Quantcast

Warren Introduces Relief Package to Help Storm-Ravaged Puerto Rico 'Recover With Dignity'

Politics
Remains of a house in the eastern part of Puerto Rico. Lorie Shaull / CC BY-SA 2.0

By Eoin Higgins

A group of Democratic Senators, led by Elizabeth Warren, are again pushing to have Puerto Rico's debt forgiven in the wake of dual hurricanes that hit the island in 2017 — an announcement that came as activists from the U.S. territory were on Capitol Hill to find a solution to the island's economic woes.


The United States Territorial Relief Act of 2019, as Warren's bill is known, would offer comprehensive debt relief to the American territory. Warren was joined by fellow Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). All but Markey, Warren included, are running for the Democratic nomination for president.

"Our bill gives Puerto Rico and other struggling territories a route to comprehensive debt relief and a chance to recover with dignity," Warren said in a statement. "It's time for Congress to pass this bill."

If passed, according to an overview provided by Warren's office, the legislation would forgive the island's debt, establish a fund for those who suffer losses from the debt cancellation, and create an auditing commission on the genesis of the debt and how the crisis got so out of control.

The House version of the legislation is being introduced in the lower chamber by Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.).

"Puerto Rico needs every tool possible to recover economically and physically from Hurricane Maria," Velázquez said.

The same cohort of senators and Velázquez introduced the legislation in 2018. It was ultimately unsuccessful.

Puerto Rico's debt issues are nothing new, as Common Dreams has reported — but things have gotten worse since the 2017 hurricanes and the only legislation in place is outdated and insufficient to address the current problems.

A 2016 bill addressing Puerto Rican debt, the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), was signed into law by former President Barack Obama before the storms hit. PROMESA came in for criticism from Sanders, and others, even before the current crisis.

"Over the past several years, Puerto Rico has been living with an economic noose around its neck due to its crippling debt crisis and the devastation created by Hurricane Maria," said the Hispanic Foundation's president José Calderón in a statement supporting Warren's bill.

Puerto Rican activists confronted members of the island's Financial Oversight and Management Board (FOMB) about the predatory practices encouraged by PROMESA on Thursday. They were successful in convincing FOMB to take legal action against banks that profited off of Puerto Rican debt illegally.

Jesus Gonzalez, an organizer with the Center For Popular Democracy, pointed out in a statement that tougher action on predatory creditors would not have happened without "Puerto Rican families on the island and of the diaspora who have fought tirelessly for a just recovery," he said more still needed to be done.

"While the FOMB has decided to pursue legal action," Gonzalez said, "there is much information we still need to analyze to ensure that proper action is taken against every single person who profited from the illegal debt."

Sanders, in a statement, took aim at the banks and hedge funds that used the debt to make billions of dollars.

"Greedy Wall Street vulture funds must not be allowed to reap huge profits off the suffering and misery of the Puerto Rican people for a second longer," said Sanders.

The debt also created an impossible situation for Puerto Ricans struggling to recover after Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, said Hispanic Foundation's Calderón.

"Over the past several years, Puerto Rico has been living with an economic noose around its neck due to its crippling debt crisis and the devastation created by Hurricane Maria," Calderón said. "The island government simply does not have the means to pay off its debt and prioritize the well-being of its people."

Warren echoed Calderón's callback to the difficulties faced by Puerto Ricans in their long pursuit of financial justice.

"Puerto Rican families were watching debt crush their futures long before Hurricane Maria hit," said Warren, "and this administration has failed in its response."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Artist's conception of solar islands in the open ocean. PNAS

Millions of solar panels clustered together to form an island could convert carbon dioxide in seawater into methanol, which can fuel airplanes and trucks, according to new research from Norway and Switzerland and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, PNAS, as NBC News reported. The floating islands could drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on fossil fuels.

Read More Show Less
Marcos Alves / Moment Open / Getty Images

More than 40 percent of insects could go extinct globally in the next few decades. So why did the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week OK the 'emergency' use of the bee-killing pesticide sulfoxaflor on 13.9 million acres?

EcoWatch teamed up with Center for Biological Diversity via EcoWatch Live on Facebook to find out why. Environmental Health Director and Senior Attorney Lori Ann Burd explained how there is a loophole in the The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act under section 18, "that allows for entities and states to request emergency exemptions to spraying pesticides where they otherwise wouldn't be allowed to spray."

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

Zero Waste Kitchen Essentials

Simple swaps that cut down on kitchen trash.

Sponsored

By Kayla Robbins

Along with the bathroom, the kitchen is one of the most daunting areas to try and make zero waste.

Read More Show Less
View of downtown Miami, Florida from Hobie Island on Feb. 2, 2019. Michael Muraz / Flickr

The Democratic candidates for president descended upon Miami for a two-night debate on Wednesday and Thursday. Any candidate hoping to carry the state will have to make the climate crisis central to their campaign, as The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less
A pumpjack in the Permian Basin. blake.thornberry / Flickr

By Sharon Kelly

On Monday, the Wall Street Journal featured a profile of Scott Sheffield, CEO of Pioneer Natural Resources, whose company is known among investors for its emphasis on drawing oil and gas from the Permian basin in Texas using horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Pexels

By Craig K. Chandler

The federal government has available to it, should it choose to use them, a wide range of potential climate change management tools, going well beyond the traditional pollution control regulatory options. And, in some cases (not all), without new legislative authorization.

Read More Show Less
Denis Poroy / Getty Images

By Dan Gray

Processed foods, in their many delicious forms, are an American favorite.

But new research shows that despite increasing evidence on just how unhealthy processed foods are, Americans have continued to eat the products at the same rate.

Read More Show Less

By Sarah Steffen

With a profound understanding of their environmental surroundings, indigenous communities around the world are often cited as being pivotal to tackling climate change.

Read More Show Less