Puerto Rico: ACLU calls on US to probe abuses

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a US civil and human rights organization, wrote the US Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division on March 10 asking the agency to conclude an ongoing investigation of alleged abuses by the Puerto Rican police and to publish its findings. The ACLU said that its Puerto Rican branch has been reporting these allegations to the Justice Department since around May 2008. The letter, signed by ACLU executive director Anthony Romero and addressed to Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, follows through on the organization’s decision in February to make the situation in Puerto Rico “a high priority.”

Abuses cited in the letter include “racially motivated beatings of members of minority communities by police officers; the execution of a man lying on the ground following an argument with a police officer over a traffic violation; the unsolved murder of a man of African-Puerto Rican descent, suspected to be an extrajudicial killing by police officers; the fabrication of drug-related charges against over 100 residents of a housing project in the city of Mayagüez; the violent and inhumane eviction of members of the Villas del Sol squatter community, including the denial of fresh water to the community for eight months; numerous incidents of abuse of the homeless by police officers.”

“[P]olice abuse has escalated” since the conservative Gov. Luis Fortuño took office in January 2009, Romero says, “and now free expression is under great threat.” As examples, Romero cites the Puerto Rico government’s legal actions against the local bar association and “extreme police brutality” used against protesting students at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), including “torture techniques on immobilized student protesters” and the targeting of young women, who “have also been sexually harassed, groped and touched by police.” An ACLU press release quoted Romero as saying that “the horrific abuses reported to be taking place in Puerto Rico have flown too far under the radar.” (ACLU press release and letter, March 10; El Nuevo Día, Guaynabo, March 10)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 20.

See our last post on Puerto Rico.


  1. Lies lies and more lies in the university of puerto rico
    One important fact is that more than 95% of the students in the University have already paid the $800 fee. If this increase was unreasonable, then the vast majority of the students wouldnt have been able to pay it. That is not the case. Furthermore, the government has a lot of scholarships for the students. Most dont even pay a cent to their education and most of these scholarships give the students around $2500 more than the cost of tuition and credits for misc. expenses the student might have. The fact is that there is a big group of socialist students being funded by many socialist organizations around the world. Their intention is to create chaos and instability in the country and discredit anyone that gets in their way. The only thing the government has failed in is allowing these criminals to vandilate the university campus, destroy school property, prevent the students from entering their class rooms and force them out with smoke bombs and rocks. Even the chancellor of the university was physically assulted during the manifestations and the car used to escort her had every window shattered. These protesters just protest to protest and the only bad thing w the system in PR is that this kind of behavior is applauded and allowed. The only violence in this situation is from the protesters to anyone who opposes them. They are criminal violating the right of the more than 95% of students who payed the fees and would like to continue w their education. The violence is solely the students who are protesting. How do I know this? I am a student at the University and I have seen it with my own eyes. I have been pushed, attacked, harrased just because i wanted to go to class. The only thing the administration has done wrong is in allowing this kind of behavior. Im sure Chavez is very proud of what his funding is doing to this island. If anything i would investigate all the student who recieve the pell grant and see how they are spending their grant money.

    1. University of Puerto Rico: applying some common sense
      If “more than 95%” of the students paid the tuition surcharge, as Alex Rivera claims in the comment above, then about 3,000 students have not–that is, have dropped out of school. Is denying higher education to 3,000 people not a problem? And how many of the students who remained have had to make real sacrifices, or ask their families to make real sacrifices, to come up with the extra $800?

      What Alex Rivera doesn’t seem to understand is the question I’ve asked before: why should UPR students have to pay for the US economic crisis? The rich people who benefited from the earlier boom certainly haven’t had to pay. The New York Times reported this week that General Electric not only paid no corporate taxes in 2010 but also claims a $3.2 billion tax benefit. Why doesn’t Alex Rodriguez complain about GE’s executives and major stockholders?

      Incidentally, GE designed all six of the reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant and supplied three of them.

      David Wilson
      Weekly News Update on the Americas