Protesters denounce fiscal oversight board
FAJARDO, Puerto Rico – Two and a half hours under the rain and surrounded by more than a hundred police officers, a group of protesters demonstrated Friday morning against the fiscal control board while it held its first meeting in Puerto Rico at the El Conquistador Resort.
With signs that read, “That debt is illegal; we’re not going to pay it” and “I won’t let my future be decided by the Control Board,” more than 200 people called for rejecting that the federal board decide the fiscal future of Puerto Rico when its seven members weren’t elected by the island’s people.
“[This] is a [demonstration] we convened to reject the fiscal control board. The fact they chose an isolated place to carry out this meeting and placed a security force of more than 500 police officers reflects they recognize that their agenda is rejected by the country and that the country doesn’t support this antidemocratic imposition, which is what the fiscal control board is,” organizer Tato Rivera Santana, one of the spokespeople for the Puerto Rican Concertation Against the Fiscal Control Board, said.
Rivera Santana said the day’s demonstration won’t be the only one the movement will carry out and many more will come.
“When the decisions that affect thousands of Puerto Ricans begin to be made, there will be more protest and defiance demonstrations,” he said.
The daughter of political prisoner Oscar López, Clarisa López, also picketed and marched against the board.
“From that cold prison in Illinois, my father, Oscar López sends them lots and lots of love and that continue fighting together against the fiscal control board,” Lopez’s daughter said.
Among the leaders who participated in the protest, were San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto, of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP); Puerto Rican Independence Party Rep.-elect Denis Márquez; Working People’s Party (PPT) former gubernatorial candidate Rafael Bernabe; the president of Únte, which groups several teachers, Emilio Nieves; and the spokeswoman for the Concertation Against the Fiscal Control Board, attorney Irma Rivera Lassen.
For her part, the mayor of San Juan assured that Gov.-elect Ricardo Rosselló Nevares and Senate President-elect Thomas Rivera Schatz, both of the New Progressive Party (NPP) have “knelt before the board,” and that she will confront them and fight against the impositions of the board.
“They have knelt [before the board]. I am here assuming my responsibility as people should. This is a unity of will, and the people must fight against those who took over Puerto Rico’s democracy. Yesterday, I spoke at the PDP Governing Board [meeting] about the need to take to the streets and echo the needs of people. I did it in the last term and I will do in this term.
“I will assume my responsibility as part of a people who are fighting because, as mayor of San Juan, the fiscal control board has already seized $31 million of the municipality of San Juan that were in the Government Development Bank. As mayor of San Juan, I have a responsibility to protect my people, but as a Puerto Rican I have a greater responsibility, which is being member of a country that has pull itself up,” Cruz Soto said.
Meanwhile, PPT President Bernabe said that disobeying the board is the only action to take.
“No single [protest] has an effect. What will have an effect is the accumulation of [demonstrations], so we cannot let pass any opportunity to keep the fight going. We need to be in the streets, building the movement, and we have to carry out [demonstrations] persistently to stop that policy,” Bernabe said.
For his part, the PIP’s elected representative stressed that the board “won’t have a second of tranquility” because he believes it comes with an agenda against the environment and workers.
The Puerto Rican Concertación Against the Fiscal Control Board carried out demonstrations Friday in various parts of Puerto Rico, including San Juan’s Hato Rey sector and the municipality of Mayagüez.
“It’s a dictatorial board. Yesterday in the Puerto Rico Senate, its president-elect surrendered all powers to the board without having been sworn in. The board comes to collect and is dictatorial; they are people who weren’t elected by the people but will govern. We have the challenge of keeping up the fight and not collaborating with the board, and keeping the resistance up,” Rivera Lassen said.