Thursday, 10 February 2011

Puerto Rican students fight privatisation

Puerto Rican students determined to win
by Gamelyn Oduardo, Law School Students Action Committee, 31 January 2011.

Last spring, University of Puerto Rico (UPR) students won a two-month strike against fee hikes, budget cuts and privatization. They struck again on Dec. 14 against an $800 tuition increase that will force thousands out of school. University officials tried to stop it by calling in riot police and snipers to occupy UPR’s eleven campuses. They also declared free speech off limits on campus. The result? Attacks by cops and student arrests. Demonstrators have been forced off campus and face tear gas and police beatings. And the Puerto Rican Supreme Court banned student strikes.

But the students defy these police-state tactics with class boycotts, roadblocks and massive protests in malls and commercial areas. Most campus workers and faculty have joined the strike and honor picket lines. Students are mobilizing surprise rallies in nearby barrios armed with music, information and the simple message “Our struggle is your struggle!”

On Jan. 11, 1,000 students protested outside the Rio Piedras campus and marched through the school, stopping classes and work. The next day 10 students were arrested for passing out literature in classes. On Jan. 13, six students, including this writer, were arrested for protesting. The judge released us, throwing out charges such as “obstruction of justice” and “aggression with a water bottle.” The same day students marched through campus confronting riot police.

This has been the second strike in less than a year to defend public education for the working class. It is still going strong, but the administration refuses to negotiate. Unions and religious groups mount support picket lines. Internationally, students and political organizations have issued solidarity statements.

Readers can send letters of support to:

Mail protest letters to:

UPR Central Administration,
Jardin Botanica Sur,
1187 Calle Flamboyan,
San Juan, PR 00936-1117.

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