A new commentary every Wednesday - May 4, 2016
FINANCIALLY TROUBLED PUERTO RICO CANNOT RESTRUCTURE ITS DEBT
I had to read it to be reminded that the 3.5-million Puerto Ricans are citizens of the United States of America.
Many of us have not looked at the map of the Caribbean since the Cuban missile crises, but if we did, we would see way out beyond the cruise ships headed for Havana, beyond an island named Hispaniola divided by the poverty-stricken peoples of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, is the island U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. From all that I read, that name is an irony unto itself. I had a close friend relate how she went there for a conference at one of San Juan's many resorts. She said that between the airport and a paradise for rich people from the United States is a third-world county of unremitting poverty.
An exodus from the "Rich Port," is accelerating. Bloomberg (financial) News says that since 2010, Puerto Rico has lost almost twice as many people by migration to the United States then in the two prior decades.
It all began in 1898 by the defeat of Spain by the United States, whereby we forced Spain to cede colonies in the Caribbean and the Philippine Islands to us. Puerto Rico soon became a subsidiary of the Domino Sugar Company. American commercial interests continue to extract a vast amount of profits from Puerto Rico via tax advantages afforded them.
For more than a century, groups of Puerto Rican Nationalists have sought independence. The Nacionalistas are a dying breed. In a plebiscite taken in 2012, 61.16-percent of the Puerto Rican people wish that their territory could become the 51st State. Only 33.34-percent voted to remain a territory and a tiny 5.49-percent voted for total independence.
You, like me, probably skimmed over the news of a financial crises there. Puerto Rico's Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla announced this week that Puerto Rico is unable to meet a $370-million payment due bondholders, many of them Puerto Ricans. Bloomberg News pointed out that this is just a snapshot of Puerto Rico's total debt, estimated to be $70-billion. That's a considerable sum.
If our Congress could only look away from the political circus going on, it might be persuaded to impose laws on the territory that pertain to bankruptcy. A commission needs to be appointed with the power to restructure the debt and impose limits on run-away public welfare; to stringently examine all avenues for graft and corruption, as well as how taxes on profits are possibly being waylaid for deposit by many interests in secret offshore accounts. Grind you teeth together if you must, but a massive bailout looms on the horizon.
The only other choice is to cut it loose; force Puerto Rico to address its own economic woes. Would we be willing to do the same to the people of California or New York if they were in the same position as Puerto Rico?
-Phil Richardson, Observer of the human condition and storyteller. "He goes doddering on into his old age, making a public nuisance of himself." - Joseph L. Menchen
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