Rep. Gutiérrez Tells US House: Avoid Smokescreen of Puerto Rico Status Issue

Jul 29, 2015
12:04 PM

Yesterday, Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL) spent about five minutes speaking to the U.S. House of Representatives about Puerto Rico. This morning, Gutiérrez, who is of Puerto Rican descent, shared more thoughts about the current situation.

Here is the transcript of Gutiérrez’s prepared remarks this morning, which his office released to the press:

Rep. Gutiérrez on Puerto Rico
July 29, 2015

Yesterday I spoke about Puerto Rico’s debt crisis and how there must be a sense of urgency because without action, bondholders will be paid, but teachers, cops, nurses, and wont.

I want to continue today and make two points.

Number 1: Let’s not let the bond-holders bleed Puerto Rico at a discount.

And number 2: Let’s work together on what unites us, not what divides us.

Because the only way we will make any progress is if the Puerto Rican people come together to make a plan and demand that the Congress of the United States work with Puerto Rico on Puerto Rico’s plan.

Without consistent and persistent pressure from Puerto Rico, Washington will do nothing—as both the Administration and the Congress are content to let the bondholders on Wall Street call the tune.

We all know Washington should start with H.R. 870, the bankruptcy bill.

It is simply a bill that would allow Puerto Rico to declare bankruptcy and restructure its debt within the U.S. legal system. This would allow an orderly and fair restructuring of the debt in a court of law.

It is an important step, but will not solve all of Puerto Rico’s problems.

What Puerto Rico should do right now is demand to know what Wall Street vulture-capitalists are paying for their bonds.

We hear reports that bonds are selling for 15 or 20 cents on the dollar, yet the bondowners want a full dollar’s worth of interest.

I say Puerto Rico should pay interest based on the price the billionaires actually paid and that they should disclose this amount—just as Congressmen do every time we make an investment.

Then Puerto Rico can service its debt based on what was paid to buy that debt.

I came here to protect people, not billionaires on Wall Street.

Secondly and most importantly, for the time-being, we must set politics aside and get away from the smokescreen of the status issue.

Whether Puerto Rico should be a state, an independent nation, or remain a Commonwealth is not the issue.

If everyone leaves Puerto Rico, it will not matter what kind of Government is left behind.

Mr. Speaker, nobody should use the current debt crisis as an opportunity to score political points for their Party.

At a time when the people of Puerto Rico must be clear, precise and unified, the status issue divides Puerto Ricans.

I read in the New York Times the argument by the Resident Commissioner of the Statehood Party that the only solution to Puerto Rico’s problems is to make it a state…


That is going to solve the debt crisis? The power crisis? The pension gap? And the Medicare Advantage budget gap?

We should be working together to figure out how Puerto Rico is going to pay teachers and honor their pensions.

How we will make sure health care is delivered and bridges do not collapse.

A Statehood bill is not going to provide housing or create a job or heal a sick child.

When Members of Congress ask me about Puerto Rico they ask which is it? Statehood? Bankruptcy? Medicare? We have to prioritize.

We have to be clear and put aside the status issue.

Please, we need to work together.

And I would like to use my remaining minute to restate my call to action in Spanish.


La política y las divisiones podrían destruir las posibilidades de obligar a Washington a ayudar a resolver la crisis de la deuda de Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico debe de tener un plan común que cuente con el apoyo de todos los partidos y sobre todo, a través de la Isla.

El Gobernador debe encontrar una manera de trabajar con el Comisionado Residente y el Comisionado Residente no puede ver esta crisis como una herramienta en sus campañas para un puesto más alto.

El Congreso sólo ayudará a Puerto Rico siempre y cuando haya un llamado constante y persistente de los puertorriqueños exigiendo que el Congreso cumpla. Y los puertorriqueños tienen que indicar lo que esperan de parte del Congreso.

La Legislación de Bancarrota es sólo una parte. Pero si todavía tenemos la Ley Jones y la misma economía y perspectivas económicas que tenemos ahora no avanzaremos.

El pueblo debe decirle a Wall Street que Puerto Rico no es una tienda para ser pirateada y que el pueblo de Puerto Rico no esperará a morir de hambre mientras Wall Street cuenta sus ganancias.

Si Wall Street está comprando bonos con descuentos, deben ser pagados con descuentos.

Pero sobre todo, tenemos que trabajar juntos por el bien de Puerto Rico. Y no podemos dejar que las divisiones políticas sobre la estadidad nos dividan.

Me comprometo, como siempre lo he hecho, a poner a un lado mis propios sentimientos sobre la estadidad de Puerto Rico y a trabajar con otros puertorriqueños en el Congreso y otros líderes en los dos Partidos que estén dispuestos a ayudarnos. Pero primero tenemos que unirnos, empezar a ayudarnos a nosotros mismos, y tener un plan claro.


Thank you. I yield back.

— END —


Politics and divisions could destroy the chances of forcing Washington to help resolve Puerto Rico’s debt crisis.

Puerto Rico must have a common plan that has support across all of the parties, and most importantly, across the Island.

The Governor must find a way to work with the Resident Commissioner and the Resident Commissioner cannot view this crisis as a campaign tool for higher office.

Puerto Rico will only be helped by this Congress if and when there is a consistent and persistent call on Congress by Puerto Ricans to act And Puerto Ricans need to specify what they expect Congress to do.

The Bankruptcy Bill is only part of it if we still have the Jones Act and the same economy and economic prospects as we have now.

The people must tell Wall Street that Puerto Rico is not some store to be looted and that the Puerto Rican people will not sit and starve as Wall Street counts its profits.

If Wall Street is buying bonds at a discount, they should be paid at a discount.

But most importantly, we have to work together for the betterment of Puerto Rico. And we cannot let political divisions over statehood divide us.

I commit to putting aside my own passionate feelings about Puerto Rico’s status and working with other Puerto Ricans in the Congress and other leaders in both Parties who will help us. But we must first come together, begin helping ourselves, and have a clear plan.