We stand in solidarity with the student movement in Puerto Rico in rejecting the massive cuts of $450 million over three years being proposed to its only public university, University of Puerto Rico UPR, ranked among the top 15 higher education institutions in Latin America.
We are outraged that banks are being placed before the people but we are not at all surprised. Last summer, President Barack Obama signed the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act or PROMESA, a law meant to push forward a debt relief plan to bring Puerto Rico out of severe fiscal chaos.
Since day one, Hedge Clippers and allies have been raising questions about conflicts of interest among the appointed members of PROMESA’s Fiscal Control Board for their ties to the same creditors lobbying heavily to get their money back.
Seven months later, the unelected board in charge of the financial future of Puerto Rico, appears to be more of a debt collection agency for banks, vulture funds and other creditors, instead of representing the interest of the people of Puerto Rico.
Board member Carlos Garcia has been a particular target of Hedge Clippers for leading the pack of “Pirates of the Caribbean” that helped create the crisis and is now assigned by U.S. Congress as member of ‘La Junta’ – as it is locally known- to restructure Puerto Rico’s debt.
Garcia stands out for having direct ties as executive to creditors like Banco Santander, and later as president of the Government Development Bank, or GDB, an entity approving the bonds. Now he is in the position of deciding on dangerous austerity measures to make sure those banks get paid. The UPR is one of the casualties of these decisions.
At the same time that ‘La Junta’ and the Governor are crippling the University of Puerto Rico, they are also advocating for “economic development”. You can’t create economic development by crippling the one institution producing the professionals needed to keep the Island afloat. According to University officials, the cuts could result in the total destruction of the public higher education system on the Island.
The $450 million in cuts constitutes close to half of the budget for the country’s premier public university, with 11 campuses, 65,000 students, 10,000 non-teaching employees and 5,000 professors. Though it varies from campus to campus, half of the students overall come from the public-school system. For this reason, the UPR remains one of the chief conduits of social mobility on the island.
When he was first elected in November, Governor Ricardo Rosselló promised to avoid layoffs. But with about 85 percent of the budget at the flagship campus of Rio Piedras going to salaries, this would be wishful thinking with such draconian cuts.
In response, the UPR student movement has mobilized, first with a work stoppage and the Rio Piedras campus closure that began on March 28 and as of Thursday, the national student assembly approved an indefinite strike on almost all campuses.
We support and encourage the student movement to keep fighting for the people.
We will continue to push for Carlos Garcia’s resignation. His conflicts of interest make him unfit to be a decision maker for Puerto Rico.
We will also continue to advocate for the reinstatement of the independent public Debt Audit Commission so the people of Puerto Rico know where the debt came from and are not held responsible for the debt that was acquired illegally.
A ReFund America Project report revealed that nearly half the debt owed by Puerto Rico is not actually money that the island borrowed, but instead interest owed to investors. Similarly when a federal judge found that a portion of Detroit’s debt was illegal, he declared that it should not be paid.
Some of the student movement demands include:
- An independent audit of the debt, by reactivating the state-legislated non-partisan commission, reinstating its members and allocating funding
- That the governor declares no cuts for the university or in its offerings to service the debt.
- The approval of university reform promulgated by the university community
- That the university president declares students participating in the strike will not be sanctioned
We stand in solidarity with the students making these demands and with the more than 100,000 Puerto Ricans who have petitioned the legislature to reactivate the independent Debt Audit Commission.
Make the Road Connecticut
Strong Economy for All
New York Communities for Change
Labor Council for Latin American Advancement
CSEA Local 1000
Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition
Jobs with Justice
Student Debt Crisis
Action Center on Race and the Economy
ReFund America Project
Alliance for Quality Education
PCUN, Oregon’s Farmworkers Union
Puerto Rico Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO)
Center for Popular Democracy
Make the Road NY
Make the Road NJ
Alianza for Puerto Rico Boston
Unidad Latina en Acción
CT Working Families Party
Make the Road PA
Working Families Party
MEChA de Yale (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán)
Center on Policy Initiatives
Communications Workers of America (CWA)
National Employment Law Project
Connecticut Center for a New Economy (CCNE)
SEIU Local 221
American Family Voices
Denver Area Labor Federation
Connecticut Center for a New Economy
UNI Global Union
Higher Ed, Not Debt
SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Indiana
Connecticut Students for a Dream (C4D)
Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development (OCCORD)
Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha (CTUL)
SEIU Local 26
Youth United for Change
CWA Local 1104, The Graduate Student Employees Union
SEIU Faculty Forward
Junta for Progressive Action
Rays Media Inc.
Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE)
NJ Communities United
Sindicato dos Bancários de São Paulo – CUT
Chicago Boricua Resistance