Skip to main content

As some of you may know, the situation in Puerto Rico has deteriorated as fast or faster as in the most hard-hit areas of the mainland U.S. Not surprisingly, the governor is a Teabagger who has been actively courting the elite of the far right fringe.

Below the jump is an article, printed in full with the author's permission, that describes the situation as relates to the far right's attempt to systematically defund and privatize one of the central institutions in Puerto Rico, the University of Puerto Rico system.  

This is precisely the strategy the right is following with regard to government in general and especially state universities here in the U.S., and so this situation foreshadows what we can expect if these elements are allowed to succeed here.  And in Puerto Rico, when the students held peaceful demonstrations that were a model for orderly protest and civil disobedience, the government responded with thuggish police state tactics, and our own history shows we should expect no less as well.

(Full disclosure -- the author is a relative of mine.)

Gov. Fortuño attacks University of Puerto Rico
Published Feb 3, 2011 8:18 PM

Worker’s World’s stellar reporting has informed readers of the ongoing political and social instability in Puerto Rico resulting from the neoliberal policies of Republican Gov. Luis Fortuño; recent events have gone from bad to worse. Fortuño, who courts major Tea Party big-money donors at Heritage Foundation events, has dismayed the nation with his callous disregard for the role of education in Puerto Rico.

In a society already dramatically divided socioeconomically, his administration has waged a heinous assault to weaken the University of Puerto Rico by undermining its financial stability. Through the much-criticized Law 7, state funds assigned to the University coffers were so severely cut that some campuses of the Commonwealth’s public university system are teetering on the brink of financial collapse.

Despite funds being expressly set aside by the Government Development Bank for stabilization of the University’s financial crisis, the statehood party’s majority voted against freeing the funds to ensure ongoing operations. Instead, the UPR’s President and Board of Trustees invoked a loophole in the since-discarded agreements from the 2010 student strike to impose an $800 yearly quota across the board for all students.

Those most affected, the students, are the University’s weakest economic link, especially the more marginalized sectors of the population who are already at risk by virtue of their social class. In spite of students’ valiant efforts to resist the government’s concerted efforts to weaken the commonwealth’s public university, the community has little recourse against impending havoc: thousands of the nation’s youth being denied an education at a cost within their means.

In the last month, heavy-handed police techniques have been used to rein in protesters intent on claiming their right to affordable education. Decades-old standing agreements that prohibited the use of police on university grounds were violated. The incursion of mounted riot police and armed SWAT teams has dismayed even those politically sympathetic to the governor’s policies.

Nonetheless, the turn of recent events is enough to offend the common decency of even hardened political observers. Over the last several weeks, students have upped the ante in their struggle against the infamous quota and have adopted civil disobedience to pressure the University and the government to identify alternative funding sources to cover the UPR’s deficit.

The government response to protesters has been beyond harsh; it has relied upon police brutality that recalls the most violent events of student strikes in Puerto Rico in the 1970s.

The arrests of students and sympathizers in the defense of public education have crossed acceptable boundaries of law and civil rights. Members of the press, themselves among the victims of police brutality, have described treatment of protesters by police as abusive, even as torture. Frightening images easily available on the Internet leave little doubt that violations of civil rights are rampant.

More troubling is that the police tactics are justified at the highest levels. The argument made by the Puerto Rican Secretary of State, Marcos Rodriguez Emma, is that access to the UPR must be guaranteed and protesters violated the law by obstructing free access to public domain, so all measures to reestablish police control are justified. This position doesn’t stand the test of law: the American Civil Liberties Union and the U.S. Justice Department have already drawn their attention to the island to gather evidence on civil rights violations.

The recent civil disobedience has underscored the police flouting the legal system that supposedly governs them. Protesters are being brutalized. Women are being manhandled. Dozens of students are hauled off to police stations and are held for hours, even overnight, reportedly intimidated while in police custody, without formal charges being filed. Even uninvolved passersby at protest sites have been attacked by pepper spray and rubber bullets and hauled off to jail, all flagrant violations of law.

The Puerto Rican Constitution protects citizens from these violations of rights, as affirmed in legal precedents that uphold the Puerto Rican Constitution, such as People v. Rey Marrero, 109 D.P.R. 739 (1980) that safeguards citizens’ rights against being taken into police custody without adequate justification.

Prior to recent events, civil disobedience has been less widely known in Puerto Rico than on the U.S. mainland. That may soon change, as public outcry over civil rights violations of protesters and observers becomes part of the larger public discourse.

Whether the students’ cause will spread to a broader consciousness, or Governor Fortuño’s administration will continue to trample both public education and the people’s rights with impunity, is one question to which the people will have to themselves provide the answer.

Originally posted to Wintermute on Fri Feb 04, 2011 at 04:38 AM PST.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site