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Puerto Rico rises up against the privatization of its beaches

San Juan, Nov 22 (EFE).- Tamboradas, caceroladas and camping, this is how Puerto Ricans protest against the continuous privatization of public spaces, especially the beaches, despite the fact that the law dictates free access to these so-called areas Island of the charm. The movement “The beaches belong to the people” has been fighting for years against this phenomenon due to the construction of hotels and private farms in these areas and the charging in some for access. “The Government of Puerto Rico, administration after administration, has dismantled and taken away funds, budgets, resources from our guards and from many natural resource areas so that they systematically do not work,” Lauce Colón, an activist in defense of the areas, laments to EFE. in the public domain. Columbus is focused in particular on the defense of the Cueva del Indio, in the northern municipality of Arecibo, an enclave noted for its archaeological value from the time of the Taino Indians, and one of the examples of privatization taking place in Puerto rich in recent years. FENCED ACCESSES “In 2016, the businessman José González acquired three neighboring farms and placed fences closing the accesses to the archaeological site and to the one designated a Marine Reserve since 2005 and, since 1992, the Cueva del Indio Natural Reserve,” denounces the activist Alegna Malavé after carrying out a protest camp. At 51 years old, Malavé explains that when citizens try to access the place, Carlos Mena, the administrator of the site, directly rebukes the activists “with firearms, assuring that this is private property” and charges 10 dollars for parking the vehicle. In return, González tells EFE that Cueva del Indio can be accessed from the beach and it is not necessary to open an easement through his private property. He also describes the activists as “vandals” and asks the Government to provide security. In mid-November, for the first time Cueva del Indio was labeled by a community organization to remind that it is designated as a Natural and Marine Reserve by the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources and registered as an archaeological site by the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture. DEFENSE OF ECOSYSTEMS Puerto Rico also calls for the defense of ecosystems in which endangered species live that are affected by this type of construction. An example is the timglar, an animal included in the list of endangered species since 1970, which is highly migratory, as it descends from Canada to tropical areas such as Puerto Rico to reproduce. “An ecosystem that includes seawater and living beings, turtles, all of this has suffered enormous damage. We, who have been swimming in the Escambrón for many years, have seen the deterioration,” Gradissa Fernández told EFE. . The 50-year-old activist is part of Escambrón Unido, a movement that is trying to prevent the construction of a parking lot for 500 vehicles in this park next to the beach in San Juan. “We are terrified of what this is going to mean for contamination, and for the privatization of the park,” denounced Fernández, during a recent demonstration in front of the San Juan mayor’s office. COURT VICTORY AND SUPPORT OF BAD BUNNY In mid-February, beach advocates won a victory when a judge annulled the license for a beachfront construction in the western municipality of Rincón. The Supreme Court of Puerto Rico ordered the Sol y Playa condominium in Rincón to demolish and restore the area where they were building without proper permits on Los Almendros beach, where activists had called numerous demonstrations. In addition to this triumph, the activists have received the endorsement of the Puerto Rican artist Bad Bunny, who has mentioned the problems of the island, such as power outages, the privatization of beaches, displacement and the gentrification of poor communities in his concerts. “I don’t want to leave here, I don’t want to leave here, let them go, let them go”, are the lyrics of the song “El Apagón”, published this year, which denounces that large funds and investors are acquiring public spaces and real estate in Puerto Rico and displacing the local population. “It is in the hands of the people to rise up, to become aware that if we do not rise up in struggle, these people pass these projects under the table,” Fernández sentenced. Esther Alaejos (c) EFE Agency

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