• The San Juan Daily Star

Bernabe urges senators to reject debt adjustment enabling bill

Citizen Victory Movement Rafael Bernabe Riefkohl

By John McPhaul

The Citizen Victory Movement (MVC by its Spanish initials) alternate spokesperson in the Senate, Rafael Bernabe Riefkohl, urged his fellow senators Thursday to reject the version of HR 1003 that enables the debt adjustment plan approved Wednesday in the House of Representatives, saying that “if it was bad before, now it is worse.”

“We voted against the previous version for proposing an unfair, illegitimate and unsustainable plan. However, that version contained amendments that were intended to guarantee as public policy, among other things, zero cuts to pensions, a fund of $500 million a year for the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) -- which even the UPR administration has said it would need at least $650 million -- and allocations of necessary funds for the municipalities, among others,” Bernabe said in a written statement. “But now in the new version, even those insufficient guarantees disappear. Therefore, those who voted in favor of bill 1003 the first time it was presented, if they are consistent, they will no longer be able to vote in favor of this second version.”

Bernabe warned that the version approved Wednesday effectively eliminates the public policy statement that established a total fixed allocation of $500 million for the UPR, the goal that consisted of 100% of the island population having medical coverage, the creation of a Fund for Strategic Investment for Economic Development, and zero cuts to pensions, among other things.

“We have rejected the Debt Adjustment Plan and bill 1003 for three reasons: because it is unfair, because it is illegitimate and because it is unsustainable,” the MVC senator said. “In addition, the first version that the Senate approved contained Article 102, the Declaration of Intent and Public Policy, but in the bill that the House approved yesterday, this article is completely eliminated, and it does not provide for many of the amendments that convinced several legislators to vote in favor of it.”

Bernabe added that the legislation will trigger the implementation of even more austerity measures at a time when institutional collapse is already evident in most government agencies, and even public-private partnerships.

He insisted that the proposed debt adjustment plan is illegitimate because it admits to paying illegally incurred debt without mediating an audit process. Third, he said, it is unsustainable since the terms agreed to with the bondholders will cause greater indebtedness, the worsening of the crisis, and will cause Puerto Rico to go bankrupt again.

“Despite the efforts of some in the Legislature to approve this bill on the run, it is clear that the pressure that has been generated through the protests against bill 1003 has been effective,” Bernabe said.

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