Police Attack Anti-Austerity Protesters With Pepper Spray and Tear Gas


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We begin today’s show in Puerto Rico, where thousands marked May Day by joining a general strike in the capital of San Juan to protest austerity measures, from the closing of public schools to increases in university tuition. One march covered almost the length of the 1,000-foot Dos Hermanos Bridge. Last month, a federally appointed oversight board approved a plan to restructure the island’s $72 billion public debt, that calls for the privatization of PREPA, one of the largest publicly owned power providers in the United States. This comes as at least 30,000 people still lack power almost eight months after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. Last month, an excavator downed a transmission line, blacking out the entire electrical grid.

AMY GOODMAN: On Tuesday, thousands marched to the financial district in San Juan, known as La Milla de Oro, which was closed due to protests. When they tried to converge on the building where the federal oversight board has its offices, police fired tear gas and pepper spray. The board has called for the implementation of 10 percent pension cuts, eliminating mandatory Christmas bonuses, reducing required vacation and sick time, and allowing businesses to fire employees without having to first prove a just cause. The island’s governor and Legislature have so far refused the changes. At least 13 protesters were arrested on Tuesday.

Democracy Now! correspondent Juan Carlos Dávila was in the streets of San Juan and filed this report.

JUAN CARLOS DÁVILA: On International Workers’ Day, about a dozen organizations, including activist groups and workers’ unions, rallied at Puerto Rico’s financial district to protest the new austerity measures proposed by the federally appointed fiscal control board. The organizations marched from different points in San Juan. One of the marches, organized by the movement Promises Are Over, began at the Department of Labor.

JOCELYN VELÁZQUEZ: [translated] My name is Jocelyn…

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