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Puerto Rico: Tensions arise at the student strike

It has been over 20 days since the students of the largest campus (in Río Piedras) of the state-run University of Puerto Rico (UPR) paralyzed the academic operations in order to protest against a $100 million budget cut and the proposed elimination of certain registration and fee waivers [EN]. Ten of the 11 campuses of the UPR in the Island have already joined the Río Piedras students. The Students Negotiating Committee initiated a dialogue with members of the Board of Trustees, but the agreements were not approved in the general assembly celebrated yesterday [EN].  An overwhelming majority of the students (over 2,500 students attended, which is the quorum for the approximately 20,000 students at the Río Piedras campus) ratified an indefinite strike.

Students offer flowers to police officers. Photo by Ricardo Alcaraz of Diálogo. Republished under a CC License.

Today, one day after the student assembly, special police forces have surrounded the Río Piedras campus. Students who are inside the campus have been locked in, and students at the gates that surround the campus are waiting to see what is going to happen. This morning, the father of a student was beaten and arrested by police officers when he brought food to his son [ES]. Later during the day, the district court of San Juan did not rule in favor of the petition of permitting the delivery of food and water to students inside the campus.

Other acts of police violence have been registered during the day, such as the beating of the student José Pérez.  Also today, the President of the UPR's Board of Trustees, Ygrí Rivera, announced that the the Río Piedras campus would close until July 31.  In the meantime, artists, activists, and professors have joined and supported the students who are protesting in Río Piedras. As the situation reaches larger proportions, leaders of various trade unions have announced that they plan to organize a national strike next Tuesday, May 18 [ES].

Heated moment at the Río Piedras Campus. Photo by Ricardo Alcaraz of Diálogo. Republished under a CC License.

Professor and blogger Mario Nuñez Molina (@digizen) has prepared a list of citizen media in Puerto Rico covering the student strike [ES]. Some of them are: the Río Piedras students blog Desde adentro [ES] and  live radio and streaming of students reporting from Río Piedras through Radio Huelga [ES].  UPR es un país [ES] is aggregating the digital citizen and alternative media resources.  The hashtags #paroUPR, #huelgaUPR, and #radiohuelga are being used to discuss and follow the student protests on Twitter. Students of the Mayagüez (on the west coast of the Island) campus are using @luchasrum and the blog Luchas en el RUM [ES] to inform about their events. UPR Río Piedras Law professor Erika Fontánez is blogging daily about the situation. The UPR's monthly newspaper Diálogo is also covering the student strike. The alternative weekly Claridad is live-streaming the student strike (you have to register first in order to have access). Mainstream media in Puerto Rico, such as Primera Hora and El Nuevo Día,  are publishing minute by minute accounts of the events related to the UPR's situation.

Please see more Global Voices’ coverage of the student strike here.

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