Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Slumping Puerto Rican Economy Finally Showing Signs Of Improvement Tuesday December 10th, 2013 at 4:14 PM | Puerto Rico's Economic Crisis Spurs Exodus From Island, Fears About American Retirement Plans Tuesday December 10th, 2013 at 4:15 PM

P.R. governor seeks to block congressional bill on statehood vote

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Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla sent a letter to members of the U.S. House of Representatives asking them to withdraw their support for a bill for holding a statehood referendum on the island, the Web site Puerto Rico Report said.
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Draco Rosa festeja concierto con Ricky Martin, Juanes, Bunbury y Calle 13

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El cantautor puertorriqueño Draco Rosa festejó hoy frente a su compatriotas su primer concierto en solitario desde que se curó de cáncer y teniendo de invitados a los artistas Ricky Martin, Juan Luis Guerra, Juanes, Enrique Bunbury y Residente, del grupo Calle 13.

Ricardo Lagos pide planteamiento común a los países latinoamericanos del G20

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El expresidente chileno Ricardo Lagos pidió hoy a los tres países latinoamericanos incluidos en el G20 un planteamiento común dentro de este bloque para promover el crecimiento de las economías en "condiciones más igualitarias para todos".

Puerto Rico's Economic Crisis Spurs Exodus From Island, Fears About American Retirement Plans

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Puerto Rico has been mired in a recession for almost eight years, facing a public debt of $70 billion and a 14 percent unemployment rate, higher than that of any U.S. state. In September, Puerto Rico's Government Development Bank announced it would cut bond sales after investors pushed the yield on Puerto Rico bonds above 10 percent. The island's general obligation bonds have been hovering at just above near-junk statu

América Latina debe dejar de depender de la economía china, según Toledo

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El expresidente peruano Alejandro Toledo indicó hoy que Latinoamérica debe deshacerse de la dependencia económica que tiene con la China, para resistir la desaceleración del gigante asiático y apresurarse para dar un salto cualitativo para seguir creciendo y derrotar la pobreza.

Slumping Puerto Rican Economy Finally Showing Signs Of Improvement

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The economic-activity index showed growth in September of 1.1 percent, and of a further 0.6 percent in October, following a cumulative decline of 5.4 percent over the four previous months.

Puerto Rico Survey of Consumer Finances: Top-Line Report

P.R. governor seeks to block congressional bill on statehood vote Tuesday December 10th, 2013 at 4:16 PM

