Last night in Puerto Rico, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren advocated for a law to restructure the public debt; another statute to guarantee equal treatment and a “Marshall Plan” for infrastructure investment as the way for the island to achieve economic growth.
Warren - who ponders running for the U.S. presidency in 2020 - said that the federal government is corrupt and has treated the island with cruelty for years, that is why she is interested in making changes based on respect.
"Puerto Rico's experience in recent years reflects the worst of what Washington has become, a government that works great for the rich and powerful, and not for anyone else," said the senator from Massachusetts, at the Alejandro Tapia y Rivera Theater, in Old San Juan.
Before her presentation, Warren told El Nuevo Día, Warren that this year she will insist sponsoring and approving a bill that would enable Puerto Rico to pay part of its 70 billion debt and cancel the rest, She also advocated for a debt audit.
She explained that, due to the status situation Puerto Rico lacks a law that enables the island to declare bankruptcy, and regretted that Congress "rejected that possibility" by approving PROMESA, which created the Oversight Board.
“If my debt relief plan is approved, the need for the Board disappears. I do not support the Board and I voted against its creation. If my bill were not approved, I would like to see a Board that reflects the needs of Puerto Rico better, but that will be a challenge if Congress does not give the tools to this island," she told this newspaper.
On the equal treatment for Puerto Rico, she said she will advocate for legislation that guarantees the same benefits that those living in the 50 states have in terms of Medicaid funds and nutrition assistance, for example.
"It's time to show the people of Puerto Rico a little respect," she said.
Regarding her “Marshall Plan” or economic recovery proposal, she said that she has worked with independent Senator Bernie Sanders and that it would include the U.S. Virgin Islands.
She said that they have to grant enough funds for Puerto Rico "to invest in infrastructure, including sustainable infrastructure. Puerto Rico must be an example of clean energy infrastructure. If we make that investment in energy and education, the island will open for investment in business and people will want to return. This island has precious resources," she said.
Warren would support any decision
On the other hand, Warren said that respect for Puerto Rico should begin by addressing the status issue. "For more than 100 years, too many leaders have imposed too many decisions against the will of Puerto Ricans," she said and stated that the island deserves to decide for itself.
"Puerto Rico deserves self-determination on this question, and I will support the decision of the people of Puerto Rico," she said.
Warren does not recognize the result of the 2017 plebiscite, in which statehood was favored, but with a voter turnout of 23 percent. In her opinion, it was a "very controversial" referendum, not only for the way the question was stated on the ballot but also for the low turnout.
Warren, who also visited the University of Puerto Rico at Río Piedras yesterday, concluded her visit introducing her anti-corruption bill.
She described her proposal as the most comprehensive one since the Watergate scandal under the Richard Nixon administration, and explained that it would end lobbying as it is known now and would prohibit lobbyists from giving money to elected officials, among other things. "The goal is to overcome the influence of money on the government," she insisted.
She said she is focused on how the federal government works for the benefit of the rich and powerful instead of working for the people and “on the impact of that in places like Puerto Rico.”