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Political Unrest in Puerto Rico
June 29, 2011 11:29 AM   Subscribe

Al Jazeera English investigates political unrest in Puerto Rico with this episode of Fault Lines. This interesting look at the American commonwealth includes interviews with members of the Puerto Rican independence movement, people affected by high levels of unemployment, and centers around students involved in recent protests at the university. [NYT]

Dozens of university students are arrested for demonstrating against a tuition hike. But Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno remains steadfast in charging students more to help close a $3.2 billion budget gap. The students' fight is representative of a larger debate in Puerto Rico, and in the US, about how to solve a severe budget crisis -- and at what cost. Gov. Fortuno, a hawkish fiscal conservative, laid off 20,000 government workers in 2009, and suspended all labor negotiations, just like governors on the US mainland are doing today.

But two years later Puerto Rico's labor unions are still scrambling to reorganize a largely unemployed population -- nearly 17 percent. Puerto Rico is in its fifth year of recession, and expected to be the world's slowest growing economy if its situation doesn't improve. At question is the degree of economic and social responsibility the US has to its commonwealth state.

Fault Lines travels to Puerto Rico to investigate America's legacy as the Island's ruler, and the harsh economic policies that are being imposed on the people who live there.

This episode of Fault Lines, "Puerto Rico: The Fiscal Experiment" first aired June 27, 2011 on Al Jazeera English.
posted by garuda (19 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Recent protests were in Feb, I haven't heard much of this recently, other than Obama going to visit.. And no PR freedom fighter terrorist activist has tried to shoot up Congress, again, yet. (but don't worry, they get a pardon in the end..)
posted by k5.user at 11:34 AM on June 29, 2011


Tell them to vote for statehood and get in on the gravy train!
Assuming a student manages to complete 4 years, get a degree, what are the chances of getting a decent job. Now here is a startling statistic for mainland college grads:
The average salary for college graduates is now 10,000 dollar a year less than what the average was just two years ago. Ten thousand less!
Strikes and strife taking place in Greece is nationwide and not just at universities.
posted by Postroad at 11:42 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I watched this yesterday, glad you posted it garuda as it should led a very good discussion.
posted by clavdivs at 11:49 AM on June 29, 2011




Fault Lines travels to Puerto Rico to investigate America's legacy as the Island's ruler, and the harsh economic policies that are being imposed on the people who live there.

High on the list of those "harsh" policies is the US minimum wage, which has a great deal to do with the 17% rate of unemployment on the island.
posted by BobbyVan at 12:13 PM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I doubt many people there would want to give up U.S. citizenship. In exchange for... what? They don't even have to pay taxes.
posted by delmoi at 1:23 PM on June 29, 2011


delmoi - we do pay taxes. We do pay US taxes. We don't pay US Federal income tax - unless we receive a portion of income from the US and then we pay those. In exchange for the taxes we do pay, for having to register for the draft, for having to obey many of the laws of the US (other laws are exempted), we do not have voting representation in the US Congress and cannot vote for the US president.
Puerto Rico is not likely to become independent. The referendums regarding our future status usually split about 48% Commonwealth (stay as we are), 47% statehood and 5% independence. Invisible in this vote are the independence-leaners who throw in with commonwealth to prevent statehood.
Many of the Commonwealth worry what would happen to us if we do have statehood - that we would be kicked around by a xenophobic Congress and be thrust into English-only laws that don't apply here and don't respect the culture. Many of the Statehood supporters loathe being treated as a second class member of an empire that doesn't give us a second thought and believe the economy would improve if we were a part of the US. (If nothing else, we would get pork-barrel when our votes mattered.)

I used to live in DC before living here.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 1:57 PM on June 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


thrust into English-only laws that don't apply here and don't respect the culture

Serious question: Which laws? My impression was that English-Only stupidity was pretty much a state-level thing, and that plenty of states provide services, information, etc, in English and locally-relevant other languages, like Spanish and Chinese.

(I don't mean to dismiss the general concern about throwing in full-scale with a country prone to bouts of xenophobia where no other state would be majority-non-English-speaking, just wanted to know if I was unaware of any Federal-level English-only bullshit.)
posted by Tomorrowful at 3:41 PM on June 29, 2011


with a country prone to bouts of xenophobia

Which country has "bouts of xenophobia."
posted by clavdivs at 4:03 PM on June 29, 2011


Which country has "bouts of xenophobia."

