Carmen Yulín Cruz justifies helping fiscal oversight board protesters
SAN JUAN – During a news conference in which no questions from the press were allowed, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz reacted to accusations against her after having admitted Monday in a radio interview to using $20,000 in municipal funds to support demonstrations against the Financial Oversight & Management Board that several groups continue to carry out throughout the metropolitan area.
Cruz justified sanitation services, the provision of ice and cleaning services that the Municipal Public Works Department provides the protesters, especially the group encamped at the federal court in Hato Rey, but didn’t mention if she really used that amount of municipal funds nor, if she did, how that money was spent.
“The municipality collects their trash, offers two latrines and brings them ice. That’s all. What’s the crime in picking up trash? What’s illegal about cleaning two latrines? What’s wrong with bringing them ice made by the municipality? It is worth noting that at that camp there hasn’t been a single violent incident. In fact, that camp is a living reminder of the violence being perpetrated in our country with an unjust, colonial and abusive law,” the mayor stressed.
“Why is doing this different from the services offered at marches against Naled, at marches in favor of the dignity of the LGBTT community, in the services offered to Clamor to God? If there isn’t any public interest in respecting diversity, in protecting the rights of everyone to freedom of expression and search for equal access to services, how are we going to strengthen democracy?
How are we going to achieve a more fair and solidary society? How are we going to be able to sit down at the table and solve our problems?” Cruz Soto asked.
The mayor said her administration would continue making alliances with different groups with the goal of achieving a country that is more “just, fair and democratic.”
However, hours earlier, spokespeople of the Camp against the Board, set up in front of the federal court building in Hato Rey, denied having received any type of aid or money from the municipality of San Juan and that the funds available for the protesters come from private donations and fundraising events.
“The Camp against the Board is an organization with a social, nonpartisan goal to denounce that the fiscal control board is not coming to develop the country economically but to the benefit of the vulture funds, at the expense of leaving the people without essential services,” said Sugely Carrión, spokesperson for the group.
“All that the municipality is doing is keeping the area clean and sanitary services, that is all that they are doing, but we have not received any aid from anyone from the central or municipal government or from any nonprofit organization,” she added.
Luis Viera, another spokesperson for the group of protesters, reiterated that the tents, awnings and carps used by the group are donations from private citizens who identify with their cause. “We have people who contribute daily with bread, rice, water, coffee, sugar and other foodstuffs. There are so many who give without saying who they are and no one asks for their names for having contributed,” Viera said. “The stove, the tables, counter in the kitchen area were lent by the Vieques support group, who we publicly thank for their solidarity with the struggle and the camp.”
On Thursday, Gov. Alejandro García Padilla criticized the mayor’s actions, saying that using public funds to aid the protesters constitutes a violation of taxpayers’ rights.
“The support that the protesters need is that their rights to express themselves are guaranteed. Now, my position is that the rights of one person end where the rights of the other person begins,” the governor said to questions from the press. “The answer is that the our only job, in this case, is to guarantee their right to protest while we guarantee others their right to live, go to work, to the hospital, to their home. I don’t think it’s correct.”
Yet, during a radio interview Thursday morning on WKAQ 580, David Bernier, the president of the Popular Democratic Party and its candidate for governor , downplayed the alleged use of municipal funds to support the protesters and hailed the “consistent” stance the mayor has shown against the “imposition” of the financial board.