A U.S. House committee has just approved the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act last Wednesday. The legislation gives control of the country's financial institutions to a board whose members are appointed by the U.S. government.
|Activists and journalists warn that the bill would constitute a "colonial-style takeover" of Puerto Rico by the U.S. amid the country's crippling debt crisis. Journalist Juan Gonzalez explained: “The bill has provoked a furor among many island residents because it imposes a seven-member oversight board with dictatorial powers that harken back to colonial days.”|
In 1914, the Puerto Rican House of Delegates voted unanimously in favor of independence from the United States, but this was rejected by the U.S. Congress as "unconstitutional," and in violation of the 1900 Foraker Act.
“It is unacceptable to me for the United States government to treat Puerto Rico like a colony during a time when its people are facing the worst fiscal and economic crisis in its history. In my view, the people of Puerto Rico must be empowered to determine their own destiny. When you establish a federal control board that says these unelected officials have the power to make major, major decisions impacting millions of people and they are accountable to nobody … that’s wrong.”
In the midst of this massive human crisis, it is morally unacceptable that billionaire hedge-fund managers have been calling for even more austerity in Puerto Rico. Austerity will not solve this crisis. As we all know from throughout the world, austerity will cause more suffering for working people and make the rich richer. We must vigorously oppose all efforts at austerity.It is unacceptable to me that vulture funds on Wall Street are demanding that Puerto Rico fire teachers, close schools, cut pensions and abolish the minimum wage so that they can reap huge profits off the suffering and the misery of the children and the people of Puerto Rico. We cannot allow that to happen. We will not allow that to happen.”The House will vote on the bill in June.
“While I have serious concerns about several provisions in this bill, including the creation of an oversight board that would exert substantial control over Puerto Rico, I believe that we must move forward with this legislation,Otherwise, without any means of addressing this crisis, too many Puerto Ricans will continue to suffer. As this bill moves forward, I will work to ensure that concerns about the oversight board are addressed and any such entity includes members that will act in the best interest of Puerto Ricans — protecting their health, their pensions and their well-being.We can no longer sit idly by while hedge funds seek to maximize their profits at the island's expense.".Sanders wants Congress to allow Puerto Rico to declare bankruptcy on its debt. The reworked version of the bill has the backing of the White House, Republican Speaker Paul Ryan, Democratic House Minority leader Nacy Pelosi, and progressive and conservative wings of both parties.