Judith Berkan, co-chair of the Puerto Rico subcommittee, spoke with host Dennis Bernstein on April 18 on KPFA’s Flashpoints, discussing the current situation in Puerto Rico.
She also issued an update to friends and family about the state of Puerto Rico today, facing post-Hurricane Maria devastation, colonialism, and austerity (below):
“As I sit here in my dark office I contemplate the future of This country. Today , the entire island is again in the dark. Second blackout in a week (last week it was about half the country, today’s it’s everyone). Yet courts continue to expect us to comply with short deadlines and judges continue to sit on motions for months, at times years, while clients wonder why nothing happens
– my office assistant got her power back 6 days ago, but has had blackouts almost every day since
– a friend continues to live in a house without windows and doors. No aluminum supplies available for repairs
– we keep on playing chicken at intersections with no traffic lights
-FEMA claims continue to be denied because a great number of people here don’t have land titles. Insurance companies denying skews of claims with no basis
– I had a slight car crash (nothing serious, just distraction) and it took me six weeks to get an adjuster to look at it. No adjusters available
– whole communities still without power. Reports of continuing deaths (“unrelated” to storm)
– plans to remake this country into the next Gran Cayman forging ahead. Privatization of everything from schools, to power auth, to roads, to workers compensation, to water.
-bitcoin entrepreneurs holding conferences here. Wave of the future
– the Junta has already rejected three “fiscal plans” submitted by the government. The junta will in all likelihood take over directly tomorrow, the “final” deadline.
– the Junta is insisting in major cuts in pensions and the implementation of additional draconian labor “reforms” further impoverishing the “natives” and making the island “attractive for investment”. The university is also on the chopping block
– the deVosian imported secretary of education Has designated almost 300 schools to be closed. There will be charter schools and educational vouchers to be delivered to luminaries and opportunists, including television pastors. The first act in a school which was already delivered to a religious leader was to paint over a wonderful 50 year old mural, part of our cultural heritage
– a list published of government held properties to be sold to highest bidder.
-the millionaires law is drawing new arrivals, enticed by the 4 percent tax rate applicable to those who establish themselves here, with virtually no strings attached. . The number of Puerto Rican’s migrating out is alarming.
– all civil rights cases involving the government are stayed while competing groups of bond holders fight things out, usually in a courthouse in New York. Meanwhile, older Puerto Rican’s who depended on periodic interest payments are left without this income
– we pay for the damned Junta, which has asked for an increase to some 80 million yearly. The Ukrainian/American executive director gets about 1 million yearly in salary and benefits. The “infrastructure czar” (identifying what parts of Puerto Rico to sell off) gets over 350,000. The same financiers who contributed to the odious debt problem we face are now enjoying the spoils as Puerto Rico is up for sale and its diminishing population is converted into a contingent of impoverished workers at the service of our “amos” (masters)
And today, we remain without light.”