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Old 07-21-2019, 11:57 AM
JRDelirious is online now
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Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: Displaced
Posts: 15,964
All right, this is LONG but even then it's a summary --


General Background:

The society in Puerto Rico has been under extreme stress over an economic stagnation dating a decade and a half and a government fiscal solvency crisis going back a decade.

The 2017 catastrophe and the recovery process only added to this. The slow process of disbursement of disaster relief has resulted in a generalized fear that help will any day for any reason be clawed back. You cannot imagine how this horrorizes even the most hardened politico in the island.

This has resulted in a high level of tension when faced with political controversies. Any situation in which the confidence in the government is questioned becomes cause for extreme alarm and this has come to a head in the last couple of weeks

Electoral Background:

Governor Rosselló was elected in 2016 with a narrow plurality and the lowest percentage of any governor in decades, thanks in part to not one but two surprisingly succesful independent candidates turning it into a 3-and-a-half-way race rather than the usual 2 and a quarter (our traditional third party is just pathetic, electorally).

Rosselló's candidacy in turn was a phenomenon of local political inside baseball. He is the younger son of a former governor from the 1990s, and entered active PR politics in 2012 leading a "grasroots" organization in what was obviously a positioning move. Before that he was a stem-cell bioengineering PostDoc at Duke and until 2016 held NO elected or appointed-and-confirmed office of any kind. In 2016, barely of age to make governor, he defeated an 8-year Congressman for the nomination, largely on the strength of a motivated "base" who longed for the Good Times of the 90s (misattributing them to dad) and of a machine of Dad's former followers, aides, and funders. Think of it as if the Clintonist dems in 2016 had run Chelsea, rolling over Bernie and Biden and any other comers.

However, in 2016, a Puerto Rico debt default having become inevitable, the Congress had established a Fiscal Oversight and Management Board to handle it and make sure the Big Lenders get paid something. This resulted in that for the past two and a half years every budget, tax or appropriation in Puerto Rico has been vetoed by the Board, and two and a half years of Gov posturing of how he could do Great Popular Things and pay for them, if it weren't for the Big Meanies at the Board making us eat our veggies.

Those veggies have included elimination of numerous public benefits and public and private sector labor protections, which obviously pissed off a large part of the population. Meanwhile, however, big fat tax shelters continue being provided to offshorers, billionaire land investors and blockchainers. And large contracts continued to be issued to businesses run by "friends of Ricky" even though he continued to claim the Treasury's broke and the feds have to bail us out at every step.

The Blowup:

Last May, the Treasury Secretary and Chief Financial Officer was terminated over his own reports of a federal investigation of misconduct in access to taxpayer records. The Governor argued that he should have spilled his guts to HIM, not to the feds. After that termination a bitter feud over social networks erupted between the Governor’s supporters and the Secretary and his son (himself a former contractor, so, how unbiased?).

Last 10 July, a former Secretary of Education and the then-current head of the state Medicaid Agency plus several private businesspersons and contractors were indicted for malfeasance in federally funded programs.

None of THOSE situations involved the Puerto Rico Disaster Relief Funding. These were cases of contractors engaging in run of the mill irregularities in federally funding programs. The federal authorities investigated and intervened with local cooperation.

The entities managing recovery funding, the Central Office of Reconstruction, Recovery and Resiliency (COR3) and the Puerto Rico Housing Department have been working very closely with their federal partners to prevent abuse in the recovery process. If anything, the processing of these funds has become too cautious on the part of all agencies because some things were found seriously wrong in the initial stages of the effort.

Of $42 Billion Allocated (NOT 92 like Trump likes to repeat), only a little over $12 billion have been disbursed by the federal government out of $23 that has been obligated; the disbursement at this point is mostly for work already done. The municipalities are worried that an end-of-fiscal year deadline for final cost estimates will come without decisions having been made and they will be left with no reimbursement for work done and no funding for work needed.

However everyone up to and including the Congressional Delegate was furious, because of course this only makes their life harder and proves Trump may be wrong about numbers but has a point about mismanagement in general.

