Sunday, March 8, 2009
Demonstration in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
On Friday, in the late afternoon we were in San Juan and had some trouble getting into the Old City. Streets were blocked off and there was a heavy police presence. As we came into town we heard chanting and loud amplified speeches. After a bit we took out on foot down C. Cristo towards La Forteleza, the Governor's Palace, which is actually the oldest administrative (governmental) structure in continuous use in the Americas. Indeed a demonstration in front of the mansion was in progress. It was a protest on the part of government workers' unions who are the ones that will face significant layoffs under the Governor's financial rescue plan for the economy of the country. The Governor plans to fire between 30 and 40 thousand of these workers, as the government sector in Puerto Rico is the largest employment sector and the country can no longer afford such expenditures.
We plunged into the crowd which was largely happy, many of whom had pealed off to the local bars and were walking about with cervezas. The speeches by union leaders were stemwinders and were watched by police commanders with care...
...but the demonstration was really good natured and at no time did we get a sense that the mood was uncivil.
What will happen as the Governor's plan is implemented will remain to be seen.