Archive | Puerto Rico

From Monroe to Trump. US Sponsored Military Coups in Latin America

By Global Research New

Video: Syrian Armed Forces Teach ‘2nd Strongest NATO Army’ Painful Lesson in Idlib

By South Front,

Units of the Russian Military Police entered the town of Saraqib in eastern Idlib following the second liberation of the town from al-Qaeda terrorists and Turkish forces. According to the Russian military, the deployment took place at 5:00pm local time on March 2 and was intended to provide security and allow traffic through the M4 and M5 highways. In fact, the Russians came to put an end to Turkish attempts to capture the town and cut off the M5 highway in this area.

From Monroe to Trump. US Sponsored Military Coups in Latin America

By Elson Concepción Pérez,

The latest threat to Venezuela of a possible military intervention, the recent coup in Bolivia under the auspices of the Organization of American States (OAS), the tightening of the blockade of Cuba, destabilization in Nicaragua, and open interference in the internal affairs of countries in the region, where democratic governments have set the standards for development and sovereignty, do not come as a surprise.

The US-Taliban ‘Peace Deal’? Imperial State Criminality and Terrorism, Dr. Aafia Siddiqui and “Restorative Justice”

By Junaid S. Ahmad,

The US/NATO war and occupation of Afghanistan offers a glaring case of what US Senator Fulbright (yes, the one who started the Fulbright program of scholarships and exchanges) called the ‘arrogance of power’ (of his country), his book being of the same title. The wealthiest and most powerful nation in the history of the world, with a war machine on steroids, invading and occupying for nearly two decades one of the poorest countries on the planet – and one which had already undergone two decades of uninterrupted internecine war in the prior two decades.

Keep It Simple and Question: Propaganda, Technology, and Coronavirus COVID-19

By Edward Curtin,

Two of the major problems the world faces – world destruction with nuclear weapons and the poisoning of the earth’s ecology and atmosphere – are the result of the marriage of science and technique that has given birth to the technological “babies” (Little Boy and Fat Man) that were used by the U.S. to massacre hundreds of thousands of Japanese and now threaten to incinerate everyone, and the chemical and toxic inventions that have despoiled the earth, air, and water and continue to kill people worldwide through America’s endless war-making and industrial applications.

Turkey in Syria: Down a Blind Alley in an Unwinnable War?

By Tony Cartalucci,

Turkey had been making some promising steps in the right direction since Washington’s disastrous proxy regime-change war in Syria began unraveling – yet it still maintains a problematic position inside Syrian territory, backing what are unequivocally terrorists and obstructing Syria’s sovereign right to recover and restore order within its own borders.

The latest and most dangerous manifestation of this untenable policy is the increasingly frequent and fierce clashes between Turkish forces occupying Syrian territory and Syrian forces themselves moving deeper into the northern Syrian governorate of Idlib.

Neoliberal Globalization Is Pushing Humanity “Towards the Edge”

By Shane Quinn,

There have been a number of harmful consequences as a result of the neoliberal era, which emerged in the late 1970s, taking off during the tenures of Ronald Reagan (US president, 1981-1989) and Margaret Thatcher (British prime minister, 1979-1990). There has been an explosion of private power, splintering of societies, destabilization of the financial system, and so on.

Neoliberal globalization has been an important factor too in political parties shifting further to the right, and succumbing to the power of increasingly dominant multinational corporations. This is most notable in America where the Republican Party (or organization) has moved so far off the spectrum that traditional republicans from previous decades would hardly recognize it today.

Why Are Stocks Crashing?

By Mike Whitney,

Uncertainty. It’s impossible for investors to gauge the economic impact of the rapidly-spreading coronavirus or its effect on stock prices. Investors buy stocks with the expectation that their investment will grow over time. In periods of crisis, when the environment becomes unfamiliar and opaque, expectations are crushed under the weigh of uncertainty. When expectations dampen, investors sell.

Posted in USA, Brazil, CUBA, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Peru, Puerto Rico, South America, VenezuelaComments Off on From Monroe to Trump. US Sponsored Military Coups in Latin America

The Puerto Rico Crisis: A Reflection of a Flawed US Democracy

The recent resignation of Governor Rosselló should be understood within the larger framework of a flawed US democratic state that continues its economic stranglehold over Puerto Rico.

by: Carlos Figueroa

San Juan, Puerto Rico/USA in July 2019 (Photo: © Osvaldo Olmos / Shutterstock)

On August 2, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló of the New Progressive Party (NPP) — nominally affiliated with the Democrats, although once linked to the Republicans under Governor Luis Ferré Aguayo — finally resigned. The decision came after weeks of mass protests over the island’s fiscal instability, alleged political corruption and most recent scandalous chats on the Telegram messaging app.

His resignation will go down as one of the most important in Puerto Rico’s political history because it signified a victory for the island’s varied and creative activist community. Even some Puerto Rican celebrities, including singer-songwriter Ricky Martin and actor Benicio Del Toro, joined the mass protests against Rosselló and his administration.

Yet Puerto Rico’s problems are closely aligned to its colonial relationship with a supposed US democratic state. In 1950-52, the US established the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico/Free Associated State of Puerto Rico. Since this political-constitutional arrangement, many US citizens in Puerto Rico expected to fare much better than its Caribbean neighbors that would later experience their own postcolonial and political-economic transitions. These expectations for a thriving social, political and economic life were based on Puerto Rico’s relative autonomy under an expansive US federalconstitutional system or what others may call American imperialism that dates back to 1898.

Puerto Rico was supposed to thrive under the protection of the US Constitution and its underlying liberal democratic ethos. However, the reality has been that Puerto Rico’s autonomy is more than ever before inextricably captured by the colonial tentacles of a US democratic system recently deemed dysfunctional or flawed.

