What does PROMESA Mean to Puerto Ricans living in the United States?

By MILLY GUZMAN-YOUNG

President Obama signed the PROMESA debt-restructuring bill into law imposing a Federal Control Board onto Puerto Rico that is comprised of seven appointed U.S. officials who will be in charge of the economy.

I see PROMESA as a threat to the livelihood of my friends and family in Puerto Rico. It is a blatant disregard for the people of Puerto Rico and a culmination of the sad history Puerto Ricans have suffered in the hands of the United States from the Ponce Massacre of 1937, where 19 unarmed civilians marching peacefully were brutally murdered by police, to the illegal Mordaza and Law 53 created to suppress the independence movement. Let us not forget the bombardment and contamination of Culebras and Vieques. The U.S. has been a constant threat to Puerto Rico!

PROMESA clearly shows us all the colonial status of Puerto Rico. I realize that this problem is more deeply rooted than just one bill that was passed into law and that the problem stems from U.S. imperialism. The United States has been fraudulently manipulating Puerto Rico’s politics and economy from the moment the U.S. military took over the island and made it a colony.

Sure, they gave us the title of U.S. citizens through the Foraker Act but only to hide the true colonial status it has maintained. We are considered U.S. citizens yet Puerto Ricans on the island have no right to vote for the president and have no representation in Congress. If there was ever any doubt in the past, PROMESA has made it quite clear that Puerto Rico is a colony of the United States and that the people of Puerto Rico have no autonomy or self-determination.

Since 2010, Puerto Rico’s legislature has faithfully fulfilled the demands of creditors and bond-rating agencies: It has laid off workers; raised prices for water, gasoline and electricity; increased property, sales and small-business taxes; cut public pensions and health benefits; raised the retirement age; and closed schools.

The debt amount is questionable too and must be investigated. The United States has created much of the debt through the Merchant Marine Act (Jones Act), which requires all products entering or leaving Puerto Rico to be carried on a U.S. ship, and to top it off, the import fees are paid to the merchant marine, not to the Puerto Rican Treasury!

Puerto Ricans on the island and in the U.S. are realizing that political and economic decisions made by the U.S. for Puerto Rico are corrupt and rigged. They exist to benefit the U.S. at the cost of the livelihood of Puerto Ricans on the island. PROMESA is part of the big scam, and the only promise PROMESA is keeping is to close more schools down, to make Puerto Ricans lose their pensions, and to reduce their wages. For example, the minimum wage will be lowered for anyone under 25 to a mere $4.25 an hour! This is not a livable wage. And they plan to make it a federal crime for workers to strike against all of these changes! It is a trap!

PROMESA will further increase the unemployment rate, making even more Puerto Ricans leave the island on top of the 400,000 who have already left. History is repeating itself. As I recall from the past, the U.S. government overly increased taxes on Puerto Rican farmers to the point that they had to take bank loans, which ended up making them lose their lands.

Puerto Ricans in the U.S. have a close tie to Puerto Rico and to our culture. We do not want our families to be forced to leave our beloved island because of the conditions set forth by the United States’ corrupt politics and economics, which have not only oppressed Puerto Ricans for decades but also led to the current debt crisis. How can we survive these conditions? PROMESA threatens the livelihood of our friends and family in Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans on the island and in the U.S must ALL stand together against it!