[VIDEO] NPP Rep hits protester on Capitol entryway
SAN JUAN – New Progressive Party (NPP) Rep. José Luis Rivera Guerra is seen on video hitting a protester when several union leaders prevented his entrance to the Capitol.
In a video recorded by Caribbean Business at about 12 p.m. Thursday, the legislator approached a group of demonstrators who were shouting, “out, out, out!”
Seconds later, Rivera Guerra is seen hitting a man next to him with his right elbow. Immediately after, the scuffle ensued while other protesters joined the altercation. Police officers promptly intervened and took the lawmaker inside the building. Both the legislator and some protesters were hurt.
— Cindy Burgos (@Cindy_Andreina) April 27, 2017
“Can you see my lip? I had encounter right now with [Rep. José Luis] Rivera Guerra. We were at the door, denying access, because they can’t be locked in due to restrictions. The gentleman stands next to me and says, ‘I’m going inside,’ and I stood with my colleagues and we said, ‘You are not going inside.’ What did the gentleman do? Because how it happened, and there are thousands of witnesses… He stood next to me. I was to his right. When I lowered my hands, with his elbow, [he] swung up and hurt the inside of my mouth,” the wounded demonstrator, Julio Vargas, said.
“What happened? I hit him back, I hit him back and I defended myself. And what did the police do? They had to take him away, escorted,” added Vargas, who represents the union of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), which convened with union members from the Automobile Accident Compensation Administration (AACA) and Tu Ama.
The NPP representative, meanwhile, said in a written statement that he acted in self defense.
“When I tried to enter the Capitol, I had to wait in front of the door because they hadn’t opened it. At that moment, a group of demonstrators began to surround me, to yell at me, to call other demonstrators to harass me and someone grabbed me by the waist. At that moment, I defended myself to be let go of. Immediately, the whole group began to attack me, they spat on me,” Rivera Guerra said.
“I had been threatened with death, my life was at stake. I acted in self-defense. Obviously, in the face of that situation, I had to defend myself,” he added.
More than 10 labor unions convened outside the Capitol early Thursday morning to protest House Bill 938, which seeks to reduce public workers’ fringe benefits, such as vacation and medical leaves and employer contribution to the public health care plan. The unions also oppose the Fiscal Oversight & Management Board, which threatens to reduce workdays and eliminate the Christmas bonus for the public sector.
This bill would allocate $400 million in savings and cuts to the government in order to comply with Gov. Ricardo Rosselló‘s fiscal plan; $131 million of these would only be per concept of reducing employer contribution to the health care plan, issue that might be amended in the House of Representatives.