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Protests in Puerto Rico:
Free Pedro Colón

By Héctor Reyes | March 1, 2002 | Page 12

HUNDREDS OF students paralyzed two campuses of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) February 21 in a walkout to show solidarity with student Pedro Colón Almenas.

Colón Almenas was scheduled to be sentenced the next day in federal court--for the "crime" of protesting militarism on campus and supporting the people of Vieques in their fight against the U.S. Navy's target practice.

He was convicted for supposedly attacking a Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) major at UPR's San Juan campus during a demonstration last spring. Yet even administrators admit that Pedro is innocent.

His role in the incident was as a mediator between protesters and ROTC members during a fistfight--which was his official duty as student safety coordinator for the campus.

Pedro faced up to five years in prison for the conviction. He was given a one-year jail sentence and three years of probation, against the wishes of right-wing students who demanded the maximum.

But Pedro's supporters aren't satisfied. On the day of the sentencing, about 100 students and other supporters protested in front of the Federal Building.

One day earlier, the UPR faculty passed a resolution supporting Pedro and insisting that he not spend "even a single day in jail." Some faculty members and university workers joined students at the university gates during the strike.

"The sentence is political, and therefore the strike is political," said student Hugo Delgado. "Everyone sympathizes with him and knows that the real aggressors here are those from ROTC."

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