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Puerto Rican alliance protests austerity measures on island

Insisting that the people on Puerto Rico can endure no more austerity measures, a coalition of Puerto Rican, labor, and religious groups marched in Kissimmee Wednesday to protest the federal plan being pushed to resolve the commonwealth’s debt crisis.

“Puerto Rico Stands at the edge of a precipice,” declared Wanda Ramos, a leader of the Vamos 4 Puerto Rico, which led the march. “The fate of its economy is being decided by the oversight board, an unelected body set up by Congress in 2016 that has been carrying out its business largely out of the public eye, and in the heart of Wall Street.”

The Puerto Rico Financial Oversight and Management Board last week outlined a series of austerity measures aimed at helping the government dig its way out of a $72 billion debt. But the measures would come to an island where the economy has been largely collapsing in the past couple of years with large cutbacks in public services from schools and hospitals to police and fire protection to utilities, high unemployment and poverty rates and a flood of people fleeing the island, many to Florida.

Ramos declared that the oversight board is interested in the financial crisis to hedge funds and not interested in the humanitarian crisis of the islanders.

Kissimmee is becoming the heart of Central Florida’s Puerto Rican population, and the protest march stopped in front of the Puerto Rican Government’s Federal Affairs Administration Office for Florida.

There, protesters charged that the oversight board is too heavily influenced by Wall Street hedge funds that hold much of the Puerto Rico debt and too little by anyone interested in the welfare of the islanders. They called on Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello to reject the austerity measures being pushed by Washington, and to reestablish an independent audit commission he disbanded early this year.

Similar rallies were held in Boston, New York, Hartford, Chicago, Seattle, and San Juan, P.R., Wednesday, which is the anniversary of the abolition of slavery in Puerto Rico in 1873.

In addition to Ramos, the speakers included two Roman Catholic priests, teachers who left the island, and representatives of several labor unions.

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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