A group of 26 student representatives of the University of Puerto Rico met on Wednesday afternoon with the head of the U.S.-imposed Fiscal Control Board and the university’s management in a bid to find a solution to the conflict over budget cuts in higher education.
Under strong police watch, they debated the rise of university fees and measures meant to guarantee that striking students will not face punishment because of their mobilization.
The U.S.-appointed economic board is overseeing the restructuring of Puerto Rico’s US$70 billion debt owed to wealthy foreign investors. Along with cuts to public education, the board has also proposed to cut health care and housing funds.
Protesting the JSF’s proposal, the General Council of Students and hundreds more have shut down and taken over the campus since March 30. They will now work on a counter-proposal to present to the university board.
Then the government’s board will be expected to review the agreement, although the nine-member board is currently missing three members because of recent resignations — including the president of the University of Puerto Rico Nivia Fernandez on Tuesday — and therefore will not be entitled to formally approve any deal.
Students have convoked a general assembly on Thursday at 4 p.m. in order to debate whether they wish to continue the strike or not.
In order for any decision concerning an indefinite strike to be valid, a quorum of 1,624 students (10 percent of student enrollment) is required at the meeting. Otherwise, the general assembly would only be considered an informative gathering and any decision taken would not be binding.
In addition to opposing the multi-million dollar cut proposed by the unelected Fiscal Control Board with the consent of the government of Ricardo Rossello Nevares, demonstrators also demand an audit of the public debt which amounts to US$74 billion.
According to reports by the Debt Audit Commission and the ReFund America Project, roughly US$36.9 billion of Puerto Rico’s debt was deemed illegal. The amount owed to creditors either involved “extra-constitutional” debt saddled with predatory interest rates or “toxic” interest rate swaps.