Puerto Ricans Seek Economic Jumpstart

Aliyya Swaby PhotoZruzmilda Maldonado’s brother is having trouble running his cabinet shop in Puerto Rico, struggling with the effects of the territory’s economic crisis and $73 billion debt.

Maldonado joined Connecticut’s Puerto Rican activists and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal Friday afternoon at City Hall in calling on the federal government to enact policies to pull Puerto Rico out of its crisis and restructure its debt. The conference was one of several held across the nation to push President Barack Obama and Congress to action.

More than 250,000 Puerto Ricans live in Connecticut, according to the Hispanic Federation, which organized Friday’s conference.

Blumenthal called on his peers in Congress to allow Puerto Rico’s government agencies the option to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy, which allows a municipality to restructure its debt and protects it from creditors. He and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York are co-sponsoring that bill in Congress.

“Puerto Rico is treated unfairly and unlike any other single entity in the United States of America,” he said Friday. And the crisis will have a “ripple effect” on the mainland, he said.

Ingrid Alvarez, Connecticut State Director of the Hispanic Federation, said Obama should be held accountable to “infuse significant resources into the island’s economy,” in part by investing in clean energy development on the island and ordering the U.S. Navy to clean up Vieques and Culebra, used as military training ranges for years.

The island’s economic crisis is a direct result of policies made in Washington D.C., not San Juan, said Hartford State Rep. Edwin Vargas. “In many ways, Puerto Rico is a ward of the United States of America,” he said.

He said the economic “disaster doesn’t punish leadership,” but rather innocent citizens. “Some of those loans had a 20 percent interest rate. To me that’s usury,” Vargas said.

Luz Martinez is planning to return to Puerto Rico at the end of the month. She was born and raised there and came to Connecticut as an adult. Martinez will join her husband, who retired recently and has been living in Puerto Rico.

But she said many people she knows are making a reverse trip. Her niece, who has a college degree, can’t find a job in Puerto Rico and is planning to move to the mainland United States. Her friend recently moved to Puerto Rico and is now planning a move to Florida because she couldn’t “stand the water turned on and off every day,” Martinez said.

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posted by: Theodora on August 2, 2015  10:32am

Are the residents of Puerto Rico open to statehood yet? Seems that claiming independence and demanding a bailout is incongruous.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on August 2, 2015  10:50am

How come we never hear U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal speak about slavery reparations for Black People?

posted by: robn on August 2, 2015  11:38am

PR is very much like Greece in that they over borrowed, overspent, and are part of a currency union so they can neither devalue nor leave the union. And like CT and other states they are constitutionally forbidden to declare bankruptcy.

Blumenthal and Schumer are staging a rally for this Kamikaze bill because there’s only upside (the bill will never pass because its an unfair bailout of what is essentially a state and therefore congress won’t have to deal with the cost.) And then there’s the votes…the highest % of Puerto Ricans in the U.S. live in CT and NY.

posted by: eliantonio on August 2, 2015  4:44pm

New Haven is not the proper place for these demonstrations.
New Haven has absolutely no power over PR, nor does it set policy for the people of the island.
I strongly recommend they find a more appropriate venue

posted by: esai2015 on August 2, 2015  5:57pm

For once I’d love to see an article written where both sides are presented. Almost like what you learn in journalism 101. How about posting facts like Puerto Rico’s citizens have fought and died for the US in wars beginning with WW1 and never afforded the right to vote for the president that sent it’s sons off to die.  Or how about how Puerto Rico is not allowed to have goods from any country come into its ports without flying the American flag (meaning very high fees). For example, CT can have a Korean ship port in CT and sell it’s goods however for that Korean ship to sell it’s goods in PR that ship must pick up American workers at higher rates and then sail to PR to sell the same goods at a much higher rate and since PR is an island the majority of its commerce comes from abroad. Or how about this, the native and majority language spoken in PR is Spanish, yet the federal governments court system is entirely in English.  So if someone is arrested for a federal crime (innocent before guilt right) in PR they must battle the court in a language that is not native to them (put yourself in their shoes).  These are just a few examples of the unfair treatment the people of PR face.  The government of PR is not asking for a bailout like Greece.  They are simply asking for the same rights that any state would get and that is the right to file paperwork allowing the PR government to make arrangements to pay its creditors on a time table in the same way that Detroit, MI or Stockton, CA and 22 other municipalities have done.

posted by: Noteworthy on August 2, 2015  6:01pm

Help Puerto Rico But Get Real Notes:

1. Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States and as such, needs some help and deserves the help.

