Tuesday, December 21, 2010


En español

The images and news coming from Río Piedras have left me with an unpleasant mix of feelings. The sadness, the anger, but above all, the overwhelming feeling of impotence are very strong. The temptation is to try some sort of distraction, like changing the channel, navigating away from the websites I'm viewing, or going to sleep; anything to keep me from facing the feeling of not being able to do something so that the violence stops and that the repressive forces that have taken over the University of Puerto Rico leave it alone. But I also feel that to try to ignore what is going on in Río Piedras and Hato Rey would be a gross act of indifference that would rob me of my humanity, that would take me one step closer to becoming a monstrous being incapable of feeling other Puerto Ricans' pain. I don't mean other people's pain in general. I mean other Puerto Ricans'. I would feel like I would be fulfilling the stereotype of the apathetic Puerto Rican, indifferent to what goes on around him, only looking out for his own needs and interests, unwilling to take action and say "Enough is enough!"

I refuse to fit into this stereotype. I refuse to become a monstrous being incapable of empathizing with other Puerto Ricans, the way that the Island's leaders have done, such as Governor Luis Fortuño, with his deplorable speech the other day. Or his Chief of Staff, Marcos Rodríguez-Ema, with his violent outbursts towards those who think differently from him. Or the President of the University, José Ramón De la Torre, the President of the Board of Trustees, Ygrí Rivera, and the Provost of Río Piedras, Ana Guadalupe, who, in their monumental incompetence and their obviously uncaring attitude towards the University, allow the use of brute force by the government to supposedly maintain order and security in the University's campuses. Or Puerto Rico's Supreme Court, that had the impudence to say that the University is a semi-public space and, therefore, subject to its administrators whims on how public expression is allowed to manifest itself. I refuse to shut my eyes before these things.

Make no mistake, what has been seen today is an act of government repression designed to silence dissidence, an indispensable ingredient in order for democracy to exist. These acts of barbarism cannot be tolerated in Puerto Rico. Those who have allowed and supported the suspension of civil rights and the essentially cowardly violence towards students –students who were unarmed, without bodily protection, and in number far less than the government's agents dispatched in the University's campuses– do not deserve to be held in the high esteem they continue to enjoy. They have failed in the worse possible way those who they swore to defend, betraying them without a second thought. You, dear reader, and me.

This is why as long as this disastrous administration lasts, I will continue to denounce what must be denounced and will do all that is within my power to let the world know that in Puerto Rico, right now, there exists a neo-fascist, authoritarian, and despotic government. If you also believe that this government has exceeded its reach, I invite you to do the same. Share news stories, videos, and this and other blogs to spread the word about the outrages being seen daily in Puerto Rico. I firmly believe that we can all be agents of change from a nonviolent, yet indomitable and irreproachable position.

Long live the students! We are the best thing that this country has left right now.

Monday, December 13, 2010

What will become of the University?

En español

The future of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) has never seemed so uncertain. Today, on Tuesday, December 14, 2010, starts the second student strike in a year. This is in spite of the fact that everyone is aware that a strike is not the best thing for the University right now. But, after all is said and done, what other way do the students have to pressure the University administration? On more than one occasion, the administration has made crystal clear that they have no intentions whatsoever to either engage in dialogue with the students or to negotiate. They stubbornly insist in maintaining their position on the $800 quota. The Island's Supreme Court has just made a decision that regulates all protests in the University. The governor has said that he will create a committee of advisers to amend the law of the University, robbing it of its autonomy from government intervention. And, in recent days, the Río Piedras campus has been turned into a police state.

Are these conditions that lead to free thinking, to the creation of a safe environment where every idea and opinion is welcome? Is the presence of armed guards in the hallways of the University supposed to make one feel safe? Is the example offered by the UPR President, the President of the Board of Trustees, the Río Piedras Provost, and other administrators an example of a university education, of openness to dialogue, of love for the University, or of a culture of peace?

Absolutely not.

I confess that I seriously doubt that the strike is the way to go right now. But I also understand that in order to achieve change, it is necessary that those who are in power become a little bit uncomfortable. Otherwise, nothing will happen, if history is any guide. From the French Revolution to the civil rights struggles of the sixties, there has never been significant social change without conflict and without making those who are in power uncomfortable. It is because of this that the administration's insistence that any protest occur within specially designated areas and that the University remain functioning as in a normal day should be looked upon with deep suspicion. Even more so when the Provost of Río Piedras, Ana Guadalupe, has decreed that during an entire month all meetings, protests, marches, festivals, pickets, and other activities are prohibited.

To be sure, the fact that it is necessary to alter the normal order of things in order to make the widespread anger felt where it needs to be felt does not mean that anybody's rights to differ should be denied, as the government and the UPR administration have made it seem. But it cannot be expected that, given the circumstances, the day continue normally as if nothing was happening. This creates the illusion that nothing is happening and that any protester is protesting for no reason.

I sincerely hope we don't see a rerun of the spilling of blood that has been seen at UPR during the student protests of the second half of the twentieth century. But sadly, after today, anything could happen.