperson can't speak English (which strikes me as weird, surely PR is borderline bilingual, why have a monolingual spokesperson?). They hope to send somethign to be translated in the next couple of days.

Spanish speakers can also follow their blog and find the pamphlets in question here: http://la-accion-libertaria.blogspot.com/

Caiman del Barrio
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Dec 23 2010 00:24

translation from the blog:

Quote:
Students, Teachers, Workers and All of Puerto Rico Fighting for Education for Everyone!

Various members of the UPR "administration", as well as the Puerto Rican government, have been relentlessly repeating a cynical lie: that they are the ones who are looking out for our security and the right to study of the misnomered "students who want to study". Everything has been taken out of context. In reality, it is the very same UPR administration - alongside the government - who want to impose an extraordinary US$800 fee - in an arbitrary, authoritarian fashion, on the student body - therefore prohibiting the very thing they claim to be defending. As a result, not just the children of Puerto Rican workers will be discriminated against, but the workers themselves, since they have already suffered through unemployment and the fragile state of the country's economy. And that's without even mentioning the basic right to further education.

In the last few days, Governor Fortuno has been saying that the Beca Pell (some sort of scholarship/bursary, presumably income-tested - CdB) will rise by $1200 in the 2010-11 academic year. The truth is in a letter sent by the Department for Federal Education, which clarifies that it will only rise by $200 this year, in keeping with the periodic increases which have been instituted since Obama came to power. The increases being referred to are actually in the highest band ie many students will not have access to the full figure (some can only receive some 10% of the total Beca). Worst of all is the fact that many students are not eligible for the Beca Pell at all. This may seem obvious, but it doesn't appear to be being taken into consideration. Neither Masters students, nor doctorate students, students still taking undergraduate exams and those writing their thesis, amongst others, are applicable due to the Beca's small print. As we can see then, the administration's discourse - and that of the government - is not only false, but neither does it apply to the whole student body.

But this isn't all there is to their verbal trickery. We are also presented with the "special consideration" that has been made for those students who want to protest against the fee: they can do, of course!, as long as they stay within the lines they themselves decide beforehand ie within limits which they like to call "democratic", thereby conditioning and impeding - with the criminal force of the state - the inalienable rights of protest, free association and free expression. They'll then be able to criminalise anything which they consider "out of line" - a line which they themselves traced. The state, as well as the UPR administration, have been using force (both Puerto Rican police and a private security company, which has orders to repress any sort of demonstration) in order to defend their interests in the UPR from the student body, teachers and workers - ie the Puerto Rican people - the very same people who comprise the UPR and who actually make it function.

Once again, the government and the administration are accusing the student body of "vandalism", forgetting that if it has been necessary to use violence, it has always been in order to defend oneself from the state mercenaries who come on campus ready to attack the student body. Criminalising the actions of students who defend themselves from the aggressive behaviour of a few mercenaries in black shirts which say "security" therefore, represents either hypocrisy or naivete. Who is more criminal: he who destroys a bus, or he who - in exchange for a few pesos - sets youth fighting against youth? Any expression from a student who resists their attacks is immediately demonised by the state, the administration and their lackeys. They grease the wheel so that those members of society who are unable to live comfortably rapidly become the students' tyrants.

We have witnessed inflexibility, repression and dishonesty from the state and the UPR administration. Events such as the removal of the front gates, the contracting of the private Capitol Security Police for $1.5m in an era of supposed budget deficit, and now the invasion of the UPR campuses by the Puerto Rican police force, demonstrate the totalitarian mentality of the state. The intentions of both the government and the administration are unmasked as to cause damage, and to employ malicious tactics against the Puerto Rican people. The student body has been forced to prepare itself to act offensively when deemed necessary.

The current situation in the UPR helps us to reflect about the rights and freedoms that the state tells us we have. It helps us reflect about the moment we are living in, and the political-economic regime which conditions us. It helps us to start to open new perspectives, to take on a new attitude as free thinkers, critically analysing the foundations of our statist, capitalist society. It helps us to question what we used to consider to be sacred, what we have always been told is the absolute truth.

As we can see, there are no rights! Here I have tales of "pluralist democracy" and the imaginary, correct civilian.

