"The epicenter of the struggle for the public university in Latin America is Puerto Rico." -- José Carlos Luque Brazán, professor and researcher of political science and urban planning at the Autonomous University, Mexico City*
The social conflict taking place at the University of Puerto Rico is polarizing this island to such an extent that this United States' possession, which used to be heralded as the "Showcase of Democracy" during the Cold War ideological struggles, is now sliding into a system of widespread civil and human rights violations. The University of Puerto Rico, for the first time in decades, is occupied by police: political demonstrations are banned; summary expulsions of student leaders are common; and hundreds of students have been arrested, beaten, and at times sexually assaulted or tortured. On February 9, after the riot squad violently intervened with students painting murals, 28 students were arrested, many were hurt and chaos ensued when pepper gas and batons were used to violently arrest students and bystanders. The police violence was of such magnitude that the faculty organization, the Puerto Rican Association of Professors, and the Brotherhood of Non-Faculty Employees called for a 24-hour strike, which was later extended. The university is closed and the president of the system, Jose Ramon de la Torres, after writing a letter requesting the removal of the police from the campus, announced he was resigning as president.