Gov Asks US House Sponsors of Statehood Vote Bill to Withdraw Their Sponsorship 

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Puerto Rico’s “Commonwealth” party governor is worried about the substantial willingness in Congress to grant statehood to the territory.
Since taking office, Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla has lobbied Federal officials to not support the possibility of the equality and permanence for Puerto Rico within the American political family thatPuerto Ricans petitioned for in a plebiscite at the time of his narrow election just over a year ago.
PUERTO RICO REPORT has now learned that Garcia two weeks ago wrote members of the U.S. House of Representatives who have sponsored a bill that would authorize a vote on statehood in the territory asking them to withdraw their sponsorship.
The request is ironic because Garcia’s predecessor as president of the territory’s “Commonwealth”party just a few years ago formally asked the U.S. House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over territory status issues to authorize an insular vote on statehood.
The legislation that has now panicked ‘commonwealther’ Garcia has been sponsored by 126 members of House — a very high number.  The bill also enjoys the support of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).
If statehood wins the vote, the Puerto Rico Status Resolution Act would require the president of the United States to submit a plan to transition the territory into equal treatment with the States in Federal programs over a multi-year period.  This would enable the conversion to statehood to be smooth budgetarily and economically.
H.R. 2000 would also express a congressional commitment to pass such a plan.
Garcia’s main argument for House members to back away from their support was that the vote on statehood would not specifically include two other status proposals. One is an unprecedented, new “Commonwealth status” that Garcia and his party continue to insist upon although the Obama, George W. Bush, and Clinton Administrations and congressional committees have found it to be impossible for constitutional and other reasons.
The other proposal is independence, which obtained the least support in last year’s plebiscite — 5.49% among the three possible alternatives to the current territory status.
Garcia did not complain that the possible status that received the third-highest amount of support, nationhood in an association with the U.S. that either nation could end, would not be an option in the vote.  It got 33.34% of the vote among the alternatives to territory status.
The status is advocated by a wing of Garcia’s “Commonwealth” party that he has dismissed as “feathers.”  But the faction includes leading mayors and members of Puerto Rico’s legislature.
Garcia opposed ‘free association’ in the plebiscite.
Statehood won 61.16% among the alternatives to territory status and more votes than territory status, which was rejected by 54% of the vote.
Despite these facts, Garcia asserted in his letters “Commonwealth … consistently has had majority support in Puerto Rico.” Puerto Rico’s current status — territory — is often misleadingly called “Commonwealth” after a word in the name of Puerto Rico’s insular government.
Garcia unsuccessfully campaigned for Puerto Rico’s current status in the plebiscite.
The island’s territorial status was also rejected in Puerto Rico’s most recent plebiscite before last year’s — in 1998.
The status was not an option in the territory’s first two status plebiscites — in 1967 and 1993.  Instead, the votes included proposals for a “Commonwealth” status that were substantially different from the current status.
The 1967 “Commonwealth” proposal won a majority of the vote, but a Democratic Congress and Republican President Ford later rejected Federal legislation based on the proposal.
The 1993 proposal won a plurality — but not a majority — of the vote.   The Clinton Administration and Republican leaders of the U.S. House said it, too, was not viable.
The bill in the House now would authorize Puerto Rico to conduct a vote on statehood because Garcia and fellow commonwealthers who won control of Puerto Rico’s Legislative Assembly last year dispute the plebiscite held at the same time and its results.
By not including other status proposals, Garcia contended that the bill would deny “millions of Puerto Ricans” the right to cast ballots.  He said it would “disenfranchise” them.
He, apparently, did not recognize that opponents of statehood would have as much right to cast ballots in the vote as supporters of statehood.
Statehood would not have an advantage in the vote but supporters of other status options could form a coalition to try to defeat statehood.
Garcia, additionally, asserted that the bill “stands opposite” to President Obama’s desire for another “plebiscite that includes all options” — as last year’s did.
But Obama’s staff has made it clear in the 2011 President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status that another plebiscite proposed by the President could include one or more of the possible statuses for Puerto Rico.  It  would, however, have to exclude the proposal for a new “Commonwealth status” promoted by Garcia and some other leaders of his party.
The President supported last year’s plebiscite limited to Puerto Rico’s possible statuses — U.S. statehood, independence, and nationhood in a free association with the U.S. in addition to territory status for a while longer — and excluding the new “Commonwealth status” proposal.
In addition, his staff publicly hailed the results of the plebiscite denied by Garcia although the results were certified by Puerto Rico’s tripartisan Elections Commission.
Garcia’s letter identified the primary sponsor of the bill that he asked U.S. House members to back away as a “delegate.”  The House includes five delegates.
The primary sponsor of the bill, however, is Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner, who is the territory’s elected, official representative to the Federal government with a seat in the House.  Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi was the top vote getter in last year’s election in Puerto Rico and now heads the territory’s statehood party.

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Could Puerto Rico Woo Boeing? 

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Boeing is planning to build a new jet, the 777x, beginning early in 2014. The company was planning to build in the State of Washington, but a recent labor dispute caused Boeing to reach out to governors of other States.
Washington had offered significant tax cuts and is still trying to keep the contract, but Bloomberg reports that more than a dozen other States have chimed in with offers.
Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi of Puerto Rico (D) wants to add the territory of Puerto Rico to the list of jurisdictions vying for Boeing’s business.
“In light of the economic and fiscal challenges that Puerto Rico confronts, we need to think big and aim high,” said Pierluisi.  “If the Governor of Puerto Rico has not yet done so, he should immediately contact Boeing with the purpose of submitting a good proposal.”
When he was running for office, Gov. Garcia Padilla promised to create 50,000 jobs within 18 months.  As of 10 months into his term, Puerto Rico has actually lost 17,115 jobs.
Pierluisi pointed out in a press release that Puerto Rico has a strong history with aviation, with companies including Lockheed Martin, Honeywell Aerospace, Pratt & Whitney-Infotech Enterprises, Hamilton Sundstrand and Essig Research.  In fact, Boeing has already bought more than $30 million in parts from six different Puerto Rican companies and has conducted performance tests in Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico continues to offer a competitive business climate, despite the hits the island’s economy has recently had in mainland press.  Jobs created by Boeing could help.

Discussing Puerto Rican Statehood? Get the Facts Right.

