General Strike in Puerto Rico, New York Demonstration in Support of Students

Although the current intensifying crisis at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) has received very little coverage in the U.S. media, I have received news from many directions including several academic organizations that all express mounting concern about developments on the island. Some, for example, the Puerto Rican Studies Association (PRSA), have publicly supported the students. Others have spread the word of regarding the numerous sectors now supporting the students (including demonstrations by workers that have already been taking place since 5:00am this morning, May 17, blocking entry to administrative offices at the UPR Botanical Gardens.) Scores of other organizations, such as Amnesty International Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican Federal Affairs Office have been mobilized. Meanwhile UPR president José Ramón de la Torre has said that he is confident that an accord could be reached to put an end to the nearly month-long strike. If an accord is reached, he “will nix the order shuttering the UPR until July 31 and reopen the university.”

Below is a summary of the various messages I have received with information on the general strike by workers of Puerto Rico in support of Puerto Rican students and the states-side demonstration that will take place in New York City at 135 West 50th Street in Manhattan, both set for Tuesday, May 18, 2010. Here are excerpts that sum up the situation:

This is a major 11-campus institution of higher education with close to 65,000 students, making it the largest university in the Caribbean. The students are on strike, the university closed, 250 riot (Tactical Patrol Force) police have been called in and the issues involve severe budget cuts and the fear of the government’s plans to privatize this 107-year old public university system.
[. . .] Yesterday, in an assembly convened at the Convention Center of Puerto Rico, a broad majority of the students attending decided to move forward with the strike process despite the attempts at intimidation on the part of the university administration. During the day [on] Friday, May 14, the distribution of water at the Rio Piedras campus has been cut off, dorms have been forcibly vacated, and people trying to simply provide water and food to the students protesting on campus have been arrested. [. . .] Several cases of police brutality have been reported. In the face of this situation, scores of citizens alongside artists, community leaders and parents have been arriving at the picket lines to [. . .] provide voices of alert to the country and [. . .] to protect the students against this clear threat of great repression.

Workers in Puerto Rico announced a General Strike for this coming Tuesday in solidarity with the student movement and in decisive repudiation of the policy of confrontation of the country’s colonial government. They have made a call to the people to come to the entrance gates of the various campuses of the University of Puerto Rico.

[. . .] Those of us in New York will be responding to this call. This coming Tuesday, May 18, 2010, the Network in Support of Workers in Puerto Rico, a coordinating body for diverse political, trade union and community organizations in New York, is making AN URGENT CALL to the New York Community and the Tri-State Area to join and assume as our own the denunciation of the fascist attitude of Puerto Rican government AND to express our solidarity with the workers of Puerto Rico by making known the urgency of this situation and by giving our support to UPR University students on the front lines of this struggle.

This major picket will take place this coming Tuesday, May 18, 2010, starting at 5:30 p.m. at the offices of the Puerto Rican Federal Affairs Office (PRFAA) located at 135 West 50th Street, between 6th and 7th Avenues in Manhattan.

For more information you may write to apoyotrabajadorespr@gmail.com or listen to the students’ live radio program at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/radiohuelga

For more articles on the strike, see http://www.claridadpuertorico.com/content.html?news=A3CF270C304856266F5625C462859278, http://www.elnuevodia.com/sindicatosprohibenpasoaljardinbotanico-705727.html, and http://www.prdailysun.com/

For photo (by Mauricio Pascual) and recent article (in English), see http://www.prdailysun.com/news/UPR-president-says-he-is-confident-an-accord-can-be-reached

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