In other words, Puerto Rico’s social and political problems are rooted in the territorial government’s dependency on the economic policies of the US federal government. These economic ties between the US and Puerto Rico are reflected in the more recent corrupt politics on the island and the befallen Governor Rosselló, as well as the subsequent politics of succession to power that followed his resignation.

Dependent Puerto Rico Under a Flawed US Democracy

Most people forget, or perhaps do not know, that Puerto Rico is not an independent country but rather an unincorporated territory under the plenary power of the US Congress. This fact alone should place doubts on the minds of those who maintain the position that the US is a democratic state. Nevertheless, all the major news outlets, some online sites, and even elected officials and well-intentioned political and social activists often treat Puerto Rico as a sovereign entity that is solely to blame for its social, political and economic problems.

There may be some truth to this claim, considering the recent revelations made public by the leaked Telegram chats surrounding Rosselló’s regime.  Still, as an unincorporated territory, and although considered “autonomous,” Puerto Rico is under the absolute sovereign control of the US federal government for its financial and economic viability, which directly affects its political and social life.

Most recently, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), in its annual review of countries adhering to democratic values around the world, found US democracy to be flawed even without considering its vast overseas territorial possessions. The review shows that most Americans — this author would include those US citizens in Puerto Rico — have lost “confidence in the functioning of public institutions.” Mistrust in US political institutions extends to not only Congress and President Donald Trump, but also to the federal agencies responsible for post-hurricane recovery efforts.

For example, between mid-September and early October 2017, the category 4 Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, which at that time was recovering from Hurricane Irma. As this author previously argued, the policy response of the Trump administration after Maria hit was wrongheaded, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) efforts were ineffective at the time. Yet these two major storms revealed much about the disorganized and corrupt nature of Puerto Rican politics, alongside the flawed US federal system as both inappropriately dealt with these national disasters.

Post-Hurricane Maria and the Politics of Blame

Post-Hurricane Maria brought out the best and the worst in the US and Puerto Rico. The politics of blame took center stage, especially on Twitter. US President Donald Trump stated that Governor Rosselló’s administration was solely to blame for the lack of leadership in mismanaging, quite ineptly, the so-called humanitarian aid provided by both FEMA and, later, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), among others after both Hurricanes Irma and Maria. More recently, Trump tweeted that “Congress foolishly gave 92 Billion Dollars for hurricane relief, much of which was squandered away or wasted, never to be seen again … much of their leadership is corrupt, & robbing the U.S. Government blind!” 

Rosselló, in turn, claimed the federal government under Trump failed to uphold its constitutional and ethical responsibilities to US citizens in Puerto Rico. The governor expected the US government to allocate comparable resources similar to what it had already provided Texas and Florida after their own hurricane disasters, and not allow for questionable contracts to be handed out to inexperienced construction companies.

Both Trump and Rosselló were, nevertheless, complicit for allowing thousands of fellow US citizens in Puerto Rico to perish — as this author has previously stated — amid social scandals, political corruption and overall incompetence. This public blaming between two equally ineffective political administrations shows the deep-rooted colonial ties between Puerto Rico and the supposed US democratic government.

The US Jones Act of 1920

Another example of a flawed U.S. democracy is the enduring Jones Act (or Merchant Marine Act) of 1920. This is a federal law regulating maritime commerce in the US, including its non-contiguous and unincorporated territories such as Puerto Rico. This measure says that any goods shipped between US ports are supposed to be transported by US-built, owned and operated ships. Although President Trump temporarily waived these requirements several weeks after Hurricane Maria for supposed short-term relief, retaining and reapplying this law to the island’s ports places long-term burdens on Puerto Rico’s economy.

Even the conservative Cato Institute recognizes the antiquated and undemocratic nature of the Jones Act and its negative impact upon Puerto Rico’s economy:

“Puerto Rico’s recovery in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria has reinvigorated debate about a relatively unknown law that has hampered its recovery efforts and bogged down its economy. Since 1920, maritime commerce between Puerto Rico and the rest of the United States has been governed by the Jones Act, a law that mandates that vessels transporting goods domestically be U.S.-crewed, U.S.-flagged, U.S.-owned, and U.S.-built. While defenders of the law have argued that the Jones Act provides reliable shipping services from the mainland to Puerto Rico, critics have pointed out that such restrictions significantly raise the cost of domestic imports, placing an added burden on the already economically struggling island.” 

This law fundamentally serves as a stranglehold over Puerto Rico’s economy in the long- and short-runs, leading to other undemocratic alternative approaches for dealing with present and future financial instabilities on the island. As Nelson A. Denis recently reported, two “University of Puerto Rico economists found that the Jones Act caused a $17 billion loss to the island’s economy from 1990 through 2010. Other studies have estimated the Jones Act’s damage to Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Alaska to be $2.8 billion to $9.8 billion per year.”

Congress Controls Puerto Rico’s Debt Crisis

In 2016, then-US President Barack Obama signed into law the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), a measure responsible for “restructuring [the island’s] debt, and [expediting] procedures for approving critical infrastructure projects” in Puerto Rico. Ironically, or perhaps euphemistically, the word promesa in Spanish means promise. In this case, the US federal government expected Puerto Rico to keep its promise of paying “back” its loans on time and with interest. Unfortunately, Rosselló’s government defaulted on about $2 million, exacerbating further the spiraling fiscal instability of the island.

Prior to these climate change-induced hurricane disasters, Puerto Rico had been in the midst of a long-time financial crisis (see the “Krueger Report” that pre-dates Rosselló’s regime). This led the much-maligned Governor Rosselló to announce the privatizationof the Commonwealth-owned Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), which is one of the largest public power suppliers in the US.

