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Puerto Rico Gets the Greek Genocide Treatment

Jan. 17, 2017 (EIRNS)—The financial control board imposed on Puerto Rico last August as part of the PROMESA legislation, is giving this U.S. territory the "Greek" treatment: imposing fascist austerity on an already-devastated population; denying citizens access to education, healthcare and job security; and causing grave psychological problems among them as a result.

In mid-December, the board handed then-Governor Garcia Padilla a series of measures to "turn around" the economy, Associated Press reported Dec. 20, including downsizing the government, privatizing ports, implementing labor, energy and tax reform, seeking public-private partnerships, and cutting "non-essential" services—education and healthcare. Any cuts to healthcare are deliberate genocide: the island’s healthcare system is already collapsing, and 68% of the population—2.37 million people—depend on Medicare, Medicare Advantage, and Medicaid. Funding to all these programs is being slashed. The pension system is likely to run out of funds this year, and retirees are having to work into their 70s and 80s, because pensions don’t cover their expenses.

The University of Puerto Rico Medical School’s Behavioral Sciences Institute just released a study showing that 7.3% of Puerto Rican adults between the ages of 18 and 64 suffer from some kind of serious mental health problem. Two of every ten people live with a psychiatric disorder; one in ten suffers from severe depression, and 23.7% suffer from a combination of psychiatric disorders and drug or alcohol abuse. Four out of ten suffering from serious mental health conditions receive no treatment.

New governor Ricardo Rossello, a proponent of statehood, is trying to ram a labor reform law through the island’s congress to eliminate those benefits the control board says are "obstacles" to job creation, such as mandatory Christmas bonuses, vacation and sick days. It allows for "flexible scheduling"—moving workers around, changing shift times—lengthens the probation period for new workers from three months to a year (during which time they receive no benefits), and reduces overtime pay from double time to time and a half. The island’s official unemployment rate is 13%.

Notably, medical marijuana is being proposed as one of the island’s "growth industries" and job creators.