LatinoJustice PRLDEF Urges Federal Government to Immediately Address Puerto Rico’s Economic Crisis

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 28 24, 2015

CONTACT: John Garcia, Director of Communications, 212-739-7513, 917-673-9095 or jgarcia@latinojustice.org.

LatinoJustice PRLDEF joins the calls for the United States government to address the economic crisis now plaguing Puerto Rico. As an organization with over 40 years working in the Puerto Rican community both in the United States and in Puerto Rico, we have seen the application of unjust laws and practices to people of Puerto Rico and today see the resulting disastrous economic consequences of them.

Puerto Rico faces not only the forced migration of young professionals to the United States who would not otherwise leave their homeland, but also an increasingly older population with elevated health risks, high unemployment, and cyclical poverty and violence that stem from the exploitative economic policies over the years that were targeted and implemented in Puerto Rico, including by hedge funds who knowingly issued loans that were impossible for the island to repay.

“The economic displacement of thousands of Puerto Ricans is not only destructive to rebuilding the local economy, but tears apart families and cultural ties,” said Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan, Associate Counsel, LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “The severe austerity measures proposed, like those of the Krueger Plan that include wage reduction, elimination of labor protections and increased education costs, would decimate working class and poor families on the island and should be opposed by President Obama and members of Congress.”

The United States government must play an active role in addressing the economic crisis and the abusive policies and laws that have directly contributed to the impoverishment of the island, including longstanding policies like the costly Jones Act shipping requirements, known as the Cabotage Law, which has been in place for almost 100 years and places the island at an economic disadvantage.

The law has been estimated to cost each family in Puerto Rico $1,100 annually. It literally costs twice as much to ship basic goods from Florida to Puerto than it does to neighboring Caribbean countries like the Dominican Republic. The imposition of the Cabotage Law and its application in its entirety to Puerto Rico is a violation of international law, including international human rights law and norms.

While creditors claim that the debt is public, so too is the responsibility of those who created it and contributed directly to Puerto Rico’s crisis and their inability to grow their local economy. Nowhere is that more evident than in the municipal islands of Vieques and Culebra where over a decade after closing the live bombing range, the United States still has not fulfilled its duty to fully decontaminate the islands and return the lands to local control where residents can execute an autonomous vision of economic development.

Puerto Rico is not the only government responsible for addressing its current economic nightmare. President Obama and Congress must swiftly act to prevent further civil and human rights violations on the island as a result of outdated, exploitative and abusive economic and political policies.

LatinoJustice PRLDEF · 99 Hudson Street 14th Floor · New York, NY 10013-2815 · P: 212.219.3360 · 800.328.2322 · F: 212.431.4276

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