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Many articles on Puerto Rico’s possible statehood that make basic factual errors — so many, in fact, that we don’t even try to correct them all. These errors, however, are important, especially if they’re as widespread as they appear to be. Accordingly, we’ve chosen an example article to work with. We’re going to clarify the errors in this one article, and hope readers will extrapolate to the rest of the things they read.
Our example is “Puerto Rico Lobbies to Be 51st State… Again” by Jay Miller in New Mexico’s Rio Rancho Observer published in May, 2013.
Let’s have a look at Mr. Miller’s points:
  • Puerto Rico has “a different culture.” As Mr. Miller, writing in New Mexico, is aware, the United States doesn’t have a single cohesive culture with which Puerto Rico would be incompatible. As Americans, we are proud of our diversity and of the richness of our culture, from the Cajuns of Louisiana to the Polynesian heritage of Hawaii, from California’s laid-back vibe to the frenetic pace of the Big Apple, from the redwood forests to the Gulf Stream waters… The point is, American culture is based on diversity. With millions of Puerto Ricans already living on the mainland, including Puerto Rico as the 51st state will be far less challenging than earlier additions were.
  • Puerto Rico has “a different language.” English is one of the official languages of Puerto Rico. English is not the official language of the United States, as it happens, but it is the most commonly spoken language. Like Hawaii, Puerto Rico has a second official language; in this case, the other language is Spanish, currently spoken in about 20% of U.S. households. Bilingualism is the norm in the world, and is arguably a sign of better education than the monolingualism that may have been a source of pride for some Americans in previous eras, when the world seemed bigger and was less connected.
  • Puerto Rico is too far from Washington, D.C. The distance is about 1560 miles. Los Angeles is 2668 miles from D.C. We assume Mr. Miller, whose Rio Rancho home is 1895 miles from D.C., was not speaking literally here, but we’ve seen other commentators claim that Puerto Rico is too far away from the United States, though it is nearer to the mainland than Hawaii.
  • Puerto Rico is Democratic. We have pointed out before that the Republican Party has shown support for Puerto Rican statehood. It is true that the GOP has not been uniformly successful with the Hispanic vote. However, the Hispanic vote is already important in U.S. politics, and Republican issues with Hispanic Americans will not be solved by refusing to admit Puerto Rico to the Union. In fact, to the extent that the reason for the refusal is perceived to be prejudice against speakers of Spanish, doing so could seriously harm the GOP’s chances with Hispanic voters.
  • Mr. Miller points out that Hawaii and Alaska were paired when they became states so that there would be one Republican and one Democratic state. However, Alaska was admitted with the expectation that it would vote Democratic, while Hawaii was expected to be Republican — and that’s not what happened. There is really no reason to assume that we know how Puerto Rico would vote.
  • “Up until now, it was content with its present commonwealth status.” Puerto Rico is not satisfied withterritorial status, which is what it actually has. Commonwealth is not a legal status; it’s simply part of the name of Puerto Rico, as it is part of the official name of Kentucky. While there are Puerto Ricans who would like a new kind of commonwealth, Congress has consistently said that this would beunconstitutional.
  • “Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens receiving most U.S. benefits… ” This is another common view, and it is true that Puerto Rico receives some benefits, including food stamps, which always seems to be what commentators who write about this have in mind. What about the right to vote in Presdiential elections or the right to have full representation in Congress and the Senate?
  • “but are not required to pay federal taxes.” Since roughly 47% of Americans on the mainland pay no federal income tax, the point about paying taxes seems moot. However, Puerto Ricans do pay federal taxes. A direct comparison will show that.
  • Puerto Ricans “worry about losing their culture and identity.” Oregon did not become indistinguishable from Connecticut after it was admitted into the Union. North Dakota did not lose its differences from Virginia. Puerto Ricans living on the mainland continue to enjoy their heritage. In the United States, we teach our children to value diversity, not to try to become the same as everyone else. Indeed, that is a central part of American culture.
  • Mr. Miller also says that it is “hard to prove mistreatment.” The United Nations has repeatedly askedthe United States to resolve the issue of Puerto Rico’s status. This may not be a matter of “mistreatment;” the term really seems to have been chosen to imply that Puerto Rico is somehow being petty. However, Puerto Rico faces levels of violence and poverty and unemployment that can be directly traced to the island’s essentially colonial status.
Mr. Miller has not been as unpleasant about Puerto Rico as many others have, and we have no reason to think that he is not completely sincere in his belief that statehood is not the best choice for Puerto Rico. We are pleased that he recognizes that Puerto Rico is a territory, because there are plenty of writers who think it is a country.
As Americans, it is important that we recognize and acknowledge all of America, including Americanpossessions.  Yet it would be better for the nation if there were less misinformation around.
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“Commonwealth” Governors Disagree with President on Solution for Insular Economy 

