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Puerto Rican Teachers Face a Decisive Battle

Pedro Ángel Rivera (translated by Félix Cortés)  |  Issue: Volume 41, Number 3

“They are taking our life away”. That’s how Eulalia Centeno Ramos, elementary school teacher for more than 25 years, described the struggle against the latest assault by the bosses on Puerto Rico’s public school teachers.

Christmas Eve, 2013, will always be remembered as a disastrous night for public school teachers in Puerto Rico. On that night, the legislative troops of the current colonial governor, Alejandro García Padilla, popularly known as Agapito García “Pesadilla” (“the Nightmare”), decreed a so-called reform of the teachers’ pension plan. This distortion of the pension system confirms a scenario of looting that the teachers’ most militant leaders have been warning against for the past two years. In the face of the sinister attack by the corporate-state alliance, a massive and growing number of teachers throughout the island, a majority of them women, continue to show their outrage in acts of civil disobedience and picketing in the streets and schools (go to Derogación de la Ley 160 on Facebook).

The Puerto Rican teachers’ struggle against the sacking of their pensions joins an emerging global wave of workers’ struggles against the corporate offensive. From Latin America, where Mexican teachers especially are demonstrating how to fight against the corporate state determining our fate, to the “North”, from Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, London, and Madrid to Athens: everywhere the struggle is the same, our enemy the same—financial capital living and profiting off speculation and the exploitation of our labor power.

In Puerto Rico, it intervenes directly in the assault on teachers by pressuring the colonial government to contort and misuse their pension and public school systems. It’s opening the gates to private corporations so they can get to the multi-billion dollar booty of the pensions and schools the workers have invested in. Behind the smokescreen of the so-called fiscal crisis, what is public—what belongs to all of us—is declared bankrupt. This is how we end up paying when a financial bubble bursts and the speculators—the rich—make a killing.

In the end, Puerto Rico is a microcosm of a society whose technological innovations are replacing human labor with electronics, while the capitalists need increasingly fewer workers to make a profit. This is why they’re trying to dismantle the public school system, why education is still a right for all only on paper, while in reality it is consolidating as a privilege for the rich,why they’re pushing us into an insecure life now while stealing our children’s future.

And this is why we have to turn the tables on them by taking advantage of the technological innovations and rescuing our future. We have to help give birth to a new society where we can organize ourselves cooperatively in order to work more productively. We will then have the time for a better education and to enjoy the wealth we collectively produce.

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