By Franklin D. López
Former United Press International and The Associated Press
@trueblue51 Facebook Instagram Pinterest www.franklindelanolopez.com Periscope Medium
“The massive population exodus, promoted by the disparity of rights, unilateral discriminatory political and economic measures is another type of crime against humanity!” FDL
Puerto Rico has been under colonial rule, under Spain and the United States, for 524 years. It may be the effects of the Gamma rays and the location of the archipelago on planet Earth that make Puerto Ricans so extremely passive that no one complained nor pretested to the ninety four new taxes plus an increase in the consumer tax from 7 per cent to 11.5 per cent imposed by the former administration, the Popular Democratic Party. There were neither protests nor strikes against the segregationist, discriminatory political and economic policies imposed by Washington.
This week, the chair of the Federal Supervisory and Oversight Board, José Carrión “the Third”, acting as a messenger of Washington said “When I meet with members of Congress and their staffers, the first thing they say is don’t request any economic development plans or federal funds until budget cuts, elimination of programs and new taxes to pay the public debt have been implemented.” In other words, “show me the cuts and then we will talk about economic development.”
The Federal Supervisory and Oversight Fiscal Board was created by the 114th U.S. Congress and the Obama administration with the objective of resolving Puerto Rico’s public debt of $72 billion dollars in bond financing. The Congressional legislation, baptized “Promise”, was approved in 6 weeks, a record in a GOP Congress and a Democratic White House, greased by donations from Wall Street hedge funds, investors and investment bankers. The Federal Fiscal Board has seven members and four of them are Puerto Ricans.
The Federal Fiscal Board, acting as messengers of the GOP Congress, sent a letter to Governor Ricardo Rosselló demanding $7.8 billion dollars in spending cuts for two consecutive fiscal years. Puerto Rico has been under a hard economic recession since 2006 with more than 500,000 American citizens fleeing the U.S. territory to the states of the Union in search of employment and a better quality of life. The effects of the economic recession have been the highest unemployment rate of any state of the Union; 30 per cent of the housing stock empty; a deflation of real estate value falling between 40 to 60%; a high rate of suicide; almost a third of the population suffering some kind of mental illness; the highest dropout level of public schools in the Nation, etc.
The Federal Fiscal Board’s demands will implode the dying Puerto Rican economy by sky rocketing the exit of at least and additional one million American citizens in the next ten years. There are 8.6 millions American citizens of Puerto Rican descend of which 5.2 millions live in the 50 states of the Union. These policies will devalue further the real estate market. Tens of thousands of homes will be foreclosed, bankruptcy of small business will increase and government revenues will shrink as consumption is drastically reduced. The weak banking platform of six banks will further deteriorate.
In Dr. Victor Frankl’s book “Man in Search of Meaning” he narrates that the people that punished the most and took Jews to be killed or exterminated in gas ovens were not the Germans but Jews who did the work for extra bread, a pillow, a better bed or a coat for the harsh Polish winters. It seems that the members of the Federal Fiscal Board have accepted to do the dirty work like the Jews did with their Jewish brothers and sisters in Auschwitz.
I favor the Federal Fiscal Board to deal not only to resolve the debt crisis, but also to face the dire colonial conditions of 3.4 million American citizens. However, in order to succeed, the Board must include a robust economic development and incentives program. If not included, the Federal Fiscal Board will fail from the get go. The policies expressed in the statement of the president of the Federal Fiscal Board are against the Catholic faith of Speaker Paul Ryan. It is very clear the contrast of the treatment of Detroit vis a vis the crisis of a colonial territory. It is clear that the policies encapsulated in the Federal Fiscal Board letter to Governor Rosselló are designed to punish the people instead of punishing the investment bankers and politicians responsible for the debacle.
Multiple White House Intergovernmental Task Forces have studied Puerto Rico’s case and have concluded that the present crisis is related to the present colonial status. The GOP controlled U.S. Congress and the Trump White House will have to deal with the catastrophic collapse of the U.S. territory in the Caribbean and its consequences as their policies forced a massive population displacement of biblical proportions. Imposing new additional taxes, spending cuts, reducing the public workforce without a robust economic development and incentives programs to create jobs will force the eventual disappearance of Puerto Rico and its future. If 92% of American citizens in the territory expressed in multiple polls that if Puerto Rico is given Independence or free association they will move to the United States, what will happen to Puerto Rico? It will be like a ghost island lost in the Caribbean sea.
The history of the three previous Fiscal Boards of New York City, Washington, D.C. and Detroit shows that Washington provided loan guarantees, federal funds and economic development programs. In the case of Detroit, the city lost 700,000 of its 1.4 million citizens and the Obama administration moved and created “the Detroit Task Force” with the objective of identifying federal funds, loan guarantees and economic development programs to begin the process of reconstruction. In total, Detroit received $2.2 billion dollars with a population of 700,000. Why not in the territory of Puerto Rico?
The Federal Fiscal Board must internalize that the only way to solve Puerto Rico crisis is to deal head on with the political status. The success story of Hawaii should be studied. When it entered the union in 1959, Hawaii had 622,000 citizens. In 2015 the Hawaiian archipelago had 1.432,000 citizens. You don’t see large communities of Hawaiians in New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Texas and Florida as you see Puerto Ricans! Why? Statehood!
But the serious issue here is that the U.S. Congress, the White House and the seven members of the Federal Fiscal Board are crossing a line promoting further a massive population exodus to the states of the Union in violation of International law which defines that the forced displacement of a civilian population by political, economic and social measures is another type of a crime against humanity. The International Criminal Court defines it as “Deportation or forcible transfer of population’ means forced displacement of the persons concerned by expulsion or other coercive acts from the area in which they are lawfully present, without grounds permitted under international law.” If the Federal Fiscal Board doesn’t know it, colonialism violates the Charter of the United Nations and many other human rights treaties signed by the United States.
If you ignore the message of this commentary, that is your choice. But the powers that be will be judged by history and will carry the consequences. The fiscal issue at hand is that providing services to the displacement of American citizens living in the colonial territory and moving to the states of the Union will cost U.S. taxpayers at least twice as much as providing the same in Puerto Rico. The option for American citizens in the territory is to seek equality in the states of the union (it only cost $150 dollars one way ticket) and change the political power base of battleground states in presidential or congressional elections dealing head on with the status of Puerto Rico and giving us our right to political equality in Puerto Rico. Equality here, and if not, in the United States. You decide!