Gov. Garcia: ‘I’m not Kicking the Can”
Jim Smith/El Hispano
Philadelphia – “It’ simple mathematics,” said Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla, in an address aimed at both the people of Puerto Rico and financial officials in the United States. “This is not about politics.”
On Monday at 9:50 am, Puerto Rico’s Governor Garcia Padilla opened a whirlwind schedule of meetings and speeches with former governors, political leaders, cabinet officials, bankers and economists aimed at resolving a fiscal crisis and achieving what Puerto Rico’s El Vocero described as a “consensus on draconian austerity policies.” In renegotiating terms of the island’s debt obligations that have reached $73 billion, avoiding default, and cobbling together a budget, Governor Garcia Padilla is seeking a comprehensive plan that “conforms to the fiscal realities of the Puerto Rican government.”
“We cannot allow the heavy weight of debt to bring us to our knees,” said Gov. Garcia Padilla.
The gathering of Puerto Rican political and financial hierarchy that included Pedro Peirluisi, Ruben Berriors , Victor Suarez, Anibal Acevedo, Sila Calderon, as well as Melba Acosta the President of Banco Gubernamental de Fomento (BGF), assembled at the Palacio de Santa Catalina, La Fortaleza, the official residence of the governor, where they were likely briefed on a recent report on Puerto Rico by Anne Krueger of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which characterized Puerto Rico’s “situation (as) dire.”
The Krueger report indicated that Puerto Rico’s national debt is worse than prior estimates, “There is not U.S. precedent for anything of this size and scope.” The troubling report elicited a resolute response from Gov. Garcia Padilla, “I am not kicking the can.”
In confronting what Gov. Garcia Padilla called the “fiscal realities,’ the government is apparently not seeking a bailout, but simply type of relief that is not currently available to any state or to Puerto Rico under Chapter 9. The rules under Chapter 9 relief would allow for a normal functioning of the government along with restructuring of debts, something that is available to municipalities.
Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), responded to questions from El Hispano on the issue of the Puerto Rico’s effort to emerge from its fiscal crisis by praising Governor Garcia Padilla: “Since taking office, Governor García Padilla has worked tirelessly to address the Commonwealth’s fiscal crisis – focusing on its immediate needs as well as its deep-seated roots.
“I join Governor García Padilla in calling on all stakeholders—including both political parties in Puerto Rico, Congress, and the Obama Administration—to come together to develop a long-term plan that addresses the root causes of this crisis,” she told El Hispano. “That starts with passing Chapter 9 and restoring funding to the healthcare system. Puerto Rican families deserve a fair shot, and we must cut through Washington’s gridlock to create a comprehensive solution.”
Others similarly saw the United States as having a historical and economic obligation to support Puerto Rico. Radio Commentator Pedro Rodriguez said, “The United States has a moral and legal obligation to rescue the Puerto Rican economy for a number of reasons, including that as a territory of the U.S. it should be considered just as any other state.”
Noting that numerous businesses from the United States have benefited from the use of Puerto Rico’s natural resources since the late nineteenth century, Rodriguez suggested that this has “prevented the emergence of an independent business class, sabotaged development of a self-sufficient economy.” In addition, he said the United States has promoted a “brain drain of (Puerto Rico’s) brightest people to labor in the U.S.”
“Banks and Wall Street get a bail out – so why not the people of Puerto Rico.”
A U.S. Veteran, Sam Rodriguez was perturbed by the entire issue, noting that groups such as “pot smokers” have recently gained special attention: “What about Puerto Rico.”
As a Commonwealth of the U.S. that has provided hundreds of thousands of agricultural and factory workers, and produced nine U.S. Medal of Honor recipients, Mr. Rodriguez asserted, “No other territory has done more for the Union than Puerto Rico.”
Erika Almiron, leader of the Juntos, immigrant advocacy organization, cited remarks of Dr. Rosario Rivera Negron, Pres. Of the Association of Puerto Rican Economists who argued that the island is suffering from a historical “colonial relationship” with the United States. “The United States aid has come with a heavy, heavy price,” says Dr. Rivera Negron. “The United States needs to leave Puerto Rico altogether,” he said.
“The colonial relationship to the U.S. is what has strangled Puerto Rico and kept it from being able to trade and negotiate deals in the world market,” added Dr. Rivera, referring to maritime shipping restrictions on Puerto Rico. “This is a manufactured crisis with the purpose of stealing the island.”
An employee for a local municipality, Chris Torres noted that the United States itself has faced recessions and debt, “They should understand the difficulty Puerto Rico is having with its debt.”