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Wall Street’s Financial Control Board To Defend Financial Predators, Kill Puerto Ricans

Oct. 10, 2016 (EIRNS)—The seven-member financial control board which Congress voted last August to impose on Puerto Rico through the so-called PROMESA bill, held its first meeting Sept. 30 on Wall Street, taking a mere 26 minutes to signal its intention to impose brutal austerity on all of the island’s government agencies, and to gouge public employee and teacher pension systems to defend the "rights" of the financial vultures who have preyed on the island for decades.

One of the first acts by board chairman Jose Carrion III was to order Gov. Alejandro García Padilla to come up with a "fiscally sustainable" program by Oct. 14. García is a figurehead on the board, with no authority or vote.

The meeting was held at the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Customs Building, but what was discussed there was inimical to everything that the Caribbean-born Hamilton stood for. As Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) told American Prospect, the meeting was a "home-court game," taking place in the shadow of Wall Street, at a time when Puerto Rico is facing a dire Zika epidemic and financial collapse. "Shame on you," shouted protesters outside the building. At its recent annual meeting, the Puerto Rican Association of Economists denounced the control board and warned that a large portion of the island’s debt is illegitimate, Prensa Latina reported.

In the months leading up to the passage of the PROMESA bill, former Lazard banker Antonio Weiss, advisor to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, lobbied Congress to pass it on the grounds that it would allow Puerto Rico to restructure its $70 billion in debt, and avert a catastrophic default. But at a recent meeting of the National Taxpayers Union, Bill Cooper, an advisor to Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), whose House committee oversaw debate on the bill, candidly admitted that PROMESA "is not a debt-restructuring bill."

The pedigree of the control board’s members makes its priorities clear. Chair José Carrion is a scion of one of Puerto Rico’s most prominent families, which has run the island’s largest bank, Banco Popular, for years. Two other members, Carlos García and José Ramón González, were top executives of the local branch of Banco Santander, which underwrote $2.5 billion in predatory loans to the island, with an effective interest rate of 360%, according to American Prospect. Another, Andrew Biggs, resident scholar at the neo-con American Enterprise Institute, is a long-time advocate of privatizing Social Security.

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