protests erupt ahead of cuts to education in puerto rico economic crisis to be worsened under trump budget

March 29, 2017

Thousands of students at the University of Puerto Rico began a one-week strike yesterday, protesting imminent multimillion-dollar cuts amidst a severe economic crisis. The strike forced the main campus of the island’s largest university to close for the day.

A federal control board overseeing Puerto Rico’s finances is demanding $450 million in budget cuts from the university, which has led nearly a dozen top officials at the school to resign already.

Protests have been ongoing for months, and this week’s strike follows similar resistance in February. After thousands gathered in front of the Capitol and marched to the Governor’s Mansion at the time, graduate student Loderay Bracero Marrero told Democracy Now: “We’re here today in defense of the University of Puerto Rico, in defense of the country’s public education, in defense of the education of the working class of the country, for us to be able to have an accessible and public education. We understand that the different campuses have approved different shutdowns and strategies of action to be able to protect the University of Puerto Rico, that we know is decaying because of the plans of Wall Street and the plans of the government, that is a puppet of whatever the oversight control board says.”

Also dealing with a 12 percent unemployment rate, the island as a whole has been struggling as austerity measures have forced the government to slash $70 billion in public debt in addition to cuts to university budgets. In an editorial on March 18th, The El Nuevo Día, one of Puerto Rico’s leading newspapers, noted that the effects of Trump’s budget cuts would be “devastating” on top of this crisis.

“The presidential proposal eliminates the entire Legal Services Corporation budget which would exterminate Puerto Rico Legal Services,” the authors explain. The editorial also adds that the cuts would eliminate about half of the funding used to provide health care for 1.5 million people.

*Hari Ziyad is a New York based storyteller and writer for AFROPUNK. They are also the editor-in-chief of RaceBaitR, deputy editor of Black Youth Project, and assistant editor of Vinyl Poetry & Prose. You can follow them on Twitter @hariziyad.

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