SAN JUAN – On Monday, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló wrote an 11-page letter to Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources, urging the congressman to consider a “balanced approach towards all of Puerto Rico’s stakeholders” and not “favor the treatment of mainland bondholders.”
The letter to the chairman of the committee that oversees U.S. territory matters is in reaction to a letter Bishop sent last week to the Financial Oversight and Management Board (FOMB), in which he said Rosselló’s draft fiscal plans “continue to circumvent the stated purpose of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act [Promesa]. I write today to reemphasize the purpose of the Fiscal Plans, to reiterate my frustration with your lack of creditor engagement, and to ensure the Puerto Ricans have hope in their island’s future….”
In a clear reaction to that missive, Rosselló wrote: “My administration has engaged both creditors and the Board in an attempt to achieve as many consensual resolutions as possible throughout this process and will continue to do so. But grandstanding and one-sided letter-writing campaigns have no place in ensuring the people of Puerto Rico’s future successes.”
“Your letter,” Rosselló further said, “is truly disturbing in its reckless disregard for collaboration and cooperation in favor of an anti-democratic process akin to a dictatorial regime…
“Regrettably, your letter embodies everything that is wrong with this process and only serves to reinforce the dismissive and second-class colonial treatment Puerto Rico has suffered throughout its history as a territory of the United States, which undermines our efforts to address the Island’s fiscal, economic, and humanitarian crises.”
In his letter, Bishop said his “Committee will be monitoring your actions closely; and as we near the two-year anniversary of the passage of PROMESA, an oversight hearing on the status of achieving PROMESA’s goals will likely be merited.”
A release issued by the governor’s office says the provisions of Promesa and the “determination of the Federal Court…clearly established that the FOMB cannot usurp the powers of the Government elected” by the People of Puerto Rico.
“I am deeply dismayed that your letter (which callously pays lip service to the people of Puerto Rico as second-class citizens) expresses primary concern regarding a ‘lack of creditor engagement’ on the part of the Oversight Board, instead of expressing support for Puerto Rico and her people (whom you refer to as your ‘American brethren’). By demanding that the Board usurp the function of Puerto Rico’s elected Government, your letter shows complete disregard for Puerto Rico’s Constitution, its laws and the will of the 3.4 million American citizens who live there,” the governor’s letter reads.
Rosselló says the House committee faces either supporting Promesa, which “has resulted in significant progress, including approval and certification of fiscal plans and budgets for the Commonwealth and its instrumentalities” or an “obstructionist behavior that would undermine the duly elected Government’s authority and legitimacy.”
“Sidelining the elected Government will result only in chaos and confusion, which bondholders will seek to capitalize on to further undermine the statutory foundation of the restructuring process,” the governor says, adding that “bondholders are currently pursuing this strategy by challenging PROMESA’s constitutional underpinnings. If their ploy is successful, it will jeopardize months of progress, crippling the Government and Oversight Board’s ability to restructure Puerto Rico’s debts.”
Rosselló also rejects “the allegations in your letter claiming that my administration has not been working closely to achieve the mandates of PROMESA” and says Bishop’s letter “embodies everything that is wrong with this process and only serves to reinforce the dismissive and second-class colonial treatment Puerto Rico has suffered throughout its history as a territory of the United States, which undermines our efforts to address the Island’s fiscal, economic, and humanitarian crises.”
The governor also wrote that little action on the recommendations made by the Promesa-established Congressional Task Force on Economic Growth in Puerto Rico, have been taken, adding that they “include health care, tax policy, and entitlement reforms that are urgently needed to address Puerto Rico’s structural deficits and put Puerto Rico on equal footing with the mainland United States.”
Rosselló concluded by stating that his administration is willing to continue dialogue with the island’s bondholders to restructure the debt but “we will not be thrown into submission by false allegations and innuendo that the Government has not acted in good faith or in a transparent manner.”