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Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla and a key “Commonwealth” party predecessor this week disagreed with President Obama’s White House on the solution to Puerto Rico’s worsening economic problems.
Garcia asserted that it was a diversion to attribute the territory’s economic woes to its political status, according to a report.
Former Governor Rafael Hernandez Colon was quoted as arguing that “To think that we will solve our problems with a change of status is an illusion; it is not a serious approach based on reality. Our problems can be solved with Commonwealth or cannot be solved.”
Under its territory status, often misleadingly called “Commonwealth,” Puerto Rico must comply with all U.S. requirements governing its economy but does not receive many billions of dollars a year benefiting U.S. States and does not have votes in the government that makes its national economic laws and regulations.
Garcia and Hernandez Colon’s contention contradicted findings of President’s Obama’s Task Force on Puerto Rico.  In a report personally embraced by the President, the Task Force wrote, “identifying the most effective means of assisting the Puerto Rican economy depends on resolving the ultimate question of status … In short, the long-term economic well-being of Puerto Rico would be dramatically improved by an early decision on the status question.”
The question of Puerto Rico’s status can be resolved by the territory becoming a State of the U.S. or a separate nation, either fully independent from or in an association with the U.S. that either nation can end.
Puerto Ricans chose statehood in a plebiscite at the time of Garcia’s election 13 months ago. The territory status that Garcia urged them to vote for was rejected by 54% of the vote.  Statehood won 61.2% against the nationhood options.
Statehood would bring Puerto Rico’s government, people, and economy many billions of dollars a year more than it would require in taxes.  It would also give Puerto Rico more political power on national economic policies than two-fifths of the existing States.
Nationhood would enable Puerto Rico to develop an economy free of U.S. standards.
Garcia is close to Hernandez Colon and two of the former governor’s sons.  One is Garcia’s Director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration and the other is Garcia’s chairman of the “Commonwealth” party’s Federal affairs committee.
Puerto Rico’s Planning Board has estimated that the territory’s economy will decrease .8% during the fiscal year ending next June 30th, worse than the year before and continuing a decline that has lasted most of the past decade. The situation is bad but the territory’s economy has not been encouraging for a third of the past century, as incomes in Puerto Rico have fallen further behind incomes in the States.
Garcia, however, has dismissed fact-based reports on the territory’s economy as “pessimism.”  He recently contended that expansion of the economy “is gathering speed and strength.”
The national agencies that rate government bonds disagree. They, the data, and economists in Puerto Rico are in accord that the territory’s economic prospects are bleak.
After borrowing for a dozen years to pay for operating the Commonwealth government — more than any State but much more populous California and New York — Puerto Rico’s bonds have lost value: 16% this year alone.   The combination of the Commonwealth’s excessive borrowing and its poor apparent economic future has resulted in negative ratings for Puerto Rico’s bonds.
Other authorities agree with the Obama Administration that Puerto Rico needs to become a State or a nation to significantly change its worrisome economic path.  The chairman of the U.S. Senate committee with lead responsibility for territories, Ron Wyden (D-OR), concluded in August, “[F]or Puerto Rico to meet its economic and social challenges and to achieve its full potential … Puerto Rico must either exercise full self-government as a sovereign nation or achieve equality among the States.”
In a recent editorial, The Washington Post noted that the territory’s economic problems are “structural — traceable, ultimately, to its muddled political status.”
Puerto Rico’s representative to the Federal government and statehood party president, Pedro Pierluisi (D), told fellow members of the U.S. House of Representatives this week that “As long as Puerto Rico remains a territory — deprived of equal treatment under critical Federal spending and tax credit programs, forced to borrow heavily to make up the difference, and lacking the ability to vote for the president and members of Congress who make our national laws — the island will be in a position merely to manage, rather than to surmount, its economic problems.”
“One of the most important reasons why Puerto Rico must discard this status in favor of either statehood or nationhood is because the current status has failed, and will continue to fail, to provide the island’s 3.6 million American citizens with the economic opportunities and quality of life they deserve,” Pierluisi continued.
His perspective was shared by leaders of the opposite end of the ideological spectrum in the territory.  “[T]he underlying problem” of the economy is “the status of Puerto Rico,” Independence Party Secretary General Juan Dalmau declared this week.  Party Secretary for North American Relations Manuel Rodriguez-Orellana wrote that “Puerto Rico’s colonial condition” is a “root cause” of its chronic economic weakness.
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Gov’s Running Mate Attacks President’s Response to Territory’s Economic Problems 

