For two months, 50,000 students on campuses across Puerto Rico participated in a strike against the U.S.-imposed Fiscal Control Board, which was proposing $500 million in cuts. Mikael Rosa, a member of the student movement at the University of Puerto Rico, shares his experiences.
demands pushed students to go out on strike?
demands are related to the general situation of our country, and
others are specific about the university. We are asking for an
audit of the debt, a process of reforms for the university, no
increase in our tuition and no budget cuts to the institution.
was the atmosphere like on campus during the strike? What type of
actions did students take?
period of the strike gave the opportunity to have deep political
discussions that generated different initiatives. The most important
part of the process is that we could prepare many young people for
the struggle against colonialism and austerity imposed by the Fiscal
Control Board. We combined a model of participation, direct
activities, and political education, as key facts to organize the
indignation that was expressed in more than four student assemblies.
the working class support the strike? Organized labor?
Many working-class people were in solidarity with our process. It is
very important to point out that as a result of the strike, different
groups from professors and workers from the university were organized
and had a very important presence, not only at the daily development
of the strike, but also as part of the discussions and direct
activities that we made.
political prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera opened his speaking tour in the
U.S. on June 8 in the Bronx. What does his freedom mean to Puerto
is an inspiration for all of us. He openly and fearlessly supported
the students’ strike, from a solidarity and patriotic love
perspective. The fact that he was released during the strike was a
direct message for us: There is no victory without sacrifice and
overwhelming majority of Puerto Rican students voted June 8 to end
the strike. What was gained by the strike?
That is the summary of what we won during the strike. That is the
most basic thing that you need to transform a country and to
decolonize a nation. In terms of the concrete claims, we were able to
start a process of university reforms, move forward on the topic of
the audit, and we still have a series of pre-agreements on the table.
We hope that they will be signed by the new administration of the university.
What about the Humacao campus? Why have they remained on strike?
happened with Humacao was that they did not have a date for their
assembly. But the most important part of the Humacao campus is the
many sectors that they were able to involve during their process. In
Humacao it moved from a student strike to become a strike from the
different sectors of the campus.
have mentioned that students may not receive Pell Grants and other
federal funding because of their strike actions. Have students faced
other retaliation? Did the police attack students during the strike?
Other threats from the government?
the Pell Grant, the reality is that the problems with it are related
to administrative irresponsibility and inefficiencies. That
situation was not created because of the strike, but still it was
used as a repressive mechanism. During this strike, what they
basically did was to randomly put under arrest different students,
and make them face the judicial system.
the upcoming vote for statehood play a role in debates on campus?
What do students think is the way forward for Puerto Rico?
all know that the vote for statehood was a fraud. It is a lack of
respect to say that the majority of Puerto Ricans want the annexation
for our homeland. In terms of the students, the composition of the
student’s movement is very diverse and heterogeneous, but we do not
recognize statehood or our colonial status as a solution for our
political situation. The only winner of this plebiscite was the
boycott and the abstention.
can Puerto Ricans at home and in the diaspora do to fight back
against austerity on the island? What will it take to end austerity?
response is very simple: organization. We must work on our
responsibility of organizing as many people as we can to stop
austerity and promote a real decolonization process.