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University student strike engrosses Puerto Rico

May 24, 2010 | 11:51 am

  Student strike puerto rico

The University of Puerto Rico remains paralyzed by a student strike that has lasted more than five weeks, engrossing the entire island. Students shut down the campus on April 21 over austerity measures that university officials sought in order close a massive budget shortfall. The strike at the university, which serves 62,000 students, reflects wider economic troubles in Puerto Rico. The U.S. commonwealth is in the midst of a deep recession.

Students are reportedly barricaded behind campus gates under heavy police watch at 10 of the university's 11 campuses. Supporters have been hurling food and water over campus fences to reach the students, resulting in violent confrontations with police. In one widely reported incident, police beat and arrested a man who was attempting to deliver food to his son, a striking student.

Media reports say support for the strike is widespread on the island, but university officials disagree, saying it is being led by a small minority. Last year, discontent with the economic policies of Republican Gov. Luis Fortuño -- who sought to lay off thousands of government workers -- led to an island-wide national protest.

"Not since Puerto Rico rallied to chase the United States Navy out of Vieques a decade ago have so many different social sectors rallied around a single cause," reports the Miami Herald.

Striking students are keeping a live radio stream online, at Radio Huelga. Lively debate is heard among students over how to proceed. "The strike has not resolved anything," one student is heard saying on the radio stream. "We are only aggravating the university."

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Photo: Students on strike at the University of Puerto Rico. Credit: Associated Press

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