Puerto Rican student strike

Submitted by Ron Obvious on June 20, 2010

Is anyone familiar with the student strike on the island of Puerto Rico? News claims 10 of 11 campuses were closed over student complaint of tuition hikes. Is there more to it than what was reported?

Khawaga

12 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

A couple of links.

http://occupyca.wordpress.com/2010/05/26/death-at-university-of-puerto-rico-strike/ (with links to more info).

http://www.edu-factory.org/edu15/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=345:caribbean-youth-battle-for-the-future-of-public-education-general-strike-at-the-university-of-puerto-rico-goes-into-its-fourth-week&catid=34:struggles&Itemid=53

They strikers did just win btw (Thursday I think), all of their demands were met (apart from a few students still being in jail).

madashell

12 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Awesome, is there much of a history of this kind of thing in Puerto Rico?

Also:

The University strike has received support from wide swaths of the Puerto Rican population, including popular artists such as Ricky Martin

Never would have seen that one coming.

Khawaga

12 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I am not sure if there's a history of student militancy. I wasn't even aware of this strike until a Puerto Rican friend told me about it.

Ron Obvious

12 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I am not sure if there's a history of student militancy.

I understand that there is such a history, but usually it doesn't have popular support. Supposedly the strike represents a greater dissatisfaction of those on the island have with cuts in state support. I have family there and I didn't hear about this until three days ago.

Caiman del Barrio

12 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

http://libcom.org/news/puerto-rico-student-strikers-port-workers-clash-police-governors-fundraiser-22052010

Juan Conatz

12 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Here's some more stuff on the student strike

UPR Students Brutalized at the Capitol
http://occupyca.wordpress.com/2010/06/30/upr-student-hit-at-demo/

The yeast and the oven
http://jalaguarta.com/2010/04/27/the-yeast-and-the-oven/

From Hanoi to the Magic Kingdom, and back again
http://jalaguarta.com/2010/05/17/from-hanoi-to-the-magic-kingdom-and-back-again/

The Future is Now
http://jalaguarta.com/2010/06/24/the-future-is-now/#more-349

Mark.

11 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Lessons of the 2010 University Of Puerto Rico Strike/Occupation (video)

A mass strike and occupation took pace at the University of Puerto Rico to protect public education starting in April 2010 and ending with a victory in June of 2010. This is a presentation made at a California conference to defend public education at San Francisco State University on 30th October 2010 by Oduarto Gamelyn, a law student at the University of Puerto Rico.

Mark.

11 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

UPR students are holding a 2 day strike starting tomorrow, and have given university authorities an ultimatum to withdraw a levy of $800 per student by 14th December or face another all out stoppage. Report here (in Spanish but with plenty of photos).

More on the $800 levy here.

In the wake of the two-month student strike that crippled the spring semester, the university community is facing a new conflict this term as the UPR Board of Trustees has said it will begin levying an annual $800 per student special fee starting in January aimed at getting the public institution through its financial problems.

Students have already approved a resolution to strike over the special fee, but UPR administration officials say the $40 million the quota will raise is essential to confront a deficit of nearly $200 million the system faces for fiscal 2011, which started July 1.

and more about the strike here

The University of Puerto Rico is headed for the second chapter of the 2010 student strike after a general assembly voted Wednesday afternoon in favor of yet another student strike to avert the special Fiscal Stabilization fee that will go into effect next January.

After more than five hours under a scorching sun on the UPR-Río Piedras track field, students voted 851 to 324 in favor of an indefinite student strike to start  Dec. 14, if Certification 146 has not been repealed by then. The strike will be preceded by a 48-hour stoppage on Tuesday and Wednesday, the week before the strike…

Mark.

11 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Back in June...

How to Prevent Another UPR Strike in December

Maritza Stanchich, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of English/Humanities

UPR-Río Piedras

June 21, 2010



Just as the UPR strike yesterday concluded with exemplary civility and a model of parliamentary procedure in a historic system-wide student assembly, with a preventive strike widely approved in the event of imposed student fees in January, a PNP senator muscled through a proposal without any benefit of debate to significantly expand the UPR Board of Trustees, over the outcry of minority PDP voices, which now goes to Gov. Fortuño for approval.



