A New Congressional Letter Led by Sanders and AOC Slams Puerto Rico Control Board’s Austerity Measures

Sep 25, 2019
8:59 AM

Demonstrators march against governor Ricardo Roselló, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, July 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo)

On Tuesday, a congressional letter led by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) called “to reverse the crippling austerity imposed on Puerto Rico; end the priority given to the demands of Wall Street vulture funds over of the needs of the Puerto Rican people; and put a moratorium on any payments on Puerto Rican debt until an independent investigation is completed to root out corruption,” according to a press release from Sanders’ office.

“During this moment of popular struggle for responsive and legitimate governance on the island,” the letter said, “Puerto Rico must no longer be treated as a colony.”

The letter was co-signed by Representatives Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, as well as Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), and Congressmen Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.) and Jesús “Chuy” García (D-Ill.).

Part of the letter noted the summer protests that led to the resignation of governor Ricardo Rosselló also called “for the end of the Financial Oversight and Management Board’s control over the economic decisions of the island.”

The released also said that “the vast majority of the board’s $300 million annual budget goes to fees for lawyers and consultants who are not subject to disclosure requirements… including actors such as McKinsey & Company and Citigroup, which stand to make millions from a deal struck by the board on Puerto Rico’s debt that favors the interests of creditors.” Lawmakers are also asking for the Fiscal Control Board to disclose “a full accounting of each member’s professional or familial ties to any institutions and persons who hold Puerto Rico’s debt or maintain contracts with the FOMB, and thorough financial disclosures of each board member, including details of outside compensation.”

“Puerto Rico must not be treated like a colony anymore,” Ocasio-Cortez said in the release. “A just recovery process means we have to call out the crippling effects of austerity that la junta has imposed and demand transparency from those making these decisions. Puertorriqueños will continue to die in the face of a severe health crisis and others are using blue tarps as roofs two years after María. We must hold la junta accountable. Otherwise Wall Street vultures will continue to be prioritized over the needs of the people.”

“If the island is to actually recover, we must end the brutal austerity program being imposed on Puerto Rico’s working families and put some austerity for once on this undemocratic board and the Wall Street vulture funds taking advantage of Puerto Rico’s misery,” Sanders said in the release.

The full letter —which was supported by Boricuas Unidos en la Diáspora, the Vamos 4 Puerto Rico network, the Hispanic Federation, the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the Center for Popular Democracy, and the Hedge Clippers Campaign— is below: