Puerto Rico has a new national anthem. Originally recorded by Johnny Guitar Watson in 1976, it expresses the new national spirit and political consciousness of Puerto Rico in 2021. The anthem is called Ain’t That a Bitch and you can hear it on the YouTube link under this photo.
In particular, listen at: 0:30 – 2:00 and 3:38 – 4:55.
Nearly everyone on the island is feeling the same way as JG Watson:
They’re working poor folks to death
When you pay your rent and car note
You ain’t got a damn thing left
Ain’t that a bitch
Somebody doing something slick
The latest slick move from downtown is a “Restructuring Support Agreement” (RSA) executed on May 3, 2019 by PREPA, the Puerto Rico Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority (AAFAF), Assured Guaranty Corp. (AGC), Assured Guaranty Municipal Corp (AGMC), an Ad Hoc Group of PREPA bondholders (the “Ad Hoc Group”) and the Financial Control Board (aka “La Junta”).
This RSA calls for the issuance of more bond debt – $8.3 billion – in order to pay off the bondholders. This debt will be paid by the people of Puerto Rico via a so-called “transition charge” which starts at 2.7 additional cents per kilowatt hour and eventually rises to 4.55 cents. Amazingly, even PREPA customers who install rooftop solar panels will have to pay this “transition charge,” even on the solar energy which they themselves generate. The PREPA customers will also be legally obligated to buy – at their own expense, roughly $1,000 – an additional meter which measures the amount of solar power they are generating and using.
According to Mike Henchen, a utility system expert at the Rocky Mountain Institute, he is unaware of any utility in the US that charges its customers for solar power that they did not generate. In other words (mine, not Henchen’s) this RSA is a shakedown: a familiar phenomenon at PREPA.
In recent years, reports have shown that 1) for decades, PREPA used illegal toxic sludge oil instead of EPA-compliant petroleum and falsified over 600 lab reports to avoid detection, and 2) from 2009 to 2013, during the Fortuño administration, PREPA issued seven successive AA bonds: and 80% of each bond was used to pay off the interest – not the principal, just the interest – on the immediately preceding bond. This Ponzi scheme practice was consistent with Fortuño’s orgy of debt. In his one and only four-year term, Fortuño saddled the island with more debt than any other governor in Puerto Rican history: over $14 billion.
And now, the people of Puerto Rico will pay for this reckless debt: with higher tolls on privatized highways and bridges, higher tuition in charter schools, higher water rates, and the highest electricity rates in all the US. The current island rate, even before the RSA, is already 22 cents per kilowatt hour…and within three years (2024) Puerto Ricans will pay 30 cents per kWh…an overall rate hike of 73%. Then, as reported by London Economic International (LEI), the electricity rates will more than double again – to 64.5 cents per kWh – by 2036. This is nearly triple what they are today: inflicted on a vulnerable population whose per capita income is half that of Mississippi, the poorest state in the US.
The RSA’s grip on the island will span two generations. Under its $8.3 billion settlement terms, the “transition charge” will be paid every year, for the next 47 years.
Ironically, this de facto serfdom arrives at the same time that Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nydia Velasquez announced a FEMA grant of $9.46 billion for PREPA’s development of “clean, renewable electricity.” But in a Citizens United world – with both the Governor and Resident Commissioner deeply committed to LNG interests, and with multi-billion dollar fuel contracts at stake – it is only a matter of time before those FEMA monies enter a black hole of lobbyists and influence peddling, all powered and protected by the highest authority: the US Supreme Court, via its Citizens United decision.
Ultimately, the Financial Control Board (La Junta) will exercise jurisdiction over that $9.46 billion and funnel it toward the bondholder debt, the LNG tsunami…and of course, a few shekels will find their way into Gov. Pedro Pierluisi’s pocket.
Because in Puerto Rico, somebody is always doing something slick.
For a history of the War Against All Puerto Ricans, read the book…