• The San Juan Daily Star

PIP says debt negotiations belong in US Congress

Puerto Rican Independence Party legislators Sen. María de Lourdes Santiago Negrón, left, and Rep. Denis Márquez Lebrón

By John McPhaul

Insisting on their opposition to House Bill 1003, the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) minority leaders in the island Legislature, Sen. María de Lourdes Santiago Negrón and Rep. Denis Márquez Lebrón, said Tuesday that the proper mechanism to be followed is a direct negotiation with the Congress of the United States and not House Bill 1003 on the debt adjustment plan (DAP).

“Here you have to go with whoever can make the decisions, which is the United States Congress,” Santiago Negrón said at a press conference. “Only when there is a negotiation directly with Congress on more equitable and just terms, will we be able to outline a more economical future that is viable for the people of Puerto Rico and that does not compromise the provision of services that the country needs.”

Márquez Lebrón said the legislative process on House Bill 1003 was sorely lacking.

“No. At least in the House there has not been any kind of rapprochement [between the House and Senate]. The first conference report I saw first when a person who was lobbying for 1003 sent it to my phone, and then I saw it in person,” he said. “At this time we do not know what will happen even in the session, if there is going to be a new conference committee, if the same conference committee is going to open both in the House and in the Senate and then issue a report. That’s part of that process.”

Regarding the mediation process that federal judge Laura Taylor Swain ordered and placed in the hands of Judge Barbara Houser, Márquez Lebrón said “it was clearly for public consumption.”

“There in that hearing what there were were the orders of the judge and the order of the judge that 1003 must be approved, which creates a mediation issue, but the focus is that she wants to address the issue of bankruptcy … and that the court is basically deciding the future of this country in financial terms,” the legislator said.

Santiago Negrón said “that is blackmail, that is extortion.”

“If Judge Houser has declared very specifically in favor of the bond issuance bill, that is not a mediation committee and it is important that if there is any residue of legislative dignity, those who are undecided or decided, the obligation to those of us who represent the people of Puerto Rico is to oppose 1003,” she said. “It is to force another type of negotiation. As long as we are within the framework of 1003 and the adjustment plan, we are in the [Financial Oversight and Management] board’s court. With the board’s game. With the arbitrators of the board. With the rules of the board. What chance do we have of getting out of such an unequal confrontation? That cannot be the negotiation space, that is the space designed by investors for us to lose.”

“There has to be political guts to say, and where do you get that we should be subjected to that process? Where is the divine command that there is no other formula here?” she added. “We must get out of that small space, the colonized space, the fiscal control board, and we must promote direct negotiations with Congress.”

Both leaders said House Bill 1003 is not amendable, as it implies, in any version, that the Legislative Assembly gives consent to a DAP “designed to satisfy the interests of investors, irremediably at odds with the welfare of the country.”

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