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  • Students of the University of Puerto Rico protest as a meeting of the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico is taking place at the Convention Center in San Juan.

    Students of the University of Puerto Rico protest as a meeting of the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico is taking place at the Convention Center in San Juan. | Photo: Reuters

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University students on the island are demanding an audit of the debt and an end to austerity measures targeting education.

Dozens of university students took to the streets in San Juan Wednesday to protest severe education cuts that are part of an austerity plan to alleviate Puerto Rico's staggering debt.

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About 21 policemen were hurt as students clashed with security members when they tried to enter the Legislative Assembly to show their indignation against the elimination of a project to audit the country's nearly US$73 billion debt.

The debt restructuring plan was designed by a financial oversight board created by former U.S. President Barack Obama, and was approved in the U.S. Congress through the controversial PROMESA law.
The reform includes severe cuts to government agencies, pensions, health and education. The budget given to the University of Puerto Rico will be slashed by US$450 for the next three years.
The president of the Commission for the Comprehensive Audit of Public Credit, Roberto Pagan, said the Senate approved Monday to eliminate the Credit Audit Commission, created under the administration of former governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla.

Pagan says the organization believes this was done to ensure citizens "don't know how the unpayable debt was acquired," and criticized current governor Ricardo Rossello.

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The students also staged a recent protest in the famous Milla de Oro, a nickname given to a part of the Ponce de Leon Avenue in San Juan, also called the Wall Street of the Caribbean for the presence of international banks and financial companies.

Puerto Rico is considered a “commonwealth” by the U.S. and has been a colony since 1898 after ceding from the Spanish empire. This condition which bars the island from filing for bankruptcy.

Puerto Ricans currently do not have the right to vote in presidential elections and have no voting powers in the U.S. Congress.

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