PROMESA: Imperialist Vultures Descend on Puerto Rico

Updated May 19, 2017 (originally published July 4, 2016) | Revolution Newspaper |


May 19, 2017: This week, Oscar López Rivera, Puerto Rican nationalist and one of the leaders of the FALN (Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional), an organization dedicated to fighting for independence of Puerto Rico from U.S. imperialism, was released from prison after more than 35 years as a political prisoner. A major controversy has erupted after organizers of the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City, scheduled to be held on June 11, announced they were honoring him as a “National Freedom Hero” and having him march at the head of the parade. In light of this, we are reposting this article that was originally published last July when President Obama signed a bill called “PROMESA” that he and other officials claimed was going to help ease the enormous economic and social crisis that the U.S. has inflicted on Puerto Rico. In fact, in the year since then the crisis has only deepened. The official poverty rate is about 45%. People are being hit with deadly cuts in health care—with hospitals and other facilities closing and crucial care denied. At the end of April, Puerto Rico officially filed for bankruptcy because of its staggering debt of over $120 billion, and this is going to lead to more cuts that will further devastate the lives of the people. One of the immediate measures taken was the closing of 179 schools affecting 25,000 children.


In 2010, students at the University of Puerto Rico blocked the main entrance to the Rio Piedras campus as part of a 2-day strike to protest budget cuts, a proposal to increase university fees and changes to the academic program.
In 2010, students at the University of Puerto Rico blocked the main entrance to the Río Piedras campus as part of a 2-day strike to protest budget cuts, a proposal to increase university fees and changes to the academic program. (AP photo)

On June 30, President Obama signed a bill called the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act or “PROMESA” (Spanish for “promise”). Obama and other leaders of the U.S. Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, claim PROMESA will help ease the enormous crisis that U.S. imperialism has inflicted on Puerto Rico. In particular, it was intended to immediately address a looming debt payment of $2 billion (out of $72 billion total debt) the government of Puerto Rico was scheduled to make on July 1. U.S. and Puerto Rican officials had long known that Puerto Rico would be unable to make this payment. PROMESA also puts forward a framework for further payments on this debt.

Obama presented PROMESA as a benevolent, if difficult, measure that would benefit Puerto Rico and its people. In fact, it will do nothing of that sort. It will provide a more favorable environment for extracting billions of dollars more for the enrichment of a handful of capitalists. PROMESA is the latest chapter in the almost 120-year history of U.S. imperialist domination of Puerto Rico—during which the U.S. has viciously oppressed the Puerto Rican people, denying them the most basic rights of national self-determination. The U.S. rulers have wrenched enormous profits from the country’s natural resources, and relentlessly exploited the people who live there. (See “A History of Super-Exploitation and Vicious Domination: Bloodsucking, Blackmail, and Bullshit: The U.S. Forces Puerto Rico to the Wall” at for more on the history and background of the current crisis.) And now, PROMESA will inflict further calamitous suffering on the people of Puerto Rico while basically reimposing outright colonial control.

PROMESA establishes an “oversight board” (called a “junta” in Spanish by people in Puerto Rico) of seven members selected by the U.S. The board will negotiate, not eliminate, Puerto Rico’s debt payments with its creditors. In short, this junta is basically a collection agency for the capitalist banks and financial institutions who are owed money by the Puerto Rican government. The board can impose conditions of harsh cutbacks on the people as part of rescheduling the debt. PROMESA mandates a reduction in the minimum wage for younger workers, removal of overtime pay, further privatization and cutbacks in many social functions and services, reductions in pensions, and other “austerity” measures.

The “Promise” and the Reality

Since seizing control of the island at the end of the 1800s, U.S. imperialism has plundered Puerto Rico’s bountiful agriculture and turned it into a sprawling sugar plantation. It has compelled people driven from the countryside to work at less than minimum wage in sweatshops and vast “home industries.” It has enforced conditions in which most children and about half the adult population live in deep poverty. Its domination has repeatedly forced huge sections of people to leave the island, in massive waves of immigration, to seek a way to survive.

Having sucked Puerto Rico dry, U.S. capitalism-imperialism now seeks to sift through the remnants of the destruction it has inflicted on this beautiful island for further profit. The consequences for the people of Puerto Rico will be devastation on top of devastation. Health care has already been severely cut. Hospitals routinely delay life-and-death treatments such as chemotherapy because of lack of funding. Hospitals and other facilities have been closing, doctors and other professionals forced to leave the country because they aren’t paid. Puerto Rico has already had hundreds of cases of infection with the Zika virus, and its health system is collapsing in the midst of peak mosquito season. All this will intensify under PROMESA.

There have already been severe cutbacks in education. Schools across the island have closed; funding for higher and technical education has been cut back sharply. Now with PROMESA, a report from Centro Para Una Nueva Economía (Center for a New Economy) says that, among other developments, “A default in July could also endanger the beginning of the new school year in August.”

In every dimension of society, the crisis inflicted on Puerto Rico will intensify. This is an expression both of the workings of the capitalist-imperialist system and of the conscious decisions taken by its political leadership, Obama and other politicians twisting a knife deeper into Puerto Rico and its people. This is the reality behind their “PROMESA.”

As we wrote recently, “This nightmare of exploitation and oppression will finally end when the imperialist chains that shackle Puerto Rico are shattered through revolutionary struggle. There is a proud history of resistance of the Puerto Rican people on the island and in this country. One of the high points in this struggle was the courageous and bold struggles in the 1960s by the Young Lords Party within the U.S. This fighting spirit and struggle needs to be revived, and taken much further into a fight for revolution based on Bob Avakian’s new synthesis of communism.

“Right now is one of those rare times when the media and politicians in the U.S. are actually talking about Puerto Rico and the real truth about Puerto Rico and the possibilities for great advance in overcoming oppression in today’s situation must be made known as widely as possible in all society. On this scientific basis, support for the struggle of the Puerto Rican people to break the imperialist chains must be built as a part of building the movement for revolution and with the seizure of power the hold of the U.S. on Puerto Rico will be broken.”



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