[Editor's Note: This is a repost from Pa'lante Latino and was written by Christina T. Saenz]
The world is watching as the Egyptian people reclaim their government. They are demanding for the president to step down after 30 years of being in power and citing his regime as antithesis to democracy.
However, just two hours by plane from Miami is Rio Piedras — a university town suburb of San Juan and the epicenter of the University of Puerto Rico student protests. Over the last year, University of Puerto Rico students have been organizing sit-ins to protest burdensome university fees. As I read and watch the media, I am struck by the similarities of the protests between Puerto Rico and Egypt, even if the aims and the scales of the protests are very different.
In both Egypt and Puerto Rico, the youth are leading the protests. The young leaders of Egypt are unable to create financial security for themselves despite being middle class and educated. According to The Economist, 25% of Egyptian youth are unemployed. In Puerto Rico, unemployment for the general population hovers around 20% and the young tend to have higher unemployment rates than the general population.
With such high unemployment rates and deep recessions in both places, young citizens are unable to secure a financial footing for themselves. The Egyptian revolts are aimed at throwing out a dictator whose policies hampered economic viability for youth and general society. In Puerto Rico, the students wanted to stop fees that could price the poorest out of college, and possibly strap current students into further student debt upon completion of college. In both places, the youth are unable to see a better future for themselves unless they put a stop to the fiscal trajectories imposed upon them.
Since protests in both places are youth-led, online technology is playing a pivotal role in inciting and organizing the rallies. In both places, demonstrators used Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social media not only to organize protest meetings, but to generate publicity and sympathy for their causes. Both Egyptian and Puerto Rican demonstrators have harnessed social media to expose the violent hands of their respective governments. In Egypt, civilians tweeted pictures and impromptu videos of soldiers beating civilian demonstrators. A multitude of YouTube videos show civilians who are setting up medical clinics to service bloody protestors. In Puerto Rico, images of youth being pushed by police gas shields emerged from Twitter and Facebook. The youth of both places are transmitting narratives of government suppression to whoever will listen in the global media.
From Egypt to Puerto Rico, we are seeing an energized, highly technologized, and networked youth who are anxious for their futures and upset at their current socioeconomic climates. Democratic strategist James Carville has once said in relation to Bush’s economic policies: “This is not class warfare, this is generational warfare. This administration and old wealthy people have declared war on young people. That is the real war that is going on here. And that is the war we’ve got to talk about.”
The youth in Egypt and Puerto Rico are no longer standing back and letting their elders determine their futures.
[Photo By Nick Bygon]