Press and Communications Office
Director: Rafael Santiago Medina
Independent Union of Telephone Employees
Tel:  730-333 / Fax:  730-0300
Sam Juan, Puerto Rico, September 11, 1997, 12:00 noon - The long awaited national strike against the privatization and sale of the telephone company of Puerto Rico will take place on October 1, as the Broad Committee of Trade Union, Civic, Religious and Cultural Organizations made public today at a press conference.
This national strike, which could be the first of other future possible general strikes if the government does not desist from its policy of privatization, will last for 24 hours and will include a national mobilization that Wednesday leading to a large rally of the people on the north side of the Capitol in San Juan, according to the above.
Eleven regional councils throughout the whole Island made up of different sectors of the so-called live forces of the country and of the citizenry will be responsible for the campaign in favor of the national strike and the mobilization for the rally of the people that day on the north side of the Capitol.
Alfonso Benitez Rosa, spokesperson for the Broad Committee that is organizing the national strike, who is also chairperson of the Independent Union of Telephone Employees (UIET), declared that this decision to carry out a national strike arose in response to "the insensitivity and stubbornness demonstrated by this government in ignoring the will of the people of Puerto Rico with respect to the privatization and sale of the telephone company."
"This government does not have a mandate from the people to break and violate the historic promise to make essential services available to all the citizens by means of the agencies, instrumentalities and public corporations created for such purposes. Now it turns out that the much boasted campaign slogan "it is possible" is no longer valid for the Governor and that he is adopting an anti-Puerto Rican policy that what we have so successfully constructed with the effort and sweat of Puerto Rican hands does not have potentialities for the future and has to be turned over to foreign hands, because these are more capable than ours," declared the trade union leader.
He said that the country must not be put up for sale nor should the undelegable responsibility be refused of guaranteeing the welfare of our people, nor should one delegate to the forces of the market the responsibility that these essential services be placed within the reach of all, which makes a good government.
He admitted that even if it is true that the public services suffer from certain deficiencies, privatization should not be the solution, because when - according to him - one privatizes an essential service, what happens is what has historically happened in the market place: there will be good services for those who are able to pay, but every one else will receive poorer services, or worse yet, none at all.
Rather than having to begin a policy of dismantling public services, it would be more sensible, logical and prudent - in his view - to improve and depoliticize the agencies, instrumentalities and public corporations so that these can provide more and better services. "We must remove from the public service system the heads of agencies and the directors of public corporations who, rather than being public servants committed to the welfare of this people, are rather hacks of the party in power. It is time to establish clear boundaries between the Government and the party. Closing schools and hospitals and depriving the people of an important part of our national heritage such as the telephone company of Puerto Rico, which has shown itself to be a highly profitable public asset, with a great future and which is making important and irreplaceable economic contributions to education and to the municipalities of this country, does not make for good government nor does it guarantee a future of well-being for the Puerto Ricans," warned Benitez Rosa.
The workers' leader made a call to the people of Puerto Rico to unite their wills on the day of the national strike in favor of the right to have access to some basic services which should be the fruit of an undelegable responsibility of the Government and should not be subject to the cold laws of the market place, to shout with one voice: "Puerto Rico is not for sale. No to privatization."
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