While students continue to display command of the most basic protocol of civic governance, this current PNP administration, the same one that stacked the Puerto Rico Supreme Court in its favor, then stipulated in Ley 7 that the only recourse to challenge the law is via that body, yesterday once again showed its true colors––and I don't mean red, white and blue. 


And UPR student leaders get accused of being agents of provocation and chaos?



Let's pause to briefly recap this historic strike.

The UPR strike concluded yesterday has broken all the molds of previous strikes at UPR, built alliances across all political sectors, set an example of dynamic conduct and creativity (dominated alternative media, planted organic gardens, remained non-violent, etc., just for starters).



This strike was sustained at 10 campuses for nearly two months at the end of the academic year with no violence except at least three incidents of attacks by Puerto Rico's notorious riot squad and police, injuring several students, parents of students and journalists (though to be fair some police were pepper sprayed on the first day of the strike as students seized control of the gates, but that was it). With tensions high, especially at certain points throughout the two months, UPR students put their lives on the line for the principle of public education. This is just one reason they enjoyed broad support by the public and public figures alike, as well as by a spectrum of professors, staff and administrators at the university...

Mark.

11 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The only report in English I can find on today's strike is from this unsympathetic source

Tensions were running high as a 48-hour student strike got underway at the University of Puerto Rico’s flagship Río Piedras campus on Tuesday.

Police, campus guards and private security guards were posted at entrances and along the perimeter a day after the UPR administration removed the main gate in a bid to keep the Río Piedras campus open to students who want to study.

The rest of the 11-campus UPR system remained under normal operations Tuesday morning. However, UPR Cayey students voted to stage a 36-hour solidarity strike.

...

Though there's more on the removal of the gate to the Río Piedras campus here

Juan Conatz

11 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Hey, thanks for the updates. I've had a tough time keeping up on that stuff this year.

Mark.

11 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Río Piedras campus is now under police occupation.

Dec.9th - 3:20pm GMT

"Puerto Rico: Police has taken over the Rio Piedras Campus. Only residents can enter. Police hadn't entered the campus in 30 years since when killings saddened the community in the 1981 strike. Right now... WE ARE NOT ON STRIKE. THE ADMINISTRATION HAS DECLARED WAR AGAINST US. THE GOVERNOR DECLARED THAT NO LEFTIST ACTIVISM WILL TAKE PLACE IN THE UNIVERSITY OF PUERTO RICO."

Dec.9th - prdailysun.com reports

Several units of riot police occupied the University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras just before midnight Wednesday. A few hours earlier university students had ended the 48-hour stoppage they held since Tuesday morning.

Dec.9th - 1:15pm GMT

"UPRRP PUERTO RICO: We're in a strike in front of the university the police is inside the campus. We're not entering the campus until the police decides to go out. The administration want us to pay $800 + the $ for the credits per student."

Dec.9th - 12:30pm GMT

"After a 48 hours strike in the University of Puerto Rico, the police has entered and occupied the university. Since 1981 that has not happened in Puerto Rico. They have violated the no confrontation policy of the university, policy was taken after the violent repression of the 1981 student strike."

Dec.9th - 12:05pm GMT

"I'm a student and resident of the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus. The university community, especially students, are angry and disgusted with the fact that the university administration first remove all the gates (which provide security to the students), then they put a private security guards to intervene violently with students through student strike that took place the past two days (Tuesday and Wednesday) and now, after 30 years, the police again invade our university in an act of repression from university administration and government of Puerto Rico. Students are open to dialogue and only proclaim the repeal of the certification that requires all students to pay an unfair annual fee of $ 800 for fiscal stabilization. I say unfair, because there is a budget deficit of 250 million dollars due to mismanagement of the university. We are not responsible of the deficit."

Dec.9th - 7am GMT

"After students finished a 48hr strike the police (especially the division known as special force tactics) invaded all 11 campuses of the University of Puerto Rico, not letting students go in or out of their dorms, closing gates without giving any information as to what is going on!"
details in Spanish: elnuevodia.com

Photos

Mark.

