A forsaken island left to suffer after a deadly hurricane demolished all in its path is faced with more turmoil as tension rises.
Eight months have passed since Puerto Rico was crippled by Hurricane Maria. To this day there are estimates of 40 thousand homes and businesses that still lack power on the island. Citizens of the US territory have resiliently moved forward in order to overcome their current situation; however, the island is still plagued with the effects of Maria after their mainland nation has seemingly done as little as possible.
To add insult to injury, the Puerto Rican government has compounded the plight of the people with the introduction of certain austerity measures.
The island has been in an economic recession for a little over a decade with their debt in the tens of billions of dollars. In order to help cut into the island’s debt, the Rosselló administration closed 179 public schools in the previous year due to claims of low enrollment. Now Puerto Rico’s financial oversight and management board, created to help reduce the island’s debt, has issued their new fiscal plan which as caused an uproar amongst the Puerto Rican people.
The board’s fiscal plan looks to close public schools, currently 280 are set to close this summer, introduce significant pension cuts, double tuition costs at the University of Puerto Rico, and reduce paid time off by slashing sick leave and vacation days.
Unable to handle any more major blows, the citizens of Puerto Rico decided to mobilize in an attempt to protest these measures on International Worker’s Day – May 1st. The May Day march took place in the island’s capital city, San Juan.
Police and protestors originally agreed on a route for the march; however, some protestors deviated from the original plans. The alteration introduced the opportunity for altercation as the two sides clashed. Police sent tear gas into crowds of people, after some protestors threw rocks at these enforcers. The emotions of the citizens are understandably high as a break from adversity evades them. From the lengthy recovery from the devastation of Hurricane Maria to the recent power blackouts across the island, all while 2018’s hurricane season is around the corner, the people of Puerto Rico have much to be upset about. The introduction of a new fiscal plan that would ultimately cut education today and limit access to a better future shouldn’t be their concern at this time.
Work to reduce the debt of the island is understandable; however, the closure of public schools, increase in tuition for higher education, and reduction of paid time off will leave the people of Puerto Rico to face darker days with or without power.