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The Crisis at the University of Puerto Rico: Updates

 

C O N T E N T S

* "Thousands march in "I Love the UPR" By Gloria Ruiz Kuilan, El Nuevo Dia (February 12, 2011)

* "University of Puerto Rico president resigns," The Associated Press (February 12, 2011)

* "Puerto Rico university professors announce strike," The Associated Press (February 9, 2011)

* "Puerto Rico: Police Assault Students and Professors Go on Strike," by Efren Arroyo, Monthly Review (February 10, 2011)

* "Student vigil caps day of violence" By Juan A. Hernandez, Puerto Rico Daily Sun (February 10, 2011)

* "Puerto Rico politics: Student protests underscore political tensions," The Economist (January 21, 2011) 

 

 

Thousands march in "I Love the UPR"

Notable participation of students accompanied by parents or relatives who sympathize with the claim of the university community to leave the uniformed Rio Piedras Campus

By Gloria Ruiz Kuilan | gruiz@elnuevodia.com

El Nuevo Dia (February 12, 2011)

translated from Spanish by NiLP

 

With the sounds of Pleneros, batucada and slogans to protest the presence of the police in Rio Piedras campus of the University of Puerto Rico, thousands of people marched today through the streets of Rio Piedras in support of students in the demonstration dubbed "I love the UPR."

At about 2:30 p.m. coming out of the Plaza de la Convalescence, in the center of town Rio Piedras, was the mass demonstration led by the leadership of the Puerto Rican Association of University Professors (APPU), students and members of various political organizations, professional, civic and community organizations.

 

Notable was the participation of students accompanied by parents or relatives who sympathize with the claim of the university community to leave the uniformed Rio Piedras campus.

 

Beatriz Miranda, mother of a student of this campus, said she participated in the march "to let them know (the government) that these guys are not alone. This is an outrage against the students," said the woman, who lives in Bayamon.

 

The march went around the campus and went through the main access points to the Rio Piedras campus, where police officers were stationed, who were the target of call to leave by the protesters.

 

 

University of Puerto Rico president resigns

The Associated Press (February 12, 2011)

 

The president of the University of Puerto Rico has resigned amid student protests against a new fee.

 

Jose Ramon de la Torre submitted his resignation letter on Friday, a day after dozens of students clashed with police on campus. He said he was stepping down for personal reasons.

 

De la Torre spokesman Peter Quinones provided a copy of the letter.

 

Sen. Eduardo Bhatia said in a statement that de la Torre's departure does not solve the university's problems and demanded that police leave campus.

 

Bhatia also requested that the island's governor and university officials meet with students.

 

Students have organized several protests against an $800 yearly fee imposed to reduce the system's budget deficit.

 

 

Puerto Rico university professors announce strike

The Associated Press (February 9, 2011)

 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- The Puerto Rican Association of University Professors is staging a 24-hour strike in support of students who have clashed with police during protests over a new fee.

 

Association president Maria Gisela Rosado says the walkout began Wednesday afternoon to press the organization's demand to meet with University of Puerto Rico officials to end the clashes.

 

Students painting slogans on a university street scuffled with police Wednesday. Some students threw rocks at officers, who in turn swung their batons and arrested at least eight people.

 

Students have organized small strikes to demand the university eliminate an $800 yearly fee imposed to help reduce the system's budget deficit. Students already paid $49 per credit.

 

 

Puerto Rico: Police Assault Students and Professors Go on Strike

by Efren Arroyo

Monthly Review (February 10, 2011)

 

The Association of Puerto Rican University Professors (APPU) on Wednesday called a 24-hour strike at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), vowing that there will be no classes on Thursday.

 

The decision to strike was made as students held a protest on campus, after a fierce confrontation with riot police in front of the José M. Lázaro Library, during which several youth were arrested and others were wounded.

 

"The violence and brutality unleashed by the Puerto Rico Police against the students who were drawing graffiti on the sidewalks of the Río Piedras campus, which was indiscriminately applied to students on the entire campus, highlights the daily tension that we experience at the University of Puerto Rico," said APPU President María Gisela Rosado.

 

The APPU and the Brotherhood of Exempt, Non-Teaching Employees (HEEND) marched down Wednesday afternoon to the office of Chancellor Ana Guadalupe, to set up a dialogue to put an end to violent conflicts between riot police and students.

 

Though it was initially announced that Guadalupe would not meet them, later she agreed to a meeting.  At this moment, the meeting is underway.

 

Both the HEEND and the APPU are demanding that the Puerto Rico Police leave the campus, though UPR President José Ramón de la Torre earlier made statements indicating that the police will remain on campus.

 

The strike began at 3 PM on Wednesday.

 

The original article "Vuelve a complicarse el conflicto en la UPR" was published by WAPA.tv on 9 February 2011.  Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi.

 

 

Student vigil caps day of violence

"We shall overcome" the last word

By Juan A. Hernandez | jhernandez@prdailysun.net    

Puerto Rico Daily Sun (February 10, 2011)

 

Violence escalated Wednesday noon at the University of Puerto Rico after students and police clashed over the painting of slogans on the street in front of the José M. Lázaro Library.

 

More than 50 students were painting messages on the asphalt of what has come to be known as "Conscience Street" in front of the university library when a police officer started videotaping the activity. Indignant, some of the students questioned the reasons for his keeping tabs on them.

