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Vol. 81/No. 19      May 15, 2017


Puerto Rico: Tens of thousands join strike, march on May Day

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — This year’s protest was the largest May Day action here in more than 20 years. Tens of thousands participated in a march that shut down much of the city’s center, including the Milla de Oro banking district.

Tens of thousands more who didn’t march took the day off work in response to union calls for an island-wide strike. The Department of Education admitted to a 90 percent absentee rate at public schools.

Puerto Rico, a U.S. colony, is awash in debt to hedge funds and banks abroad. Two days before the march, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló signed a bill that suspends collective bargaining agreements and lowers benefits for public employees, carrying out the demands of the Financial Control Board, appointed by President Barack Obama. The board has full power over the island’s budget. It is pushing lower wages and benefits; massive budget cuts to schools, health care and pensions; and increased utility rates.

Marchers said No! to the anti-worker measures and demanded an audit of the debt to determine where the money went.

Five marches converged on the banking district. Students and employees of the University of Puerto Rico — most of whose 11 campuses have been shut down by a student strike since April 5 — marched from the Río Piedras campus. Members of UTIER, the electrical workers union, marched from the baseball stadium. Protesters included water workers, bus drivers, teachers, artists and feminist groups.

Many of the high-rise bank building owners had installed special fences to keep marchers away. As the protest ended a small group wearing masks and carrying stones broke windows at the corporate office of Banco Popular de Puerto Rico. This opened the door for cops to fire tear gas and rubber bullets, dispersing all remaining marchers.

Within three hours lawyers for the bank had filed for an injunction against 42 people and groups, including union leaders and activists who organized the march.
Related articles:
Tens of thousands march, demand, ‘No deportations!’
Socialist Workers Party: ‘Amnesty now!’
May Day march shows support for Cuba’s socialist revolution
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