[News] Protests Against 'Colonial' PROMESA Debt Plan Rock Puerto Rico

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Sep 2 13:35:48 EDT 2016


  Protests Against 'Colonial' PROMESA Debt Plan Rock Puerto Rico

September 1, 2016

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in San Juan Wednesday to 
block the first scheduled conference on the installation of a financial 
control board 
remedy Puerto Rico’s crippling debt crisis 
but slammed by critics as an anti-democratic, neo-colonial policy that 
will redistribute wealth from the island nation to Wall Street.

Demonstrators formed protests lines and blocked roads with rocks and 
bricks to disrupt the conference at San Juan’s Condado Plaza Hilton. 
They carried signs and shouted slogans against the federal control 
board, whose authority will supercede that of Puerto Rico’s 
democratically-elected governor, effectively handing budgetary 
decision-making over to unelected appointees, many of them bankers 

The U.S. law creating the control board, known by its acronym PROMESA, 
grants the oversight panel the power to cut pensions, labor contracts 
with civil servants, and social services, to restructure its US$73 
billion debt load.

Despite lines of riot police and occasional use of pepper spray, the 
protests managed to block conference-goers on their way to the venue and 
forced organizers to re-arrange the meeting agenda, local media reported.

“The power of the people and their determination to have control of 
their own destiny was so apparent,” Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi, a member of 
Defend Puerto Rico, told Remezcla Wednesday.

Meanwhile, just hours after demonstrators gathered early Wednesday 
morning for the day of action bringing together various organizations, 
President Obama announced his appointments 
to the seven-member, Republican-dominated federal control board. The 
group of experts, six men and one woman, includes Andrew Biggs, 
described by The Intercept as an “architect of conservative efforts to 
cut and privatize social security.”

In a statement Wednesday, U.S. member of Congress Luis Gutierrez, who 
has been a staunch critic of PROMESA, warned against the potential of 
the control board becoming an “occupying force,” calling on members to 
commit to transparency. “Last I checked, Puerto Rico is a colony, but 
still a democracy of U.S. citizens who deserve respect and the trust of 
this appointed body,” Gutierrez wrote.

PROMESA, the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability 
Act in full, was rushed through U.S. Congress—where Puerto Rico doesn’t 
have a vote—in late June, ahead of the island’s July 1 debt payment 
default. Passed with bipartisan support, the act was heralded as a plan 
to rescue Puerto Rico. But critics have harshly condemned the PROMESA 
control board as a pretext to ramp up colonization 
and undercut labor rights and slash public services.

Protests have been ongoing on the island. Earlier this week, 
anti-PROMESA demonstrators attempted to shut down the local newspaper El 
Nuevo Dia, accusing the outlet of promoting the control board with a 
pro-U.S. editorial line. A group of protesters have also maintained an 
occupation outside the U.S. federal court 
in San Juan’s Hato Rey area, launched at the end of June as a long-term 
encampment against the so-called “junta.”

PROMESA has already brought changes to Puerto Rico, including slashing 
the minimum wage to just US$4.25 for people under 25 amid high levels of 
poverty and unemployment. Funding for pensions, education, and health 
care is also facing cuts, while basic services are at risk of 

Puerto Rico’s legal status and colonial relationship with the U.S. 
have crippled its ability to tackle its debt crisis. As a U.S. 
territory, the island is barred from declaring bankruptcy, an option 
only available to municipalities in U.S. states through the bankruptcy 
code. This legal conundrum has meant that it is very difficult for 
Puerto Rico to restructure its US$73 billion debt.

While Puerto Rico faces austerity and a financial control scheme reviled 
as colonial, bondholders are poised to reap massive profits. A recent 
report by the ReFund America Project found that nearly half of Puerto 
Rico's debt load is interest on loans underwritten by a slew of Wall 
Street firms through what the researchers of the report compared to a 
payday lending scheme.

In San Juan, demonstrators have pledged to continue protesting PROMESA.

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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