EspañolFrancisco Oller Elementary School, once filled with children, is now for sale for US$1.8 million. It’s not a private school, but a state establishment, and has been closed since 2010: when it was shut down due to a lack of students, although it briefly reopened its doors in 2012 as part of a new government plan.
Francisco Oller was a well-known Puerto Rican impressionist painter, and the school is located in a commuter city close to the capital, San Juan. It’s one of over 150 schools that have closed in the last five years due to the worsening economic crisis in the US territory, which has prompted thousands of Puerto Ricans to move to the United States.
The island’s Education Secretary Rafael Román justified the school closures earlier in May, saying that 45,000 of his fellow citizens have left the island for the US mainland, and that birth rates are falling.
But it’s not only the lack of children that’s behind the closure of public schools: massive budget cuts are also taking place, meaning that thousands of children are now having to travel dozens of kilometers to attend classes.
Furthermore, the surroundings of schools that have closed are suffering an additional impact to that already caused by recession. Neighbors of Francisco Oller, for example, report that the school has been vandalized, become a center for drug sales, and that insecurity has increased in the area. Its windows have been broken and its walls are covered with graffiti.
According to the Puerto Rican government (which faces technical closure at the beginning of 2016 if it can’t secure funding to sustain itself), 600 of the island’s schools may have to close within the next five years, generating savings of US$249 million. School matriculation has fallen by 42 percent since 1985, and an additional decrease of 22 percent is expected within the next five years, according to a report by the Boston Consulting Group, contracted by the Puerto Rican government to reconstruct the island’s education system.
The bleak outlook for Puerto Rican education is completed by the contracting of hundreds to thousands of the island’s educators by employers on the US mainland, who prize their bilingual abilities, according to Puerto Rico teachers unions.
No offers have yet been made for Francisco Oller, despite advertisements by the administering property agency highlighting its potential as a shopping or medical center.
EspañolOn Saturday, May 9, a pro-regime mob assaulted Cuban rapper and dissident-activist Ángel Yunier Remón Arzuaga, also known as El Crítico (the Critic), at his home in Bayamo. The musician reported that the around 200 attackers sought to intimidate him into ceasing his activities as a leader of the opposition party Cuba Patriotic Union (Unpacu) in the eastern Granma Province. Remón told the PanAm Post over the phone that Cuban state security agents organized a violent demonstration against him. He recounted that policemen and army officers threw rocks and broke into his home, then threatened and verbally abused him. One of the rocks hit Remón on the head, causing him to bleed heavily. "They try to outdo us in numbers so they can say they are the people. But the truth is that these mobs respond to government interests," said a fearless Remón, adding that he "stands firm and fast against terror." Remón "barricaded" himself inside his home during the attack, and was plunged into darkness during the whole incident — for which he blamed the state-owned electricity firm. "They left the whole neighborhood without electricity, so no one could see the thugs who came to attack me," Remón said. Government officials have put up signs and distributed pamphlets vilifying Unpacu in his neighborhood. "They don't want us to grow. And since I have a rebellious character, they want to bury me. They want to channel all their anger against the system toward me," Remón argued. On April 30 an intelligence official showed up unannounced at his home claiming to be "worried" about the singer's health. In a home video recorded by Remón he can be heard to question the visit's real motives. "Do I have a health problem? Or do you worry like this over every Cuban citizen? You were the one who signed my official discharge from prison, don't you know? Why have you come, then?" the rapper demands. Some witnesses told Remón to go inside, but he kept interrogating the agent: "What, you're going to attack me? I'm completely peaceful, I'm protected by Articles 18 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights … and you come here to violate my rights." Rapper and Political Activist In March 2013, Remón was sentenced to six months in prison over an alleged plot against the government, along with dozens of opposition leaders and human-rights activists. However, on January 6 this year, he was released after a series of deals arranged between the Castro regime and the United States. The singer now finds himself in legal limbo: "I cannot travel or vote; I have no rights. I'm free under supervision." Remón Arzuaga added that he continues to compose music but hasn't been able to record anything new yet. El Crítico formerly belonged to the hip-hop band Los Hijos que Nadie Quiso, whose song "Mi Delito" (My Crime) is one of the harshest criticisms delivered in music against the Cuban regime, now in power for nearly six decades. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQJt8AbcAjU Translated by Daniel Duarte.