However, the federal Fiscal Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico established by PROMESA devised its own fiscal plan to deal with the crisis. The board’s plan was vehemently opposed by the governor because it recommended “steep cuts in government spending and pensions.” This has been a long-running dispute between the US territorial government and the US-controlled Fiscal Board.  For instance, Rosselló, in May 2017, filed for what amounts to federal bankruptcy protection in order to “restructure about $120 billion of debt and pension obligations,” despite opposition within and outside his own party.

In April 2018, the Professors Self-Assembled in Solidarity Resistance (PAReS) group put out a clear statement against these types of top-down plans to dealing with the fiscal crisis impacting the island’s political and social life. The statement read: “[The] Financial Oversight and Management Board, an unelected body pushing for the privatization of electricity and schools, increased costs of basic services, massive cuts in public education, pensions, vacation time, and other rights — all in order to pay bondholders a $73 billion debt that was patently unpayable, illegal and illegitimate. The net result was to leave the majority of people in Puerto Rico without a hopeful future, and that was all before Hurricane Maria hit our shores.”

There were other related protests after Hurricanes Irma and Maria, as well as debt crisis management struggles that have been ignored by the US mainstream media. For instance, the Puerto Rico Teachers Union had been fighting against the closure of hundreds of public schools and the privatization of education for years.

Governor Rosselló’s Telegram Chats

What turned the tide, where the beleaguered governor was forced to step down, was the leaked offensive Telegram chats that were made public by the Centro de Periodismo Investigativo (CPI) in Puerto Rico, an organization that should be recognized more often for its superb, independent, investigative reporting. CPI revealed almost 900 pages of vulgar email exchanges between high-ranking NPP members, including Rosselló himself showing misogynistic, homophobic and immoral statements about political opponents, the Puerto Rican LGBTQ+ community, and victims of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

The mostly, if not exclusively, male-dominated Telegram chats also reveal how out of touch Rosselló’s administration and the larger NPP have been with the various social and political movements, such as the anti-harassment #MeToo collective. Rosselló’s actions are similar to the kinds of insalubrious and hateful mocking President Trumphas engaged in for years over social media.

As Rosselló stepped down in defeat, he appointed Pedro Pierliusi as secretary of state and thus next in line for the governorship. Pierliusi previously served as Puerto Rico’s non-voting resident commissioner in the US Congress, among other positions for the NPP. His eventual swearing-in as the new governor also came under fire because of his potential conflicts of interest. He is currently employed with the law firm O’Neill & Borges (San Juan), which represents the Fiscal Oversight and Management Board.

Pierliusi’s appointment was immediately challenged by the Puerto Rico Senate. At the forefront was Rosselló’s rival, Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz — acting president of the NPP and long-time party operative dating back to Governor Pedro Rosselló Gonzalez, Ricardo’s father — although the House had approved the governor’s decision. Rivera Schatz, who in the past expressed interest in the governorship, asked the Puerto Rico Supreme Court to intercede in this constitutional crisis, which it did, overturning the appointment on August 7 with a unanimous 9-0 vote. The Supreme Court declared the swearing-in of Pierluisi unconstitutional since he had not been confirmed by both chambers of the Puerto Rico legislature, as required by the island’s constitution.

Subsequently, Puerto Rico Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez — also of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party — was sworn in on August 7 as a replacement for both Rosselló and Pierluisi. She has become only the second woman to serve as governor in the island’s history.

Yet Vázquez is sitting under a cloud of suspicion as well because of her clashes with various feminist groups over women’s rights, her own history of alleged corrupt activities, numerous fund mismanagements post-Hurricane Maria and her long-term strained relationship with Rivera Schatz. These rapid transitions are a consequence of the century-long colonial relationship between a supposed US democratic state and its pseudo-autonomous territory where the US Congress maintains economic sovereignty, leading to a never-ending cycle of corruption and political instability in Puerto Rico.

To be clear: This author is not suggesting that Rosselló and his ilk are not corrupt and incompetent, something they have repeatedly demonstrated over several years. Rather, that the larger and structural problems (especially the political and social ones) in Puerto Rico stem from the problematic constitutional arrangement and deep-rooted economic dependency the island has with the US despite its increased autonomy since 1952.

The Stranglehold Over Puerto Rico Must End

There are at least two reasons Puerto Rico’s political problems persist. First, the so-called PROMESA Act of 2016, the anti-democratic austerity measure signed by Democratic President Barack Obama to oversee Puerto Rico’s debt crisis, basically dictates what the US territorial government can and cannot do. Second, the 2017 post-Hurricane Maria devastation and lack-luster recovery efforts under Republican President Donald Trump and the equally complicit Governor Rosselló eventually resulted in at least 2,950 casualties, as per a George Washington University study, or more according to other reports.

Thus, the recent resignation of Governor Rosselló based on his corrupt and degenerate behavior — as exposed by the leaked Telegram chats — should be understood within the larger framework of a flawed US democratic state that continues its economic stranglehold over Puerto Rico. This dual dependency must end for the sake of ever achieving any kind of real democratic future in either Puerto Rico or the US.

Posted in USA, Puerto RicoComments Off on The Puerto Rico Crisis: A Reflection of a Flawed US Democracy

Puerto Rico Religious Leaders Criticize Debt Plans and Negotiations

Jubilee USA

For Immediate Release

Organization Profile:
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202.783.3566 ex. 106

WASHINGTON – Puerto Rico’s Catholic Archbishop and an Evangelical leader who heads the island’s bible society criticized a debt agreement and ongoing debt negotiations. “We are strongly opposed to the COFINA debt deal,” wrote the religious leaders in a statement referencing a recently approved plan on a type of debt backed by sales taxes. The plan was approved by Puerto Rico’s government and oversight board and covers about $17 billion of the total $72 billion debt of the US Territory. A year ago, Puerto Rico was decimated by two hurricanes.

