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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Citing inflation and other hardships, pensioners demand an increase in the payments they receive

Emilio Nieves (Photo by Alejandra M. Jover Tovar)

By Alejandra M. Jover Tovar

Special to The Star

Under a scorching sun, a small group of pensioners gathered in front of the north wing of the Capitol on Sunday to protest with placards and claim that what they receive monthly, after decades of public service, is barely enough to live on.

“Faced with the harsh reality that pensioners and their families are living through due to Hurricane Fiona, the disastrous performance of LUMA [the private operator of the island’s electricity transmission and distribution system], and inflation that eats up pensions, it is urgent to reactivate the struggle to guarantee a dignified retirement,” reads the press release distributed by the group. “We demand an increase in the pensions of all government retirees proportional to the increase in the cost of living caused by the galloping inflation the Puerto Rican people have suffered.”

The group noted that some of them receive as little as $600 a month and live in poverty, depending on government assistance after spending years working in the public system and paying into their pensions, which have been depleted since 2007.

“We haven’t seen a raise in 15 years,” said one of the retirees. “Today, we call on Governor Pedro Pierluisi and the Legislative Assembly to take the necessary actions to pass a law or statute to establish a pension increase proportional to the cost of living increase, similar to the one established by Social Security.”

The group pointed out that through the Pension Defense Front they were able to stop an 8.5% cut to pensions promoted by the Financial Oversight and Management Board in the government’s debt adjustment plan, but “in daily life, pensions are being cut due to the increase in the cost of living.”

“We pay much more for food, gasoline, medicines, and essential services,” they said.

Now, after the passage of Fiona, the situation has worsened.

“The vast majority of retirees are elderly people who, despite our age, take care of grandchildren, the sick, or are the breadwinners of families impacted by unemployment and outmigration. The losses caused by Hurricane Fiona and LUMA’s negligence have not only fostered our poverty but have also caused many retirees to suffer, see their health deteriorate, or even die, especially those who are bedridden, who number in the thousands,” said the group’s spokespersons, Pedro Pastrana and Emilio Nieves, among others, in a statement.

“We are outraged by so many [power] outages, so for the Pension Defense Front it is an obligation to join the demand: cancel the debt of the bondholders of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority and get rid of LUMA,” they said.

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