Puerto Rico

Mass Protests Force the Resignation of Puerto Rico's Scandal-Plagued Governor

The island's residents have had enough of a territorial government tainted by corruption and that is seemingly contemptuous of their daily struggles.

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Embattled Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said Wednesday evening that he will resign from office following days of demonstrations demanding his ouster over leaked offensive text messages between the governor and his staff.

"My only priority has been the transformation of our island and the wellbeing of our people," Rosselló said last night in a televised address, adding that he would step down by August 2. "The demands have been overwhelming and I've received them with the highest degree of humility."

The governor's resignation came two days after a massive march in San Juan—reportedly one of the largest in the island's history—which saw protestors filling the city's main freeway demanding that Rosselló step down.

Earlier in the month, local media published some 900 pages of group texts involving the governor and senior members of his administration in which they made misogynistic remarks about female politicians, mocked victims of recent hurricanes, and expressed disdain for a federal oversight board that's been set up to guide the island out of its severe debt and pension crisis.

The texts were the last straw for many residents of the U.S. commonwealth.

The messages were published in the press at the same time that the FBI was arresting other senior members of Rosselló's administration for giving government contracts to politically-connected firms.

In addition to government corruption, Puerto Ricans have had to endure the long-lasting effects of 2017's Hurricane Maria. The storm caused billions of dollars in damage and knocked out much of the island's mismanaged, debt-laden, government-owned electrical grid.

The island's economy has essentially been in recession since the mid-2000s and roughly 500,000 Puerto Ricans have left the island over the past decade, according to the Pew Research Center. Population loss and a shrinking private sector have only made it harder for Puerto Rico to cope with its government debt crisis. The island owes some $74 billion in debt and another $50 billion in pension obligations, according to a Wall Street Journal editorial.

That same Journal editorial notes that Rosselló has used his time in office to fight efforts at scaling back this debt, including his flat refusals to implement furloughs of government workers and cuts to public pensions ordered by a federal fiscal oversight board set up in 2016. Some of the governor's private texts featured rather undiplomatic statements and emojis directed at this oversight board.

In addition to massive government spending and generous public pensions, Puerto Rico's collection of government-owned corporations have helped fuel its debt crisis. As Marc Joffe, a policy analyst with the Reason Foundation (which publishes this website), noted in 2016, there are some 50 government-owned corporations on the island. According to a 2017 Government Accountability Office report, up to 40 percent of Puerto Rico's debt as of 2014 was owed by these publicly-owned corporations.

Making things harder for the Puerto Rican economy is the Jones Act, a century-old piece of legislation that requires goods shipped between U.S. ports to be carried by U.S.-built, U.S.-flagged, U.S.-manned vessels. This requires companies sending goods between the U.S. mainland and the island to use a smaller number of more expensive, Jones Act-compliant ships.

A 2012 study from the New York Federal Reserve found that the cost of sending a shipping container from the East Coast of the U.S. to Puerto Rico are double what it would cost to send that same container to ports in nearby Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.

However, liberalizing the Puerto Rican economy and paring back its public sector is not a particularly populist cause. The Los Angeles Times reports that Monday's protestors directed their anger at both the governor as well as the federal oversight board and its unpopular spending cuts.

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  1. Kudos to the people of Puerto Rico for ousting their brain dead governor.
    It appears the people of PR don’t want to end up like all those lucky bastards in Venezuela living off the fat of the land the socialist Maduro provided them so gracefully.

    1. Oh but they do. They’re thrilled to finally be able to implement leadership that will, once and for all, eliminate the kulaks, wreckers and hoarders who have prevented everlasting prosperity in Puerto Rico.

    2. “The Los Angeles Times reports that Monday’s protestors directed their anger at both the governor as well as the federal oversight board and its unpopular spending cuts.”

      Yeah, not so much.

  2. If they’d legalize drugs, gambling and prostitution they’d be rich.

  3. The island’s residents have had enough of a territorial government tainted by corruption and that is seemingly contemptuous of their daily struggles.

    Are you sure about that?

  4. Puerto Rico is a perfect rebuttal to the retards constantly whinging about America’s empire. We won a war with Spain, gave up control of the only country worth a fuck in the conflict, took on the burden of Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines and paid 20 million dollars for the privilege.

    1. Isn’t Puerto Rico also the perfect rebuttal to the Open Borders delusionists?

      Yeah, yeah, I know Jones Act. But Hawaii and Alaska have to deal with that too. But PR doesn’t have to deal with the Federal Income Tax.

      1. It’s just bad luck that every majority Hispanic country in the western hemisphere is a political and economic basket case.

