Sen. Ángel Rosa: Puerto Rico Needs Financial Supervision
SAN JUAN – The senator and candidate for resident commissioner in Washington, D.C., for the Popular Democratic Party, Ángel Rosa, spoke with Caribbean Business on the proposed Puerto Rico Financial Oversight & Management Board, which has found opposition by politicians of all persuasions.
“I believe Puerto Rico needs supervision for its spending due to the bad experience we have had with past politicians of both parties. But what this Republican draft proposes is control over the democratic rights of Puerto Ricans, and that’s not negotiable because it will not solve the problem and because, in effect, it would have, it seems to me, a damaging aspect to the economic future of Puerto Rico.”
CB: In terms of the board’s implications in relation to Puerto Rico’s Constitution, what would you say?
“In that sense, the draft legislation of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee is unaware of all federal legislation on Puerto Rico for the past 60 years and all the jurisprudence that exists in U.S. courts, starting with the Supreme Court case on Puerto Rico. If seen as a working draft, it is still far from becoming law.”
CB: Do you think there is a favorable atmosphere in Congress to listen to Puerto Ricans in this debate?
“What I believe is that the U.S. [House of Representatives], for this and other issues that are more important in the American discussion, is at an absolute impasse. It is a body that hasn’t been able to approve the federal budget for almost five years and where more profound and comprehensive reforms such as immigration or healthcare have failed to find consensus. And when you look at the discussion about Puerto Rico and see what this work group produces versus what the Senate Finance Committee produces, versus what the White House produces through the Treasury Department, evidently that is where all the elements of the impasse are that make me think this legislative solution in Congress is still too distant.”
CB: What do you say to those who agree with the board because they do not trust local politicians?
“I would tell those people that I agree with them. Puerto Rico needs spending oversight because there has been mismanagement by politicians in the past. But to strip Puerto Rico, or Puerto Ricans themselves, people of flesh and blood, of their democratic rights, of the reason they go to the ballot box every four years, for which they defend the different proposals for the development and governance of Puerto Rico, it is not negotiable even when accepting that a mechanism for monitoring government spending is needed in Puerto Rico, and I think that we all recognize that.
“What’s more, legislation has been approved in this four-year period while I have been in the Senate. But it is not good for those in favor of independence, commonwealth or statehood that Congress divest Puerto Ricans’ rights and democratic gains that were hard-won over more than a century.”
CB: Is it a way of telling us upfront that we are a colony?
“It is a way, for the Republican majority in Congress, to solve a problem that is political for them in the midst of the electoral process in the United States. Republicans have shown this in the presidential debate; the candidates have no respect for the people of Puerto Rico, nor any intention to help solve our problem.
“What we Puerto Rican leaders cannot do is hide behind the status [issue] to not propose solutions for the future and not bring to the table proposals and not solve the main problem [Puerto Rico] faces: development and economic growth. To hide behind the argument of whether we are a colony and that this is a matter of status is basically turning one’s back on a creative solution to the problem and is the type of behavior used in the past that brought us here.”
CB: Gov. Alejandro García Padilla has called for a meeting to discuss the matter and present a common front to oppose the proposed board. The resident commissioner in Washington, Pedro Pierluisi, confirmed his attendance; Ricardo Rosselló announced he would not take part; and María de Lourdes Santiago hasn’t said if she would. Do you think this type of effort will yield positive results?
“The only way we could be more effective in Congress is if we go as Puerto Ricans not members of a party, as united Puerto Ricans. The governor has taken the initiative to summon the political leadership, and I think that is necessary, and I have to congratulate Pedro Pierluisi for accepting the invitation because if we Puerto Ricans have suffered in this discussion in Congress is because some go one way and others another, everyone pulling for their side, and in the end the loser is Puerto Rico. The call for dialogue is not only necessary, but also useful at this crucial time for Puerto Rico.”
CB: In the past, there was an example of that unity when former Govs. Luis A. Ferré and Rafael Hernández Colón went to advocate for Section 936 (of the federal tax code that exempted income earned by U.S. firms operating locally).
“That example is one of the good things that have happened in the past, and when that happened we stopped the offensive against Section 936. When we got divided, when we started to go each other’s way, we lost [Section] 936, we lost new initiatives for Puerto Rico, and we are now at the crossroads of introducing in the congressional discussion elements that could solve the crisis, and until we stand together, those elements will not succeed in Congress.”
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