Victory to University of Puerto Rico
Riot police outside gate of University of Puerto Rico campus in Río Piedras on
April 22, second day of the strike/occupation. (Photo: Angel M. Rivera/El Nuevo Dia)
late April, the students of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) have
been on strike against the budget assault by Governor Luis
Fortuño and the UPR president, who decreed $100 million in
drastic cuts to the UPR budget as well as the “suspension” of tuition waivers as
part of a program of privatization. An initial 48-hour campus shutdown
on April 21 turned into an unlimited student strike at the main campus
in Río Piedras, subsequently joined by other campuses, in the
face of the hard line from university authorities and the government.
The university faculty union (APPU) and the union of non-instructional
employees (HEEND) are supporting the student strike and have joined the
the picket lines. The Puerto Rican Teachers Federation (FMPR), which
waged a bitter strike in February-March 2008), has sent sizeable
numbers of teachers to the strike lines, while the electrical workers
and other unions have also sent delegations. The strike has dominated
news and awakened sympathy and support throughout the island for the
last two weeks, but as of May 5, the students are still on strike
alone. The threat of severe repression is ever-present, with riot cops
of the colonial gendarmerie, the Fuerza de Choque (shock force),
stationed at the entrances to the campus, while university authorities
have gone to the courts to obtain arrest warrants for strike leaders.
While there have been numerous protests over cutbacks at U.S. universities, as well as a number of small-scale building occupations, this is the first mass strike and campus occupation against the current wave of attacks on public education and deserves strong support from students and labor, as well as all opponents of colonialism. On April 26, the Internationalist Clubs of the City University of New York sent the following message of solidarity to the UPR strikers:
Greetings from the Internationalist Clubs of the City
University of New York
To the students on strike at the University of Puerto Rico
From the City University of New York (CUNY) we send enthusiastic greetings of solidarity. Your militant resistance against cuts to the budget of the UPR, against the elimination of tuition exemptions and against privatization should be an inspiration to students, teachers and education workers who are under siege all over the United States. Here at CUNY we are also facing a wave of budget cuts, layoffs and tuition hikes. Under the guise of the economic crisis, the right to education is under attack, while Wall Street enjoys trillions of dollars in credits from the “bailout” of the banks.
We in the CUNY Internationalist Clubs, who fight for open admissions and no tuition, see defense of public education as a class struggle. The capitalists are seeking to reorganize the educational system in their interests, carrying out a “race and class purge” which would limit access to higher education to an elite. In order to resist this onslaught, it is crucial to bring the power of the working class into play. Thus the support to the UPR student strike by the FMPR (teachers), UTIER (electrical workers) and UGT and CGT union federations has a tremendous potential to defeat the attack by the colonial government.
Joint mass action by the students and workers – in Puerto Rico, the U.S. and elsewhere – is key to winning. “Student power” is an illusion, but together with the working class we have the power. In our view, the demand for free, quality public education for all, along with other democratic demands (including for the independence of Puerto Rico) will only be assured when those who produce the wealth take power and extend socialist revolution internationally.
With your courageous strike and occupation, compañeras and compañeros of the University of Puerto Rico, you are making an important step forward for the international movement. From the heart of imperialism we extend our hearty embrace of solidarity.
Victory to the UPR strike!
CUNY Internationalist Clubs
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