Back in 2016, the federal government put in place the PROMESA Fiscal Oversight and Management Board to supervise Puerto Rico’s debt crisis. This board, appointed by the president with input from Congress, had decision making power over Puerto Rico’s financial decisions.
The “commonwealth” party, which has spent decades pretending that Puerto Rico has the powers of a nation, was shocked to learn that the federal government had the power to put a committee in supervision of the Island government. Some mourned that PROMESA signaled the end of Puerto Rico’s autonomy.
For many, it meant the end of claiming that Puerto Rico was a “best of both worlds” mashup of state and nation.
Others protested the appointment of the board. This group got validation from a U.S. court in San Juan last week when the judge ruled that the appointments of the board members was unconstitutional.
What’s wrong with the board?
PROMESA protestors typically objected to the board because it was demeaning or colonial. U.S. District Court Judge Laura Taylor Swain said there was nothing wrong with the appointment of members of the board by then-President Obama.
The appeals court disagrees. They agreed with Puerto Rico’s creditors, who said that the Senate should have had final say in the matter. The court decision gives President Trump and the U.S. Senate 90 days to confirm the board members or to appoint a new team.
However, they left court decisions about debt restructuring standing. This was the actual point of the creditors’ lawsuit. They hoped that the question of Senate confirmation of the members of the board would cause the court to throw out the bankruptcy decisions allowing Puerto Rico to restructure some of its crippling debt. This did not happen.
Is anybody happy?
The court also upheld the board’s power to certify the budget of Puerto Rico’s local government. The board sent out a notice to Governor Rossello reminding him of that. They also made a statement that they would be looking into their legal options. If the president and the senate choose to replace the board members, they could have a new group of officers in place by summer.
Other Puerto Rican leaders expressed frustration. In fact, Judge Juan R. Torruella’s ruling says, “The Board Members are, in short, more like Roman proconsuls picked in Rome to enforce Roman law and oversee territorial leaders than they are like the locally selected leaders that Rome allowed to continue exercising some authority.”
“The decision of the First Circuit Court of Appeals, declaring illegal the way in which the members of the Fiscal Control Board were appointed, leaves us in the same state of colonial subjugation,” said Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colon in response. “Today the court changes the composition of the board but not its power over the island, a further portrait of the colonial absurdity… “It is evident that Puerto Rico does not need a board, it needs its two senators and 5 representatives with voice and vote so that the economic model of equality can prosper.”
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