“Before the hurricanes, we wrestled with the fact that nearly 60% of our children lived in poverty. After the hurricanes great suffering persists across Puerto Rico. Yet, now we see debt deals that are worse than what was proposed before the hurricanes,” wrote Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez and Puerto Rico Bible Society General Secretary, Reverend Heriberto Martinez. “If the government of Puerto Rico and the oversight board cannot reach debt deals with a high enough debt cut to put Puerto Rico on a sustainable path for growth, they should immediately step aside and allow the bankruptcy process approved by Congress in 2016 to arbitrate this immoral debt burden that weighs upon our people, especially on our children.”

The leaders also took aim at negotiations around the General Obligation debt and expressed concern if a similar deal was reached, Puerto Rico would be restructuring their “debt in a few years time.” The leaders also raised concerns about a fiscal plan approved by the oversight board.

“The current fiscal plan and ongoing debt negotiations are not doing enough to address child poverty, limit austerity and promote sustainable economic growth,” stated Eric LeCompte, who advises the religious leaders and is the director of the religious development group Jubilee USA.



Posted in USA, Puerto RicoComments Off on Puerto Rico Religious Leaders Criticize Debt Plans and Negotiations

Puerto Rico One Year Later: We’re Fighting for Justice and Prosperity

NOVANEWS

It has been a year since the impact of Maria. Here in Puerto Rico, there are still families living in the dark, homes without a roof, people who haven’t been able to find a new job after their businesses were destroyed, and people mourning their lost loved ones. This is climate injustice in action.

Day before Hurricane Maria. Taken in Bayamón, Puerto Rico. ( Photo: Amira Odeh)

Day before Hurricane Maria. Taken in Bayamón, Puerto Rico. ( Photo: 

One year ago, I lived the scariest day of my life.

As the wind blew I could hear things falling and breaking outside. The walls of my (concrete-built) home were vibrating and water was coming in through every single window and door. At the moment I could only think of how to prepare for the worst and to be ready to seek refuge inside a closet or a bathroom.

It has been a year since the impact of Maria, and here in Puerto Rico, there are still families living in the dark, homes without a roof, people who haven’t been able to find a new job after their businesses were destroyed, and people mourning their lost loved ones.

On September 20, 2017, I was fighting to keep my home and family safe during those long 24 hours that we endured Hurricane Maria. I would have never imagined what the next year would look like.

It has been a year since the impact of Maria, and here in Puerto Rico, there are still families living in the dark, homes without a roof, people who haven’t been able to find a new job after their businesses were destroyed, and people mourning their lost loved ones.

Recovery has been extremely slow — and on other parts of the island, there has been barely any recovery at all. With our communities all but abandoned by the federal government, enduring the past year has done lasting harm to the physical and mental health of thousands of Puerto Ricans.

Some of us are hopeful about this just being a phase that we will soon get through, but many others lose more and more hope daily.

Day After Hurricane Maria. Taken in Bayamón, Puerto RicoDay After Hurricane Maria. Taken in Bayamón, Puerto Rico

What scares me the most is knowing that Hurricane Maria was just a glimpse of how climate change is affecting the Caribbean, and a warning of what’s to come.Larger and stronger hurricanes will continue to cause deaths, destroy property and displace people, separating families and slowly destroying our culture.

Climate disasters are also an opportunity for disaster capitalism to continue enforcing the colonization dynamics that are already occurring in Puerto Rico. And as if there were not enough issues already, neither the government of Puerto Rico nor the U.S federal government are taking any action to mitigate climate change or prepare for future disasters. This is due in part to a lack of funding and to no initiative whatsoever, in addition to the climate denialism, from the US federal government to protect its colonies — all of them vulnerable islands — from climate change effects.

What scares me the most is knowing that Hurricane Maria was just a glimpse of how climate change is affecting the Caribbean, and a warning of what’s to come.

For the more than 100 years that Puerto Rico has been a colony of the United States, the federal government has imposed unjust laws and systems of colonization that have helped create the island’s current debt crisis.  That debt crisis has been used to put in place policies that targeted worker and students’ rights and put their well being in the hands of an unelected Financial Oversight and Management Board known as “La Junta.”

With the local government under pressure to pay off its debts to the US, La Junta and the government continue to push brutal austerity measures — slashing funding for our schools, cutting workers’ benefits, and gutting dozens more public programs essential for our island’s recovery — instead of working for the people. And austerity has only gotten more punishing since the hurricane.

September 23, 2017. Bayamón, Puerto RicoSeptember 23, 2017. Bayamón, Puerto Rico

More areas from the public sector are up for sale, more laws are imposed that harm workers and benefit foreign investment, and more resources have been shifted to help the private sector instead of the people needing support most. All of these measures will continue to affect the quality of life of millions of Puerto Ricans if we find ourselves facing another hurricane in the coming years.

And as climate change makes hurricanes like Maria stronger and more frequent, I know that the next hurricane isn’t a question of if, but of when.

There is still a lot to be done in Puerto Rico — not only to recover from the hurricane, but also to free the country of the colonial systems that have long prevented people and our environment from thriving.

Destroyed Apartment Building. Bayamón, Puerto RicoDestroyed Apartment Building. Bayamón, Puerto Rico

A year after Maria, we still need to do the long, hard work of building a power grid that relies on renewable energy, making sure people have safe homes, reopening businesses, making safe food and water accessible and making adaptation and mitigation of climate change one of our local priorities.