        1. Chile and Panama aren’t.

        2. Even with all that help from Reagan and his merry band of neocon meddlers.

      2. No. How does it even have anything to do with open borders?

  5. Oh bullshit. They’re mad about social media posts.

    The protesters are angry that THEY AREN’T THE ONES getting payola. How many of them knew a public worker, cop, regulator or politician who greased wheels for them, got them stuff and moved them to the head of one line or another? ALL of them, I’d bet, and they just want better-connected connections.

    Watch. Soon as somebody gets in and tries to deal with the islands’ problems like an adult with an understanding of economic reality, they’ll be deposed by a caudillo promising a chicken in every pot, and the chickens will have pot in them, too.

    1. “”and the chickens will have pot in them, too.”‘

      The best kind of chicken?

      1. lightly basted w/windowpane.

    2. Exactly. Puerto Rico is as corrupt as Chicago/Cook County, without the financial commerce industry to mask its dysfunction. This is an island that’s so inept, it left pallets of bottled water on the tarmacs to waste away after the hurricane because the trucker’s union wasn’t getting its share of the skim.

      We should have given FALN what they wanted and cut that shithole loose 40 years ago.

      1. Yes we should cut them loose. One of the biggest problems PR has that largely goes unsaid is that the U.S. Dollar is, of course, its currency, but it doesn’t have the economic strength to sustain a dollarized economy. PR’s per capita GDP is less than half of Mississippi’s. It’s the same problem the PIIGS in Europe have being tied to the Euro.

        1. I am from Puerto Rico, born and raised. I’d like to provide some perspective, since you seem so eager to “cut us loose.” You see, we didn’t ask for an invasion 1898. We had our issues with Spain, but were basically an overseas Spanish Province at that point, with basically (almost) full rights, representation at the Spanish Court (Parlament) and autonomy (Provided by Carta Autonómica).

          The key to all this mess, and allow us to either become a state or independent are in the hands of Congress. Have you written to your congressman about the not so libertarian thing of still having territories at this day and age?

          PR is actually a pretty cool place to live, regardless of the inept political class that some of our people keep electing and all the negativity in the media. Corruption is a problem, and it might be a bit more problematic than the rest of the states of the union but it’s because government is a big part of the island, so every crony capitalist wants to live off it, either through contracts funded by local or, lo and behold, federal programs. Poverty is still higher than the poorest state, yes, but it’s still less poor than most of Latin America.

          I’d say that rather than having a dollarized economy, the biggest problem is the minimum wage law, which might be a bit too much for PR (something AOC and others should think about how $15/hr can even harm PR even more), and heavy taxation by the local govt to sustain its operations. Being less economically prosperous than other states, make us very vulnerable to those 2 things.

          But federal govt programs also encourage our govt to overstretch itself.

          I think, yes we should be cut loose, but from being a territory and allows us in good faith to select our destiny. I’d rather be a state and have full representation in Congress, USA is a great nation, and I actually feel american, and I’d say most people here, at least, not more than the typical US person, are not looking for any handouts if PR were to become a state. But I’d also take independence, and also be dignified about it; at the end, independence might mean getting rid of a dysfunctional congress (where we don’t have full representation), unlibertarian federal laws, and imperialistic presidents (which we can’t unseat), so I am cool with that also.

          Best regards.

  6. I know the states are required to have a republican form of government, but are the territories? I wonder if the following question could be brought before the Puerto Rican people:

    (1) Appointment of a territorial governing board that will have the power to directly alter territorial law and appropriations (within the Constitution’s constraints, of course), and a negotiated repayment plan for the debt/partial bailout

    or

    (2) Independence.

    1. Puerto Rico would do well with independence, as long as it had a free market, like Hong Kong. Unfortunately both of the parties that favor independence also favor socialism.

      1. Hong Kong is without question more “socialist” as you define it than PR. That it has some elements described as more laissez-faire is only possible because the government of China owns all the land and decides how it’s used. Furthermore, 50% of housing is 100% public. This is because it’s laissez-faire elements lead, predictably, to large wealth gaps.

        Any way you slice it, some central control of some sort is needed to counter the negative social effects of a free-market economy.

        Also a truly free people get to choose the government they want, I would think.

        1. “”Any way you slice it, some central control of some sort is needed to counter the negative social effects of a free-market economy.””

          What should control the negative social effects of central control?

          1. Excuse me, what should counter the negative effects…

            1. Checks and balances and, perhaps primarily, democratic accountability.

              Libertarians love democracy, right?

  7. Trump proved right again!
    #winning

  8. And his replacement is likely just as crooked, per the Washington Post.

    Couldn’t AOC go to Puerto Rico and lead the “De-colonization” effort there? She could be the first President of the Democratic Republic of Puerto Rico.

  9. […] In addition to government corruption, Puerto Ricans have had to endure the long-lasting effects of 2017’s Hurricane Maria. The storm caused billions of dollars in damage and knocked out much of the island’s mismanaged, debt-laden, government-owned electrical grid. Read More > at Reason […]

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