11 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Riot police seize the University of Puerto Rico

Thursday Dec 9th, 2010 7:10 PM

After midnight on Thursday, December 9, 2010 the Puerto Rican police force, including SWAT forces broke into the Rio Piedras campus of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), as well as other campuses. In multiple police cars, jeeps, and passenger vans, various branches of the police force, including the SWAT team in full riot gear entered the campus, after being prohibited from doing so for over 31 years. Puerto Rico’s ultra-conservative governor, Luis Fortuño, and his political ally the UPR president Jose Ramon de la Torre broke the non-confrontation policy even after the campus dean said that police would not enter after striking students left.

In doing so, government and university officials not only violated the autonomy of the university, but also the long-standing policy of non-confrontation between the police and students. The policy came after police riots and attacks on students left a wake of serious injuries and even death in the student uprisings of the 70’s and 80’s. In an 1981 incident students were chased by police gunfire into a dead-end street of Rio Piedras. Since that tragedy the Puerto Rican police have not entered the 11 campuses of the UPR.

Thursday, police carrying their firearms entered the university, while other officers filmed students and took close up pictures of protesting students, professors and Amnesty International and Lawyers’ Guild observers. At multiple campuses officers blocked the gates and academic buildings preventing entrance and exit of the university. This decision was unknown to the Board of Trustees, the Academic Senate, the Student Council and leaders of the student strike.

Tonight the police remain inside the campus, and according to government and university officials they will now be a constant presence. Students and professors have said that they will not open or attend classes until police leave, and students still plan to strike indefinitely over the tuition hike beginning on Tuesday, December 12th. For more information, check out student-run news at http://www.radiohuelga.com, http://www.rojogallito.com or for English language news, http://www.prdailysun.com/?page=news.news&cat=local.

.

UPR students hold vigil to keep cops off campus

It was not business as usual at the University of Puerto Rico Río Piedras campus Thursday as students, teachers, labor groups and political organizations presented a united fund to boycott classes.

While students gathered outside the gates, refusing to go to class, their professors met off- campus and voted not to teach as long as police remained on campus.

They also postponed the strike vote they had approved last week in exchange for the administration receiving the students for a dialogue.

Mark.

11 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Dec.10th - 12:20pm GMT

"People are still there blocking the avenue (Río Piedras campus). A professor is giving classes in front of the gate.
The administration has agreed to talk to the the presidents of the student councils from the 11 campuses (I don't know when). If this doesn't happen soon, the strike is still on for Tuesday but I don't know how it will be because of the police presence."

Dec.10th - 11:50am GMT

"The rector said that the police will continue inside the campus."

"Police is stationed at every entrance and you have to show your student ID to be allowed inside the campus."

"Professors held an assembly in front of the main gate and voted to not enter the campus until the police leaves. They also decided to not do a strike under the condition that the administration negotiates with the students.
A vigil of students, professors and other employees is being held in front of the main gate until the police leaves the campus. We have vowed to not enter the campus until this happens."

Caiman del Barrio

11 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I've been tryign to work through the various links here, what's the deal with security? Are they UPR-hired? I'm guessing it's autonoma right?

What's the plan now the strike's over?

Really, really impressed with the level of organisation here. I briefly studied at a uni in Mexico which had previously had a year-long strike and occupation before being evicted by the military (given special dispensation by the Rector to go on campus) and ultimately leading to the formation of a new militarised police force to deal with social unrest. They defeated las cuotas, eventually.

Edit: Caiman - see the article by Maritza Stanchich posted below for more information.

Caiman del Barrio

I've been tryign to work through the various links here, what's the deal with security? Are they UPR-hired? I'm guessing it's autonoma right?

Here's a reference to UPR-hired security when the gates to the campus were taken down last week. I'm not sure whether or not they're still involved.

http://www.prdailysun.com/index.php?page=news.article&id=1291691933

The gates at the University of Puerto Rico Río Piedras campus were surprisingly taken down early Monday morning by independent contractors, allegedly to guarantee the continuity of the institution's operations.

Around midnight, the crew — escorted by dozens of adolescent security guards from Capitol Security Services — took down the gates on Barbosa Avenue.

.