It is urgent that the US takes real action for Puerto Rico, do its part to fix the problems that it has caused, and treat with equality the millions of people who pay taxes and live in one of the colonies that the US invaded.

It is urgent that the US takes real action for Puerto Rico, do its part to fix the problems that it has caused, and treat with equality the millions of people who pay taxes and live in one of the colonies that the US invaded without consulting or being invited.

Puerto Rico deserves a prosperous future and safety, not leftovers from Congress and paper towels being thrown at us.

My family, our neighbors, and our people deserve more than this.



Posted in USA, Puerto RicoComments Off on Puerto Rico One Year Later: We’re Fighting for Justice and Prosperity

Puerto Rico’s Colonial Legacy and Its Continuing Economic Troubles

NOVANEWS

Given that the people of Puerto Rico have no democratic representation or say in this process, it is not surprising that their colonial rulers are ignoring their needs

Puerto Rico did not receive the same federal support that US states do, meaning that as the economy worsened, its government had to foot the bill for a large share of social programs.(Photo: ep_jhu/Flickr/cc)

Puerto Rico did not receive the same federal support that US states do, meaning that as the economy worsened, its government had to foot the bill for a large share of social programs.(Photo: ep_jhu/Flickr/cc)

When Puerto Rico was hit by Hurricane Maria, the island was ill-equipped to handle the storm that claimed thousands of lives and devastated most of the island’s infrastructure, leaving it in the dark for months. Prior to the storm, Puerto Rico’s economy had already experienced two decades without economic growth, a rare occurrence in the history of modern capitalism. Neither a sovereign country nor a US state, Puerto Rico has had constrained ability to respond to negative economic shocks, while only receiving limited federal support. The island’s prolonged economic failure resulted in the accumulation of an unsustainable debt burden, and Puerto Rico’s bankruptcy.

Puerto Rico became a territory of the United Stated in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War of 1898. While residents of Puerto Rico were given US citizenship in 1917, they still cannot vote in US presidential elections on the island and have no voting representation in the US Congress. The UN officially removed the island from its list of colonies in 1953 after the US Congress approved a new name, the “Commonwealth of Puerto Rico,” along with a constitution that granted the island authority over internal matters.

Despite this semblance of autonomy, Puerto Rico continued to be subject to the Territory Clause of the US Constitution, which grants the US Congress “power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations.” Recent developments have shown beyond doubt that Puerto Rico continues to be a colony, with the island now effectively ruled by a Federal Oversight and Management Board (the Board), created by the US Congress, which supersedes the authority of the island’s elected government.

While many attribute Puerto Rico’s accumulation of unsustainable debt to irresponsible government spending, this narrative ignores the fact that much of what led to Puerto Rico’s prolonged economic failure was out of the island’s control.

After Puerto Rico defaulted on its $74 billion debt in 2015, the US Supreme Court struck down a bankruptcy law passed by the island. In 2016, the US Congress then passed the “Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act” (PROMESA), to create a framework for Puerto Rico to restructure its debt. While many attribute Puerto Rico’s accumulation of unsustainable debt to irresponsible government spending, this narrative ignores the fact that much of what led to Puerto Rico’s prolonged economic failure was out of the island’s control.

During the last two decades of the twentieth century, Puerto Rico’s economy more than doubled in real terms as it became an attractive destination for US manufacturing, offering strong legal protections and relatively cheap labor. As the rules of the global economy were rewritten with the creation of the World Trade Organization and the passage of trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, Puerto Rico became much less attractive as a manufacturing hub.

The island’s economy has not registered any growth since 2005. Puerto Rico did not have the policy tools available to sovereign nations that could have allowed it to more effectively address the shifting global trade environment, e.g., by adjusting its exchange rate. Between 2005 and 2016, Puerto Rico’s economy was shrinking at an annual real rate of 1 percent per year. Investment, which was over 20 percent of GDP in the late 1990s, fell to less than 8 percent of GDP in 2016.

Furthermore, Puerto Rico did not receive the same federal support that US states do, meaning that as the economy worsened, its government had to foot the bill for a large share of social programs. Just in terms of health care, it is estimated that the Puerto Rican government has had to spend more than $1 billion per year more than it would have had it received the same reimbursements from the US federal government that states do.

By 2016, before Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico had a poverty rate of 46 percent, and 58 percent for children, and had already lost 10 percent of its population to migration. With higher overall living costs than the mainland US, and lower incomes, many Puerto Ricans have chosen to leave the island and seek better opportunities on the mainland. In Maria’s aftermath, Puerto Rico is predicted to lose another 14 percent of its population by 2019.

As Puerto Rico’s economy declined, so did the revenues of the government, which increasingly financed operations through borrowing. Puerto Rican bonds were part of US municipal bond markets, and carried special tax exemptions that made them sufficiently attractive that buyers ignored the island’s macroeconomic reality ― something explicitly mentioned in Puerto Rico’s credit assessments. The bonds were only downgraded to “junk” in 2014 after Puerto Rico could no longer make interest payments on its debt.

PROMESA established a process to reach a consensus with creditors, and, were that to fail, it created a legal path to access bankruptcy court, where the Board would also represent Puerto Rico. As part of the consensus process, the board was tasked with certifying a 10-year fiscal plan that would keep the government operational, provide essential services to residents, adequately fund public pensions, and set funds aside for debt repayment in agreement with creditors.

