Crisis in Puerto Rico

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.

Vivir Latino commented on it on Wednesday and Culture Kitchen's Liza added her thoughts today:

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 & 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).



4 thoughts on “Crisis in Puerto Rico

  1. C’mmon – what’s all this independentista crap from the other Liza? Two of the major reasons for the fiscal crisis in PR are the corruption and thievery of the Rossello administration in the 90’s – I can’t even begin to count all the cabinet members in his administration who were indicted for stealing federal dollars for HIV/AIDS programs and education. Rosello left the next governor Sila Calderon with one of the hugest debts ever. Sila, while more visionary and definitely mentally saner than Rosello, ignored the debt and spent millions of dollars on her baby project – Comunidades Especiales. Pobre Acevedo Vila, the current governor, left with a double whammy of a public debt. He even reduced his salary and challenged legislators to do the same. Of course, the fat cats in the legislature did not reduce their salaries. The second major reason for the crisis is what the other Liza mentions – 95,000 public employees! How ridiculous is this?! While I share her concern for all the families without paychecks and chidren with closed schools. the number of public employees in PR MUST BE REDUCED. The PR government bureaucracy is fraught with nepotism – if your uncle has a job with the gov’t, you can bet that your cousins and their cousins also do. It’s so bloated, it was time it exploded. You don’t need 95,000 gov’t employees for a “state” comparable to Rhode Island and Connecticut in size.

    And while people may be talking about independence on the street, don’t believe them, when they go to the voting booth, less than 5% of PRicans have voted for independence candidates since the 70’s. I think many PRicans in the US miss PR so much (I do too!) that they live in this leftist delusion that PRicans in the island want the same things that they do. Wake up, and smell the Yaucono.

  2. In studying the situation of our island, it is clear that the root of our problem is super population. From Spanish colonial times to present day, the evidence confirms this fact. All periods of economic growth happens after there is mass migration. Teodoro Moscosos’s “Operation Bootstrap” achieved its goal of industrializing the island because many Puerto Ricans left to N.Y. in great quantities. If not, no matter how many factories were open, there still wouldn’t have been enough jobs for the unemployed. Now there appears to be another exodus, to Florida, mainly Orlando. When there is relief of the super population, maybe things will get better again. The problem now, however, is compounded by illegal immigration comming from Domonican Republic, Hati, and Cuba. Maybe a period of economic growth wont materailize so easy this time.

  3. Carlos, interesting. On the mainland, immigration is generally accepted as being a boon to local economies, for the most part. I wonder why that’s not the case on the island.

  4. It is indeed interesting to read about how some people feel about Puerto Rico and yet they fail to mention what if anything they themselves are doing about it as individuals no matter where they may be living when the write their piece. Within the coming years this island is going to go through one of its most difficult transformations all our generations have ever seen.
    Since the vast majoirty of Boricuas dont live on this island, it is losing its character and meaning as we have come to know it and love it. Over 500,000 elderly, economic flight, brain drain, and a very young population that are dropping out of schools that do not care about the futures of their students, is all what is needed for the perfect storm that is already fomulating and will result in a man-made disater; that is of course if we dont get it with a Katrina like storm. I only wonder when was the last time any of the poster here spend considerable time here on the island and had a chance to make a diffference or simply gave up and packed it in.
    I will not leave this island. I will not abandon it and have it become a small enclave for refugee Dominicans or any other immigrant group that thinks Puerto Rico is a “easy’ taget for their trasport to the United States. This in MY piece of dirt come hell or high water and if ANY body feels different then stay off my island regardless of what is coming down the pike its MINE Boricua Hasta La MUERTE

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