Then came Chatgate

Shortly after the arrests, thechats from last winter involving the Governor and close political and official collaborators (including the since-fired Treasury Secretary) were leaked to the public. We have a good suspicion of who leaked, see previous parentheses.

These contained extremely derogatory, crude and crass language as well as deprecatory insinuations about multiple public figures from within and without the administration and private citizens, plus expressions denigrating the disaster victims and federal relief officials, and, more damning yet discussion of both partisan and public policy positions and media spin strategies with the participation of persons outside of the administration.

The last included the Gov's BFF, former campaign manager, and whose firm everyone "knows" you should retain if you want your government contract handled expeditiously; and the head of multiple media/PR/publicity firms who was in charge of placing favorable media coverage.

Because of these revelations both the Secretary of State/Lieutenant Governor and the Chief Fiscal Advisor and Governor’s representative before the Fiscal Oversight Board resigned their positions and the Governor has announced several other offices are being reviewed.

Effects:

First few days:

The combination of these events led to most of the leadership of the Governor’s local Party, the caucuses of both Legislative Houses, the Federation of Mayors, and the Resident Commissioner declaring he should desist from seeking reelection. This call came from both Republicans and Democrats (the main local parties in PR are aligned on statehood v. statu quo and contain putative Rs and Ds alike). The leadership offered the Governor time to consider his options and what is best for the public interest. The Fiscal Oversight Board also called on the Governor to consider what is in Puerto Rico’s best interest.

Puerto Rico has no recall process. The Legislative Houses started a process to evaluate if there are impeachable offenses involved ("being an immature asshole" is not an impeachable offense as we are all too painfully aware). However this takes time and is complicated by the resignation of the Lt.Gov/StateSec which creates a gap in the succession putting in line an extremely unpopular AG. So far, so ho-hum.

Over the following week, though:

Demonstrations demanding the Governor’s resignation started. However a pattern emerged that after the organized, peaceful demonstrations were completed and their organizers left, then asshats would show up causing outbreaks of violence and vandalism. (BTW I know my city, there were NOT 500,000 people at "a" demonstration (they just couldn't fit), they added up at various combined demonstrations)

Some political/labor organizations began calls for general actions to disrupt the economy and the functioning of the government. They have been successful already in dissuading several cruise lines' port calls in San Juan. The Mayor of San Juan (remember her?) has indicated she will NOT cooperate in keeping order in her own city in these protests and that never mind the vandalism, the city will pay to fix and paint -- IOW go ahead and keep at it.

Blogspherers and influencers have been varyingly helpful and unhelpful, creating confusion about what should happen, often citing remedies that are NOT contemplated by the US or Puerto Rico Constitutions or by the Puerto Rico Federal Relations Act (Like "dissolving the government" -- we are not a parliamentary state -- or that the investigations be carried out by external non-governmental entities).

This has had however the effect of hardening the governor’s stance. His supporters claim this would create a precedent of recall by street riot. His actions during the week have been essentially summed up as total denial and saying "I was wrong and I asked forgiveness. I have committed no crime. I will continue to go ahead with my program." His supporters have started saying everyone else is a traitor who needs to be primaried. There being no legal way to get rid of him other than impeachment, which the framers of the PR Consitution made almost impossible on purpose, he is betting on exhaustion or on the street opposition going too far and losing mainstream support.

This has finally led to most of the leadership of his own party, most professional associations, organized labor, mainstream churches, and even is HS and MIT Alumni associations disavowing him and now outright asking him to resign for the sake of governability. Employees are confronting managers and taking his picture down at public offices. A meeting of the party board of directors has been called for a possible vote of confidence but since he is the chairman he is obviously going to try and use it to corner his opponents by controlling time and venue so as to ensure it happens when it's inconvenient to many and that those who could attend have to make their way through his supporters.

Already additional measures to protect federal funds in Puerto Rico are being added to the funding provisions in legislation before Congress, any time as such funding IS moved forward and provided. The representative in Congress has asked for the IGs to go in and audit every program that expends federal funding in PR.

What next? Who knows.

Last edited by JRDelirious; 07-21-2019 at 12:02 PM.