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Puerto Rican Governor Announces: Human Beings Come Before Debt Payment

May 2, 2016 (EIRNS)—In a nationally-televised speech last night, Puerto Rico’s Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla announced that the Government Development Bank (GDB) would not pay $370 million of the $422 million debt payment that came due May 1.

"This has been a very difficult decision," the Governor said, "one that, frankly, I would have preferred not to make." But in the absence of any solution from Washington, and the continued suffering of the Puerto Rican people, "I had to choose, and I chose," he said.

The island government can barely fund crucial public services—education, medical care, police and firemen. When the choice came down to providing these desperately-needed services or paying the debt, the choice was clear, Garcia explained. "You," the Puerto Rican people, "are and will continue to be my priority."

He underscored that he had been very clear last June when he publicly announced that Puerto Rico could not pay its debt. All we ask for is the legal tools—restructuring—with which to deal with this crisis, he added.

"We need the House to act. We need [Speaker] Paul Ryan to keep his word. We can’t wait any longer. We need restructuring now."

"We know that Puerto Rico’s enemies are powerful," Garcia stated, and that with brutal racist attacks, they have convinced

"members of Congress that what Puerto Rico needs is collective punishment. Some of the so-called vulture funds and their lobbyists want to deny Puerto Rico access to the legal tools"

it needs. "This is an act of pure greed." As for the proposed control board, he admonished, if some form of federal oversight can help Puerto Rico in balancing its budget or improving its fiscal discipline, that’s fine. But, he warned, "we are firmly opposed" to having Federal officials make financial decisions or have the right to "overturn our laws at whim, with no accountability" to the Puerto Rican people.

"We are committed to the principles of democracy and freedom and justice for all," Garcia concluded, but "if Congress acts differently, that would reestablish a colonial power over Puerto Rico." And this, he warned, "would open a Pandora’s box of very dangerous consequences." Puerto Rico and its institutions must be respected.

Garcia Padilla also recalled that over the decades, Puerto Ricans serving in the U.S. military have "shed their blood" for the United States." It’s now time for the United States to demonstrated that the shedding of that blood wasn’t in vain.

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