The Board has taken an austerity approach that fails to address any of Puerto Rico’s long-term economic problems and is likely to exacerbate the downward spiral of economic decline and outmigration. In the aftermath of Maria, despite inadequate relief, the Board is using the increase in liquidity provided by relief funds to set aside more funds for creditors.

Yet many creditors continue to demand even harsher austerity, and the bankruptcy case is currently being heard by a bankruptcy judge in the New York District Court. Ironically, many of the most aggressive creditors are hedge funds that bought bonds at a steep discount after the default, and in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

To add insult to injury, the undemocratically appointed Board is setting aside $1.5 billion of the island’s budget for its own expenses, including legal and consulting fees for the next five years. Many of the advisors and lawyers now profiting from the bankruptcy process are the same actors who were involved in issuing the unsustainable debt. Meanwhile, island residents face pension cuts, layoffs, benefit freezes, and school closures. Given that the people of Puerto Rico have no democratic representation or say in this process, it is not surprising that their colonial rulers are ignoring their needs.



Posted in Puerto RicoComments Off on Puerto Rico’s Colonial Legacy and Its Continuing Economic Troubles

‘Shame on You!’ Outrage After Trump Falsely Claims That ‘3,000 People Did Not Die’ in Puerto Rico From Hurricane

NOVANEWS

“You can try and bully us with your tweets but we know our lives matter,” responded San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz. “You will never take away our self respect.”

Mourners carry the casket of Wilfredo Torres Rivera, 58, who died October 13, three weeks after Hurricane Maria, on October 19, 2017 in Utuado, Puerto Rico. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump has been “lying about Puerto Rico from the start to make himself look better,” and on Thursday morning Trump lied once more by falsely claiming that a widely accepted academic study showing that nearly 3,000 Puerto Ricans died as a result of Hurricane Maria was “done by the Democrats” in an attempt to make him “look as bad as possible.”

“Only Donald Trump could see the tragedy in Puerto Rico and conclude that he is the victim.”
—Sen. Ed Markey
In a pair of tweets, Trump insisted that “3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, after the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers.”

“This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising billions of dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico,” Trump added. “If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!”

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000…

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

…..This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!

“This is what denial following neglect looks like,” declared San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz in response to Trump’s tweets. “In the real world people died on your watch. Your lack of respect is appalling!”

Carmen Yulín Cruz

@CarmenYulinCruz

Mr Trump you can try and bully us with your tweets BUT WE KNOW OUR LIVES MATTER. You will never take away our self respect. Shame on you! pic.twitter.com/KlMzClvzkA

Carmen Yulín Cruz

@CarmenYulinCruz

Thousands of americans, our diaspora & latinos that came to PR to care for us and become advocates for our people deserve better than this. pic.twitter.com/OPaPx6oo1d

  • Conducted by George Washington University, the study Trump is attempting to discredit as a Democratic plot was commissioned by the Puerto Rican government, which revised its earlier Hurricane Maria death toll to 2,975 after the study was published in August.

Echoing Cruz’s condemnation of Trump’s tweets, Democratic lawmakers also expressed outrage that the president would attempt to downplay the number of people who died as a result of a natural disaster and U.S. government neglect.

“Only Donald Trump could see the tragedy in Puerto Rico and conclude that he is the victim,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) wrote on Twitter. “May God bless the souls of the nearly 3,000 Americans that died in Puerto Rico and may he take pity on your soul Mr. President.”



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If 9/11 Attacks Can Spark Trillions in War Spending

NOVANEWS

If 9/11 Attacks Can Spark Trillions in War Spending, Asks Ocasio-Cortez, Why Can’t US Find Funding for Puerto Rico ‘Marshall Plan’?

“The U.S. treats Puerto Ricans as second class citizens,” notes the ACLU. “Thousands of lives were lost because of it.”

A government-commissioned study out Tuesday estimates that nearly 3,000 people died in Puerto Rica after Hurricane Maria, bolstering calls for greater relief efforts. (Photo: Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images)

A government-commissioned study out Tuesday estimates that nearly 3,000 people died in Puerto Rica after Hurricane Maria, bolstering calls for greater relief efforts. (Photo: Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images)

A study commissioned by the Puerto Rican government has found that an estimated 2,975 people died after Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. territory last year, corroborating previous analyses that have long challenged the official death toll of 64 and bolstering calls that the American government provide substantially more aid to help with rebuilding efforts.

Acknowledging the new findings from George Washington University on Tuesday, progressive New York congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez turned to Twitter to demand a “Marshall Plan” for Puerto Rico and a “just transition” to a renewable energy system that would replace the existing “unstable and unreliable power grid,” which faced operational and financial issues even before the storm struck.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

@Ocasio2018

Even by conservative estimates, about as many Americans died in Hurricane María as on 9/11.

After 9/11, our country spent trillions  transforming our entire national security apparatus and went to several wars.

PR needs a Marshall Plan + a just transition out of fossil fuels.

NBC News

@NBCNews

BREAKING: New report estimates “2,975 excess deaths in Puerto Rico due to Hurricane Maria,” a far larger number than the government’s official death toll count of 64, according to new independent report from GWU that was commissioned by island officials. https://nbcnews.to/2wudlac 

Ocasio-Cortez is one of the many political figures—along with Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Jeff Markey (D-Mass.), as well as Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.)—to urge Congress and the Trump administration to significantly step up relief efforts. In a follow-up tweet, she promoted a one-year anniversary event in New York City to amplify the work of grassroots groups on the island:

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

@Ocasio2018

Mark your calendars now: on September 20th, join us in Union Square with @UPROSE, @yeampierre, @NaomiAKlein & others to mark the 1 year anniversary of Hurricane María.

