Puerto Rico: a Junta By Any Other Name

By Miguel A. Cruz Diaz and cross-posted from Counterpunch.org

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Empire is once again fashionable. The financial crisis that is presently gutting the island of Puerto Rico plays out like the world’s worst case of botched assisted suicide. The sell of its municipal funds and its constitutionally guaranteed promise of repayment to investors has plunged the island into a very precarious situation for its millions of citizens and the opportunity of a lifetime for hedge fund vultures. While it is laudable that the current economic meltdown on the island has made some headlines, including a mostly well-thought out piece by comedian John Oliver, the same cannot be said for the congressional knee-jerk legislative reaction to it. The bill, H.R. 4900, was designed to impose an oversight board meant to administer the fiscal responsibilities of the Puerto Rican people and has unleashed a firestorm of opposition that was glossed over by Oliver’s otherwise on-point observations. The controversy surrounding this bill has served as a catalyst underscoring the deep disregard bordering on contempt that frames the question of self-determination and complete lack of sovereignty afforded to islanders.

The attempted passage of this bill was a response by congress to the impending default by Puerto Rico on its loan payments, and the island’s current insolvency has attracted a modicum of national attention from a nation that is by and large oblivious to the fact that Puerto Rico is not only a part of the United States but that its inhabitants are actually U.S. citizens. Hedge funds, nothing more than vulture capitalists, finally sobered up after a decades-long bond-buying frenzy that enabled the Puerto Rican ruling class to forfeit the island’s already precarious economic situation for the foreseeable future. They are standing in the wings, ready to feast on the island’s financial carcass. The seeming inevitability of defaulting on the coming May 1st repayment and the inability of legally declaring bankruptcy due to the island’s colonial status are a veritable godsend to speculators and disaster capitalists

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