Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Promesa’s Seven Deadly Sins

By on July 7, 2016

In the forked tongue lingo of Capitol politics, the word “territory,” as in Territorial Oversight Board in Promesa, is not mere semantics—the drafters of the measure were concerned the law would be challenged by detractors for violating the uniformity of bankruptcy law as it applies to the states. Some creditor groups are already angling to challenge Promesa on the grounds of its constitutionality and that the government of Puerto Rico allegedly violated the law itself—Section i in Article IV, which states that interest will be paid first, if feasible.

In the view of general-obligation creditors, the payment of some services that they deem nonessential in the budget, while the interest to them went unpaid, was the ultimate act of cynicism. The insults leveled against the governor in interviews we conducted do not meet the Motion Picture Association of America standards for a general audience. They would be rated triple-X, because, after all, Capitol politics, like pornography, is for adults only.

Indeed it is ironic—one Capitol source tied to the Democratic Party told this newspaper—that the very law that was to be the stopgap measure to halt all litigation could spark a legal melee after all. When the issue of constitutionality came up during markup, U.S. Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) assured that the bill was ironclad.

So the stay in litigation has been questioned by many creditors who are now jockeying for position to see who will be named to the territorial oversight board. Esta el buscón josco. (Loosely translated: “There are a lot of hustlers out there.”) In the month since the vetting of seven board members commenced, the seven deadly sins—lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride—have been on display.

Although the board members will serve “pro bono,” there was lust for power when some people offered to serve, thus forcing the introduction of an amendment to Promesa that would keep former elected officials from qualifying as potential nominees.

Gluttony also came to the fore when the Alejandro García Padilla administration lobbied for relief while he was willing to sacrifice the livelihood of youths with a mechanism that grants the governor the authority to make it lawful for businesses to pay workers under age 25 less than minimum wage. Then, there’s greed, which has also been described as a sin of desire. It is present when people covet positions of authority. Many covet a post on the board for all the wrong reasons.

Sloth—the deadly sin that is defined in Wiki-scripture as a failure to do things that one should do—exists malevolently when “good” people fail to act. This is the case when one fails to produce structurally balanced budgets or fails to deliver audited financial statements in timely fashion.

There was also plenty of wrath, simply defined as uncontrolled anger. There are many people who are very angry over the way that Puerto Rico’s debt crisis has been handled. Mostly, we the people. Wrath in its worst form is said to provoke feuds that last limitlessly.

There will be plenty of envy among those who coveted a post on the board but were passed over with the selection of someone else. And then throw in pride, which has been called the most harmful of the deadly sins because it underpins all others. In Spanish we call it ser orgulloso, but in its most negative manifestation it is the essence of hubris—“the irrational belief that one is automatically and essentially better or more important than others.”

In a very telling interview with Newsmax, former Gov. Luis Fortuño said that nominees should “be able to provide certainty for investors, attain sustained economic growth and increase bond ratings that will provide market access for Puerto Rico.” Promesa’s deadliest sin is that it lacks adequate provisions for the economic development of Puerto Rico. Market access alone will not do the trick.

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