At long last, after 35 years, Pres. Obama finally commuted the sentence of Oscar López Rivera. The president is to be commended for this. But for eight years, Obama misled the entire Puerto Rican community. He used them as a doormat.
Obama betrayed every Puerto Rican…not once, not twice, but FOUR times in eight years. Here is how…
#1…THE U.S. CENSUS
In the same week that Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor to the US Supreme Court, he also nominated Robert Groves to direct the US Census. The hoopla surrounding Sonia’s nomination enabled Groves to sail through the US Senate confirmation hearings – virtually undetected – and abandon statistical sampling as the prevailing census methodology (see page 15 of the transcript).
In other words, the appointment of Sotomayor served as a cover for the ultimate denial of hundreds of billions of federal dollars from Latino neighborhoods, and Latino school districts, all over the US.
#2…CHAPTER 9 BANKRUPTCY
Obama did nothing to restore Chapter IX bankruptcy relief to Puerto Rico, which was arbitrarily withdrawn during the Reagan administration in 1984.
Obama expended no political capital; issued no executive orders; offered no Treasury negotiations, Dept. of Commerce initiatives, or tax code incentives…nothing.
He simply allowed Puerto Rico to melt down into insolvency.
Instead of Chapter IX, Obama lobbied intensively for the passage of PROMESA, and the installation of a Financial Control Board over the entire island.
Over the next few years, hundreds of thousands of retirees may lose their pensions. The minimum wage may go down to $5 per hour. Electrical rates will double. Schools and hospitals will close. “Public private partnerships” will swallow the public economy. Another million Puerto Ricans may be forced to leave the island…and hand it over to Wall Street operatives and US billionaires.
THAT is Obama’s economic legacy for the people of Puerto Rico.
#4…THE US SUPREME COURT
The appointment of Sotomayor was cleverly timed, and served to cover the real action in the US Census.
But beyond this, in 2016, Obama sent his Solicitor General to the Supreme Court…not once, but twice. In two landmark cases – Sanchez Valle and Franklin Trust – the Obama administration argued that Puerto Rico is a “territorial possession” of the US: with no political, economic, or juridical sovereignty whatsoever.
Obama made it clear – and the Supreme Court agreed – that Puerto Rico is a US colony.
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
Barack Obama is a Harvard Law graduate, a masterful orator, and a talented politician. You don’t manage to become the first black POTUS without a strong skill set.
Unfortunately, Obama applied none of his personal skills or presidential powers, on behalf of Puerto Rico.
He commuted the sentence of a man who had already been pardoned twelve years ago, and should not have been in jail until January 2017…if at all.
We certainly appreciate the release of Oscar López Rivera. We thank Obama for that.
But for nine million Puerto Ricans, the Obama presidency was much ado about nothing.
For a history of the War Against All Puerto Ricans, read the book…
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