 

"We are not doing anything wrong. We are just painting here. We have the right to do so," said one of the students to the policewoman holding the video camera, who was immediately flanked by a group of some 12 police officers.

 

The situation turned violent when one of the students allegedly tried to take the camera from the officer, while others shouted insults to the group of agents. Almost immediately, a riot police squad came onto the scene and without any previous warning some started beating the students with ball of their metal-tipped batons.

 

In similar situations riot police have been mobilized in a phalanx formation to create a perimeter and gain control of the area, but on Wednesday afternoon the orders seemed different. Some 30 officers charged down on the students wielding their batons indiscriminately and hitting anyone within reach.

 

Many of the students fled from the scene to a safer distance while others sought refuge in the library. Others yet stayed their ground and confronted the police. Some of the students flung the paint containers at the advancing police staining many of them, or threw stones at them. Others even resorted to hand-to- hand combat, managing to grab one or two riot police by the neck and hitting them until they could take them to the ground.

 

Students not participating in the demonstration were also pushed, hit and arrested by the police if they questioned or resisted the actions. In the end,  21 students were arrested and taken to different police stations throughout the San Juan metropolitan area. Female students were taken to the Cupey Police Station, while the others were taken to the Loíza Street and Monte Hatillo stations. Charges against the arrested students were undisclosed.

 

Earlier, a group of university employees affiliated to the Brotherhood of Exempt and Non-Teaching Employees (HEEND for its Spanish acronym) had stormed into the lobby of campus chancellor Ana R. Guadalupe's office and staged a sit-in while announcing their intention of staying there until the police was ordered off the campus.

 

At the same time, university professors affiliated with the Puerto Rican Association of University Professors (APPU for its Spanish acronym) had been trying to meet with Guadalupe in an effort to negotiate an end to the "harassment, persecution and physical abuse against university students, teachers and employees." By 5 p.m., Guadalupe had not agreed to the meeting.

 

"We are announcing a 24-hour work stoppage, starting today [Wednesday] at 3 p.m. to protest police presence in our university," said APPU president María Gisela Rosado.

 

In a written statement distributed to the press, Guadalupe condemned the day's violence and urged that "wisdom and prudence" prevail.

 

"This is a moment to come together in our commitment, as academicians, to face these times of hardship affecting our institution," said Guadalupe.

 

The chancellor denounced the student and labor leadership's actions of the day, falling short of blaming them for "vandalism," referring to the painting of the street.  

 

Guadalupe called the announced APPU work stoppage "illegal," and urged all university personnel to come to work today [Thursday] and comply with their duties and responsibilities.

 

Guadalupe said the police will continue to stay on campus to guarantee institutional order.

 

The day ended with a march of citizens, many dressed in white, who entered the campus to take part in a vigil in solidarity with the students and to demand that police be ordered off the UPR campuses.

During the vigil, a group of students gained access to the university tower and unfurled a gigantic black banner that reached from the tower balcony to the ground reading "VENCEREMOS" (We shall overcome).

 

 

The Economist Intelligence Unit

Puerto Rico politics: Student protests underscore political tensions

The Economist (January 21, 2011) 

 

A protest by students at the University of Puerto Rico, the second within a single academic year, recently became the focus of opposition to the Fortuño government's recent austerity policies, and could deteriorate into more violent confrontation between strikers and the security forces.

 

In early December, the police occupied the main university campus in San Juan, the capital, as the campus chancellor imposed a 30-day ban on all public demonstrations. Students and some university faculty and employees defied the ban, keeping tensions high on the campus and in the surrounding community. In late December, police charged a student demonstration in the Natural Sciences building, resulting in the arrest of 17 students. About a dozen students are scheduled to go on trial early in 2011.

 

The opposition Partido Popular Democrático (PPD) and Partido Independentista Puertorriqueño (PIP) are supporting the strike, as are many labour unions and several minor political organisations. The administration of the governor, Luis Fortuño, is vowing to enforce a hard-line approach at the university, but legislators from his party, the ruling Partido Nuevo Progresista (PNP), have taken a more conciliatory stance, holding meetings with student leaders to seek a resolution to the crisis.

 

The immediate cause of the strike is the imposition of a special US$800 fee that students would have to pay, on top of regular tuition charges, for the semester starting February 2011. Moreover, protestors have accused the university administration of ignoring contracted salary increases for non-teaching employees and cutting faculty benefits. Behind all these issues is the Fortuño administration's decision to cut funding for the state university system by more than US$200m.

 

In addition to the opposition's outcry, several members of the PNP have publicly criticised Mr Fortuño for his handling of the university crisis, including some mayors and, notably, Pedro Pierluisi-the resident commissioner in the US House of Representatives. Mr Pierluisi, the second-most important figure in the Fortuño administration, has called repeatedly for a negotiation with the students, clearly distancing himself from the governor's confrontational approach. This has fuelled speculation that he is preparing the ground for an eventual run for governor in 2012, as many analysts argue that Mr Fortuño could abandon plans to seek re-election if his policies fail to bring economic growth in 2011. However, Mr Pierluisi, who is a personal friend of Mr Fortuño, has indicated his willingness to run for governor only if Mr Fortuño categorically states that he will not seek re-election.