By: Rogelio Acevedo
With a debt of $69 billion, a moratorium on payment up on January 31st, a working class that represents 40% of a total 3.4 million people in which 47% live below the poverty level including minors under 14 years old (19.1% of the population) and those between 55 – 74 (23% of the population) as those most affected, the social and economic situation within the territory is an immense powder keg incrusted in the heart of imperialism.
The incoming government that is advancing its so-called “Plan for Puerto Rico” is a combination of corrupt veterans that took part in pillage during the era of Rosselló, Sr. and the local lackeys of the Fortuño administration. The plan itself is simple; impose on the working masses a new scheme of labor exploitation with poverty wages, reallocate huge portions of the public budget to debt payment and, at the same time, finance unnecessary infrastructure projects (hotels, highways, garbage-burning energy plants) that threaten our health and environment with fresh debt. What a racket! Yes sir!
It is essential that the working class examine the incoming government’s Plan for Puerto Rico. This plan not only leaves intact the profits, property and privileges of the capitalist class, both native and international, it also weakens labor and environmental laws, privatizes services and dismantles and auctions off public assets to the highest bidder. These austerity measures and privatizations attack the most important areas of the economy for the working masses: health, educations, pensions as well as future economic development.
Let’s take a look.
In the area of economic development, the group designated by Rosselló, following along the lines of the Working Group for Economic Development created by the PROMESA Law, do not propose anything that does not continue the territory’s dependence on the US and extend tax exemptions to capitalists. It proposes an increase in reimbursements for the excise tax on rum, which ranges from $300 and $400 million annually, along with an extension for an undetermined period of the 4% tax on foreign corporations, which brings another $1.9 billion annually. They also propose addressing the $1.2 billion deficit in the Health Reform and an extension of the Earned Income Credit for Dependent Children to Puerto Rico which could inject up to $290 million annually into the economy.
The director for the Public-Private Partnership Authority as well as the Port Authority, Omar Marrero Díaz, signaled recently that priority projects would be related to the privatization of ferry service to Vieques and Culebra, public transportation, energy production, highways and other port infrastructure like docks and regional airports. This plan includes the extension of Highway 22 to Aguadilla, which we workers will pay to put into the hands of the click form Metropistas. These massive privatizations should not worry us, according to Marrero Díaz, as they will amend the Public-Private Partnership Law so that the revenues inject liquidity into the government and teachers’ retirement systems. Yes sir!
For health, the same scheme based on dependence is the result. The designated Secretary of Health, Rafael Rodríguez Mercado, has a brilliant plan. He insists on keeping the Health Reform as a model of healthcare in the country. It is a system that squanders $3,065 per patient and puts into the insurance companies’ hands the delivery of services thereby putting profits before the needs of the majority. According to Rodríguez Mercado, this model, which currently covers 1.5 million people, must eliminate coverage for people to keep functioning. His plan is to continue begging for so-called “parity” in Medicaid and Medicare funding, an unrealistic goal considering the affirmations of Tom Price, Health and Human Services designee, who has pledged to repeal Obamacare along with Medicaid expansion.
The sum total of these hollow proposals do not meet the necessary criteria to advance real economic development: freeing the territory from the colonial fetters to expand commercial exchange, investment in machinery and infrastructure for productive industries, the development of agriculture and the protection of the environment. In the area of health, this plan presages disaster because it does not even address the fundamental problem of control by the insurance companies over services and medicines.
It should be clear and with now room for doubt among the workers that the plans of the Wall Street Junta as well as the “Plan” of Rosselló’s lackeys is to take by force of what remains of the country. This is precisely why we must organize into workers’ councils and commence a new struggle from within out workplaces and communities. We cannot continue to give our money to either the Junta or its local lackeys so they can keep lining their pockets. We must organize a tax strike. Let’s hit them where it hurts. No, to taxes!