University of Puerto Rico Struggle Receives International Attention: Al Jazeera, Tele Sur, and Washington Post Report

While a good number of local scholars, journalists, and artists—Diane Accaria-Zavala, Luis Fernando Coss, Luce López Baralt, Mara Negrón, Rubén Ríos Ávila, Ana Lydia Vega, to name just a few—have been steadily addressing the University of Puerto Rico crisis on the island, the latest chapters of university strife have been finally receiving coverage by the international press. The university’s own Maritza Stanchich spearheaded this attention with her insightful observations in the Huffington Post. Now Al Jazeera, Tele Sur, and the Washington Post have started to report on the latest student strike, which began on December 14, 2010, at its main campus in Río Piedras Puerto Rico.

The strikers, protesting the fee of US$800 that the UPR administration has imposed “to alleviate the economic crisis,” have tried to focus attention on the effects and significance of this price hike (among any other changes) in view of the university’s, and indeed, the country’s wider context and circumstances, pointing to problems such as blatant mismanagement of university funds, the island’s rampant unemployment, among others. For many, it is another nefarious step in the attempt to dismantle the foundations of this revered public institution.

Al Jazeera, the news channel founded in 1996 by Qatar and the leading news channel in the Arab world, recently sent a journalistic team to the island to cover the Río Piedras campus demonstrations, an indicator of the importance being given abroad to the university conflict. Al Jazeera had already covered other events in Puerto Rico, such as the explosion and fire of the Caribbean Petroleum Corporation (CAPECO) oil refinery in Cataño, which occurred in October 2009, and the mass firings of public servants by the government. The UPR-Río Piedras also saw the presence of Tele Sur, which is headquartered in Venezuela, offers 24-hour new coverage, and promotes the integration of Latin America. At least one newspaper in the United States and one of the most prestigious in the country, the Washington Post, wrote about the massive show of support of the student strike by the Puerto Rican Association of University Professors (APPU). 

Meanwhile, the Puerto Rican community in New York City held a forum and collected funds that will go to aid students at the UPR. This action, carried out at the Julia de Burgos Cultural Center, joins other demonstrations of solidarity to take place in cities such as Barcelona, Madrid, and Amsterdam, where graduates of the University of Puerto Rico are organizing other events.

For original article (in Spanish), see

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