We will commemorate, listen, and amplify the work of grassroots organizations in the path forward: pic.twitter.com/OrakBslV46

Attendees will include Emily Yeampierre of the organization UPROSE as well as author and activist Naomi Klein, who have both warned about “shock doctrine” tactics being deployed on the island. As Klein has written about extensively and explained on Democracy Now! in March, the strategy has been used in “many other disaster zones” and involves “exploiting that state of shock and distraction and emergency to push through a radical corporate agenda.”

As the island struggles to rebuild, news reports from the ground have captured the long-lasting devastation, while various analyses have estimated the actual death toll to be in the thousands. One such study put out by Harvard researchers in late May concluded that between 4,645 and 5,740 people died due to the hurricane.

In light of the new report, which sought to update the official government death toll by measuring deaths on the island between September 2017 to February 2018, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) pointed to the United States’ long history of treating the residents of Puerto Rico as second-class citizens:

ACLU

@ACLU

The US treats Puerto Ricans as second class citizens.

Thousands of lives were lost because of it.

ABC News

@ABC

JUST IN: Death toll in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria was nearly 3,000, an independent study commissioned by the island’s government says. https://abcn.ws/2PLbgiY 

Some Democrats in Congress, noting the new report, highlighted the Trump administration’s widely criticized response to the hurricane and the humanitarian crisis that followed. Rep. Barbara Lee (Calif.) called federal action “inadequate” and “shameful,” while Rep. Val Demings (Fla.) denounced it as “an inexcusable failure.”

Rep. Nydia Velázquez, (D-N.Y.), who has introduced legislation to establish federal standards for calculating death tolls after disasters, said in a statement, “Once again, we have yet more mounting evidence about the enormity of the tragedy that befell Puerto Rico last year.”

“Notably, this study also confirms that lower income communities disproportionately suffered the greatest loss of life,” Velázquez added, emphasizing that the “disastrously inadequate” response from the U.S. government “failed the people of Puerto Rico and we can never allow such an inexcusable moral lapse to occur again.”



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Puerto Rico Raises Hurricane Maria Death Toll From 64 to 2,975

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The government of Puerto Rico Tuesday raised its estimate of the number of Puerto Ricans who lost their lives to 2017’s Hurricane Maria from 64 to 2,975. This figure makes Maria the worst natural catastrophe on territory claimed by the US since the Galveston, Texas flood of 1900.

The near 50-fold increase in the death toll exposed what millions on the island already knew: that the authorities had long deliberately concealed the real human cost of the storm. It is also a searing indictment of the criminal negligence and indifference of both the US ruling establishment and its two major parties, as well as that of the territory’s own governmental authorities.

Governor Ricardo Rosselló officially adopted the new figure for the number of Hurricane Maria’s victims following the release of a study commissioned by his government and carried out by George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health.

The study appears to be the most scientifically rigorous and detailed thus far, drawing on demographic data that the Puerto Rican government had previously hidden from the public. It compared the death rates between September 2017 and February 2018 to earlier periods dating back to 2010. The researchers also factored in the mass exodus of people fleeing the desperate conditions prevailing in Puerto Rico, marked by interminable power outages, for the US mainland.

During this period, Puerto Rico’s population fell by 280,000, an 8 percent drop, making the increased number of deaths all the more extraordinary.

Earlier studies had already provided far higher numbers than the ludicrously low death toll maintained by the Puerto Rican government for nearly a year. Research done by Penn State based on death certificates had come up with an estimate of 1,139 deaths. Another study done by Harvard University, based on interviews with a random sample of some 3,300 households, yielded an estimate ranging between roughly 800 and 8,500, with a median figure of 4,645. This number was embraced by many Puerto Ricans who were outraged by the deliberate underestimate maintained by the Puerto Rican and US governments.

The Harvard researchers noted that this median figure was likely too low, and that the real number of deaths was probably higher than 5,000. No doubt the George Washington study also represents a serious underestimation of the real number of fatalities.

The George Washington study noted that many Puerto Rican doctors and hospitals had failed to follow protocols established by the Centers for Disease Control, and attributed deaths to the storm only where people were directly killed by the immediate destruction wrought by its winds and rain. Those who died because they could not get medical care or medications, were cut off dialysis and oxygen equipment because of the lack of electricity, or had medical conditions that they would not have confronted absent the wholesale destruction of the island’s infrastructure were not linked to Maria. It added that some doctors were reluctant to relate deaths to the hurricane “due to concerns … about liability.”

Among the more important findings of the George Washington study was the vastly disproportionate impact of the storm in terms of deaths among the poorer layers of Puerto Rican society, compared to the wealthy and the middle class.

It found that the risk of death was 45 percent higher, and remained so until the end of the study’s period in mid-February, among populations referred to by researchers as “low socioeconomic development municipalities.” For poorer inhabitants of the island generally, the chance of death was 60 percent higher.

A graph included in the study shows that, while the death toll increased among all layers of the population between September and October 2017, it rose far more sharply for the poorer layers of the population and continued to increase between October 2017 and February 2018, even as it leveled off for wealthier social layers.

The finding only confirms that Maria, like all natural disasters, served to lay bare the conditions of poverty, social crisis and inequality that existed before the storm ever made land.

The study also found that men over the age of 65 continued to confront a higher rate of deaths through the end of the survey period.

The George Washington researchers warned that, had the study continued, it would almost inevitably have tracked a continuing elevated death rate for these layers of the population, particularly given the protracted conditions of deprivation on the island, with a lack of electricity continuing for some until only weeks ago.

A proposed second phase of the George Washington study would aim at recording the names of those who died and providing in each case a cause of death, based on an examination of death certificates as well as interviews with families and medical personnel. The Puerto Rican government has yet to fund this stage of the inquiry.

