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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.

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Comment Preferences

    •  Political parties in Puerto Rico (0+ / 0-)

      Politicians in Puerto Rixo are indeed card-carrying members of the Democratic and Republican parties, in addition to being members of one of the four Puerto Rican political parties (the fourth party is new: the 2008 election was the first time they had a candidate run fir Governor).  The U.S. and PR parties bear no correspondence or overlap; you can be a statehooder and just as well be a Dem as being a Repuvlican.  The pity is that the general public doesn't view the world in these terms and so the traditional issues usually associated with the U.S. parties, such as taxation, division of wealth, governmental role in social programs, etc., have rarely been discussed in detail in political races. This may change, hopefully, as a result of the striking unpopularity of the current governor, who, yes, is a Republican.

      •  well, (0+ / 0-)

        the US democrat and republican party are private clubs for politicians who believe in closer ties with the US, those who believe Puerto Rico should not have that kind of ties or believe Puerto Rico should not participate in US politics are then not members of those clubs.
        In the Partido Popular Democratico those who believe in a sovereign commonwealth do not participare in that kind of political club. Those who believe in independence also do not participate.
        Puerto Ricans do not view their world in Republican or Democrat, but at the same time US voters do not see their world in Pro statehood, sovereign Commonwealth or Independence.

        •  Political party overlap! (0+ / 0-)

          Puerto Rican politicians do participate actively in official capacities in US mainland political parties. For example:  
          The ex-Governor Anibal Acevedo Vila of the PR Popular Democratic Party, was a U.S. national Democratic party superdelegate in 2008.

          Pedro Pierluisi, the current PR Resident Commissioner of the New Progressive Party,, is a Democrat:

          Kenneth Mcclintock, of the PNP, who chaired Hilary Clinton's PR campaign, is a Democrat.

          And hate to resort to Wokipedia, but it's late: :-) Gov. Fortuño is a Republican.

          It's a confusing mess, but again, if the populace grew to interpret political campaign promises in terms of Democratic or Republican stances, they might be less surprised when the governors take office and pursue their agendas.

  •  OK, that's one side of the story. (0+ / 0-)

    Not to be confused with the whole story, of course.  I'm not able to supply that whole story, but I will point out that UPR faces the conundrum of all public services in poor societies: because people are poor, they expect those services for far less than people in wealthier societies are able to pay...but governments in poor societies are themselves poor and therefore unable to make that happen, at least consistently and to the desired extent.

    APSCU is the trade group of diploma mills that rip off students and the government.

    by Rich in PA on Fri Feb 04, 2011 at 04:42:21 AM PST

    •  It's about social choices (5+ / 0-)

      And the Teabagger element is incapable of thinking in terms of the "commonwealth" and see the benefits to everyone of ensuring the widest possible access to education.

      This is the flaw in our plans to "reform" education here in the U.S. -- it is poverty, not teachers, that are at the root of low test scores.  When you control for poverty, our test scores rival the best in the world.

      -9.00, -5.85
      If only stupidity were painful...

      by Wintermute on Fri Feb 04, 2011 at 04:45:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yes, there's a shortage of money. (0+ / 0-)

      Money, which is a figment of the imagination and which we can print in sufficient quantity to lubricate our trade and exchange.  Given that's the nature of money, if it is scarce, that's because somebody has manipulated the currency.

      Some people are into manipulating people with more delight and expertise than manipulating the material environment.  Such people are into what we might call human husbandry.  That is, they perceive the manipulation/service of humans as a source of their sustenance.  They exploit people as if they were milk cows.

      Human husbandry is a perennial enterprise that's attractive to people who have few practical skills.  Letting them direct the lives of other people is a bad idea.

      The conservative mind relies mainly on what is plain to see.

      by hannah on Fri Feb 04, 2011 at 05:04:55 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  We need to make PR... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ...a state.

    This whole "colony" thing is not good.

  •  there is no such thing as a R- governor in PR (0+ / 0-)

    there is no such thing as a republican governor in Puerto Rico, there is no republican or democrat party in the puerto rican general elections. the governor is a republican sympathizer yes, but he is a pro US Statehood governor and his party is the Partido Nuevo Progresista which is the pro statehood party

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