Caiman del Barrio

What's the plan now the strike's over?

As far as I can make out the strike has only just begin. The two day stoppage last week was intended as an opening shot, with a deadline of 14 December to withdraw the 800 dollar quota. The government has responded by sending police to occupy the main UPR campus to preempt another indefinite occupation by students. The students are now on strike again and it looks like the university is at a standstill. I'd imagine this would be the last week before the Christmas break so it's possible that there won't be much more happening until the new year.

http://www.prdailysun.com/news/UPR-student-strike-starts-today-at-Ro-Piedras

Contrary to the Supreme Court decision, Río Piedras campus chancellor Ana R. Guadalupe has circulated a notification informing the university community that all demonstrations are forbidden within campus until Jan. 12. As a matter of fact, “FREE-SPEECH AREA” signs have been displayed along the sidewalks around the campus perimeter. The signs seem to imply that protests outside the designated areas are to be considered illegal and that demonstrating students and/or non-students could be arrested by the police officers standing in front of each of the university gates.

The Puerto Rico Police Department increased the number of officers assigned to the Río Piedras campus and as of Monday afternoon there was intensive patrolling on the almost deserted campus.

Mark.

11 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Photos and report in Spanish from today - the second day of the student strike

Report in Caribbean Business

Students and professors were relatively few and far between on the rain-soaked second day of a strike at the University of Puerto Rico’s main Río Piedras campus.

Striking students continued to stage demonstrations in designated areas while other supporters snarled traffic with protest caravans along busy Ponce de León Avenue.

The stoppage spread to the UPR Cayey campus, where students approved a strike vote.

Maintenance and other non-teaching employees reported for work at the Río Piedras campus, which remained open. Some students and professors reported for class, but attendance appeared lighter than during the strike’s first day.

This is from a source which is hostile to the student strike and seems to have been trying to play down support for it. See their report yesterday for instance.

It does appear that the strike hasn't spread to most of the other campuses yet.

Photos and videos from yesterday

Request for international solidarity (in Spanish)

We appeal to student, base, political and union organisations, social movements and individual activists to show solidarity on an international level with the struggle of students in Puerto Rico.

Messages of support and reports of any action in support of the UPR students could be put up on Puerto Rico indymedia (click on ¡Publica! to post).

There's a video with a message of support from Holland here. This was recorded on Friday at a demonstration at the university of Utrecht in support of British students.

Mark.

11 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

English version of that international solidarity request

In the Caribbean nation of Puerto Rico, still a formal colony of the U.S. Empire, thousands of students are fighting against the imposition of a “special fee” by the administration of the University of Puerto Rico, which doubles tuition overnight. Following a successful student strike earlier this year that lasted more than 60 days, the UPR administration and the current government of Puerto Rico, headed by governor Luis Fortuño, keeps trying to bleed the student body dry, with this new outrage justified on the basis of forged financial information distributed by administration itself. If this fee is implemented, over 10,000 students will not be able to study next semester.

After a 48-hour warning strike earlier this month, as part of the current phase of the student struggle, the Puerto Rico Police Department occupied the main UPR campus at Río Piedras, as well as the Bayamón and Aguadilla campuses.

We must never forget that current Police Superintendent José Figueroa Sancha was a local FBI chief during the cold-blooded murder of revolutionary leader Filiberto Ojeda Ríos in 2005, and that his deputy, José A. Rosa Carrasquillo brutally kicked student José “Osito” Pérez while he was pinned down in the incidents at the Sheraton Hotel, during th Student Strike this past may. We must not forget that the UPR was free from police presence for nearly 30 years, after the establishment of a policy of non-confrontation that was a sensible response by the administration of the time to the bloody repression of the student movements of the 1970s and early 1980s.

On behalf of the more than 4,000 members of the network Boricuas Around the World in Support of the UPR, created during the previous strike, we demand the immediate removal of the PR Police from all UPR campuses, and repudiate the neoliberal policies of the of the government and UPR administration, as well as their fascistic repression of the students, faculty, and workers who defend quality public education accessible to all.

