Gov. Ricardo Rosselló sent a letter Congressman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) in which he urged the lawmaker to “adopt a balanced approach” that considers all stakeholders in Puerto Rico and not just the concerns of the bondholders.
The 13-page letter sent to the also chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources — the Congressional body that addresses the issues of Puerto Rico and the territories — responded to a letter Bishop sent last week to the Financial Oversight and Management Board.
“My administration has engaged both creditors and the Board in an attempt to achieve as many consensual resolutions as possible throughout this process and will continue to do so. But grandstanding and one-sided letter-writing campaigns have no place in ensuring the people of Puerto Rico’s future successes,” Rosselló stated in the letter.
In the letter, Rosselló reviewed the provisions of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) and a decision by the federal court that establishes that the Oversight Board “cannot usurp the powers of the government elected by the people of Puerto Rico.”
“I am deeply dismayed that your letter [which callously pays lip service to the people of Puerto Rico as second-class citizens] expresses primary concern regarding a ‘lack of creditor engagement’ on the part of the Oversight Board, instead of expressing support for Puerto Rico and its people [whom you refer to as your ‘American brethren.’], Rosselló said.
“By demanding that the Board usurp the function of Puerto Rico’s elected government, your letter shows complete disregard for Puerto Rico’s Constitution, its laws and the will of the 3.4 million American citizens who live there,” the letter further noted.
The governor also warned that the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources now faces a fork in the road: support the PROMESA process that “has resulted in significant progress, including approval and certification of fiscal plans and budgets for the Commonwealth and its instrumentalities” or display an “obstructionist behavior that would undermine the duly elected Government’s authority and legitimacy.”
“Sidelining the elected government will result only in chaos and confusion, which bondholders will seek to capitalize on to further undermine the statutory foundation of the restructuring process,” Rosselló said.
“In fact, bondholders are currently pursuing this strategy by challenging PROMESA’s constitutional underpinnings. If their ploy is successful, it will jeopardize months of progress, crippling the government and Oversight Board’s ability to restructure Puerto Rico’s debts,” the governor stated.
He also blasted Bishop for asking the Oversight Board to define “essential public services.”
“In stark contrast to what the elected government of Puerto Rico and the Board agree should be the key components of a viable Commonwealth Fiscal Plan, your letter suggests that a ‘good start’ would be for the Board to determine what constitute ‘essential public services’ — distinctly echoing what Puerto Rico’s creditors have unsuccessfully argued in the Title III proceedings,” said Rosselló.
Likewise, Rosselló rejected Bishop’s allegations regarding delays in the submitting of the Fiscal Plan and the over-invoicing of consultants in the Title III process.
“I emphatically reject the allegations in your letter claiming that my administration has not been working closely to achieve the mandates of PROMESA,” he said.
“Although the situation Puerto Rico is facing is unprecedented, we are relentlessly striving to develop and implement creative strategies to ensure that the people of Puerto Rico can have a bright and prosperous future,” said the governor.
“Regrettably, your letter embodies everything that is wrong with this process and only serves to reinforce the dismissive and second-class colonial treatment Puerto Rico has suffered throughout its history as a territory of the United States, which undermines our efforts to address the island’s fiscal, economic, and humanitarian crises,” he said.
“From the government’s perspective, we believe a fair and balanced approach toward all of Puerto Rico’s stakeholders is required. To the contrary, your letter sends a message that seems to unfairly and disproportionately favor the treatment of mainland bondholders over the wellbeing of the 3.4 million U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico,” Rosselló stated.