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2011-02-17

Defiant Student Protesters Force Withdrawal of Puerto Rican Police from Restive Campus

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Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuño has begun withdrawing the police occupation of the main University of Puerto Rico campus in San Juan after two months. SWAT teams and riot squads took over the campus in December following a massive student strike against fee hikes and privatization. Hundreds of students have been arrested, and some have reported being beaten, including sexually harassed and tortured, in the ensuing crackdown. Democracy Now! co-host Juan Gonzalez comments on the students’ uprising. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Before we move on to the Middle East, Juan, you did a very interesting column in the New York Daily News about what’s happening in Puerto Rico.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes. Well, this is now, Amy, the second major strike now, student strike, at the University of Puerto Rico in a year. Last spring, the students were out for over two months, one of the longest strikes in any U.S. territory, going back, I guess, to San Francisco State in California. And they were able to beat back the attempts of the university and of the government of Puerto Rico to impose sharply higher fees and privatization efforts. However, the governor then got the legislature, which he controls, to pack the board of trustees, put new members on the board of trustees, and then started again imposing a sharply higher fee on the students this year. They went on strike again. No one expected them to do it again.

This has gone on now since early December, and it’s sort of climaxed. There have been arrests. The police have been occupying the campus now for two months. And then, last week, while the rest of the world was watching Egypt, the faculty went on strike in support of the students, the university employees went on strike. And then, on Friday, the president of the university resigned. And the governor, who was spending the weekend over at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, because he is a conservative Republican and pro-statehooder, then came back from Washington and announced that he was pulling the police out of the campus.

It’s still not clear how the strike will be resolved. But it is clear that here you have, as Congressman Gutiérrez said, the last remaining major colony of the United States, and the same kind of issues that young people are raising about their right to protest, their right to have a decent education, and their right to oppose what’s an increasingly authoritarian government in Puerto Rico is not being respected.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we will certainly continue to cover it, and it has been going on for quite some time with very little attention.

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