We send our solidarity and a warm embrace to the student resistance in this latest phase of struggle. We enthusiastically greet the start of a new indefinite Student Strike on December 14. We understand that one of the aims of Puerto Rico’s current neoliberal government is to privatize the country’s only public university, turning access into a privilege of those who can pay for it. In this way, the government pushes educational opportunities further and further away from the sons and daughters of poor and working class Puerto Ricans.

We urge all student, grassroots, political, and labor organizations, social movements, and individual supporters of social justice around the world to express their solidarity with the student struggle in Puerto Rico.

No Fee!
Repressive forces out of the UPR!
The campus is not a military camp!
Long live the students!

Mark.

11 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Report by Maritza Stanchich, a professor of English at UPR

Coincident with massive, at times explosive, student protests in Rome and London, University of Puerto Rico has again become a flashpoint with a student strike beginning Tuesday that turned the main campus into a militarized zone of police, riot squad, and SWAT teams, complete with low-flying helicopters and snipers. What began as a conflict over a steep student fee hike is now seen as a larger struggle to preserve public education against privatization.



Resistance to the imposed $800 student fee has triggered repressive state measures: police have occupied the main campus for the first time in 31 years and Monday the local Supreme Court, recently stacked by the pro-Statehood political party in power, outlawed student strikes and campus protests. More than 500 students defied the ruling by demonstrating on campus Tuesday, brandishing the slogan "They fear us because we don't fear them" ("Nos tienen miedo porque no tenemos miedo"). This current strike revisits accords to negotiate the $800 fee, which in June ended a two-month shut down of 10 of 11 UPR campuses, as UPR faces a $240 million budget shortfall precipitated by the state not honoring its own debt to the institution.

...

So far this is the best article I've found in English on the current UPR strike.

Mark.

11 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Open letter from a Puerto Rican philosophy professor

In fact, this is simply a part of the government's plan. They want to close the public university and then get rid of students, professors and other employees that are political dissidents, i.e that are not right wing pro-statehooders. They also want to use that opportunity to sell some of the campuses to some of the so-called "universities", the president of one of which helped economically the present governor to win the elections.

In view of the terrible situation described, I would like those of you that have some contact with organizations of liberal academics to inform them of the situation and to denounce it wherever you can, in order to put some international pressure to the government of Puerto Rico and the Board of Directors of the University of Puerto Rico. In view of the colonial status of Puerto Rico, most news about this country do not transcend our frontiers, but the situation at the University of Puerto Rico is probably worse than that of the protesting students in England, since in England the government is certainly not a neo-fascist one like in Puerto Rico, nor one that has already menaced with the use of extreme force and violence - a little bit of which was already experienced a few months ago.

Mark.

11 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Interview with a UPR student on a speaking tour in California in October

Gamelyn Oduardo, a law student at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) Rio Piedras campus, is a member of the student coordinating committee that led the shut down of 10 UPR campuses from April 21 to June 17, 2010. The successful strike stopped devastating cuts, tuition hikes and privatization. Puerto Rican feminist Yuisa Gimeno interviewed him.

What conditions motivated the strike?

The government imposed neoliberal policies that were crippling all state-owned schools and public services like water and electricity and laid off over 20,000 workers. UPR’s budget was reduced by $300 million in the last 10 years.

Maintenance and clerical workers, and faculty suffered reductions in benefits and salaries and lay-offs. For students, this meant worse conditions and less courses available. The administration was still being paid six digit salaries.

Students mobilized with the support of a 24-hour general strike of all organized sectors. The administration “locked out” all of the campuses for a week, as a “security measure.” As the union leadership backed out from the idea of a more prolonged strike, the student movement turned to itself.

What factors and groups made the strike successful?

Our occupations received massive support from labor unions, LGBT and women’s organizations, parents, religious groups and local and international artists. Action Committees were the building blocks of our strike. Internally, radical democracy was the only way in which we kept united. It is horizontal in structure, deliberation, and the discussion of ideas.

UPR faculty, maintenance and clerical workers unions and the Teacher’s Federation helped us shut down the campus and the off-site central administration office. The more radical union, UTIER (electrical workers), set up a 24-hour campsite outside the campus, provided security, brought food and water and helped keep the picket lines going.

