Saturday, October 17, 2009

Puerto Rico: Reflections on the National Strike

BY Firuzeh Shokooh Valle

On October 15, thousands of people in Puerto Rico flooded the streets to protest the government's decision to lay off around 17,000 government employees (in total there have been around 25,000 lay-offs this year). Workers and members of trade unions, women, environmentalists, religious groups, students, teachers, professors, lawyers, and the LGBT community, among many other groups of the civil society, answered the call of the labor movement that initially convened the strike. Universities, schools, and stores closed for the day.

The organizers of the event estimated that 150,000-200,000 people participated in the massive demonstration that started from different points in the heart of the metropolitan area of San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico, particularly from the financial district, and converged in the immediate surrounding of Plaza Las Américas, the largest mall of the Caribbean and whose owners contributed to governor Luis Fortuño's campaign. There have been no official estimates, although government officials minimized the number. The Governor and his Chief of Staff, Marcos Rodríguez Ema, immediately stated that the anti-labor law (Law 7 of Fiscal Emergency) that made the lay-offs viable would not be repealed.

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