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General Strike In Puerto Rico

by maracatu Thu Oct 15th, 2009 at 10:43:32 AM EST

When I began this there were no DK diaries on the subject;  Now there is at least one.  I nevertheless would like to give an extremely bare-bones contextual background to the unfolding general strike taking place today in Puerto Rico.  What might have been characterized as the opening salvo of the resistance of the American working class against the economic crisis [which has seen the sacrifice of the working class in favor of employers], is actually more likely grounded in local politics.  Nevertheless, this is newsworthy as it shows that the working class is far from silent on this economic debacle which has been thrust upon it.

First, the general strike:

Puerto Rico is getting ready for the national strike on Thursday, October 15. Since governor Luis Fortuño layed-off about 17,000 government employees the first week of October, there has been tremendous mobilization from different sectors of the civil society: workers and members of trade unions, women, environmentalists, students, and professors, among others. There have been multiple demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience to protest the economic policies that the government has assured are necessary due to the financial crisis. In total this year, the recently elected government has laid off around 25,000 public employees.

The currect government was constituted around the same time as the US government, as our elections coincide with those of our nominal custodian to the north.  For those unfamiliar with our island, Puerto Rico.

...is a self-governing unincorporated territory of the United States located in the northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of the Virgin Islands. Puerto Rico is composed of an archipelago that includes the main island of Puerto Rico and a number of smaller islands, the largest of which are Vieques, Culebra, and Mona. The main island of Puerto Rico is the smallest by land area and second smallest by population among the four Greater Antilles, which also include Cuba, Hispaniola, and Jamaica.

Luis Guillermo Fortuño-Burset, whose current government is fingered as originator of this crisis:

...is the ninth and current Governor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, an unincorporated territory of the United States.[1] Fortuño is also the president of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico (NPP) and a member of the United States Republican Party.

In the 1990s, Fortuño served as Puerto Rico's first Secretary of the Puerto Rico Department of Economic Development and Commerce, as the Executive Director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company and as the President of Puerto Rico's Hotel Development Corporation (HDC) during the administration of Governor Pedro Rosselló.

According to the San Juan Daily Sun Newspaper:

Fortuño ran for office on a "no layoffs" platform, making it a point to assure that "the next January 2nd the only one we are going to throw out is Acevedo Vilá," referring to former Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá.

The reality was a different one.  The Government Development Bank reported that Puerto Rico [PDF]:

...is experiencing a fiscal crisis as a result of the structural imbalance between recurring government revenues and expenses. The structural imbalance has been exacerbated during fiscal years 2008 and 2009, with recurring government expenses significantly higher than recurring revenues, which have declined as a result of the multi-year economic contraction mentioned above. In order to bridge the deficit resulting from the structural imbalance, the government has used non-recurring measures, such as borrowing from Government Development Bank for Puerto Rico (―GDB‖) or in the bond market, and postponing the payment of various government expenses, such as payments to suppliers and utilities providers. As discussed..., the estimated structural deficit for fiscal year 2009 is projected to be $3.2 billion.

Hence, the San Juan Daily Sun continues:

In what has been characterized as "an act of cowardice" by laid off workers and labor and opposition leaders, Gov. Fortuño addressed Puerto Ricans in a prerecorded message hours after administration officials announced the biggest layoff of government employees in Puerto Rico's history. "All the cutback measures to reduce expenses that we have implemented have permitted a reduction in the number of government employees laid off ... much fewer than what we had initially estimated. Nevertheless, the Fiscal Restructuring and Stabilization Board had to announce a new round of layoffs today," Fortuño said in his recorded message. "These are difficult times not only for those laid off, but for all of Puerto Rico," added Fortuño, Reiterating the layoffs were a necessary measure to solve the $3.2 billion fiscal deficit inherited from the previous administration, Fortuño went over the alternatives that he would not have considered as valid to reduce the deficit, such as taxing cell phone calls, gas or increasing the sales tax.

The situation has snowballed since then resulting in the current predicament:

In the last months hostility has grown between the government and different civil society groups: eviction orders in socially and economically disadvantaged communities, police brutality, and the dismantlement of community initiatives such as the Fideicomiso del Caño Martín Peña. There have also been a string of comments from government officials considered offensive and insensitive, such as the now sadly famous "such is life", and more recently, when the Governor's designated Chief off Staff Marcos Rodríguez Ema compared demonstrators to terrorists.

There is more I could have included, given time (which I don't have).  Spanish language updates are available on twitter, and I encourage "fill-ins" in the comments section.

Thanks for the introduction to the strike.

I for one hope for reports whenever electricity and telecom is on long enough to give reports.

And good luck.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Oct 15th, 2009 at 03:19:45 PM EST
Seems like the strike "came and went", without much of any significance (other than a nice stroll and a picnic).  The focus now shifts to the aftermath: Will the strikers up the ante?

"Beware of the man who does not talk, and the dog that does not bark." Cheyenne
by maracatu on Thu Oct 15th, 2009 at 03:45:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Did the Puerto Rican electorate's selection of a  Republican for Governor represent an "aspirational" affiliation or was he simply the best candidate out of a poor field?  What about the legislative branch?  Any hope for support there?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Oct 15th, 2009 at 11:49:53 PM EST
Gov't by default! - The previous government struck out.  The previous governor was indicted, etc. etc.  Government down here is tribalism.  You belong to one tribe or the other (with benefits being distributed accordingly).  

I CAN say that the present administration, however, wasn't expected to enact such drastic cuts.  The governor's popularity is consequently down to about a third of the electorate.

"Beware of the man who does not talk, and the dog that does not bark." Cheyenne

by maracatu on Sat Oct 17th, 2009 at 10:19:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
thanks for the report!!1

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Fri Oct 16th, 2009 at 07:25:56 PM EST

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