In June, Joaquín A. Márquez predicted some negative outcomes for Puerto Rico:
I predict that within the next three months the island’s government will either default on its financial obligations, or will have to undertake draconian measures such as the involuntary reduction of the government work force through lay-offs or furloughs, the reduction in government employee salaries, the reduction of government employee work days, the reduction in government employee pensions, the increase of government employee contributions to health and pension plans, or a combination of the foregoing.
Puerto Rico has defaulted on a $58 million bond payment, and more defaults are expected. While Puerto Rico has not yet made sweeping cuts in government jobs, creditors are calling on them to do so. Sales taxes have already been increased. “These high taxes will not increase the colonial government’s revenues,” commented Márquez, “they will only increase the rate at which the American citizens on the island will migrate to the mainland.”
Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla promised to come up with a way for Puerto Rico to pay its debts by the end of this month, but so far there is no sign of a practical plan.
It looks, in fact, as though the plan is for the people of Puerto Rico to bear the consequences of the economic crisis. The alternative? To leave Puerto Rico and live in a State. Teachers are being actively recruited by schools from as far away as Oklahoma, and so many doctors have left for jobs on the mainland that Puerto Rico is suffering a shortage of medical professionals.
50,000 people are leaving Puerto Rico for the mainland every year. If an austerity plan is the best the government can come up with, that number might increase. But Puerto Rico, since it is a territory of the United States, has the option of becoming a State. The economic advantages would be enough to turn Puerto Rico’s economic crisis around. Statehood would make the residents of Puerto Rico equal to the residents of the States in areas of federal funding, and would level the playing field for Puerto Rico in drawing businesses to the Island and increasing economic growth on the Island.
As Márquez said recently in testimony before a Senate subcommittee,
From modest beginnings, the struggle for Puerto Rican equality has grown as a rising tide that has swept the island from one end to the other. This struggle for equality is unstoppable. The ongoing diaspora to the mainland is but one manifestation of that struggle for equality. The majority vote for Statehood in the 2012 plebiscite is another. The pleas that we are articulating here are also part of that struggle. We will not stop, we will not hesitate, we will not falter, and we will not fail in our quest for equality.
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