Campaign to Audit Puerto Rico’s Debt Seeks Support in NY

Eva Prados (right), spokeswoman for the Citizen Front for the Debt Audit, alongside former New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (middle) and author and activist Naomi Klein. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

Just days before the Puerto Rican Day Parade and flanked by former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, author and activist Naomi Klein, Juan Cartagena from LatinoJustice, and members of Local 32BJ, among others, the Citizen Front for the Debt Audit – Frente Ciudadano por la Auditoría de la Deuda, in Spanish – presented their crowdfunding campaign in New York City, which aims to support an investigation on the legality of Puerto Rico’s massive debt.

The group seeks to continue the work started by a commission created in 2015 by the Puerto Rican government to examine and audit the legality and constitutionality of the continuous debt issuances through which the country has been funding its operations for decades. The commission was struck down by the island’s current government, and signatures and donations are being collected to continue its work and evaluate whether the $72 billion debt that has bankrupted the country could be eliminated.

The Citizen Front says that it needs to collect around half a million dollars to pay for the first step, consisting of evaluating bond issuances, which spokeswoman Eva Prados said could take a minimum of six months.

Attorney and constitutional law professor Luis José Torres-Asencio explained that in 40 years no efforts were made to audit bond issuances and the debt that continued to accumulate. “This is about accountability, and part of what will be revealed is that there was a great deal of illegality going on,” he said.

Torres-Asencio pointed out that payment cannot be claimed on an illegal debt, and clarified that the debt was not created by the current or previous administration but dates back decades.

The first calculations made by the Citizen Front indicate that up to 50 percent of the money currently being claimed in court – some $30 billion – may be illegal. They also say that the debt has multiplied the devastating effects of Hurricane María. Prados pointed out that the destruction caused by the storm had been worsened by the government’s lack of investment due to its financial obligations, resulting in the collapse of services such as water, power and hospitals. “Puerto Rico has seen a confluence of problems.”

Mark-Viverito lamented the negligence and poor management of the island’s administration, while Klein warned that debt is a political weapon that “has always been used to attack democracies [and] to be accountable to creditors but not to citizens.”

In addition to explaining the need for crowdfunding, the group criticized the notion that the only alternative to solving the island’s economic troubles is imposing austerity measures, citing that these have proven ineffective in Greece and many Latin American countries, which even the IMF has admitted to. “Austerity does not lead to economic growth,” said Prados.

Among the organizations supporting the Citizen Front are Power4PuertoRico, 32BJ SEIU, Vamos4PR, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, New York Communities for Change, UPROSE, Make the Road New York and the Center for Constitutional Rights.

To donate

Monetary donations can be made at through Venmo, by credit card or PayPal. Checks may also be made to Comisión Ciudadana para la Auditoría Integral del Crédito Público and mailed to P.O. Box 21054, San Juan, P.R. 00928-1054 or deposited to account #010165791 at the Cooperativa Las Piedras bank.

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