Last week, Gov. Garcia Padilla ordered the sale of more than 350 school buildings throughout Puerto Rico. He did this though an “executive order” that was not disclosed for six days…then quietly announced on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.
But the problem is even deeper than 350 schools. The governor’s statutory language will now empower him – and incoming governor Ricky Roselló – to sell ALL the public assets of Puerto Rico, whenever they see fit. Here is how they’ll do it…
An executive order is a powerful weapon. With the stroke of a pen, a governor can create a mandate which is immune to legislative veto…and little, if any, public review.
That is what exactly what Gov. Garcia Padilla did on Nov. 19, with Executive Order 2016-046, which authorized the private sale of over over 350 public schools.
But now, through Law 12 of Dec. 10, 1975, the government of Puerto Rico will be authorized to sell ANY AND ALL of the public assets of Puerto Rico.
Law 12 empowers the Puerto Rico Secretary of Transportation and Public Works to sell “any property of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico which ceases to be publicly useful.”
This language appears on the first page, in the very first “Por Cuanto” clause (“Whereas” clause) in the governor’s executive order to sell the 350 schools.
You can read it right here, in this government web site, by looking at OE-2016-046.
EVERYTHING IS NOW FOR SALE
Thanks to this Law 12, enacted 41 years ago during the administration of Rafael Hernández Colón, a governor may order the private sale of public property, which is deemed to be “unproductive” or “not publicly useful.”
Unfortunately – with Puerto Rico allegedly “in debt” for $72 billion, and a U.S. Financial Control Board in place to collect it – the next governor could declare half of Puerto Rico to be “unproductive,” then sell the island’s public assets to Wall Street.
This includes pieces of PREPA (the electrical grid), PRASA (water and aqueducts), schools, highways, bridges, hospitals, airports, prisons and public housing.
The mayor of Toa Baja did this – selling the CDT (Centro de Diagnostica y Tratamiento) Hospital – and the city government still had to shut down, for complete absence of funds.
And so, very possibly, the sale of Puerto Rico’s public assets may benefit no one, except the private buyer who acquires those assets at bargain prices.
THE NEED FOR VIGILANCE
Mercedes Martínez, the president of Federación de Maestros (the Puerto Rico Teachers Union) has already released a strongly-worded press release, condemning Garcia Padilla’s “Machiavellian” maneuver to sell off 350 public schools.
Rep. Guillermo Miranda Rivera, the incoming Education Chair in the Puerto Rico Legislative Assembly, announced a pending investigation of the governor’s order (OE-2016-046) to sell 350 public schools.
But this situation will recur again and again…particularly with an incoming PNP governor who has repeatedly declared his support for “public-private partnerships” throughout the island.
In fact, in the pages of Forbes magazine, Ricky Rosello has announced that “Puerto Rico is addicted to spending” and “it’s these public-private partnerships that will provide long-term repayment guarantees to bondholders.”
The executive discretion of Law 12, the coercive power of the Financial Control Board, and the “cooperative” signals from governor-elect Roselló, all indicate a dangerous era for Puerto Rico…in which enormous pieces of its public infrastructure might be sold away forever.
Attention must be paid.
For a history of the War Against All Puerto Ricans, read the book…
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