I turned on s Univsion's Despierta América Monday morning to get an early read on the May Day Marchas. I found a segment of interviews with Latino celebrities supporting the Boycott, including Wycleff Jean. Daddy Yankee said he was supporting the boycott but had to fly back to San Juan because of the crisis in Puerto Rico. That was the first I heard of the island's financial crisis which has put 95,000 public employees out of work. (NY1 reports that a solution to the immediate may be found in the form of an agreement to implement a 5.9% sales tax.)
I have seen very little about the crisis this week. A segment on NPR's Talk of the Nation appears to be the only coverage they have given the island this week; the Washington Post has a story in its Saturday edition. The New York Times has nary una palabra about the crisis, though it did manage two baseball references to the island on Thursday.
I left the island 20 years ago this September because I saw no future in the banana republicanism, corruption and cronyism that has been the norm in la isla del encanto. The collapse of Puerto Rico's economy has been in the making since the Reagan presidency. When Reaganomics hit us, it was like a tsunami. The island went into a recession that lasted almost 10 years.
So what's the crisis about? With no money to stay "open", the governor wants to slap a 7% tax on all purchases; which would amount to an after taxes tax on the people. No mention on taxation to businesses is on the table. Sure, governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá is forcing boricuas into accept the island cannot exist as a tax-less heaven for businesses; but instead of taxing them directly he's smacking the already financially taxed boricua with the tab.
To put things into perspective : 95,000 people are unemployed at the moment. 600,000 students are out of school. The island's population? 4.2 million. That's a big chunk of people who depend on a government payroll and who now have to pay even more money for the things they can't in the first place because … ahem … the government has no money. That's a billion smackeroos to you.
And just so you get a taste of our banana republicanism, the president of the assembly demanded the governor give him and his Assembly their payroll. All the while, more than 95,000 government workers get nothing at the end of the month.
Liza reports that her mom has observed that
for the first time ever, without a Ruben Berrios or a Juan Mari Bras, people are taking it upon themselves to say …. maybe being an independent country wouldn't be bad after all. She feels this is not at all a political movement in the part sense of the word. The way she described it, the word we'd use here in the US would be grassroots. It's not just students and labor organizers, she said, but the common man and woman are talking about independencia on the street.
And the blog Periodismo es una Conversacion (apparently a project of San Juan's El Nuevo Dia) says Puerto Rico has changed inexorable this week:
Puerto Rico no será el mismo después de esta crisis. Ni debe serlo. Ni siquiera debería intentar regresar a la normalidad. De esta situación habremos de aprender que las cosas no deben seguir igual que antes. Que debe darse un cambio profundo en la manera en que el Estado provee los servicios y la actitud de los puertorriqueños hacia el Gobierno.
Meanwhile, I bet the crisis (and Daddy Yankee's participation in the protests) will be a prime topic at tonight's NuyoRico.com & Center for Puero Rican Studies event, A closer look at Reggaeton: Pannel Presentation, featuring Ejima Baker (Graduate Student, CUNY Graduate Center), Prof. Felix Jimenez (Universidad del Sagrado Corazon & Visiting Scholar, Columbia University), Daniel Nieves (Undergraduate Student, NYU), Wayne Marshall (Harvard Extended School) and moderated by Raquel Z. Rivera (Tuffs University).