Don’t Undermine Democracy in Puerto Rico

Target: President Barack Obama

Goal: Veto bill that would end democracy in Puerto Rico, rendering it a colony in all but name.

A bill has passed the Senate that will curtail the government of Puerto Rico’s right to control the island financially, giving the power to run Puerto Rico’s economy to a federally appointed oversight board. Furthermore, the bill will reduce the minimum wage to $4.25 per hour for residents below 25. This on an island where groceries, gas, and utilities are more expensive than on the mainland.

This bill, known as PROMESA, is a dangerous subversion of democracy in Puerto Rico. While the bill is aimed at expediting the restructuring of Puerto Rico’s debt and balancing the territory’s budget, the far-reaching powers it hands a Republican-dominated oversight board will effectively mean that Puerto Rico is controlled by the federal government rather than the 3.5 million U.S. citizens that live there.

The U.S. territory of Puerto Rico has been in crisis since it missed payments on its estimated $72 billion debt. As a territory rather than a state or municipality, Puerto Rico cannot simply declare bankruptcy; so, the unsustainable debt load has become a long-running political and economic crisis. Just because the government of Puerto Rico holds this debt does not mean that residents of the territory received any benefit from the money. It is likely, however, that the actions of the oversight board will result in the people of Puerto Rico paying the bill. Sign our petition and ask that President Obama veto the bill, and protect democracy in Puerto Rico.


Dear President Obama ,

I was alarmed to hear of the passage of PROMESA. While the bill may seem to solve the Puerto Rican debt crisis in the short run, it does so at the cost of undermining the right of self rule of 3.5 million American citizens. Furthermore, the bill reduces the minimum wage in Puerto Rico for people under the age of 25 to $4.25, this in a region where the costs of many basic utilities are higher than the American average.

While it is clear we need a solution to Puerto Rico’s debt, the solution cannot come by rendering the territory a colony in all but name. Solving this crisis also cannot mean austerity, or lowering living standards in Puerto Rico in the name of compromise. Significant portions of the debt were not incurred to benefit the people of Puerto Rico, so they should not pay the price. Unfortunately the establishment of a board that is not accountable to the people of Puerto Rico may result in just that.

Experiments with similar governmental structures on the mainland U.S., such as the appointment of emergency managers, have resulted in the public paying the price of government debt — debt which was often used to subsidize businesses rather than invest in infrastructure. So I urge you to veto this bill, and send the message that a better solution needs to be found to this crisis.  


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: wikimedia

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