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Puerto Rico Witnessed Violent Clashes With Protesters And Police During May Day Demonstrations

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Thousands of Puerto Ricans took to the streets on Tuesday to protest pension cuts, school closures and slow recovery efforts after Hurricane Maria devastated the island in September. The May Day marches started off peacefully as students, teachers and government employees made their way through San Juan before things turned violent. Heavily armored police threw tear gas cans and rubber bullets at protesters as demonstrations crossed through blocked off areas.

At least eight people were arrested and a number of people were injured, including fifteen police officers during May Day demonstrations in Puerto Rico.

Gov. Ricardo Rossello said police were left with minimal options but to act after a small group of agitators threw rocks and bottles at them. Most followed the planned protest route without incident, and the march ended with a rally in front of the Capitol in San Juan. Many on the island are frustrated with the sluggish hurricane recovery efforts and steep budget cuts to tackle the island’s financial crisis.

The march comes as Puerto Rico continues to recover from an 11-year recession.

Puerto Rico is dealing with a $75 billion dollar debt. In response to the debt, the government is finding ways to save money to curb the debt and it includes increasing costs on the middle and lower class. College students in Puerto Rico have been hit the hardest. At Puerto Rico’s largest public university the undergraduate cost per credit has increased from $57 to $115, then to an eventual $157 over five years, according to The Washington Post. Many students in Puerto Rico have yet to return to school due the Hurricane Maria, which hit the island more than six months ago.

Children joined the protesters to fight for their schools to remain open but were tear gassed by police.

Puerto Rico is set to close 280 schools in August due to sharp decreases in enrollment, which comes after 179 were closed last year. In November 2017, NYU announced that it would be offering admission to 50 students from Puerto Rico affected by Hurricane Maria under the Hurricane Maria Assistance Program.

Cuts to pensions and other benefits have left Puerto Ricans with few options.

Similar protests took place last May Day which also ended in violence in the streets and civilian injuries. Many businesses this year were prepared as they boarded up shops in anticipation that protests may end similarly to last year.


READ: Here Are 11 Reasons People Protested For Immigrant Rights On May Day In Los Angeles

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Puerto Rico’s Governor Is Ignoring More Than A Million Puerto Ricans As He Refuses To Give Up Power

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Puerto Rico’s Governor Is Ignoring More Than A Million Puerto Ricans As He Refuses To Give Up Power

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Puerto Rico is in full on crisis mode as more than a million Puerto Ricans take to the city streets demanding the governor’s resignation after a series of shocking scandals. Basically every single segment of society has been wronged by the governor and they want him out.

From leaked text messages that were openly misogynistic and homophobic to major allegations of fraud and corruption, Puerto Ricans have had enough and they’re making sure their voices are heard.

Puerto Ricans fed up with their governor took to the streets by the hundreds of thousands to protest against their government.

Puerto Rico saw more massive protests on Monday as hundreds of thousands lined the streets following Governor Ricardo Rosselló’s attempt to cling on to power despite resigning as president of the ruling New Progressive party and announcing he will not run for re-election next year.

A general strike took place across the US territory on Monday morning, protesters chanting the now familiar cry of “Ricky renuncia!”, waving flags and banging drums.

For the governor’s part, in a Facebook Live post, he admitted that a “huge portion of the population is unhappy.”

So he announced he won’t run for re-election next year and was resigning as the president of the New Progressive Party. But that did nothing to calm angry protesters, who say they won’t rest until Rosselló resigns.

I mean the crowds are huge!

Monday marked the tenth straight day of massive protests across the island, but most agreed that Monday’s turn out was the biggest yet.

Many were calling it a general strike as more than a million Puerto Ricans (out of a population of 3.4 million) poured into the streets, parks, plazas, and even shopping centers.

Even Bad Bunny, Residente, and Ricky Martin are there showing their support for protesters.

Credit: @CNNEE / Twitter

As occurred last week, a number of Puerto Rico’s biggest recording artists appeared prominently at Monday’s demonstrations. Singers such as Ricky Martin, himself a subject of homophobic ridicule in the leaked messages, and rappers Resident, Bad Bunny and the singer iLe, have become unofficial figureheads in the leaderless movement to oust Rosselló.

“They mocked our dead, they mocked women, they mocked the LGBT community, they made fun of people with physical and mental disabilities, they made fun of obesity. It’s enough,” Martin said in a video posted on Twitter before the march.

“We’re we’re going to keep fighting, we’re going to keep being on the streets until he resigns,” iLe told the Guardian. “He knows he has to go in his heart. I know he knows it.”

Protesters aren’t messing around. They’re taking to the streets and blocking access to major highways.

Credit: @cnnbrk / Twitter

Puerto Rico’s largest mall, Plaza de las Américas, closed before Monday’s demonstration along with many other businesses. Last week police used teargas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters at a huge rally outside the governor’s residence in the island’s capital, San Juan.

But most people on Twitter were so proud to see the people fighting for their future.

Credit: @ananavarro / Twitter

Puerto Ricans from the island to New York, even to Minnesota, were overwhelmed with pride. Many on social media commented that it was amazing to see so many people speaking up for their dignity and their representation. And speaking out against a government that has violated the trust of so many.

Many were commenting that Puerto Rico was showing the rest of the world how to keep on fighting.

Credit: @tomaskenn / Twitter

And there were definitely a few people who were hoping this style of democracy, of massive protests, would make its way to the mainland to fight back against the inhuman policies of President Trump.

The protests are coming after a series of scandals that left Puerto Ricans completely unhappy with their government.

Demonstrations have gripped the island since hundreds of pages of leaked text messages between the governor and 11 members of his inner circle were published on 13 July.

The messages contain homophobic and sexist slurs against political rivals and cultural figures. They also contain a joke about dead bodies during Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island in September 2017.

