28 August 2016

Puerto Rico civil action grows against the U.S. takeover of territory's financial management

SAN JUAN – Protesters in Puerto Rico called Wednesday for the repeal of a law that establishes an oversight board to oversee the debt-saddled U.S. commonwealth’s finances.

“No to the board and no to the debt,” Shelimar Velazquez, a spokeswoman for the protesters, said at a press conference outside the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico in San Juan.

Around 50 people – most of them under 30 – have gathered at a protest camp at that site since June 29.

She said the group’s priority was to secure the repeal of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act, which President Obama signed into law in late June.

PROMESA is undemocratic and will ensure payments are made on “illegitimate” public debt while redirecting funds away from basic services such as health care, education and public transport, Velazquez said.

The law installed a financial control board to restructure Puerto Rico’s massive $68 billion debt load and provided a retroactive stay on lawsuits by bondholders.

Last month, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings downgraded Puerto Rico’s general obligation, or GO, bonds to D (default), the lowest possible level, after the U.S. commonwealth’s government missed payment on nearly $780 million worth of that constitutionally guaranteed debt.

Puerto Rico has been mired in a recession for a decade and experienced a large increase in migration to the mainland United States in recent years.