Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Organize Now plans to deliver 7,000 petitions to Congress members demanding no austerity cuts in Puerto Rico

Posted By on Tue, Jun 7, 2016 at 6:42 PM

  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
Organize Now plans to deliver almost 7,000 petitions to Central Florida's Congressional representatives, calling on them to vote against any austerity measures for Puerto Rico. 

The Orlando-based organization plans to deliver the petitions by hand to U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Winter Park, at his office on Wednesday, says Frederick Velez III, the Latino outreach organizer for the group. Organize Now also plans to mail a copy of the petitions to U.S. Reps. Alan Grayson, Daniel Webster, Bill Posey and Corrine Brown. 

Congress is set to vote on the Puerto Rico Oversight Management and Economic Stability Act or PROMESA, which has been hailed by some as a solution to the U.S. territory's financial crisis.  Aside from creating an Oversight Board to control the island's finances and as a last resort, restructure Puerto Rico's $70 billion debt, PROMESA would allow employers to pay less than the minimum wage for young workers and would not provide bailout funds for the island. 

The petition from Organize Now says it opposes parts of PROMESA that it says would lower the minimum wage to $4.25 for young workers, prioritize debt payments to hedge funds, loosen environmental protections and give power to a fiscal control board not elected by Puerto Ricans. Velez says Congress is focusing on a short-term plan to make sure Puerto Rico's debts are paid, but doesn't have a long-term plan for the commonwealth's economic development.

"Organize Now’s delivery comes as a response to the severe economic and humanitarian crisis resulting from decades of mismanagement of funds by government officials and predatory lending by hedge funds, which are now demanding their profits take priority over providing basic services for the 3.5 million U.S. citizens residing on the island," the group says in a press release. "In May, Puerto Rico defaulted on a $370 million installment payment on its debt. Next month, a $2 billion installment comes due, including $800 million guaranteed under the island’s constitution. A default on that payment will bring on a wave of lawsuits from creditors that could further destabilize Puerto Rico’s economy and accelerate its decline." 

As the financial crisis has wracked the island, thousands of Puerto Rican migrants have moved to the mainland, especially to Central Florida. Velez says many local organizations are working to organize the community to gain a voice that won't be ignored. 

"One of the things we want is for members of Congress to start talking about the PROMESA bill if they have stayed silent," Velez says. "We want them to know we're watching. We're standing up for Puerto Rico and taking note of who stands for Puerto Rico and who doesn't."

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