Puerto Rican Women Are Finding It Difficult To Access Abortion Related Health Care Putting Their Health At Risk

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Puerto Rican Women Are Finding It Difficult To Access Abortion Related Health Care Putting Their Health At Risk

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For those of you who may have been living under a rock, or just genuinely can’t keep up with the news now that there’s usually a new catastrophe or political gaffe from the Trump administration on a daily basis, it’s probably a good idea to recap what happened around Hurricane Maria.

On September 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, devastating the region and sparking an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. While recovery efforts have been in the works, abortion care has been largely ignored by authorities, leading to another set of problems that need to be addressed before Puerto Rico can really say that it’s moved on from the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Granted: there’s so much more to consider than just simply boosting abortion facilities in Puerto Rico.

According to a 2008 study in the Journal of Population Economics, birth rates increase in the aftermath of a natural disaster.

Credit: kylleermell / Instagram

Let’s face it, anyone put in the same position would agree: if there’s no access to power, no way of really going anywhere, and there are zero things to do otherwise … you’re gonna have sex. Even though the world is pretty much falling apart around you! Part of the risks of this behavior, beyond focusing on bonking rather than safety awareness during a natural disaster, is the fact that condoms and other contraceptives aren’t necessarily readily accessible in this time. It means that if you’re not intending on getting pregnant, then this situation could put you in perilous circumstances.

The lack of regional resources after a natural disaster is not only hard af for new families – it’s also hard on people who are seeking ways to terminate their pregnancy. Where Puerto Rico is concerned, of the six abortion clinics on the main island, only one was in operation in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. However, it took nine days for that single clinic to get its doors open again. And from there, the damage from the cataclysmic storms meant that the centre didn’t have two air conditioning units or its heating system, and it had to run on a generator for three months. Because power was so expensive at this time, it meant that the clinic also had to cut its hours of operation. And if you think this is bad – that’s just the trials and tribulations of one clinic. Imagine the difficulty in trying to get others open.

Sure, there’s a problem. But aren’t there more important things to deal with in Puerto Rico, first?

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Recovery from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico has been mighty slow. In fact, it took an entire year for power to be restored to the region. Poor sanitation in the area led to the spread of water-borne sicknesses, while spoiled food and contaminated drinking water also harmed the population. Pests and bugs further caused havoc and spread disease, in addition to mold and mildew. Not to mention the fact that cleanup activities also introduced further hazards to locals, and opened the potential for further injury and infections. Natural disasters are associated with a decline in the mental health of a population, too, meaning that psychological services are in dire need in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. 

At this point, you’re probably thinking, ‘why are we worried about access to abortion care when there are so many other, more urgent, things to think about’? And sure, you’re not entirely wrong. But the reality is that access to healthcare services in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria is crucial for reducing further loss of human life. And that healthcare must be holistic. Because while healthcare is great for recovery from injuries and treating disease, these are reactive measures to the issue at hand. Family planning and abortion care fall into the category of preventative measures, to ensure that the unintended pregnancies don’t place further stress on very limited services and resources.

The issues we’re seeing now are part of bigger, systemic problems that must be addressed for Puerto Rico’s wellbeing.

Credit: aaron.fernandes476 / Instagram

As an unincorporated territory of the US, it stands to reason that Puerto Rico should have received considerable support from Washington DC. While no-one could forget the classic shot of Donald Trump basketball-shooting paper towels into a crowd of disaster-stricken Puerto Ricans, it’s been argued that the region was, overall, lacking in support and attention from the administration. And this criticism wasn’t a new thing. Puerto Rico’s been dealing with the Zika epidemic, which affected 1 in 7 newborns between 2016 and 2018, while also contending with the shutdown of 66 of 69 major hospitals in the region due to Hurricane Maria. It also has the highest poverty rate over any US state, while also getting less money and resource from the federal government for health programs. Yikes.

This raises questions around Puerto Rico’s representation in Washington: as it is not a state, it doesn’t have a vote in Congress. And, it only has one non-voting member of the House, known as a Resident Commissioner. Who knows what kind of improvements in assistance could have been made for Puerto Rico, if it had the right kind of political representation?

Beyond the federal level, Puerto Rico must also contend with the rise of conservatism.

Credit: senadora_naydavenegasbrownp / Instgram

Pushback against access to family planning services, which largely draws from pervasive religious doctrine, has risen in recent years. For example, 2018 saw a really aggressive attempts to restrict abortion access in Puerto Rico. While the Senator responsible for the bill, Nayda Venegas Brown, eventually pulled it from consideration, it was designed to institute a mandatory 48-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions, parental consent for minors, and a ban on the procedure outright after 20 weeks gestation. And sure, while these may seem like pretty common laws for those living on mainland US, these kinds of restrictions are basically unheard of in Puerto Rico.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, these kinds of limitations would add even more complexity to unwanted pregnancies in Puerto Rico. For example, without access to appropriate healthcare services, people may not have even known about their pregnancy until much later in their gestational cycle. Another thing to consider is that, should there be complications in the pregnancy, women may have their lives further jeopardized by restrictions on performing abortions. And, minors who may not be in contact with their parents would then become dependent on those same parents to access an abortion. Indeed, it is fortunate that Puerto Ricans were not subject to such blanket laws – particularly while they’re still dealing with the repercussions of Hurricane Maria.

So, for those of you sitting at home wondering what you can do about the predicament facing Puerto Rico, you’ve got a few options. It’s worth investigating charities in your local area that are dedicated towards providing support to Puerto Rico. Voting for candidates in the 2020 elections that have proposed policies to support Puerto Rico is also crucial. Additionally, improving awareness about women’s rights by sharing accurate information on social media – like this piece – can help break down the stigma around family planning.

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