Counter-insurgency goes to university: The militarisation of policing in the Puerto Rico student strikes

José Atiles-Osoria, David Whyte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article presents a case study of the recent student strike at the University of Puerto Rico (held between 2010 and 2011) and the militarisation of the campus that followed. The strike has been a significant site of resistance to the imposition of neo-liberal structural adjustment in Puerto Rico (PR). The response to the strike by the Government of Puerto Rico and the university administration has been characterised by a range of highly repressive techniques of state violence, delivered under the guise of 'counter-insurgency'. In other words, the 'war on terror' has been brought to the campus. Rather than this presenting an isolated case, more generally, counter-insurgency doctrine and practice has been central to the defence of neo-liberal structural adjustment in PR. There is an enduring tendency in counter-insurgency and counterterrorism strategies to depoliticise conflicts and deal with them in highly technicist/managerial terms. Yet, rather than representing a depoliticised struggle, the student strike has its origins in a deeply contested politics, and its outcome will shape the politics of future colonial-neo-liberal conflicts in PR.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)393-404
Number of pages12
JournalCritical Studies on Terrorism
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Counter-insurgency
  • Counterterrorism
  • Depoliticisation
  • Neo-liberalism
  • Puerto Rico
  • State terrorism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations


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