general strikes in puerto rico

map of puerto rico

1998, july 6 - 7 - 'people's strike against privitization' deemed successful
last night, the 'people's strike against privatisation', a 48 hour-long nationwide work stoppage in protest against the privatisation of the puerto rico telephone company (prtc), concluded with a massive rally in front of the company's main offices. the stoppage was called for by the broad committee of labour organisations (caos), a civil society coalition composed of unions and allied pro-independence, leftist, student, religious and community organisations. the participants in the 'people's strike' included, among others, the puerto rico independence party, the socialist front, the university front against privatisation, the puerto rico workers' central, the general council of workers, and the member unions of the american federation of labour (afl-cio).

on june 19, prtc employees started an indefinite strike against the company's privatisation. the strike, in its 20th day on the eve of the general strike, has been marked by numerous violent clashes as riot police attempted, sometimes unsuccessfully, to break the picket lines. dozens of arrests have taken place and in one occasion, on june 22, strikers were brutally beaten bloody and unconscious by police in front of press photographers and television cameras.

the strikers, who were spread all over puerto rico, very much succeeded in shutting down the economy during the 48-hour period that covered tuesday and wednesday. the major shopping malls were closed, as were most fast food outlets, supermarkets, wal-mart chain megastores, banks, the university of puerto rico, public transportation, hospitals, and even the docks and the airports. essential services, like water, electricity and emergency medical attention, however, remained uninterrupted.

exerpted from carmelo ruiz-marrero's puerto rican newsletter

an article on this strike was also published in the people's weekly world, a publication of the communist party u.s.a.

1997, october 1 - over 100,000 join non-partisan march against privitization

the nationwide general work stoppage against the privatization of the puerto rico telephone company (prtc) and other state assets and functions called for by a broad committee of labor and civic organizations was successful beyond its organizers' expectations, with 100,000 to 150,000 citizens from all over the puerto rican archipielago joining the protest march. that morning the protesters met at the dos hermanos bridge in the puerta de tierra section of san juan and marched towards the capitol, where leaders of opposition parties and civil society organizations, as well as musicians, addressed and entertained the crowd from a makeshift stage well into the evening.

the protest, known as el paro nacional, was notable not only for the number of participants but also for its non-partisan character. the labor unions and other non-governmental organisations were the real force behind the stoppage, and not the opposition political parties, which were almost completely absent from the activities. commenting on the event, political analyst juan manuel garcía-passalacqua concluded that "the political parties lost. civil society won."

judging by the abundance of puerto rican flags, nationalistic imagery and appeals to patriotism in el paro nacional, it was evident that the organizers succeeded in combining opposition to neoliberalism with affirmation of puerto rico's nationhood. this is a very important factor, because the position of governor rosselló and his new progressive party (npp) on the issue of nationhood is that puerto rico is not a nation, nor has it ever been. npp founder and former governor luis a. ferré went even farther, stating in last year's u.s. republican national convention in san diego that "we are not a nation, not even culturally".

contrast this 110% pro-usa attitude with the thousands upon thousands of puerto rican flags and the slogans of national affirmation in el paro nacional and you'll see why the issue of privatization has everything to do with puerto rico's relationship with the u.s., everything to do with national identity.

exerpted from carmelo ruiz-marrero's puerto rican newsletter

another report on this strike appeared on the a-infos news service.

the world : central america and the caribbean : puerto rico