Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Of "Puercos" and the Punitive Turn: Facebook Threats and the UPR Student Strikes

A friend of mine from college getting her graduate degree at UPR alerted me to this story last week (Thanks Ria!).  Members of the police department have gotten into quite of bit of hot water since screen grabs of their facebook pages and status updates have started to surface in the media.  The officers have been boasting about beating students or complaining about the lack of opportunities to brutalize students.  

Some examples:

Alexander Luina: "Por fin puedo dar un macanazo en esta bendita huelga, despues de 12 dias."  ("Finally, after 12 days I can use my baton in this damn strike.")

William Concepcion: "Por fin di un macanazo Hoy, Pueneta q se ponga bruto pa vaciarle este rifle." (I finally clubbed somebody today, I hope things get crazy so I can empty out my rifle.")

And there are more screen grabs like this of cops expressing their intentions to do physical damage.   The cops are crying foul play.  Jaime Cruz Colon, the officer above who said that the police were going to beat up the students who didn't want to learn to make way for those who did, for instance is claiming that he is a victim of hackers.  Given that the police department's second in command, Col. José A. Rosa Carrasquillo can be seen in the picture below kicking a student while he is on the ground and restrained, I think it is fair to say that the kind aggression verbal and physical being displayed toward the students permeates the chain of command at many levels, and it is doubtful that hackers would have to invent something like this.  

The violent repression of students and workers struggles under the Fortuno administration illustrates what many theorists have argued about the neoliberal period -- the fiscal disciplining of the market necessitates the physical disciplining of the populations who are directly affected by economic and political restructuring.  They are two sides of the same coin.  In this case, the police are not trying to protect private property or quell crime, they are trying to facilitate the changes called for by public law 7.  

The students are fighting for more than just fee waivers, they are fighting for a new way of doing things.  They are protesting the punitive turn and the neoliberal policies that it is meant to protect.  They are fighting against the criminalization and punishment of the poor and working classes, and fighting against the use of youth as a scapegoat for societal ills.  They are calling not only for the transformation of the University, but also the radical reconfiguration of Puerto Rican society itself. 

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