Pretty much all of them.
posted by stavrogin at 4:32 PM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I find it galling that it's Al Jazeera, and not US media, covering these issues. At the same time, we've been dealing with these issues by ourselves for so long that it brings up strange feelings to see our problems being shown to the rest of the world.

My one complaint with this piece was that it starts to veer into independentista territory towards the end, which isn't exactly the prevailing preference in PR. And don't get me wrong, I don't have anything against independence (I used to be part of it myself years ago, but disillusionment set in quickly), but like dances_with_sneetches mentioned, it's not likely to happen because the vast majority of Puerto Ricans don't want it to happen.

The more pressing part of the story was at the beginning. The economic crisis, the rampant unemployment, the mind boggling crime levels, the steady stream of people leaving the island, the complete cluelessness of the "leadership". Every single elected official in PR, I feel, has checked out. I don't know what the solutions are. Is it in the hands of Puerto Ricans, who are struggling just to stay afloat? Or is it in the hands of the US government, which is a no-win situation if it steps in because by doing so it runs the risk of appearing paternalistic and imperialistic? And of course, even though we are a part of the US, the first thing that people will say if the Feds start to really take action is that the US has more pressing problems "at home".
posted by DrGirlfriend at 5:36 PM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


"I don't have anything against the independence movement" is what I meant to say.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 5:37 PM on June 29, 2011


I find it galling that it's Al Jazeera, and not US media, covering these issues.

Why? AJE has been an effective and excellent news source for a while now, consisting of a large number of ex-BBC people. They earned great accolades during the coverage of the Arab Spring, even drawing acclaim from Hillary Clinton as being actual news coverage as opposed to whatever we typically get in the US.

I watch them quite a bit, although not as much as I would if I could get them as a dedicated channel. Thank goodness for LinkTV and FreeSpeechTV. They at least carry them on and off during any 24-hour period, and so I know I can get real news during those times.
posted by hippybear at 7:39 PM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why? Because Puerto Rico is part of the US, and the US media has had nothing to say about what's going on within its own territories. It's not a slam against Al jazeera.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 7:46 PM on June 29, 2011


In case you haven't noticed, the US media has very little that's real to say about anything. It's all about Weiner's penis or Palin's bus trip or, if it's local news, a bunch of stories designed to make you feel afraid of everyone in your city so you'll stay inside and cower in fear. Oh, and big long biographical stories about any police or fireman killed whether in the line of duty or not.

I am never surprised at what the US media doesn't cover. I'm always surprised when they actually do cover something.
posted by hippybear at 7:51 PM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've noticed, hippybear. Does it mean it doesn't suck? No. Not only does it suck, but to paraphrase Kanye, most Puerto Ricans would agree that "(Insert name of president here) doesn't care about Puerto Rican people." That US media has little of importance to say is clear, but I can't stress enough how disenfranchised it can make you feel when you're from a place like Puerto Rico. This is why I just have to slap my forehead when I see that the only outlet that has covered what is going on there in something more than a random blurb is not only not American, but not even from a part of the world one would expect to care. I think it's shitty, no matter how unsurprising.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 8:12 PM on June 29, 2011


DrGirlfriend: Honey, don't feel bad. "(Insert name of president here)" hasn't cared about the bulk of any of the people, unless they own a large corporation, for quite some time. Those white folks up north are just fooled into thinking they're different from y'all, due to skin color and language. More of them are catching on though.

From the perspective of the have-mores, we are all dispensable.
posted by Goofyy at 2:45 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Will this affect the supply of infielders?
posted by srboisvert at 4:04 AM on June 30, 2011


In case you haven't noticed, the US media has very little that's real to say about anything. It's all about Weiner's penis or Palin's bus trip or, if it's local news, a bunch of stories designed to make you feel afraid of everyone in your city so you'll stay inside and cower in fear. Oh, and big long biographical stories about any police or fireman killed whether in the line of duty or not.

I completely agree, which is why I watch the PBS Newshour, and give money to my local PBS station. I cut the cable cord a year ago and feel so much better without Fox and MSNBC clogging my mental arteries.

Too bad the American public has an apparently unlimited appetite for sensationalistic garbage. To paraphrase Shakespeare, the problem is not in the media, but in ourselves.
posted by BobbyVan at 5:55 AM on June 30, 2011


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