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Posts Tagged ‘University of Puerto Rico’


As the growing movement that is #OccupyWallStreet enters its third week, strikers from the University of Puerto Rico, who brought to light issues of civil right violations and police abuse during their struggle in Río Piedras, made an appearance in lower Manhattan this weekend.

In the meantime, #OccupyPuertoRico is scheduled to Saturday October 15 at El Morro in Viejo San Juan.

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The following is an English transcript of this morning’s San Juan press conference regarding the Department of Justice’s report on police brutality and civil rights violations in Puerto Rico. The announcement about the report was made by Thomas Perez, Director of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice’s San Juan office.

Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuño

Also in attendance was Republican pro-statehood Governor Luis Fortuño.

10:16 a.m. – Fortuño leaves the room as reporters keep asking him questions questions.

10:13 a.m. – “In two weeks I will be in Washington, but this time with a report that is based on something concrete and I will hold meetings to ensure collaboration for the reform of the justice system happen as soon as possible,” Fortuño said.10:11 a.m.  Fortuño contends that the Superintendent of Police, Emilio Diaz, did not need to be present at the press conference. “I explained all this to the Superintendent. He didn’t necessarily have to be here because we met yesterday to discuss the report. I explained the research for this report had started in the previous administration, but we take responsibility. ”

10:10 am – “We’re bringing officers throughout the island to go through a retraining in the Bayamón West; arrangements are being made in the physical plant of the barracks and incorporating new technology, we have trained people in uniform and we have raised the academic level of the police,” Fortuño said.

10: 01 am-The Governor goes on to explain the steps they are taking within the police.

10:00 a.m. – When a reporter asked the Governor what were he concrete actions of the government before the report’s recommendations, Fortuño said: “We did not wait for this report to come out; a year ago with the help of the NYPD and the Department of Justice we have been addressing problems that we believed deserved our immediate attention. Some of these are: use of force to ensure that we fight against crime, maintaining respect for citizens, banning the use of CN gas —one of the most toxic gases used—; specific instructions on the use of rattan sticks and how to prosecute.”
9:55 a.m. – “I think that is that is helpful to note that of the 133 recommendations [from the DOJ], 110 are included in our own work plan. That means that we recognize the problems and have a similar vision with the U.S. Justice Department,” Fortuño said.
9:52 a.m. – “We are training the police with the problems identified in the report. We recognize our shortcomings,” Fortuño said.

9:51 a.m. – The Governor indicated that the report did not include or cover the violent incidents at the University of Puerto Rico, however, a journalist indicated to the Governor that those incidents were reference on page 7 of the report.

9:50 am – Regarding violent incidents at the UPR, the Sheraton and the Capitol, Fortuño said: “On June 30, 2010 there was an incident that I said that was unacceptable, the next morning I called the mayor of New York to talk to the Commissioner of Police. I took immediate action after seeking help from the NYPD, which many people see as a force with a high degree of professionalism. ”

9:48 a.m. – “If I had not recognized the problem, we would not have made public statements and taken action,” said Fortuño questions about why he places most of the blame of this problem to past administrations.

9:47 a.m. – “This report in no way be taken as an affront to your dignity and respect as a challenge that you have the people for the excellent work you do. We must receive it as another tool to give you what you need to do your job better. The people deserve a more effective police, “said Fortuño, who called the Puerto Rican police “heroes.”

9:46 a.m. – “As for the report, we carefully read and study it. It will have many points with which we agree and others that do not,” Fortuño said.

9:45 am – “This administration has a proven record of collaboration with the federal government. Our administration has shown a commitment to resolving problems, even if they were inherited from other administrations. That has certainly been the case in education, where efficiencies that have inherited from past administrations was dragging, we have been attending to and fixing,” Fortuño said.

9:44 a.m. – “For decades, police have served the people with excellence, integrity, commitment, and respect. They was also instrumental in countless efforts in the fight against drug trafficking and in defense of national security, despite the challenges faced for years, including lack of adequate resources and training,” the Governor said.

9:41 a.m. – “Although this report pre-dates our administration, we have assumed our responsibility and we have cooperated with federal authorities. The report has disclosed deficiencies discussed through several decades, “said Fortuño

 9:40 am – Governor Luis Fortuño addressed the people at the conference.
9:39 a.m. – Thomas Perez said: “We will create a robust framework for change and this is time consuming, not resolved overnight, but the culture of a police department can be changed, I’ve seen, but need to sustain this reform.”

