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July 17, 2016 @ 4:08 am

Ep. 247 “The PROMESA and the Colonial Crisis in Puerto Rico”

Ep. 247 “The PROMESA and the Colonial Crisis in Puerto Rico” (hosted by Dr. Michael Lujan Bevacqua and produced by Tom Maxedon with assistance from Alan Grossman) was recorded 6/2/16 in Managua, Nicaragua and airs 7/1/16. 

 

This episode features an in-person interview with Wilma E. Reverón-Collazo,  an internationally recognized human rights activist and attorney practicing employment, civil rights, and family law in Puerto Rico.  

In recent weeks the news of an economic crisis in Puerto Rico has been widely reported in the media. The local government is more than $70 billion in debt and the island is suffering with an unemployment rate of 11.4% and a poverty rate of 45%.  Basic public services in health care and education have been dramatically affected and the island is experiencing a rapid brain drain as those who have the means to leave, are doing so.

 

What is rarely reported by mainstream media is that much of Puerto Rico’s current dire financial state is due to its long-standing history as a U.S. colony, and past and existing laws that have kept it, as some scholars suggest, as a “laboratory of neoliberalism.” This implies that certain predatory or Malthusian social and economic policies that are currently being imposed on developing countries around the world, were first piloted in Puerto Rico. Current U.S. and Puerto Rico law restrict this commonwealth’s ability to respond to its financial crisis, for example by requiring that it pay its debtors each month before it takes care of its basic services; also, by preventing it from declaring bankruptcy in order to restructure its debt.

 

On June 29, the U.S. Senate passed the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA, which translates to promise), on a bipartisan 68-30 vote, three weeks after  the House overwhelmingly backed the measure.  This vote came just two days before Puerto Rico is due to make a $2 billion payment to creditors. Puerto Rico is scheduled for its next round of debt payments and is unable to meet them.  This supposed “rescue” legislation affords an opportunity for Puerto Rico to restructure its debt by placing it under the control of a seven-member federal fiscal board whose authority supersedes any local law or elected official.  

Attorney Reverón-Collazo discusses the colonial origins of the current debt crisis and how, in her opinion, the PROMESA only promises to create more problems. 

 

This interview was conducted by Dr. Michael Lujan Bevacqua on June 2, 2016 at the United Nations Committee of 24 (Special Committee on Decolonization) Regional Seminar held in Managua, Nicaragua.    

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