Ripping into the “vulture capitalists” and political elites who favor debt-restructuring schemes that penalize Puerto Rico’s poor and working-class families, Bernie Sanders brought his populist presidential bid to San Juan Monday. And as he has throughout his run for the 2016 Democratic nomination, Sanders argued that democratic options must be expanded in order to let voters prioritize human needs over Wall Street greed.
“It is unacceptable to me for the United States government to treat Puerto Rico like a colony during a time when its people are facing the worst fiscal and economic crisis in its history. In my view, the people of Puerto Rico must be empowered to determine their own destiny,” declared the senator from Vermont, in remarks that focused on a debt crisis that has ravaged the commonwealth, and on the failure of officials in Washington to respond in a humane and economically responsible manner to that crisis.
Sanders told cheering crowds in San Juan that the crisis—and the poverty and economic inequality that has extended from it—”has everything to do with the greed…of Wall Street vulture funds.”
“In the midst of this massive human crisis, it is morally unacceptable that billionaire hedge-fund managers have been calling for even more austerity in Puerto Rico. Austerity will not solve this crisis,” declared the senator from Vermont, who began his campaign swing by addressing a boisterous town-hall meeting on the island that has been overwhelmed by demands from hedge funds for repayment of their piece of a $70 billion debt burden incurred during a period of severe economic decline. “As we all know from throughout the world, austerity will cause more suffering for working people and make the rich richer. We must vigorously oppose all efforts at austerity. It is unacceptable to me that vulture funds on Wall Street are demanding that Puerto Rico fire teachers, close schools, cut pensions and abolish the minimum wage so that they can reap huge profits off the suffering and the misery of the children and the people of Puerto Rico. We cannot allow that to happen. We will not allow that to happen.”
Puerto Ricans cannot vote in November presidential elections, but they send delegates to the Democratic and Republican national conventions—and Sanders campaigned in San Juan in anticipation of the commonwealth’s June 5 primary.
Both Sanders and his rival for the Democratic nomination, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, have called for Congress to take steps to ease Puerto Rico’s debt burden, with Clinton arguing that “Congress and the Obama Administration need to partner with Puerto Rico by providing real support and tools so that Puerto Rico can do the hard work it will take to get on a path toward stability and prosperity.”