The following media release was shared on Wednesday, June 19, by Boricuas Unidos en la Diáspora:
WASHINGTON — Over 60 organizations today released a letter to the United States Senate urging oversight of Puerto Rico’s Financial Management and Oversight Board (FOMB) before the Senate votes on the members President Trump has nominated.
The letter, submitted by groups including the Center for Popular Democracy, 32BJ SEIU, LatinoJustice, PRLDEF, Diaspora en Resistencia, and Boricuas Unidos en La Diáspora, among many others who represent the interests of hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico and the United States who have been directly affected by Puerto Rico’s economic and humanitarian crises. The letter raises concerns about the role that the FOMB has played on the recovery of the island. The FOMB was created to oversee a process for Puerto Rico to regain access to the capital markets, yet in reality, it has seized control over public finances and exerted its power over local budgetary decision making, hurting hundreds of thousands on the island and throughout the diaspora.
Signers encourage the Senate to hold a hearing in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to properly investigate the conflicts of interest on the body and the level of accountability and transparency achieved by the public agency. They note a series of offenses the FOMB carried out, including: deregulation of labor rights, significant budget cuts in education and pensions, and electric bill hikes.
“The role that the Senate can play in overseeing the confirmation of the members of the FOMB cannot be overstated. Over the last 2 years, the FOMB has taken control of Puerto Rico’s finances and pushed measures that will impact the economic development of the island and the ability of Puerto Ricans to stay in their homeland for decades. The conflicts of interest that have plagued the members of this board are well recorded and raise serious questions about their ability to make decisions based on the best interest of Puerto Ricans. We hope that the Senate can understand the importance of this moment and hold hearings that allow the members of the board to be held accountable before any confirmation vote” stated Julio López Varona, co-director of community dignity campaigns at the Center For Popular Democracy.
“From the moment the FOMB members were given their positions, the Puerto Rican community has held a close watch on the decisions that they’ve made. So far, they are setting us up to fail. We have had families in the diaspora and on the island who have felt the burden of restructuring deals that line the pockets of Wall Street investors. As the administration re-nominates the same FOMB members, we are demanding an audit of their work to date. The nominees must not be voted forward in light of the detrimental actions they’ve made on behalf of our community” said Luis Ponce Ruiz, Co-founder, Boricuas Unidos en la Diáspora.
This is the letter that was sent along with groups who support it:
Sen. Lisa Murkowski
United States Senator
Chairwoman, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
Sen. Joe Manchin
United States Senator
Ranking Member, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
We write to you today as organizations representing hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico and the United States. Our groups represent people that have been directly affected by Puerto Rico’s economic and humanitarian crises and who care deeply about the future of the island. We write to urge you to hold a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee as part of the Committee’s oversight responsibilities of the Financial Management and Oversight Board (FOMB), and in particular before the Senate votes to confirm the appointment of the members of FOMB as recently re-nominated by President Trump.
Three years ago, Congress enacted the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) to address the economic crisis in Puerto Rico. Under this law, the FOMB was created —despite public outrage— to supposedly oversee a process that ensured Puerto Rico regained access to the capital markets. The FOMB has taken over control of the public finances, exercises veto powers over any local law that might impact the budget, and oversees all debt restructuring negotiations and litigation. They have repeatedly attempted to expand the scope of their authority to exercise control over public agencies, entities and now municipalities, despite repeated objections by local officials.
In the aftermath of Hurricane María, we witnessed the life-or-death consequences of decisions made by members of the FOMB. Members of the FOMB have proven to have egregious conflicts of interest and have refused cooperation, outside of litigation, with the basic fundamentals of transparency and accountability for a body given so much governance authority, including providing their financial disclosures. They continue to make decisions that have drastic and long-lasting consequences for the people of Puerto Rico for generations to come with little to no public oversight, participation or input.
