Puerto Rico’s May Day Protests Reveal an Economy Still on the Verge of Collapse

May 1st protests in Puerto Rico have become a symbol of economic instability. The island has faced economic stagnation for almost two decades and the austerity measures imposed by the unelected Fiscal Oversight Board have worsened conditions. The board, which was set up seven years ago by Congress, is shaving off public pensions and other benefits, while frequent power outages, foreign investors buying properties and evicting locals, and island development projects have added to the problem.

Many individuals have joined the May 1st protests for different reasons. Luz Elena Sánchez, a former counselor at the University of Puerto Rico, is protesting against significant budget cuts that her university is facing. Natalia Anaya Luna, an artist and translator, is protesting against foreign investors buying properties in Puerto Rico and evicting locals. She says that the island has become a vacation and retirement place for white, wealthy Americans, while the cost of living for locals is rising.

Milton Santiago Rodriguez, a retired high school Spanish teacher, is protesting against his meager pension. His monthly pension of $1,228, or about $14,700 a year, is not enough to cover his expenses. Cynthia Rivera Sanchez and Adrian Maldonado Rodriguez, students at the University of Puerto Rico, are protesting against budget cuts that limit the number of professors and courses available at the university. As tuition fees rise, they have to juggle classes and paid work outside of school.

Marta Rodriguez Garcia, a psychiatrist with $200,000 in student loans, understands why doctors in Puerto Rico leave the island to work where they can make more money. She and Hiram Rodriguez Torres, an internist, are protesting against insurance company policies that negatively impact patient care. Dr. Rodriguez Garcia wants to continue practicing on the island and provide psychiatric services without going through an insurance company. She wants patients to donate as much as they can, depending on their situation.

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