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Puerto Ricans and community and labor allies denounce Puerto Rico government’s “anti-democratic and repressive” response to protesters
Groups support reinstatement of an independent audit of $72B public debt
New York – VAMOS4PR, a coalition of labor, community and civil rights groups supporting Puerto Rico, denounced the reported use of pepper spray and force by police to turn away protesters seeking access to legislative chambers in the Capitol in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Thousands of people were forcefully barred by police from entering the Capitol building on Monday night and Tuesday. The crowd had gathered to speak out against a law rushed through Puerto Rico’s Senate and House that would eliminate the independent audit commission charged with carrying out an independent audit of the island’s $72 billion public debt. The laws were passed days after an island judge ordered three members of the committee reinstated. Another judge issued a provisional order last night to guarantee access to the public to all legislative deliberations.
“We are appalled by the anti-democratic and repressive measures that Gov. Rosselló’s administration has deployed against the people he is supposed to serve,” said SEIU 32BJ President Héctor Figueroa. “VAMOS4PR has supported getting proper resources to the independent audit commission since it was created. It’s an indispensable tool to resolve the public debt without unduly burdening Puerto Rican working families.”
VAMOS4PR members denounced this week’s actions by Puerto Rico’s government as part of a broader pattern that has sidelined the interests of Puerto Rican working families in favor of those of debtholders.
“We stand with Puerto Rican working families in their demands to have a stronger voice in decisions being made about their lives and their futures,” said Julie Kushner, Director of UAW Region 9A. “Most of the meetings of the Financial Oversight Board, which has complete control over Puerto Rico’s economy, have happened in Wall Street, close to the finance sector but far from the people most affected by those decisions. Puerto Rican working families deserve to know what they’re being asked to pay for.”
Among the protesters at the Capitol were students from the University of Puerto Rico, which is threatened with cuts of $450 million under the plan approved by the Financial Oversight Board. UPR students have been on strike since April 5, to protest the cuts and demand that the audit commission be allowed to complete its work.
“We cannot allow the government to mortgage the future of the island’s young people before they get started with their lives,” said Jose López, Executive Director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center in Chicago. “As we approach the one-year anniversary of the PROMESA law that was supposed to give the island the tools it needed to put its economy back on the right track, we need to ask our representatives in Congress to take a long hard look at how it has utterly failed Puerto Rico’s people and made their humanitarian crisis worse.”
VAMOS4PR is a network of labor, community, cultural and human rights organizations and individuals who live and work in the US mainland and fight for a fair economy for all Puerto Ricans. For more information, go to vamos4pr.org.