9:38 a.m. – “I would like to speak directly to men and women of the Police, who put their lives at risk to preserve law and order on the island. Their heroics were overshadowed by the actions of a few systematic weaknesses affecting the police,” Perez added.

 9:37 a.m. – “We have a great opportunity to reform the department and to transform the island to all who live in it. The people will be here with you for the time necessary to make sure that failure is not an option, but a sustained reform is only possible with commitment and help,” Perez said.
9:36 a.m. – According to Perez, “we will continue our work with the governor and the police and community leaders to create a plan on how to improve the situation and police reform and restore public confidence. We are committed to making this process a transparent one. “

9:35 am – “We are aware that crime has escalated in PR in recent years and the country is going through a serious social problem, however, categorically we reject to justify the rise in crime by the police. An agency must have effective cooperation and trust of the people and an agent cannot be respected if he or she not respect civil rights,” Perez said.

9:32 a.m. – “Other shortcomings: they often fail to investigate sex crimes and crimes committed by the officers themselves. In addition, the police used discriminatory practices against people of Dominican origin, and the Department does not collect data to investigate these situations. Police do not ensure that all individuals are treated equally, regardless of gender, origin, religion or sexual orientation,” Perez said.

9:31 a.m. – “The police also used excessive force, planted evidence in raids and arrested people without cause or probable cause,” Perez added.

9:28 a.m. – Thomas Perez said that “the problem is deeply rooted in the culture of the police. We found reasonable cause to understand that the police make a pattern and practice in three areas: use of excessive force in violation of the 4th Amendment, illegal search and seizure, and unreasonable use of force directed at suppressing the right protected by the 1st Amendment. ”

9:23 a.m. “The Department has broad problems with deep roots. The problems have existed for many years and long before this administration,” Perez said.

9:21 a.m. Perez said he had a meeting yesterday with Governor Fortuño to discuss what they have learned as a result of the investigation.

9:20 a.m. The press conference in San Juan starts with the Director of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, Thomas Perez.

Here are two videos of what Perez said at the end of the conference:

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We believe in Calle 13’s René Pérez. Not only is his band and music amazing, he is a force of nature. We stand with you, Calle 13 and with all the people in this video that are supporting the Puerto Rican crisis at the University of Puerto Rico.

Yeah, that is Juanes and Carlos Delgado and Ruben Blades! ¡VIVA PUERTO RICO!

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Al Jezeera, one of the world’s fastest-growing media outlets, produced a 24-minute video about the crisis in Puerto Rico, a topic that has been dear to our heart this year.

So, CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC, MSNBC, FOX: when do we start seeing American media outlets covering Puerto Rico?

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We have to give it up to the YouTube channel of JulyNavy. This brilliant video below (the Spanish version has over 22,000 hits) basically speaks to the paradox of Puerto Rico’s colonial status.

Sure, it doesn’t intend to be a sarcastic video (hahaha), but it’s clear that JulyNavy is poking fun at the policies of the current administration of Republican and pro-statehood Governor Luis Fortuño.

Enjoy! And as JulyNavy says: “I’m an idiot, thank you.”

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The Associated Press reported last night that a “celebrity-enhanced delegation” of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) criticized the current administration of Republican and pro-statehooder Luis Fortuño for use of police to keep the University of Puerto Rico open during a student strike over a new tuition fee.

Actress Rosie Ruiz and major league baseball player Carlos Delgado (© The Associated Press)

As the AP report states:

The delegation, which included Oscar-nominated actress Rosie Perez and former major league baseball player Carlos Delgado, said the initial findings of a fact-finding mission found a pattern of excessive police force over the past 18 months involving students, union leaders and journalists.

Their final report, which will be presented to the U.S. Justice Department, is expected by September.

Perez said at a news conference that she was overwhelmed by the testimony of students who said they were brutalized or sexually harassed and groped by police during a series of violent clashes over the $800 fee and budget cuts.

“I was really appalled as to how many of the adults treated many of the young people whether the young people were right or wrong,” Perez said. “Yes, there were some bad apples, there were many bad apples in the bunch, but even they have certain rights.”

