This past June the United States Congress approved the establishment of a Fiscal Oversight Board to take control over all budgetary decisions by the government of Puerto Rico. The Board, known in Spanish as “Junta de Control Fiscal,” consists of seven persons, all appointed by President Obama acting on recommendations by both the Republican and Democratic congressional leadership. President Obama appointed all members, three of whom are Puerto Ricans. The governor of Puerto Rico is an ex-officio member of the Board with voice but no vote. The Governor of Puerto Rico is mandated by the law that creates the Junta to submit all fiscal plans and annual budgets to this seven-members body, which will in turn determine whether these budgets help the island to return to the financial markets. Tellingly, the Congressional bill did not stipulate economic growth as one of its goals. Rather, the explicit objectives seek to make the government more efficient in the provision of public services; to organize the local finances to make possible that bond holders of Puerto Rican debt, contingent on resources available, will be paid; to open doors in the financial markets now closed to the central government and its public corporations, and to foster projects aimed at reducing the island’s dependence on oil for all its energy needs. All of this can be expressed in a different way: Puerto Rico is a colony of the United States confronting an unsustainable pattern of public indebtedness, which led the Federal government to take over. This is a situation in which imperialism, colonialism, and neoliberalism coalesce in a society that has been fraying for a long time and is now moving toward a humanitarian crisis. With a public debt of seventy billion in a country where annual tax revenues are ten billion, an additional forty billion in retirement obligations, and amid a recession for more than a decade, the Puerto Rican model is no longer viable. Per the Congressional logic, supported by local elites, the solution does not lie in democracy but in a suspension of democratic practices as well as in the imposition of the well-known recipe of privatization and higher taxes that ravaged Latin American economies in the 1980s as it is now ravaging the Greek economy. The triad mentioned above of neoliberalism, colonialism, and despotism, and will design public policies that, likely, will deepen the deterioration of the social fabric and create conditions for a radical reformulation of the present colonial relationship with the United States government. The main goals of the event are to educate the Five College community on the important events now taking place on the island and to build bridges with the local Puerto Rican community in Holyoke and Springfield, and regionally.
Center for Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies
522 200 Hicks Way
Amherst, MA 01003-9277
tel (413) 545-4648
fax (413) 545-1244