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Obama Pummeled for Failure To Aid Puerto Rico; O’Malley Demands Action

July 2, 2015 (EIRNS)—"Obama to Puerto Rico: Drop Dead," the headline on a July 1 New York Daily News article, aptly captures the widespread sentiment that Barack Obama has thrown the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to the wolves. He is refusing to use the power of the Federal government to push for passage of existing legislation (H.R. 870) that would grant Puerto Rican highly-indebted state corporations Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection, or offer anything other than "moral support" to alleviate the island’s desperate financial and social crisis.

"Puerto Rico Deserves Bankruptcy Protection," wrote New York Rep. Charles Rangel in a July 1 opinion piece published in the Huffington Post. Granting Puerto Rico the same bankruptcy protection that every U.S. state enjoys, "won’t cost taxpayers a dime," he wrote. Yet despite overwhelming support for H.R. 870 expressed in House hearings last February, the bill has gone nowhere. The lack of such protection, "threatens Puerto Rico’s future," Rangel warned.

In its editorial today, entitled "Puerto Rico Needs Debt Relief," the New York Times reports that H.R. 870 is being held hostage by "hedge funds"—read vultures—who oppose it. These predators own 50% of the island’s debt, and have no reason to come to the negotiating table, as long as there is no bankrupty protection for the island’s state companies.

In a July 1 interview with Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman, New York Rep. Nydia Velazquez warned, "This is the time for the Federal government to assume its responsibilities.... The Federal government cannot allow for a situation like this to go on." H.R. 870, which was introduced by Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner, Pedro Pierluisi, is still in the House, she said, and New York Sen. Chuck Schumer is prepared to introduce it into the Senate. It must be passed!

Asked if she felt betrayed by Obama, Velazquez responded, "I feel that every administration that comes to the White House basically continues to treat Puerto Ricans as second-class citizens, and that is not right." She added that candidate Obama made a big deal about improving Puerto Ricans’ access to healthcare; but under his watch, the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services is making it financial impossible for healthcare services to be maintained.

So far, only Democratic Presidential candidate Martin O’Malley has publicly stated that "we must act now to avoid Puerto Rico’s economic collapse," pjmedia.com reported June 30. "First, Puerto Rico should be able to negotiate with its creditors just as states can under the U.S. Bankruptcy code," he said. Then, Congress should act to pass Commissioner Pierluisi’s legislation "that would allow this to happen."