The San Juan Daily Star
Hundreds of May Day demonstrators converge on Golden Mile financial district
By John McPhaul
Hundreds of demonstrators representing unions and political groups gathered a block away from the offices of the Financial Oversight and Management Board on Muñoz Rivera Avenue in Hato Rey on Monday as part of International Workers’ Day Protests.
The only incident reported was when, early in the demonstration, three union leaders were arrested for trying to access Ponce de Léon Avenue, where the oversight board office is located, and in doing so crossed the blockade separating protesters from police. The three were processed and released later in the day (see story below).
While most of the demonstrators represented unions or other labor organizations, a small group from the Puerto Rican Communist Party held sway over one end of the blocklong demonstration with a large speaker truck belting out leftist chants below a large red flag bearing the hammer and sickle of the defunct Soviet Union.
“We are here to protest the exploitation suffered by the international working class and the oppression workers are subjected to,” Communist Party spokesman Gilberto Amigo said.
Amigo said he was expecting more people to turn out to the Communist Party rally.
“But it’s not the quantity, it’s the quality that matters,” he said of the red-flag-waving turnout.
At the other end of the block, an equally large speaker truck blared out speeches from labor organizations protesting wage and pension cuts under the oversight board-approved fiscal plan.
“We are out to defend our pensions and call for a new pension system, a trust for all the retirees of Puerto Rico with the purpose of giving everyone a dignified retirement,” said Otilio Rosado, 77, who worked as a teacher for 36 years and retired 16 years ago.
Theodore Muñoz, 75, a Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) retiree said he was protesting the possibility that the PREPA pension fund will become insolvent this month.
“We are going to be without pensions this month while they sit on $900 million,” Muñoz said.
Reynaldo Santos, 68, a retired PREPA worker who said he worked for the authority for 30 years, said the plan to cut pensions violates the workers’ rights.
“They say that starting this month there will be no more money,” he said. “I worked for PREPA for 30 years, putting money into the pension fund every month, and now they say there is no money. It’s not fair.
Dalila Luyanda, a spokeswoman for the Rehabilitation Counselors Professional Association, said she was protesting a plan to implement wages of $2,020 per month on the counselors.
“In our organization, we have professionals with master’s degrees and members of the Association,” she said. “Their plan is incoherent; we want to be paid on scale 12 of $4,000.”
Also among the May Day demonstrators was Horatio Cordero, 86, who said he worked for the Treasury Department for 21 years.
“I’m here to protest against LUMA,” said Cordero, referring to the often maligned private operator of PREPA’s electricity transmission and distribution system.
Demonstrators at a separate rally at the Minillas Government Center in Santurce at one point marched to the Minillas tunnel, blocking and backing up traffic on Baldorioty de Castro Avenue for about a half an hour.