The Trump administration responded to the latest death toll estimate with its inevitable brutish callousness. At a White House meeting Tuesday, Trump praised his administration for doing a “fantastic job” in Puerto Rico, despite the incontrovertible evidence that thousands were left to die because of its criminal negligence and insufficient aid.

The grotesque self-praise from the White House echoes the tone adopted by Trump when he staged a brief visit to Puerto Rico just two weeks after the storm, throwing paper towels to storm victims and congratulating the island’s governor and other officials for having avoided a “real catastrophe like [Hurricane] Katrina,” which claimed over 1,800 lives in New Orleans and on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. He repeated the official death toll of 16 being put out by authorities in San Juan at the time. At the time, millions of people were still digging out from the storm, and everyone knew that far more people had lost their lives.

In addition to the widespread popular hatred for Trump and the US authorities, there is intense anger against Governor Rosselló and his local administration for failing to reveal the real scope of the tragedy inflicted upon the island’s population and to secure the resources needed to confront it.

The George Washington study contained damning criticism of local authorities, pointing out that their emergency planning contemplated only a Category 1 or 2 hurricane, leaving them grossly unprepared for Maria, which hit Puerto Rico as a Category 5 storm. It also faulted a lack of communications between local and central authorities, and said, in relation to the number of deaths, that “information was intentionally held to evade blame.”

In an interview published Wednesday by San Juan’s leading daily, El Nuevo Día, Rosselló repeated at least seven times—by the paper’s count—that he had confronted an “unprecedented catastrophe,” in an attempt to justify the failure of his administration in the face of the disaster. Asked about his complicity with Trump in grossly underestimating the death toll and affirming that Puerto Rico had avoided a “real catastrophe,” Rosselló responded, “I’m not perfect. I make mistakes. Hindsight is 20-20.”

The reality is that the government in Puerto Rico, together with the Trump administration and both the Republicans and Democrats in Washington, has been focused—both before and after Maria struck the island—not on ameliorating conditions of poverty and social deprivation, but on extracting profits for Wall Street bondholders under conditions of the island’s fiscal bankruptcy. It is estimated that Puerto Rico, still confronting the protracted health emergency wrought by Maria, will pay $1.4 billion on debt restructuring over the next six years, an amount that significantly exceeds the entire budget of the island’s Health Department.



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‘Disaster Capitalism Strikes Again!’: Puerto Rico’s High Court Gives Green Light to Charter Schools, Vouchers

NOVANEWS

New ruling overturns finding by lower court that charters and vouchers—part of the island’s education overhaul post-hurricane—were unconstitutional.

Education historian Diane Ravtich called the new ruling from Puerto Rico's high court a "victory for rapacious billionaires" and charter proponents like Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Education historian Diane Ravtich called the new ruling from Puerto Rico’s high court a “victory for rapacious billionaires” and charter proponents like Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. (Photo: Lorie Shaull/flickr/cc)

Puerto Rico’s controversial plan to overhaul the island’s education system moved forward after its high court issued a ruling this week overturning a lower court’s finding that charter schools and vouchers were unconstitutional.

“Disaster capitalism strikes again!” commented education historian Diane Ravitch, who also called it a “victory for rapacious billionaires, [Education Secretary and charter school proponent] Betsy DeVos, and DFER [Democrats for Education Reform].”

“Instead of putting the PR economy on a path to recovery,” Ravitch added, “the disaster capitalists will give them charters and vouchers.”

The legal challenge was brought forth by teachers’ union La Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico (AMPR),  soon after the Gov. Ricardo Rosselló signed into law “education reform” legislation creating a charter schools pilot program in 10 percent of public schools and offering private school vouchers to 3 percent of students. The plan has been promoted heavily by Julia Keleher, Puerto Rico’s non-Puerto Rican Education Secretary.

“To say charters are public schools when they are going to be administered, directed, and controlled by private hands is clearly an illegal and unconstitutional contradiction,” AMPR president Aida Diaz said at the time.

In response to the new ruling, Providence Journal education reporter Linda Borg posed a question on social media:

 

Linda Borg@lborgprojocom

Courts have ruled that charter expansion can go forward in Puerto Rico. will be curious to see if the island becomes fully chartered like NoLa after the hurricane.

Also referring to post-Katrina New Orleans, Jeremy Aponte, a member of the Boston Teachers Union’s Puerto Rican educators group and Jessica Tang, president of the union, recently wrote, about how the devastating  in 2005 “was used as an opportunity for the dismantling of a public education system that primarily served low-income black students.”

They described the transformation as a failure for the community:

Currently there is not a single public school in the New Orleans School District. The purported successes of the charter school movement have not come to fruition. Charter schools have maintained segregation, decreased accessibility to local schools, and have underserved students with special needs. They have reduced the number of veteran black teachers and administrators from the impacted communities in a favor of teachers with no background, connection, or cultural competency in the predominantly black school district.

“Puerto Rico must be able to develop a public education system that serves the needs of the communities and the people who call Puerto Rico home. The temporary exodus of families, due to the lengthy rebuilding process, cannot become an opportunity to pillage the public education system,” they argued.



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THE NEWS FROM PUERTO RICO THE BATTLE FOR PARADISE ‘Video’

A CORPORATE-GOVERNMENT PROGRAM TO UNDERMINE CIVIL SOCIETY

A video version of Naomi Klein’s new book “The Battle for Paradise.”

The situation in a nutshell:

Grassroots efforts are thriving in the face of extraordinary challenges.

Official efforts are failing – deliberately.

Why?

One reliable place to send help:

http://hispanicfederation.org

Image result for puerto rico cartoon

 

 

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