[News] Puerto Rico - Police Attacks Calculated to Supress Civil Rights
news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jul 2 10:59:35 EDT 2010
PUERTO RICO: OPERATIONS CALCULATED TO RESTRICT CIVIL RIGHTS
translated by Jan Susler
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, July 1, 2010 (NCM) A
calculated police operation, according to sworn
testimony this morning by one of the agents, left
yesterday afternoon in front of the Capitol
dozens of demonstrators injured and journalists
attacked, and served as a framework so that
behind closed doors the legislature could annul
the university students constitutional rights of
assembly and freedom of speech.
The sworn statement a copy of which NCM News
obtained specifies how the order to disperse the
crowd was given at least two hours before more
than a hundred Puerto Rico Police, among them the
anti-riot force, the horses of the mounted unit
and a helicopter, swept with batons, kicks and
gas hundreds of demonstrators who insisted on
asserting the right that the legislature be open to the public.
To make matters even worse, the first to be
violently dispersed were the reporters from the
student media, who had gone to the Capitol to
cover the events, and whose press credentials the
government refused to recognize. Several member
of the general press and at least two legislators ended up injured as well.
At the close of this edition, a statement was
expected from the media guilds as well as an
urgent press conference by the Puerto Rican
Independence Party, calling the Puerto Rico Police action gorilla-like.
Without knowing that it had all happened in a
calculated way by police commands, Capitol
employees last night expressed their indignation
at the picture of some of their vehicles
overturned by the mass of students, professors,
and support groups that faced the onslaught of
batons and gas by police who had no fear of
punishment. A little later, the legislature
announced the approval of a new measure that
eliminated student assemblies and substituted
them with a remote electronic voting system,
which any public expression by an official
student leader must also be subjected to.
The measure substitutes for another which had
proposed the system of internet voting for
assemblies of every university organism,
including professors, and which a source in the
industry estimated would cost over $50 million to
establish. That measure would have exempted only
the Board of Trustees, which would be the only
organism capable of deliberating and decision
making without being subjected to the restrictions.
But in fact, a source of the ruling New
Progressive Party which in the past has provided
reliable information and even confidential
documents assured days ago that the objective
was to change the project to the one that was
ultimately adopted. The source indicated that
its all part of a broader agenda to eliminate in
Puerto Rico the old constitutional right of
freedom of assembly and substitute it with
electronic voting, which would guarantee the
preponderance of the so-called silent majority.
Minutes before the new restriction on
constitutional rights was approved, the minority
opposition Popular Democratic Party had withdrawn
from the Senate floor, as a sign of protest.
Senate president Thomas Rivera Schatz proclaimed
that they had managed to be able to complete the
final work of the ordinary session of the
Legislature in this peaceful environment.
Rivera Schatz himself was an important piece in
the entire operation when on Friday last week, in
an action for which officials provided
contradictory explanations, he ordered the
expulsion of all journalists from the Senate
sessions. To accomplish this, he used armed
police and locks that blocked the press from
entering, and it stood out in public opinion that
the public galleries in the third floor had been
closed since the end of last year.
The PDP minority and the journalists turned to
separate legal recourse, still pending in court,
while a group of students from the University of
Puerto Rico Mayagüez campus called for a
demonstration yesterday, at which the student
collectives from several campuses throughout the
country came together. The Senate, meanwhile,
which had gone back to permitting journalists to
enter and which had opened its galleries, put the
locks back on, and starting early in the
afternoon the anti-riot squads, known as the
Shock Troops entered the building.
The problem of civil rights is crucial for the
statehood movement, which has been complaining
for years that the social and political
institutions dont recognize its overwhelming
majority, as a result of which they have taken
steps such as last years elimination of
compulsory bar association membership for
attorneys, because statehood has never gotten a
majority at its conventions. On the other hand,
the government understands that the student
movement carried out a successful two month
strike that paralyzed the eleven UPR campuses.
Similarly, the legislature approved another
measure, to criminalize any social protest that
paralyzes public or private construction sites.
But the isolation of the NPP, barely a year and a
half after having won the most sweeping electoral
victory in its history, isnt limited to the
student revolt or the political opposition. The
party is already showing signs of division, such
as growing complaints from important business
sectors such as the hotel and insurance
industries, as well as small town governments.
The situation has a lot to do with the attempts
to increase government funds, while the country
continues to be submerged in a galloping economic
crisis, with more than 100,000 jobs lost since
the beginning of last year. In this context, the
divided labor movement continues to be paralyzed,
and in the social sphere, only groups like the
students present an articulate opposition to governmental plans.
With great difficulty, at the end of the night,
the legislature managed to approve a deficit
budget for state agencies, from the marble and
alabaster building of the Capitol, in whose
shadow, even hours after the incidents, the acrid
odor of tear gas could still be breathed.
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