Let's fight harder in order to rebel against this statist/capitalist society and impose our inalienable right to exist. This struggle transcends the imagination of traditional politics. It's not about which party is in power, but the criminal state structure itself, which serves as an institution to superimpose, by force, the powerful's interests over working people. This country must stop thinking about democratic idealisms which never existed and never will exist. We must break with the coarse civicism which domesticates us in order to respect ourselves, individually and collectively. It's not about promoting senseless violence but starting the journey towards losing our fear of injust authority, and being ready to defend ourselves when necessary. This people cannot continue to withstand abuse and humiliation from the dictatorial institutions which, ironically, as workers, we sustain.

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Juan Conatz
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Dec 22 2010 23:43
Caiman del Barrio wrote:
which strikes me as weird, surely PR is borderline bilingual

Although, English is taught K-12, I believe, English usage varies widely on the island. In San Juan and around the touristy attractions a lot of workers speak English, but go outside them areas and it's less likely to encounter. The last time I was down there, almost all of my family knew a little English, but most not enough to hold a conversation easily and some didn't know any.

My impression is that English fluency is more common among the middle class, upper class and tourist industry workers and far less common among the working class and poor, particularly in the non-coastal areas.

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Chilli Sauce
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Dec 22 2010 23:52

Thanks for posting that up CdB.

Mark.
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Dec 29 2010 22:23

Caiman - thanks for the link and the translation.

Just one point I noticed in the translation though:

I think 'Who is the bigger criminal: he who destroys a bus, or he who - in exchange for a few pesos - decides to fight, youth against youth?' should be something like 'Who is more criminal, someone who destroys a bus or someone who sets young people fighting against young people in exchange for a few pesos?'

The reference here is to the security guards brought in by the university who were mostly newly recruited from the poorer areas of San Juan and very young. The students seem to have had some sympathy for the guards, even if they were fighting with them.

.

Edited to add this quote from a report on Znet

Quote:
The 48-hour strike at the Río Piedras campus ended December 8, but not before the university took extraordinary measures to try to stop it from even starting.
 
First, the administration tore down the campus' historic gates to make it harder for students to control access to the campus. But students quickly built barricades in response to the administration's actions. Then the administration spent $1.5 million to hire a private security company managed by former professional wrestler Chicki Star (ironically, his character was known for using dirty tactics such as sucker punches and double crosses).
 
The former wrestler placed a "help wanted" ad on his Facebook page for 200 people to work as security guards during the UPR strike. Given the high levels of unemployment on the island, it's not surprising that many young working-class people desperate for work showed up. Almost immediately, there were clashes between the two groups of young people.
 
The guards were given batons and, in some cases, Taser guns to "protect" public property from the students. Some guards also carried knives, and at least one student was attacked and injured by a guard.
 
But what the administration and Chicki Star hadn't counted on was that the students knew better than to see the young guards as their enemies. On the second day of the 48-hour stoppage, strike leader Giovanni Roberto got things started with a short speech in which he explained why the student strikers were fighting for demands that also served the interests of the newly hired guards.
 
"If we win this strike, we all win--because we will have made this university more accessible to us, to you and to your brothers and sisters," said Roberto. "Everyone will have a chance for a [better] future." The episode ended with many students and guards shaking hands and hugging each other as they forged a peace based on their shared interests.
 
According to Puerto Rico's Daily Sun:
 
Moments later, the young guards were replaced by a different--and evidently older--group of guards. An executive officer from Capitol Security Services, the independent contractor in charge of campus security, explained that the guards had been changed "because they suffered from Stockholm Syndrome," a psychological condition in which hostages tend to sympathize with their captors after an extended period of time. The man did not explain how such a condition could relate to the situation at the UPR or how he had reached that conclusion.
Caiman del Barrio
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Dec 23 2010 00:24

Thanks Mark...lemme know if there are any other errors, i didn't check it this time.

Mark.
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Dec 23 2010 12:11

Videos

Police brutality, 20 December

Messages of solidarity from around the world, in Spanish and English

Mark.
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Dec 23 2010 12:22
Mark. wrote:
The only flag I've noticed in photos of the student demos is the Puerto Rican flag and I'd guess that a lot of people involved would see the student movement as linked in some way to an anti-colonial struggle.

There's a press report on students and the Puerto Rican flag here - which I suppose is representative of at least some of the ideas that are floating around.

Mark.
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Dec 24 2010 12:46

Press report on protests, public support and Christmas concert (Asalto Navideño) yesterday

Round-up of the day in Spanish

Asalto Navideño poster

Mark.
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Dec 28 2010 23:45

Photos, 23 December

Mark.
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Dec 29 2010 00:07

Joint protest by students at the Mayagüez campus and workers protesting against redundancies at the Cervecería India brewery.

report in Spanish

machine translation