Class struggle sharpens in Mexico, Puerto Rico

Two months after the disappearance of the 43 normalistas (education students) in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto finally visited that region on Dec. 4. He went, not to offer support to the students’ families, but to inaugurate a bridge that had been damaged by a hurricane in September 2013 and to announce some economic initiatives.

Peña Nieto ignored the massive and now generalized protests that have swept Mexico condemning the government’s lack of effective action to find the missing students and fully investigate and punish the perpetrators. Instead, he told the Mexican people to “overcome” Ayotzinapa and “move forward.” These words added to the fury of the masses of people who demand his resignation.

Three days later, the Argentine forensic team involved in the identification of human samples allegedly found at a garbage dump in Cocula reported that a genetics laboratory in Austria had identified remains of one of the 43 students, Alexander Mora. According to many specialists in Mexico, however, that does not prove that the rest of the students are dead. Therefore, the people still demand from the regime: “Find them alive.”

Using a rational interpretation of facts, a team of scientists from the National Autonomous University (UNAM) refuted the government’s claims that the students had been incinerated and their ashes packed in bags found in a river — claims based solely on alleged testimony of three witnesses. Scientists asserted that the temperature needed to fully cremate a human body was impossible to reach through the methods the attorney general reported.

Since the very beginning, the students’ relatives and other demonstrators  have accused the government of covering up the disappearances.

Solidarity with Ayotzinapa has been international, including from the United States, and not only from Mexicans living abroad, but from various organizations as well.

On Dec. 10, the Ayotzinapa case reached millions of people throughout the world when Adán Cortés Salas, an UNAM student who traveled to Oslo, stood up and walked in front of Malala Yousafzai right after she received the Nobel Prize, shouting, “Please, Malala, México, please” while carrying a big Mexican flag stained with red.

Capitalist crisis hits poor and workers in Puerto Rico

The year 2014 brought an increase of attacks on poor and working people in Puerto Rico as a result of its colonial status, which is profoundly affected by the U.S.-led capitalist crisis. As the year ends, the colonial government headed by Alejandro García Padilla has imposed several anti-people measures, including an increased tax on oil and derivatives from $9.25 to a whopping $15.50 per barrel. “La crudita” (the little crude), as it is known on the island both as a descriptive name for the crude oil, and as a cruelty, was passed by both Representative and Senate chambers in the Legislature.

According to Gov. García Padilla, this is necessary to fund the Government Development Bank, which is the main fiscal body that “funds” entities from municipalities to special government projects. These include private-public associations, highways and public transportation, etc. Like many government institutions, however, this one has been marked by bad management and corruption — an inherent part of capitalism.

This tax increase will not only affect the price of gasoline, but will deal a blow to the whole energy sector — the basis of the island’s economic development. The national energy agency, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), has been slated for privatization for a long time. This project has failed to date thanks to the actions of its workers, organized into the class-oriented union UTIER. This time García Padilla has again obeyed Wall Street and the bondholders in the United States by signing contracts with U.S.-based firms for “guidance.” He is also trying, unsuccessfully, to solve the desperate insolvency of the government, whose credit has been rated by U.S. firms as “junk.”

One of those offering guidance is Lisa Donahue, managing director of AlixPartners. She speaks no Spanish and is being paid $9.7 million as the fiscal and operations restructuring officer. According to its website, “AlixPartners is a leading global business advisory firm of results-oriented professionals who specialize in creating value and restoring performance at every stage of the business life cycle. We thrive on our ability to make a difference in high-impact situations and deliver sustainable, bottom-line results.”

On Dec. 15, Donahue’s plan will be presented, not to the people of Puerto Rico, but to the bondholders in New York. It lays off workers, decreases retiree benefits, increases customers’ electricity bills, and eliminates subsidies and generating plants.

Through its consulting firms, Wall Street also aims to privatize education in Puerto Rico. Last year, the Boston Consulting Group slated 100 public schools for closure. Despite resistance from teachers’ unions, students and their families, 70 were closed. This time the BCG is going to the jugular, slating 580 schools, or about one-third of all public schools in Puerto Rico, for closing.

But neither the colonial regime nor its Wall Street masters should expect an easy ride. The unions have vowed to struggle and win. On Dec. 14, many teachers’ and education-related unions marched through the streets of Old San Juan distributing information about these attacks and about demands for free public education. They ended at the governor’s house, where he refused to meet with them, so they handed a statement with their demands to one of his aides.

The year 2015 promises to be one of great suffering for the Puerto Rican masses, with more migration to the United States, but also — and most importantly — an increase in combativity in class-oriented unions.