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Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla’s 2012 running mate today harshly criticized the White House’s response to Puerto Rico’s fiscal problems.
Rafael Cox-Alomar, Garcia’s failed “Commonwealth” party candidate to represent the territory to the Federal government, wrote in reaction to an explanation of the Obama Administration’s initiative by David Agnew, Obama’s White House Co-Chair of the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs.
The Obama effort is providing the Commonwealth government with technical assistance in accessing Federal funds to which the territory is entitled and in managing its finances.
It was launched after a recent, precipitous fall in the value of Commonwealth bonds and sharp downgrades and negative outlooks regarding the risks of Commonwealth debt obligations.
The financial market developments were due to excessive borrowing and deficit spending by the Commonwealth and a persistent worsening of the territory’s economy.
Cox-Alomar charged that Agnew used diplomatic language to cover the fact that the Obama Administration “imposed on us a kind of government receivership without our consent,” asserting that, “Obama stubbornly prefers to further imprison Puerto Rico through the tongs of a management receivership.”
The Garcia running mate characterized the Obama actions as “outrageous” and “the same paternalism that Washington has been wielding regarding Puerto Rico since 1898” (when the territory was taken by the U.S. from Spain).
Recognizing “the systemic collapse of Puerto Rico,” the “Commonwealth” party leader argued, however, that the Commonwealth’s economic problems “cannot be resolved even by colonizing our Governmental structure.”
Cox held that the problems related to “the apparent inability of all U.S. administrations, from Nixon to Obama, to choose what to do with Puerto Rico, along with the lack of courage of the conservative leadership” of the “Commonwealth” party.
He also denied that the problems stemmed from Puerto Ricans being “lazy and complacent” about the territory’s economy “as Economic Development Secretary Alberto Baco concluded” in an interview with The Washington Post.
Cox contended that “if indeed the White House is so committed to the right to self-determination, as it says” it “should push Congress to amend the [Puerto Rican] Federal Relations Act and give the Commonwealth most economic authority, releasing the deadly grip” of the provision of the U.S. Constitution allocating to the Federal government the power to regulate commerce and of  “the odious monopoly” of the Federal laws requiring that ocean freight between the States and Puerto Rico be on American built, owned, flagged, and crewed ships.
Cox’s attack came as two government finance experts from the U.S. Department of the Treasury wrapped up a weeklong investigation of Puerto Rico’s financial situation in San Juan.
The senior advisor and an outside consultant who work with the Under Secretary for Domestic Finance were in the territory to get a deeper understanding of the Commonwealth’s fiscal situation, operations, and plans, particularly in light of conflicting data and worrisome statements from the Garcia Administration and in light of the Commonwealth’s poor record in managing Federal funds and complying with program requirements.
Last month, Puerto Rico’s Treasury Department reported receipts in October that varied substantially from the revenue expected.  Additionally, a Federal report contradicted the Governor’s claim that 25,256 jobs had been created in the territory during his administration by finding that, in fact, 17115 jobs had been lost this year.  Earlier, the Puerto Rico Planning Board projected that the territory’s economy would continue to shrink significantly rather than barely expand, as previously claimed by Garcia.  And also this year, hundreds of millions of dollars in Federal assistance to the territory has been held up because of the Commonwealth’s failure to adhere to grant plans and project commitments.
The U.S. Treasury finance specialists will be followed to San Juan by experts from Federal agencies with major programs operating in Puerto Rico.  They are to come from the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Agnew’s explanation of the assistance that the Obama Administration would give the territory responded to questions from bond investors about whether the Federal government would bailout the Commonwealth from its budgetary shortfalls so that the Commonwealth would not default on its debt.  After U.S. Treasury spokespeople said that no special funding would be provided, Agnewclarified what type of help would be provided the U.S.’ most populous possession.
In his written explanation, Agnew explains that the Federal officials will also “offer strategic advice to assist Puerto Rico in promoting its economic development and maximizing the impact of existing federal funds flowing to the Island.”

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P.R. governor seeks to block congressional bill on statehood vote

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Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla sent a letter to members of the U.S. House of Representatives asking them to withdraw their support for a bill for holding a statehood referendum on the island, the Web site Puerto Rico Report said.