Troubling information concerning economic and security matters seem to surpass the capacity to manage them in this small island nation and United States colony while the government continues to be successful in avoiding having outcries reach the boiling point although there are signs of increasing political opposition.
In the midst of this situation, news of the latest degradation of Puerto Rico’s credit on Wall Street or of a new consultation with the electorate regarding relations with the United States are like distant echoes of a storm at sea while the country remains submerged in the calm of weariness.
The only sources of visible resistance continue to be the student movement and the groups which oppose the construction of a natural gas pipeline through the central mountain ranges. However, facing these obstacles, the government puts into place new mechanisms of control in order to repel any new explosions at the University of Puerto Rico and there are increasing reports –each more detailed- about the training of a private armed force designed to confront social protests.
However, disbelief by leadership in those sectors and in media with regard to the gravity of those reports has the result of the news not reaching general circulation.
For example, the governor himself admitted in Court that the University of Puerto Rico has for decades administered uninherited wealth – real estate and other property – which could have the effect of placing the value of hidden properties of the public university system in the billions of dollars. Emboldened by the lack of news coverage of the issue, the government argued that students, professors, and other employees of the University of Puerto Rico lack any legal right to force the publication of information detailing how this treasure has been administered.
What has happened to this treasure is a vital piece to the possibility of the survival of the practice of university education as part of the Fifth civil right contained in the Constitution and not having it converted to a privilege. But the government insists on dealing with the problem by restricting more and more university budgets while it promotes the process toward which the University would become smaller and more expensive.
Faced with this situation and after more than a year in protest, the students were successful in organizing a coalition of all university groups which presented a lawsuit demanding that university leadership report on what it had done with this uninherited wealth, which by law, it has received since 1923. University leadership responded in court that it does not produce nor retain the type of documents requested because the only thing it does is receive real estate that remains after the government meets its obligations and that it simply denotes the property in a general property inventory.
As law dictates that the governor is the one who issues documents listing all of these properties, Governor Fortuno is named in the lawsuit and consequently filed a countermotion with other members of his Cabinet which swept the floor with the allegations made by university leadership.
The governor’s motion revealed that at least since 1986, as soon as a case occurred of a death with uninherited wealth, auditors made an inventory of all the wealth and the presidency of the UPR was forced to name an administrator for such inheritances. This means that not only does the UPR receive farmland, homes and buildings, but it also is the entity which disposes of furniture, equipment, jewelry, works of art, bank accounts, and all other items of wealth with no inheritors, and additionally assures that the fortune is not squandered.
But, resistance by news media to publish this type of news is such that when students filed suit a member of the press angrily asked them, “why do you all want to commit suicide?”
A similar situation occurs with reports of a private force being trained to confront those who oppose the natural gas pipeline project. Local sources in the zone of the central mountain ranges where it is said the alleged training camp exists indicate that they were able to observe a small cache of weapons, as well as an odd rail car filled with antique Spanish cobblestones, which continues to confirm the details of a report published by the Division of Military Intelligence of the Boricua Popular Army – Los Macheteros.
The report identifies as well, by name, government officials, as well as a private policing agency, and mentions a foreign corporation, which would have participated in at least one planning meeting. This information, however, has not been independently confirmed.
Although this has to do with news that the country in general has not learned of, the levels of unrest continue to generate an atmosphere for the political opposition.
The autonomist Popular Democratic Party, main opposition party, now under the leadership of Alejandro Garcia Padilla and inspired by the thought of Rafael Hernandez Colon, is beginning to show levels of electoral activity usually associated with growth. With this, the delegates of the small but influential Puerto Rican Independence Party show themselves ever more enthusiastic in their support for young lawyer Juan Dalmau for its main candidate with its vice president Maria de Lourdes Santiago giving passionate speeches during which she calls for struggle against colonialism “with all your heart” and “with fury”.
The opposition is completed by the three new political parties, which look to participate in the next election and have garnered tens of thousands of signatures. Puerto Ricans for Puerto Rico already has more than 38,000 endorsements, followed by the United Sovereignty Movement with more than 32,000 and the Puerto Rican Workers Party with 22, 5000, with this last showing a surprising 35% increase in support.