Puerto Rico: student strikers start mass CD actions

Chanting slogans from a student strike at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), on Jan. 21 a group of students and activists interrupted a talk that conservative Puerto Rican governor Luis Fortuño Bruset was giving at Valladolid University Law School in Valladolid, Spain. The activists said they were Puerto Ricans living in Spain who wanted the international community to know about Gov. Fortuño’s “destruction” of the UPR, and “the repression, the criminalization and abuse of power against the student demonstrators.” A group of students has been on strike at several of the university’s campuses since December to protest an $800 surcharge on tuition at the large public university.

Fortuño was visiting Spain as part of a trade mission that the protesters denounced as “a subterfuge by this colonial administration so as not to confront the social and political situation that the country is undergoing.” (Primera Hora, Guaynabo, Jan. 22)

Earlier in the week, UPR students and their supporters began a series of mass civil disobedience actions, blocking entrances to the RĂ­o Piedras campus in San Juan to escalate their protest against the surcharge. A total of 49 protesters were arrested on Jan. 19, including Sister Elizabeth ConcepciĂłn, from a Catholic community in the El Volcán neighborhood of BayamĂłn; solidarity activist Mary Ann Grady; and Rafael Feliciano, president of the Teachers’ Federation of Puerto Rico (FMPR). There were 44 arrests on Jan. 20; among the detainees was the well-known environmental activist Alberto de JesĂşs Mercado (“Tito Kayak”). (Primera Hora, Jan. 20; El Nuevo DĂ­a, Guaynabo, Jan. 20, Jan. 21)

The UPR administration claimed that 90% of the students had registered for the semester and had paid the surcharge by Jan. 21. At a Jan. 22 press conference Xiomara Caro, a spokesperson for the Student Representative Committee (CRE), said that the actual number given by UPR president JosĂ© RamĂłn de la Torre was 35,407 registrations from a student body of 61,565, nowhere near 90%. She noted that the strikers hadn’t asked students not to register; instead, strike supporters could stay in school by paying the first installment of the fee, but they were urged to mark their checks “Payment Under Protest.”

Caro said another round of civil disobedience was planned for the next week. (El Nuevo DĂ­a, Guaynabo, Jan. 23; Huffington Post, Jan. 18)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 23.

See our last post on Puerto Rico.


  1. Just pay the money!
    I live in Puerto Rico..the students that demonstrate, and block the roads, cause interruptions, riots, etc..they should get arrested..and be fined..I dont know lets say..$800.00.. yup, I think they will be less likely to demonstrate to the extent of causing a riot. One more thing..my CRIM taxes go up every year..my electricity bills go up every month..what the hell.. You dont see me getting a gang together, or a bunch of demonstrators and cause a riot. I just pay it..just like the students..JUST PAY IT.. College is cheap enough out here, try to move to any state in the USA, $800.00 wouldnt get you a 1 credit course in college. I am a big beliver in standing up for what you believe in.. but when it comes to education, dont mess with another students that wants to be there. Just pay it or go home, and leave the college to the student that want to learn and go on in life. Sometimes life isnt fair, and you will be paying for it for the rest of your life.. Enough is enough–Move on and pay it or leave.

    1. My respond to your comment about just pay the money
      I seriously get what your trying to say, but students are fighting for what They believe in. That’s not what you said; that you were a big believer in fighting for what you believe in? When more than half of the student body is against of whatever the administration tries to do, we the students VOTE. We vote on how we should respond to those acts, and what do we plan to do about those acts. The Majority wins. That’s called democracy and if you don’t like it, get the hell out. And when it comes to EDUCATION, you should fight for what you believe in because it is in our rights to have the chance to be educated. People comment a lot about how the $800 are nothing compared to what others have to pay in the US but remember this: The average income in a household in Puerto Rico is not even a half compared with the US. A teacher here gets paid the same amount of cash as a janitor of a public high school from the US. $800 for us seem like $10,000 for students from the US. Many students from the UPR, right now, couldn’t finish their first year or any other year because they simply couldn’t pay $800 and a raised tuition. We live in poverty here! Many lost their jobs last year and this year. That’s what the students of the UPR are fighting for. Now, I’m not saying that I applaud some of the vandalism (yes, i say some because you shouldn’t believe everything that the media says and because I WAS THERE)that the MINORITY ( yes minority because the whole or more than half of the student body didn’t participate in the vandalism)did. No, I’m just saying that you should half in mind the WHOLE facts before you judge a course of events. Things here at the UPR are getting worse Every year…. because this didn’t just start happening ( get your facts right, this has been going on for decades and the turning point was on 2005 I think)People just start caring when the lives of other are violently at risk…
      We the students are fighting for everyone’s right to study, that’s called a community. And we are not just a community, we’re a family at the University of Puerto Rico. We’re representing our principles, what WE believe in. That’s part of what we learned here. And just because you live in Puerto Rico doesn’t mean you’ve have to live through what we the students who cant pay have to go through. Let me say that you don’t sound BORICUA ( term used for puertoricans who were born and raised in Puerto Rico)because we are very strong opinionated and stubborn we just don’t believe in that “life isn’t fair” shit. Because believe me, we do know that life isn’t fair, but we don’t let it run our lives… do you? If it were for that, we’d still be treated as animals and slaves. Without rights.

      Anyways, We can’t pay what we do not have. Education shouldn’t be only for the rich or the middle class. Education is for EVERYONE it’s in OUR rights; our constitution, so go,look it up

  2. upr strikers
    Your content seems to be all in favor of the striking students. what about the striking students who wore masks and broke windows at the upr and interrupted exams and classes and demanded to read their demands? how many students are on strike? ONE nun who joined their strike? the head of the teachers’ union seems to join any strike against the government and is ready to make his teachers join strikes. He was with the strikers when the public schools were beginning their second semester with lots of problems like lacking teachers, schools closed etc. and where was he with the upr strikers/ there are two sides to every story – actuaully three sides: yours, ours and the truth.

    1. Masks and Broke Windows
      Its been questioned who are these people wearing masks and breaking windows. Several incidents in the history of PR has showed that its been infiltrates in order to damage the image of the student body.


  3. Posts on UPR strike
    We have received more comments on the UPR strike, but we have not approved them because they do not comply with our Posting Policy. Please read our Posting Policy before posting further comments. Thank you.

  4. Education in Puerto Rico: who should pay, who are the vandals?
    When there’s an economic crisis, the rich and the powerful move quickly to make sure they get bailed out and the rest of us are stuck with the bill. Since we might object to paying for the same fat cats whose financial irresponsibility did so much to create the crisis, they have their media tell us over and over again that the problem is greedy students, overpaid public employees and seniors barely subsisting on their Social Security checks. And so we get people who believe that students should “just pay” a tuition surcharge “or go home.”

    Actually, an educated population is a benefit to society as a whole. Free higher education has historically raised a region’s cultural and economic level, as happened here in New York City when the city colleges were still free. On the other hand, bailing out the superrich and lowering their taxes provides no social benefit at all. The student strikers in Puerto Rico are fighting for something that’s in the best interests of Puerto Rican society, and we should support them—just as we should support students struggling against budget cuts and tuition hikes in New York, California and elsewhere.

    As for the acts of vandalism on Jan. 11, we reported on them a week earlier. We also reported on the UPR strike assembly’s condemnation of the vandalism. Unfortunately, all movements—left, right and center—have their share of hotheads and nut jobs. It’s worth noting, though, that the vandals were indeed wearing masks and, in the words of UPR professor Maritza Stanchich, “[o]ddly no arrests were made, though police were present throughout the march.”

    David Wilson
    Weekly News Update on the Americas

  5. Too much censorship here…
    My post included much fact and important observation and you shouldn’t provide a forum, but then blatantly limit comments made by people that expect to be able to express themselves. If you give them the ability to write, even if the response is longer than the article as your Posting Policy states, it should be allowed to be posted without your censorship. I’m referring explicitly to: “Your post should be no longer than the article you are responding to.”

    I wasted my time and intellect writing comments because you didn’t publish them. This is the very same problem that Puerto Rico has on the whole, and much of the world I fear. And this waste of allowing people with good ideas to express themselves and comment in contrast to the content is a major problem and limitation to free speech and evolution of thought.

    You should go back and read my comments and let them get published.

    This publication is now on my list of highly censored content because it is not using logical and democratic filtering policies, nor is the content presenting the actual reality of the situations that it writes about. The editors are not capable of providing an open and fair environment for a community of varying opinions to express themselves.

    If you need to limit the characters in a comment, why don’t you simply have the programmers count the number of characters in the article text and apply that number to a character limit that is enforced by a simple JavaScript in the comments text box. That way, people like me who want to contribute to your community of readers are not censored arbitrarily. That way, the programming can be an independent filter and you won’t be tempted to limit the speech of others after reading a comment that you aren’t in agreement with.

    Too bad your site is actually run so poorly because you have a civil and social perspective that carries a sentiment that many other people feel. Maybe you should let in more folks like myself to help move it along, who disagree in a fair way, and are willing to help get the word out. To do this though, you have to let the reader form their own opinion and instead leave the emotion and political skew out, and let the people perform a logical analysis without feeding them your opinion! The content here is highly limited in the actual reporting of facts and many times does not provide the whole story.

    1. Time perhaps, but certainly not intellect
      All you had to do was read the Posting Policy first. Don’t blame me.

      I love it when people accuse me of censorship in a comment on my website. A little irony-challenged, are we?