Puerto Rico’s Secretary of State, Kenneth D. McClintock, who also supports statehood along with Governor Fortuño, was quick to comment about the delegation’s remarks:

Puerto Rico’s Secretary of State Kenneth McClintock, who met with the ACLU delegation along with other island officials, faulted the delegates for announcing their preliminary findings so quickly, saying it suggested they had reached their conclusions before they had started. He said he urged them to expand their focus to include the rights of students and teachers who wanted to go to classes despite the months of protests at island campuses.

“The rights of those thousands of students should be equally entitled to ACLU interest and protection as the rights of the hundreds who participated in the demonstrations,” he said.

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In his budget speech to the Puerto Rican Congress this week, Republican and pro-statehood Governor Luis Fortuño closed his remarks with his most detailed public remarks about the colony’s political status question and the recent White House Report that presents the island’s options for a status plebiscite. What follows is an English translation of Fortuño’s remarks.

Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuño

Governor Luis Fortuño’s Budget Address to Puerto Rican Congress, April 12, 2011

Status
The White House report contains another issue of great importance, and even though it is not something that we think about every day, it affects ALL aspects of our lives… the issue of our status, or the issue of our relationship with the United States, a nation of which we are citizens.

For the first time in more than 112 years, the United States, through its President, has placed the route we must follow in black and white, and they are willing to accept, to resolve, once and for all, the issue of our political status. It is a HISTORIC opportunity we cannot miss.

In Puerto Rico we have already achieved a consensus that the status issue must be resolved soon. Every day we see more clearly that the status issue—which has so divided us as a people—is the main obstacle to move forward TOGETHER. For example, in recent days a group of non-partisan economic experts said that Puerto Rico has been in decline for the past 50 years. Forget about if our current status brought or not brought us benefits in the past, the fact is that today, during these time even those who have historically defended the Commonwealth, say it no longer serves us and must be changed. This is what they presented in their election platform during the last elections.

Those who want independence, obviously do not agree with our current status. And those who believe in getting all the rights and powers that we would have as American citizens under statehood, don’t either. In short, EVERYONE, including all political parties, agrees that we must change our status NOW. And you also know.

The main reason why our current status does not work is because we do not have the tools and powers that we need to move forward. On that we all agree. The White House report clearly states, on page 26 that our present political status is a United States territory, subject to the territorial clause of the federal Constitution. That means that we do not have the necessary powers to progress, or we would have if we were a state, nor that we would if we were a republic, either fully independent or in a relationship of free association.

These three alternatives—statehood, independence and free association—are the three alternatives that all nations of the world accept, and that the same White House Report recognizes as non-colonial and non-territorial. The report clearly says that only these three alternatives, and NO OTHERS, are those that would be available to us, and they would be granted, if we change what we have now. In fact, the report rejects outright the notion of an “improved” Commonwealth that has no place in the American constitutional system.

The report also says, however, that the people must be given the opportunity to vote for NO CHANGE. Also the report says that although our present Commonwealth status is that of a territory under the powers of the federal Congress, if that’s what the People of Puerto Rico want, they have the option to maintain it.

Many people in my party disagree with this. The Independence Party leadership also disagrees. They say that if the Commonwealth IS THE PROBLEM, it cannot be the solution and therefore should not be among the options that are submitted to the people. But like it or not, the White House report says clearly that the people of Puerto Rico have the right to choose “no change”, so let’s ensure that people can choose the Commonwealth as it is: a territory within the territorial clause of the federal Constitution, as the report states.

The report presents a series of options on how to consult with the people regarding this status issue status in a fair and transparent way.

One option, the report details in page 28, offers two consultations. In the first, you would have the opportunity to choose between three options for change of status that the White House report and international law recognize as non-colonial and non-territorial alternatives: statehood, independence and free association. Then in the second consultation, you can decide whether to change or to not change. In other words, you can choose the option to change status to win in the first consultation and the alternative of staying as we are, without any change, in the second consultation.

In summary, there are two consultations: the first would choose between three options for change of non-territorial and non-colonial status that United States would be willing to grant (statehood, independence or free association) and the second would choose if we want to change or remain as is.

After analyzing this and other options set out in the report, I have decided that this alternative is the fairest for everyone in Puerto Rico to express their will directly and transparently.

