Sanders Lays down Detailed Plan for Puerto Rico
SAN JUAN – U.S. Senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has a detailed plan on his campaign’s official website addressing several of the issues most affecting the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, chief among them, its ongoing fiscal and economic crisis and uncertain political status.
According to his “Plan for Puerto Rico,” Sanders would “fight for a U.S. congressionally sanctioned and binding referendum where the Puerto Rican people would be able to decide on whether to become a state, an independent country, or to reform the current commonwealth agreement.”
Days earlier, the presidential hopeful for the Democratic Party took many of the players involved in Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis to task. “Right now, in Puerto Rico the government is struggling with unsustainable debt, and a group of hedge fund billionaires are demanding austerity. They are demanding the firing of teachers, the closing of schools, so that they can reap huge profits off the suffering and misery of the children and the people of Puerto Rico,” Sanders said. “That is unacceptable.”
The Vermont senator has also challenged participants in congressional hearings dealing with the Puerto Rico crisis, and late last year, sent a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew urging the Obama administration to convene a meeting with all of the parties involved to work out a debt repayment plan that is fair to all sides.
In his plan, the Sanders campaign placed the blame of Puerto Rico’s unsustainable debt on “policies of austerity and the greed of large financial institutions,” and called for efforts to grant Puerto Rico the same Chapter 9 bankruptcy protections that exist for municipalities across the United States. The document also proposed an in-depth auditing of Puerto Rico’s debt to investigate the constitutionality of whether the debt was incurred legally.
He also took the opportunity to push for his nationwide $1 trillion jobs program to rebuild the U.S.’s infrastructure. As part of the 13 million jobs the program aims to create throughout the U.S., more than 140,000 jobs would be created in Puerto Rico, according to Sanders’ plan.
“This plan would help address Puerto Rico’s crumbling roads and bridges, improve its ports, upgrade its drinking water and wastewater plants, and fortify flood control projects,” the plan states. “It would improve public transportation within cities like San Juan, Ponce, Bayamon, and Carolina, [and] would also modernize Puerto Rico’s electric grid.”
With regard to energy, the plan includes Puerto Rico in its proposals to move the nation’s energy sources away from fossil fuels and toward sustainable energy. Such a climate plan also includes a tax on carbon, and investments in wind, solar and geothermal energy, as well as a $41 billion plan to transition fossil fuel workers into clean-energy jobs.
In environmental matters, the plan focused on San Juan’s Martin Peña Canal, which suffers from severe pollution and has reported a fecal content 60 times greater than the Environmental Protection Agency water-quality standard. The document also called attention to the situation in Vieques after more than 60 years of live-fire bombing practices, stressing the need for environmental clean-up, raising the quality of life and health on the island, and improving socioeconomic development.
The document concluded by touting Sanders’ “College for All” plan for access to affordable higher education and a single payer, Medicare-for-all plan that would also apply to the Puerto Rican people.