Things are getting pretty hot down in Puerto Rico. Late last month a union worker threw an egg at the Commonwealth’s Governor Luis G. Fortuño. The egg incident was in response to massive government layoffs. According to union leaders, many state services will suffer from the reported 17,000 layoffs scheduled for November. Union groups are threatening a large-scale one-day strikeout, tensions are running high, and everyone is watching how Gov. Fortuño handles the pressure.
Gov. Fortuño was sworn into office on January 2, 2009, at a ceremony attended by five of the US territory’s six living governors, the president of the Dominican Republic, Leonel Fernandez, and superstar Latino couple Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony.
Fortuño holds the distinction of being the first Republican to be elected Governor of Puerto Rico since 1969, and the second Republican governor since 1949. He is also the second US Republican Representative elected from Puerto Rico in the island territory’s history.
Last month a group of about 30 demonstrators struggled with police in riot gear outside Gov. Fortuño’s residence in protest of the additional layoffs the governor says are needed to cut into a $3.2 billion deficit. Fortuño and other top officials, including Police Superintendent Jose Figueroa Sancha, called for calm.
“We are at a tense moment in Puerto Rico. Journalists, the police, the union leaders, we all have to cool down,” Figueroa said during a radio interview.
Activists charge that the conservative governor is using the layoffs as a step towards privatizing government services. Gov. Fortuño says he has to make tough decisions in order to save Puerto Rico’s economy.
“This is the time to act,” Fortuño said in a recent speech where he emphasized that although “the government might be in bankruptcy, Puerto Rico is not because it can emerge strengthened from the crisis.”
We will see.