Striking Students at the UPR Have a Message for the Puerto Rican Diaspora

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La Respuesta contacted our camaradas at Radio Huelga or “Radio Strike” to explain to the Puerto Rican Diaspora why students at the University of Puerto Rico are on strike. The radio collective graciously presented our questions at the student plenos, or collective gatherings, where all students (and up to 200 students have participated in each of the four plenos so far) have an opportunity to provide ideas and feedback on the direction of the student strike. Here are their answers, collectively, as #Paro48HorasUPRRP:

Why are the students of the University of Puerto Rico on strike and protesting?

The students of the University of Puerto Rico, from Río Piedras to the other university campuses, are protesting because of the government threat to cut more than $1.5 billion dollars in public services. Education is included in those cuts. Education itself has suffered a particular attack due to the approval of the Law of Fiscal Sustainability and cuts of legislative grants. These are some of the poker chips that the government is moving to promote their imposition of the Value Added Tax (IVA). These cuts and IVA greatly affect course offerings and public education, alter labor rights, and public services like the Center for Community Action and Business. As of today, Friday, May 15, 2015, four campuses are on strike.

What are some of the students’ goals?

Among the objectives and proposals of the students is to avoid the imposition of IVA and achieve the ability of the UPR to offer services that the government has currently subcontracted and privatized, such as tutoring in the Department of Education; and to consult for the creation of public policy.

What has been the government’s response to the students?

The government has not affirmingly responded to listen to the students’ demands. Among the current administration’s actions is to activate the police’s special tactical unit – la fuerza de choque – and other mechanisms of punishment to pacify a peaceful demonstration that arrived at the Governor’s Palace.

Is there any solidarity for your struggle from Puerto Rican political parties, labor unions, and community organizations?

Particular groups have come out in solidarity during certain demonstrations, like the university’s labor unions. Also, public unions such as the Union of Electric and Irrigation Industry Workers (UTIER) have come out to support us; as well as leftist organizations and small political parties of the left like the Party of Working People and the Puerto Rican Independence Party.

How would you like the Puerto Rican Diaspora to support your struggle?

Despite distance, the Diaspora is able to obtain information through the internet and other electronic means. We invite solidarity from the Diaspora to demand the construction of a better country; we invite the Diaspora to connect itself and look for information on struggles like these through alternative and independent media like Radio Huelga, Indymediapr.org and other grassroots initiatives that have been created by social networking and the internet.

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La Respuesta

For over a century, Puerto Ricans have lived and settled in the U.S. (the “Boricua Diaspora”), but now, for the first time, there are more acá than allá. In response to our growing presence and ongoing impact, La Respuesta seeks to invoke a claim to our histories and announce our stories. This will be done by highlighting our assets and distinct experiences, agitating discussion on the crucial issues, and addressing the obstacles that we face. 

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