The Senate will soon have the opportunity to review the actions of all seven members of the FOMB in a confirmation process. Before any nominations are brought to a vote, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has the opportunity and responsibility to move forward with hearings that help the public understand and evaluate the work of the members of the FOMB, the impact of their decisions on the people of Puerto Rico and the economic future of the island, and decide whether or not they should continue serving in this role.
We see the effects of the FOMB’s actions in our daily lives and the devastating impact they have had in curbing access to essential public services and the realization of fundamental rights, including:
- Tens of thousands of our children in Puerto Rico’s rural areas have seen their schools close over the last two years due to budget cuts in education;
- Formal employment in the private sector was made more precarious and less attractive through the deregulation of labor rights in an open labor market that already has the lowest wages in any U.S. jurisdiction, pushing working families to move stateside for better job opportunities;
- Millions of ratepayers could see their electric bills hiked by as much as 28% for a period of 48 years;
- The University of Puerto Rico, the largest public university system on the island and one of the largest in the region, is one step away from losing its accreditation status due to budget cuts;
- Retirees risk having their pensions cut to the federal poverty line by this time next year.
The impact of the deep austerity pushed and imposed by the FOMB cannot be understated. The FOMB is currently negotiating debt restructuring deals that will have an impact on the economic development of the island and the ability of Puerto Ricans to stay in their homeland for decades. While this happens, questions have been raised about the ability of members of the FOMB to remain impartial when negotiating restructuring deals because of potential conflicts of interest.
For the aforementioned reasons, the undersigned organizations urge you to hold a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee where you may ask questions of the nominees before they are confirmed. This is one of the few opportunities members of the FOMB will be held accountable for their decisions, as they answer to no other body or institution, including the public or government of Puerto Rico. We believe the role played by anyone appointed to the FOMB in crafting the future of Puerto Rico requires a thorough evaluation and honest critique, and we hope that you will undertake your duties of oversight and investigation with the responsibility with which they have been entrusted to you.
Action Center on Race and the Economy
Alianza Comunitaria Ambientalista del Sureste (ACASE)
Alianza de Salud para el Pueblo
Alianza for Progress
Alliance for Quality Education
Asociación Puertorriqueña de Profesores Universitarios
Boricua Vota Inc.
Boricuas Unidos en la Diáspora
Campaign to Divest Harvard’s Endowment from Puerto Rican Debt
Cancel The Debt
Center for Popular Democracy
Chicago Boricua Resistance
Churches United For Fair Housing | CUFFH
Coalición de Coaliciones Pro Personas sin Hogar de PR, Inc.
Comisión Ciudadana para la Auditoría Integral del Crédito Público
CT National Puerto Rican Agenda
Democratic Hispanic Caucus of Florida- Miami Dade Chapter
Diáspora En Resistencia
Faith in Florida
Feministas En Marcha
Florida Immigrant Coalition
HERMANDAD DE EMPLEADOS EXENTOS NO DOCENTES
Instituto Caribeño de Derechos Humanos
Junta Comunitaria Calle La 23 y Las Gardenias
Junta comunitaria de residentes los usubales inc.
Junta comunitaria de residentes los usubales inc.
Make the Road Connecticut
Make the Road Nevada
Make the Road NY
Make the Road PA
Movimiento Amplio de Mujeres de Puerto Rico
Movimiento Unión Soberanistas
National Institute for Energy and Island Sustainability
New York Communities for Change
Organización Puertorriqueña de la Mujer Trabajadora
Our Revolution Puerto Rico
Pa’lante por Más
Pensacola Chapter of WMFL
Puerta de Tierra Camina
Puerto Rican Association of University Professors
Puerto Rican Women’s Council
Puerto Rico Citizen Front for de Debt Audit
Sindicato Puertorriqueńo de Trabajadores y Trabajadoras SEIU Local
Strong Economy For All Coalition
Women’s March Central Gulf Coast Florida
Women’s March FL – St. Augustine
Women’s March Florida- Jacksonville
Women’s March Florida, Florida Keys
Women’s March Miami
Women’s March Florida – Palm Beach County Chapter
Womens March Florida
Womens March Jacksonville