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Lobbying Pushes for Puerto Rican Statehood

May 17, 2021

The Intercept:

During a House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing last month, held to debate two competing visions for determining Puerto Rico’s future, Rep. Ritchie Torres, D-N.Y., denounced the “single most egregious example of colonialism” in Puerto Rico: the Financial Oversight and Management Board. Created by the federal government in 2016 to police Puerto Rico’s budget, the board has imposed sweeping austerity and privatization to secure payments for the vulture funds that have bought up the territory’s debt. According to Torres, the board “represents a cardinal sin against the sovereignty and self-determination of Puerto Rico.”

An original co-sponsor of the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act, one of the two bills up for discussion at the April 14 hearing, Torres went on to assert that making Puerto Rico a U.S. state as expeditiously as possible is the only just path to decolonization and the best way to make up for abuses by the federal government. Decrying “powerful interests” that exploit “Puerto Rico as a tax haven,” he said that “if Puerto Rico were a state, there would be no financial control board.”

What Torres failed to mention, however, was that the forces advocating hardest for the statehood bill are some of the same that pushed Congress not only to pass the law that created the financial oversight board in the first place, but also to expand the use of tax-deferment schemes in Puerto Rico.

According to an Intercept review of federal lobbying records and corporate financial statements, over the past decade, advocacy groups tied to Puerto Rico’s pro-statehood New Progressive Party, the Republican Party, and one of the territory’s wealthiest families (whose company held tens of millions of dollars in Puerto Rican government debt) have hired high-profile corporate and anti-tax lobbyists — to the tune of nearly $12 million since 2013 — to advocate for Puerto Rican statehood. But they also hired many of those same lobbyists to develop the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act, or PROMESA, in 2016, which created the financial board, and to promote the expansion of Puerto Rico’s “opportunity zones,” or areas where investors can avoid taxes by stashing their capital gains in real estate and business projects.

[Chris Gelardi]

More: The Right-Wing Web Lobbying for Puerto Rican Statehood | Intercept

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