While the mainstream US media focuses on Tripoli, Cairo, and Madison, the situation in the current US colony of Puerto Rico continues to worsen every day. What started out as student strike on the Río Piedras campus of the University of Puerto Rico last spring to protest the raising of tuition by $800 has escalated into a chaotic and violent confrontation that has cast a mood of sadness all over the island and beyond.
On March 7, University of Puerto Rican Chancellor Dr. Ana Guadalupe and a university security guard were attacked by striking students as they tried to leave a university building. The video footage of this can be seen in these two clips, which last about 10 minutes in total.
Gov. Fortuño Condemns Acts
The public condemnation of this act was swift, as Puerto Rico’s Republican and pro-statehood Governor Luis Fortuño told the island’s media outlets that the acts against Guadalupe would be prosecuted under the fullest power of the law.
Fortuño issued a statement in Spanish proclaiming his administration’s determination to arrest and prosecute the students involved in the incident:
The violent and intolerant actions that we saw again [Monday] will not be permitted. Just yesterday I contacted both the Police Superintendent and the Secretary of Justice to make sure that all necessary steps under the full letter of the law are taken against these individuals (the aggressors).
The Governor also said that Monday’s events were never before seen in Puerto Rico and that it was “time for people to begin to respect their neighbor.” Even though he does not have the authority to direct the university, Fortuño did indicate that if he were running the UPR, the students would be “suspended for life.”
The criticisms and condemnations have crossed political lines, as former Governor and pro-commonwealth leader Sila Calderón also commented on the incident. As she share her statement with the Puerto Rican press in Spanish:
I repudiate with all my strength these acts of brutal repression directed at Dr. Guadalupe. Just like I have promoted the removal of the Police from the university, since its presence would harm the university’s autonomy and peace, I use the same energy to reject these acts, which can only be categorized as intolerable and atrocious.
I know that the great majority of students are not in agreement with these acts. As for the guilty ones, the whole letter of the law must be enforced. The people of Puerto Rico desire dialogue and reconciliation in our university. Those responsible for [Monday’s] actions are affecting and impeding this process. They must be punished severely.
The incident also spread to Washington, where US Congressman Luis Gutiérrez joined Fortuño and Calderón in condemning the actions:
I condemn and fervently reject, without equivocation the aggression against the Chancellor and the security of the university. Violence and physical aggression have no place in the university or our society.
Congressman Gutiérrez did emphasize that even though he condemned the actions against Guadalupe, he did point out that the “abuses” committed by the Puerto Rican police during the strikes should not “justify that acts of violence should server as substitutes for expression and the search for dialogue.”
Student Arrested Tuesday
The crackdown that Fortuño promised commenced on Tuesday when student leader Ibrahim García was arrested for his alleged involvement in the Monday incident. According to reports, García is being held on $15,000 bail. The police also said that they are in search of another suspect who was involved in the incident.