Brian Cahill Moledo, November 29th, 2017
Churches United for Fair Housing is proud to endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) proposal for the $146b aid package to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Hurricane María made landfall on September 20th. The majority of the island remains without power. As Puerto Ricans struggle to repair devastated homes and infrastructure, we confront the question: who will own what is rebuilt? The compassionate overtures by companies positioning themselves as saviors--such as building solar grids to power a children's hospital--ring hollow when you consider their plan to continue taking a cut of Puerto Ricans' wealth for the foreseeable future.
Puerto Rico, forced to import nearly all its goods via U.S. built, crewed and owned ships, brings in its supply of oil and gasoline at vastly distorted prices. Now, with renewable energy prices at historic lows, wind and solar farms would allow the island to (once again) create and grow its own emergent industry, providing for its own needs while even trading excess energy with its brownout-plagued neighbors. In order to actually create a renewable energy industry on the island, however, it is an undeniable fact that Puerto Ricans must be the owners of the renewable energy they create. That is why CUFFH continues to support Puerto Rico's energy independence, and why we have pushed for investment in green energy infrastructure through the María Fund.
Energy independence is an essential part of any plan truly advocating for Puerto Rico's recovery. Moreover, any threat to privatize Puerto Rico's infrastructure is a threat to further redistribute Puerto Rican public wealth into private--and almost unfailingly U.S.--hands. We recognize that the struggle to restore Puerto Ricans' lives is also the struggle to ensure that their wealth, homes and infrastructure are not stripped from them to benefit hedge funds and bondholders. We appreciate the provision in Sanders' plan prohibiting the privatization of all infrastructure rebuilt with federal funds. We hope to see all bills by senators claiming kinship or allyship with Puerto Ricans to contain similar language.
A plan illustrating the steps toward rebuilding, growing and protecting a renewable energy network is an encouraging step towards ensuring socioeconomic justice for Puerto Ricans. However, such a plan is only a step toward counteracting and dismantling the campaign of weaponized austerity carried out against Puerto Rico. The Jones and PROMESA acts must be repealed, and the $71 billion in odious debt must be retired. Without dismantling the debts and institutional handicaps imposed by the U.S., Puerto Rico's economic growth will inevitably be hamstrung.
Churches United for Fair Housing congratulates Sen. Sanders, as well as Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) and looks forward to their continued contributions to the struggle for Puerto Rican equality.