Puerto Rico: students strike against budget cuts

As of April 25 students were continuing an occupation of the Río Piedras campus of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) in San Juan to protest plans to cut next year’s budget by $100 million. The cutbacks might mean an end to exemptions for students with less resources at the public university. About 65,000 students are enrolled in the UPR’s 11 campuses, of which Río Piedras is the largest.

The occupation began on April 21 as a 48-hour protest; two days later the students announced that the protest would be open-ended strike. Student representatives met with UPR president José Ramón de la Torre on April 23, but the strikers said on April 25 that the university still hadn’t responded to the demands they presented at the meeting. According to press reports, about 70 students were carrying out the occupation at the Río Piedras campus. Giovanni Roberto, a spokesperson for the strikers, said the number of protesters had stayed about the same since the beginning, with some students joining during the weekend while others went home to visit their families.

Support for the strikers has come from a number of groups, including the Teachers’ Federation of Puerto Rico (FMPR) and the All Puerto Rico for Puerto Rico Coalition, which had led the struggle against layoffs of government employees last fall [see Updates #1006, 1008]. Supporters have come to the locked gates of the campus to demonstrate, hold press conferences and visit the strikers. “Support has been growing from the beginning,” Roberto said on April 25. “We thought we were going to die of hunger, but it was the opposite—people have come by bringing us food. We expect the support to go on increasing and that this will get to the administration.” (EFE April 23; Primero Hora, Puerto Rico, April 25 from Inter News Service, April 25 from staff reporter)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, April 25.

See our last post on Puerto Rico.