First, as recommended by the report, the two consultations will give the people the opportunity to exercise their right to vote directly and secretly, as we do during elections in Puerto Rico. The resolution of our status is a decision that should take you directly to the power of the vote not and not to and assembly composed of politicians meeting in dark rooms.

Second, as recommended by the report, consultations all eligible voters in Puerto Rico may vote. We are united by close ties with our Puerto Rican brothers living in the rest of the U.S. and other countries, but the report acknowledges that the decision on the future status of Puerto Rico is the responsibility of those living on the island.

Third, EVERYONE in Puerto Rico can vote for their preferred alternative: those who want statehood, those who want independence, those who want free association, and those who want that we stay as we are. ALL have the opportunity to choose the option they prefer.

Fourth, as recommended by the report, give enough time for towns to receive all information you need to make an informed and thoughtful decision. For this, we proposed that the first consultation to take place in November of this year and the second consultation by early 2013.

In recent days, leaders of the Popular Party and the Independence Party have spoken out against this proposal of consulting with the people on this important issue of status. This is not surprising. This is what some political leaders have done in the past: talk and talk that we resolve this issue, but find an excuse to pull back when the time comes to present a real opportunity to resolve it. As they think they cannot prevail, they prefer to procrastinate. Popular Party leaders complain that the Commonwealth will not be on the ballot. THAT’S NOT TRUE. In fact, the Commonwealth AS IT IS NOW, without changes” will be on the second consultation. But more importantly, free association or the associated free state (commonwealth)—as they themselves called it in the status proposal the submitted on their platform for the past elections—will be UNDER THE FIRST CONSULTATION. So both those who want a “free associated state “as the Commonwealth is right now will have the opportunity to vote for their preferred option.

Popular Party leaders wants us to run the consultation in a way that does not represent independence or free association. That would not be fair because you are not giving the opportunity for people who prefer these alternatives to vote for these options.

For its part, Independence Party leaders want the first consultation to not be an option on status, but on how we will resolve the status: as a direct vote in a referendum or in an assembly status. The reason is obvious: they hope to win the assembly status to try to achieve something in a dark room which obviously cannot be accomplished at the polls. That is not an option: it would be a mockery of democracy.

Finally, leaders of both the Popular Party and the Independence Party have complained that the alternatives that we present to the people is too much time between the first and second consultations. Although it is desirable that the two consultations occur closer to each other, the truth is that 2012 is an election year in which we have three electoral events: local political primaries, presidential primaries and national general elections next November.

Despite these disagreements, we must make every effort to achieve consensus among political parties on the process to be followed so this fundamental status issue is resolved. Just as we did recently on the issue of electoral reform, which enables a dialogue process that resulted in consensus among the parties about the issues that were most in dispute, I am confident that a similar dialogue can result in a consensus that encourages greater voter participation possible in the consultations that we will have to decide our political status.

To do this, I am asking political parties to nominate one representative to a Dialogue Committee so that together—within 30 days—consensus through dialogue is reached. I make this call to dialogue with the utmost good faith, and confident that consensus is possible. However, it is clear, that if within 30 days of the formation of the Dialogue Committee, a consensus is not reached, I will have to submit the necessary legislation so that before the end of my four years here, we hold the first referendum for a definitive and permanent solution to the status problem.

Puerto Rico has waited too long, and we will not allow those who prefer inertia and breeching to deprive an entire people of their right to reach a final decision, non-colonial and non-territorial, to ensure our children a future of progress and wellness.

To this end, we are allocating the necessary resources in the budget for the next fiscal year to conduct such consultation BEFORE THE END OF THIS TERM. We promised the people and we are going to do it because we will continue to BE WITH PUERTO RICO.

Puerto Rican brother and sister, the time has come. Our country deserves that their daughters and children respond to the call. Puerto Rico has been more than patient. The island has waited decades for us, but it can not wait any longer. I ask that you evaluate the reliable and responsible patriotic opportunity presented to us in the White House proposal that I presented to you to resolve the status issue. For that we can finally see the day free from the obstacle that divides us. Let us walk together, like a united family, to the glory that the Creator has reserved for Puerto Rico.

God bless you… and God bless Puerto Rico!

Thank you very much.

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