The following media release was shared by Puerto Rican activists on Tuesday afternoon:
WASHINGTON, DC — Activists of the Puerto Rican diaspora wearing tee shirts with black-and-white Puerto Rican flags and bearing figures of vultures staged a silent protest at today’s Congressional hearing set to review the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA).
— Vamos4PR Action (@Vamos4PRAction) October 22, 2019
They activists were led out of the hearing room by security, and joined others outside the hearing to demand changes to the law that would establish stronger mechanisms for community-led control of recovery and debt restructuring efforts. They carried signs with the message PROMESA es POBREZA (PROMESA is POVERTY).
Several groups advocating for the rights of Puerto Ricans participated in the action, including Center for Popular Democracy, VAMOS4PR Action, Boricuas Unidos en la Diáspora, Diáspora en Resistencia, Diáspora en Acción, Hedge Clippers and Construyamos Otro Acuerdo.
PROMESA has led to:
❌school closures for thousands of kids
❌gutted labor rights
❌lowest wages in the US
❌massive electricity hikes#PROMESAesPobreza!
— CPD Action (@CPDAction) October 22, 2019
“The hearing to review PROMESA was an insult to the people of Puerto Rico. Every member of the FOMB is illegitimate, and most have proven track records evidencing gross conflicts of interest. Congress has the power to level the playing field, but what we are seeing is a modern-day colonial relationship where Wall Street and Congress control the reins to the livelihood of millions of people. Congress has chosen to use their platform to promote a bill that grossly destroys our island, bit by bit over decades,” said Julio López Varona, Co-director of Community Dignity Campaigns at The Center for Popular Democracy.
The PROMESA law, approved in 2016, was put in place to resolve the island’s $72 billion public debt, in part by creating an unelected Financial Oversight and Management Board (FOMB) that has carried out extreme austerity measures, including closing of hundreds of schools, slashing public university funds, drastically cutting pensions, and causing widespread poverty and suffering in Puerto Rico.
“The Oversight Board established by PROMESA three years ago has consistently made decisions that hurt Puerto Rican families, and the deals they are currently rushing to resolve the island’s debt would most likely continue to cause suffering for generations to come, by cutting even more vital resources to public services,” said Javier Cuebas, Executive Director of VAMOS4PR Action. “Any revisions of the PROMESA law must include mechanisms for meaningful community-led decision-making about the island’s economic future, not more colonialist control.”
“For three years, PROMESA and the fiscal control board have pushed policies that have driven people out of Puerto Rico. Austerity has made it nearly impossible for people on the island to recover while schools continue to be closed and hospitals and special services are threatened while Wall Street gets huge payment. Until Puerto Rican families are relieved from unjust debt, it will be impossible for them to get a just recovery. PROMESA is not the answer, Puerto Rico needs investment and community led oversight now!” added Kareena Ríos, member of CASA for All.
“Leaving an undemocratic body like the PROMESA-created Junta unchecked to continue to make decisions that squeeze Puerto Rican families to favor banks and billionaires will cause irreparable damage to the future of millions on the island,” said Edil Sepúlveda, co-founder of Boricuas Unidos en la Diáspora. “Already, hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans have been forced to leave their homeland due to the compounded pressures of a decade-long economic recession, crushing public debt and the historic damages caused by Hurricane Maria. Without being freed from debt or getting sufficient recovery aid, those who leave and those who stay will continue to suffer, while Wall Street vultures benefit.”
The groups are also asking their members and the public to call their Congressional representatives to demand a version of PROMESA that provides stronger community control over decisions affecting Puerto Rico’s economy. A second hearing on the law at the Natural Resources Committee is scheduled for October 30.