Puerto Rico: students’ aggression clouds Women’s Day events

A coalition of Puerto Rican feminist organizations held a march in San Juan on March 8, International Women’s Day, from the Labor Department building to the Río Piedras campus of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), the site of months of student protests against an $800 tuition surcharge. The marchers held a rally when they reached the campus, with an artistic presentation and various speeches. Adriana Mulero, a leader in the student protests, charged that conservative governor Luis Fortuño had worked against women’s rights with his austerity program, which she had left many women heads of households without jobs. She also dismissed “Man’s Promise,” a program Fortuño has promoted as a way to end domestic violence, as reinforcing male stereotypes.

Mulero was questioned about an incident the day before in which a group of student protesters disrupted a meeting UPR rector Ana Guadalupe was attending at the Architecture School and physically attacked Guadalupe and the dozen campus guards accompanying her. Mulero said this was not the time to discuss the incident. However, other speakers denounced the students’ actions.

On the day of the attack, the Student Representative Committee (CRE), which has led the protests against the surcharge, qualified the attitude of the students involved as “reactionary,” although the CRE said the campus guards had partly provoked the violence. (El Nuevo Día, Guaynabo, March 8; NCM, March 9, via Puerto Rico Indymedia)

Supporters of the student protesters held a World Day of Solidarity with the University of Puerto Rico on March 11, the 40th anniversary of a violent confrontation between police and student protesters at Río Piedras, and one day before the anniversary of the UPR’s founding on March 12, 1903. Activists organized events in a number of countries, including the Netherlands, Spain and the United States. In the United Kingdom, where students have been protesting similar education cutbacks, University of Manchester students joined with solidarity activists for a march against the surcharge. (Adital, Brazil, March 11)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 13.

See our last post on Puerto Rico.