2. But get real - PR’s financial problems are as much its own making as the nightmare of debt and irresponsible budgeting found here in Connecticut.

3. Part of the problem are the hedge funds who who have loaned all this money at high interest rates and fees. These bastards need to take a haircut on the debt. Yes, that means they don’t get 100 cents on the dollar - they should get about 50% and it should be a tough conversation.

4. These hedgies have been making hundreds of millions of dollars off this debt for a long time. They knew what they were getting into; they demanded to be paid before any government services including pensions and salaries.

5. The entire debt of PR should be reduced and restructured. Then real economic advisers should be put in place to make sure the island doesn’t got that way again.

posted by: Big Billy Bob Bob on August 2, 2015  7:44pm

Noteworthy.

Sorry to disabuse you, but the real problem is power hungry egotistical politicians. If they spend they get the votes and keep the populace happy, for a few years. It’s not their money, so what do they care? They get a great ego trip waving to all the peons they are tricking. If you do not think this is true just look at the newspaper reports of how much the Clinton’s have earned in the last ten years. I think it’s $140 million. If they tax and balance the books then they get voted out. Just ask Lowell Weicker about this. The last honest and conscientious politician that Connecticut had.

All politicians will line their own pockets at the expense of the uneducated masses. Just read Machiavelli. He worked that one out five or six hundred years ago. He wrote what we would call several best sellers on the subject that are still selling very well today - to politicians and wannabe politicians.

Unfortunately, at the end of the day someone does have to pay. It’s the good old uneducated working stiffs like you and me. There’s a very good reason why New Haven isn’t educating it’s kids. They might have to go to work and earn a living, but then there wouldn’t be “the take” for the politicians. Also, if they were educated, they might actually work out what is going down. The same in Puerto Rico. Some career politician has made a stack and left the tab to the voters who were stupid enough to put him / her there in the first place. Well, they are just going to get the inevitable consequences. An adjustment to their living standards. Let me spell it out. You are all going to get poorer, and it’s your own fault for listening to all the political hyperbole. Of course, this could never be said about New Haven where our much loved King John ruled with distinction.

posted by: Wikus van de Merwe on August 3, 2015  6:53am

“Banks have all the money, so morally they are obligated lend it to those who need it”

“Bank is responsible for lending the money, so they should lose some”

1 + 1= banks are morally required to give away money.

posted by: robn on August 3, 2015  1:46pm

interesting factoids

PR has the same population as CT (@3.5M) and almost 2x the land area.

US voting rights are granted to state citizens and therefore all PR citizens that are residents of CT can vote.

More Puerto Ricans (@5M) live in US states than do in PR.

I’m not saying the exclusion of voting rights for those living in the territory is right, I’m just saying that a majority of people born in PR are a voting factor in state and federal elections.

posted by: esai2015 on August 3, 2015  2:53pm

Robn I guess you are missing the entire point of my post.  Maybe you should read it again to understand the point made. 

When I mention the people of Puerto Rico I meant the people of Puerto Rico not people living outside the island. 

You seem to have missed the boat some how.  Let me explain more simply, if you were born on the island of Puerto Rico and the presidential election was happening you could not vote for the president unless you moved to the main land and set up residency in the state you moved too.  So in the past, like during the Vietnam war era, young men who turned 18 were drafted to fight in a war and didn’t even have the right to vote for the president that sent them to the war.  Can you see the irony in that?

As far as the Puerto Rican living in CT and voting, they are citizens of CT and NOT of Puerto Rico anymore.

posted by: robn on August 3, 2015  3:49pm

ESAI2015,

We’re talking past each other. I acknowledge the unfairness of lack of congressional representation. However, Puerto Ricans living stateside (like the Italians before them and the Irish before them etc etc ad nauseum) have a strong cultural and familial affinity with home and populist (stateside) politicians pander to that (not the fault of people of PR descent.)
I do not acknowledge the military draft as an issue because it hasn’t existed since the 1970s.
I do not acknowledge that suffrage has anything to do with PR debt. You yourself drew an analogy between PR and US states which I think is appropriate given its size and I’ll note again that US states are constitutionally forbidden from filing for bankruptcy. Detroit is an inappropriate analogy because it is a city and its population is dwarfed by both PR’s and CT’s.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on August 3, 2015  4:01pm

Here is the real deal on Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rican Revolutionary Pedro Albizu Campos DOCUMENTARY TRAILER


https://youtu.be/WUL6zWJy79Y

Also Just as you have sell out Judas Goat leaders here,You have sell out Judas Goat leaders in Puerto Rico.