Promesa Could Move Forward Puerto Rico’s Political Status
In a variety of ways, Puerto Rican leaders of different political tendencies believe the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management & Economic Stability Act (Promesa)—focused on addressing the island’s fiscal and economic crisis—will aid the conclusive definition of the political relation between the United States and Puerto Rico.
Promesa includes the establishment of a “territorial control board,” which has the power to restructure Puerto Rico’s $70 billion debt and make decisions about the commonwealth’s budget and fiscal plans. The seven-member board also has the power to override decisions made by the Puerto Rico government.
Charlie Rodríguez, of the New Progressive Party (NPP) and former P.R. Senate president, believes the first effect of Promesa is the unmasking of the colonial condition of the relationship between both nations, since it strips the Puerto Rican government of the limited powers it appeared to possess in some areas, such as the establishment of its own budget.
In that sense, he added, apart from depriving the local government of those powers, it also affects its governance. Rodríguez stated that when a change in the local administration occurs after the general elections, and in the event the NPP’s gubernatorial candidate, Ricardo Rosselló, becomes governor, “there will be a better understanding between the [fiscal control] board and the governor to seek solutions.”
“I think there won’t be any problems with the board, as some people anticipate,” he added.
The former Senate president affirmed that Promesa’s approval clearly establishes Puerto Rico’s status condition, and “it is outrageous to continue this situation after 118 years as a U.S. territory.”
Rodríguez predicted that many followers of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP), who believe in a permanent union with the U.S., will move toward statehood, which will result in massive support of this formula in a referendum.
“This switch to the NPP will help move the island’s status toward statehood,” he stated.
Meanwhile, former Gov. Rafael Hernández Colón, of the PDP, estimated Puerto Rico’s recovery could take a decade, bringing layoffs of public employees and the restructuring of government finances.”
He estimated the federal fiscal-control board approved by Promesa has an eight-year term, but the economic recovery could take eight to 10 years due to the complexity of the measures that must be taken.
In addition, the former governor mentioned that the political figures must rethink their campaign promises because the arrival of the fiscal control board removes 85% of the governor’s powers.
As an opponent of the fiscal control board and its authority, Hernández Colón stated the situation could have been avoided with definitive measures in Puerto Rico.
About the subject of the political relationship between the U.S. and Puerto Rico, Hernández Colón said both nations need to sit down to discuss the four options established by Puerto Ricans, which are statehood, commonwealth, free association and independence.
Nevertheless, he made it clear that the decision to convene a referendum—asking “statehood: yes, or no?”—was not the most assertive position since it allows statehood supporters to take electoral advantages with the U.S.
He affirmed that his opposition to this consultation was because of his belief that the NPP would undoubtedly win.
On the other hand, the former senator and executive president of the Puerto Rican Independence Party, Fernando Martín, stated that the fiscal control board is a humiliating act in which Puerto Rico’s colonial condition is highlighted.
Martín said Promesa is nothing more than a mechanism to accomplish Puerto Rico’s debt payment to bondholders in exchange for enormous sacrifices by its people, by reducing the commonwealth’s resources to attend to people’s basic needs.
“Promesa has two fundamental connotations: First, it reminds Puerto Ricans of their colonial status, which it worsens; and second, on a more practical level, it represents punishment of the people because it combines an effort to take maximum advantage of Puerto Rico to pay bondholders. Its function won’t be to promote prosperity nor to develop the growth mechanisms the country needs,” he explained.
He predicted that when the board begins to make decisions, those Puerto Ricans who thought the board would work with the intention to adjust scores with the politicians who surrendered the country to its current crisis will “be just payment agents for Puerto Rico’s creditors.”
Martín maintained that the board’s actions must incite annoyance, which must be translated as hatred toward the politicians, who for years had the reins of the country under their command.
—Editor Rosario Fajardo contributed to this story.