Women were the core and vanguard of the movement and on the front lines. In many cases they were braver than the men. Women were on the coordinating and negotiating committees and held public speaking roles. The next strike is going to be the strike of the women.

As California’s eyes were on UPR, our eyes have been on California. Support from organized students and workers in California was of special importance. Rallies in solidarity throughout the world let us know that we are not alone in the struggle for public education.

What challenges does the movement face now?

The Board of Trustees still insist on imposing a “fee” of $800 to every student, while reducing worker’s benefits and services. Federal Pell grants or loans of students involved in the strike have not been released. We haven’t been able to buy books we need for school, single mothers haven’t been able to pay tuition or the rent. The Legislative Branch has enacted laws to impose restrictions on student assemblies, and propose to prohibit work stoppages at UPR.

We are organizing for another possible strike to defy the administration and take to the streets to fight the neoliberal establishment. Most students are convinced that only through radical reform can the university be fully autonomous.

How can Puerto Rican and U.S. activists work together to build solidarity?

Student activists can play an integral role in bringing people together and raising consciousness of the actions that need to be taken, but we can’t do it alone. We need rank-and-file union members. We can’t stop the capitalist offensive by ourselves. The labor movement moves the machinery of the system and they can stop it — not just for 24 hours but for a long time.

We must exchange ideas and build solidarity in person. Students in California have an open invitation to come and strike with us.

Mark.

11 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Report in the Puerto Rico Daily Sun

The third day of the strike at the University of Puerto Rico started almost where the second had ended; with a standoff between students and the police.

At midmorning Thursday students demonstrating in front of the gate with access to the Social Sciences Department on Ponce de León Avenue almost came face to face with regular police, riot squad and a motorcycle division, who blocked three of the four access routes to the area.

[…]

While students demonstrated in the middle of the street, groups of professors and non-teaching personnel from the university, and independent observers from the Puerto Rico Bar Association positioned themselves between the students and the police.

[…]

Meanwhile, the hallways of all the UPR departments were almost empty for the third day in a row. Despite university administrators assured police presence on campus was to guarantee access to those wanting to go to class, the fact is not many students are attending. Even at the biggest departments, such as Natural Sciences and Education, attendance is scarce at best.

Photos from days 3 and 4 of the strike

Mark.

11 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

.

Steven.

11 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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.

11 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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.

Chilli Sauce

11 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

Mike Harman

11 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

Mark.

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.

Steven.

11 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

Khawaga

11 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

Mark.

11 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

Caiman del Barrio

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.

11 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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.

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.”

Mark.

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.

11 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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.

Mark.

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.

Chilli Sauce

11 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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.

11 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Smoke bombs hurled as police take over campus

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

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

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.

Chilli Sauce

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.

Chilli Sauce

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

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

translation from the blog:

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.

Caiman del Barrio

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.

Chilli Sauce

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Thanks for posting that up CdB.

Mark.

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

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

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

Mark.

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.

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

report in Spanish

machine translation

Juan Conatz

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

A comrade in NEFAC alerted me to the existence of Acción Libertaria. I think this is one of their members' blog.

This is the first anarchist group I've ever heard of in PR.

another blog I've found
Puerto Rico Libertario

Mark.

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

UPR a battleground first day of class

Parts of the University of Puerto Rico campus in Rio Piedras became a battle ground Tuesday when a demonstration against the $800 tuition fee turned violent. 

[…]

With the resumption of classes following the Christmas holiday, some students opted to go class, entering the Río Piedras campus without any problems but others continued their protests against the $800 special fee at the Ponce de Leon Avenue entrance, a segment of which had to be closed. 

[…]

It was then that a huge crowd of students — carrying placards urging dialogue — began a march across the campus. Students wearing masks and bandanas threw smoke bombs inside the Social Sciences and the Business Administration faculties to force students out of classes. 

The group headed towards the Student Center and broke doors and chairs there. Then, they went to the Architecture School and also forced students out using smoke bombs...

Photos 1 ----- Photos 2

Updates in Spanish: rojogallito.blogspot

Mark.

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

[youtube]AHsnz0SX8rk[/youtube]

A report on events on Thursday is now in libcom news