Hundreds Protest Proposed Fiscal Control Board for Puerto Rico
SAN JUAN — Hundreds were voicing their discontent Sunday over the potential establishment of a fiscal control board for Puerto Rico by the federal government, as they marched from the Capitol all the way to La Fortaleza and finishing in Plaza La Barandilla on San Francisco Street in Old San Juan.
Organized by Mesa de Diálogo Sindical (Union Roundtable), employee unions, student, environmental and community organizations, political parties and others protested against Congress’ plans to establish strong oversight on the island in a bid to tackle the commonwealth’s fiscal woes. The Alejandro García Padilla administration would be willing to accept the oversight board mechanism if it achieves access to an orderly, broad debt-restructuring process.
Among those participating in Sunday’s protest were the gubernatorial candidates for the Puerto Rico Independence (PIP) and Working People’s (PPT) parties, Sen. María de Lourdes Santiago and Prof. Rafael Bernabe, respectively, as well as San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín and Rep. Luis Vega Ramos of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP).
“I believe that if there is anything that the scenario of these past weeks is good for, it is to show in the most dramatic way possible what happens when incompetence and improvisation reign,” Santiago told Caribbean Business as she walked in front of La Fortaleza.
For its part, Amnesty International Puerto Rico Chairman Osvaldo Burgos stated that “the imposition of a fiscal control board is an issue of great concern for a large sector of society, and we hope the right to express this concern without fear of retaliation is fully respected.”
Eva L. Ayala, the spokeswoman for the Educamos teachers’ organization, said that if a financial oversight board as proposed in Congress were implemented, public education would be greatly affected. “This board would close hundreds of schools, eliminate thousands of jobs and substantially reduce retired teachers’ pensions,” Ayala stressed.
Meanwhile, later Sunday, Gov. García Padilla will deliver a message on local TV, a day before more than $440 million in debt payments hit, including as much as $390 million on Government Development Bank (GDB) debt. The governor is expected to announce a partial default on Monday’s payment, while declaring a moratorium on the GDB’s debt service.
“We have been pushing for total nonpayment [of debt service], not only to force creditors to sit down and negotiate, but also to force the U.S. government to begin a decolonization process [in Puerto Rico],” the PIP senator added.
“The [commonwealth] government has opted for a disorderly default,” Santiago noted.