The U.S. Senate has passed the so-called PROMESA bill, which will establish a federally appointed control board with sweeping powers to run Puerto Rico’s economy. While the bill’s supporters say the bill will help the island cope with its crippling debt crisis, it has also been widely criticized as a means of removing democratic control from the citizens of Puerto Rico. The Senate’s 68-30 vote comes two days before Puerto Rico is expected to default on a more than $2 billion debt payment. New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez led the opposition to the bill.
Sen. Bob Menendez: "It is a vote to authorize an unelected, unchecked and all-powerful control board to determine Puerto Rico’s destiny for a generation or more. It is a bill to force Puerto Rico, without their say, to go $370 million further in debt to pay for this omnipotent control board, which they don’t even want. It is a vote to cut the minimum wage down to $4.25 per hour for young workers in Puerto Rico. It’s a vote to make Puerto Ricans work long overtime hours without fair compensation. It’s a vote to jeopardize collective bargaining agreements. It’s a vote to cut worker benefits and privatize inherently government functions. It’s a vote to close schools and shutter hospitals and cut senior citizens’ pensions to the bone. It’s a vote to put hedge funds ahead of the people. And it’s a vote to sell off and commercialize natural treasures that belong to the people of Puerto Rico."
Democratic presidential candidate and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders also spoke out against the legislation.
Sen. Bernie Sanders: "This is a terrible piece of legislation, setting horrific precedent, and must not be passed. Mr. President, the United States of America should not treat Puerto Rico as a colony. We cannot and must not take away the democratic rights of the 3.5 million Americans of Puerto Rico and give virtually all power on that island to a seven-member board, which will be dominated, as it happens, by four Republicans."
Demonstrators have established an ongoing protest camp outside the U.S. Federal Court in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico, in opposition to the bill, which now heads to President Obama’s desk.