Puerto Rico: thousands protest airport privatization

Some 2,500 Puerto Ricans marched on San Juan’s Luis Muñoz MarĂ­n International Airport on Feb. 24 to protest plans to privatize the facility. “Our airport isn’t for sale and isn’t for rent” and “Alejandro [GarcĂ­a Padilla, the governor], your mom’s ashamed of you” were among the marchers’ signs. Agents of the US Homeland Security Department arrested one protester, VĂ­ctor DomĂ­nguez, a member of the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico (PNPR), when he attempted to go past barricades that police agents had set up 50 meters from the airport entrance. Protest organizers blamed the police for the confrontation during an otherwise peaceful event, saying the agents violated an agreement to let the marchers go all the way to the entrance. Protest sponsors included the Union of Workers of the Electrical Industry and Circulation (UTIER) Solidarity Program (Prosol), the Brotherhood of Office Employees (HEO) and the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP). (Metro, Guaynabo, Feb. 24)

Activists in New York City held a press conference on the steps of City Hall on Feb. 24 to express their opposition to the privatization. “We’re here to show solidarity with our Puerto Rican bothers and sisters who oppose the privatization,” said Pedro Julio Serrano, a spokesperson for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. (El Diario-La Prensa, New York, Feb. 25)

Under the privatization plan the airport will be leased for 40 years to the Aerostar Airport Holdings consortium; 50% of Aerostar is controlled by the Mexican firm Grupo Aeroportuario del Sureste (Asur), which manages the airports in CancĂșn, MĂ©rida, Cozumel, Villahermosa, Oaxaca, Veracruz, Huatulco, Tapachula and MinatitlĂĄn in southeastern and southern Mexico. The consortium is paying $615 million for the lease; it projects investing $240 million over the first three years in infrastructure and repairs for the facility. Some 8.5 million passengers use the airport each year; it is served by 14 airlines and generates more than 8,000 jobs.

The privatization plan was developed under the administration of former governor Luis Fortuño (2009-2013). Aerostar won the contract in July 2012; the US government’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved the plan this Feb. 26. (Univision, Feb. 28)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 3.