Cuts to university budget spur resistance in Puerto Rico
Hundreds of students and their supporters mounted a protest here Thursday against a proposal by a federally appointed financial watchdog to slash the budget of the University of Puerto Rico by $300 million.
The mobilization in San Juan was in support of the 48-hour strike approved Wednesday by nearly 3,000 delegates representing students at the 11 UPR campuses.
Also taking part are the APPU faculty union and HEEND, the union comprising non-instructional UPR staff, who argue that a cut of the magnitude recommended by the fiscal oversight board would cripple the island's larger institution of higher education.
Students likewise object to plans for higher tuition.
The US Congress imposed the financial oversight board on Puerto Rico last June after San Juan defaulted on a portion of its $72 billion in public debt.
The panel has what amounts to veto power over Puerto Rico's budget and fiscal policy.
Backing for the UPR students and faculty has come from Puerto Rico's National Union of Teachers and Education Workers (Unete), which says that education "should be protected as the fundamental tool to drive our social and economic development."
"The Fiscal Oversight Board seeks to use the same formula it pushes for the public schools: closure and privatization. The cuts to UPR and the Education Department are aimed at taking money from education to pay bondholders," Unete head Emilio Nieves Torres said.