Education and Worker’s Rights in Puerto Rico at Risk

Students protest in front of the Capitol of Puerto Rico after budget cuts towards the University of Puerto Rico of over $600 million were announced by the government.

Today is May 1st, also known as ‘May Day’ or International Worker’s Rights Day and Puerto Rico is having its biggest strike in its history. Our island is currently facing a financial crisis that goes all the way since the late 1990s where our debt exponentially grew thanks to predatory loans and corrupt politicians using public funds for their own political agendas. The debt has reached the point where it is financially impossible to pay off. These economic shortcomings led to the creation of the PROMESA Act by the Obama administration, which appointed a Fiscal “Oversight” Board; with the purpose of restructuring the outstanding $73 billion debt.

The public is demanding a transparent audit of the debt because the island’s government claims that it has to pay a certain amount without giving the people the information it deserves about how exactly the government came up with the amount. The Puerto Rican government, currently led by its governor Ricardo Rosselló, is pushing an agenda (ordered by the Oversight Board) to give the university a budget cut of $600 million that would force the University of Puerto Rico to close at least 8 of its 11 campuses across the island and the other campuses would reduce a great amount of its enrollment leaving the island without an economic and accessible higher education for the poor and leaving it to the elite few who can pay for it and have the credentials to be accepted. When the cuts were announced, student groups representing all of the University’s campuses gathered in the the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan for a historic national assembly which led to the declaration of strike in 8 out of the 11 campuses.

“The people before the debt” — Sign from students at the National Assembly in the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Since then, social unrest has turmoiled the entire island where our University gets daily coverage in every news station and newspaper in the island. But the universities are not the only aspect of our society, recently union workers, the administration of the university, professors, and teachers in our public system have protested against the austerity measures that have affected them also. The agenda that our government is trying to push is to impoverish our hard working citizens where most already don’t have enough money to make ends meet and which will cause an even greater migratory wave to the United States to the already exorbitant one that is currently happening as of today. We ask solidarity to all who has empathy towards the poor, the oppressed, to the victims of injustice and to make others aware of the crimes committed against the citizens of Puerto Rico.

The rallies and manifestations are not only happening today in Puerto Rico, but all across major areas in the United States and the World as well. We invite everyone that can to take part in these manifestations and to be knowledgeable about the current situation we live in Puerto Rico, as a great part of the decisions that have led to this point have been made by politicians that were not selected by the people of Puerto Rico, but rather by the citizens of the 50 States. This makes it very important for us as Puerto Ricans in and outside the Island to get together with fellow Latinxs, communities of color and Americans in general in a fight against poverty and oppression.

Written by Ottman Cruz Lopez, Edited and Published by Jorge Torres Vélez.