January 27, 2017, New York – Today, rights groups demanded government records concerning the controversial fiscal control board established under the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA). The Center for Constitutional Rights and Latino Justice/PRLDEF joined with the San Juan-based Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI) to request records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
While the fiscal control board was established as a response to Puerto Rico’s debt crisis, many residents are concerned about the prospect of a group of unelected and unaccountable people making critical government decisions that will have a potentially drastic effect on the economic and political landscape and future of Puerto Rico.
“PROMESA was signed into law by a U.S. president Puerto Ricans have no say in electing, to govern a debt crisis affected in no small way by U.S. economic policies and laws,” said Stephanie Llanes, a fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights. "PROMESA means promise in Spanish, and the people of Puerto Rico deserve more than empty 'promises', more than an unelected board that will now govern not only the 'debt' but also their lives with no real transparency or accountability.”
Llanes continued, “We have already seen the harm that has resulted from these types of ‘emergency management’ fixes when they’ve been imposed elsewhere, as in Flint, Michigan where the massive water crisis resulted from decisions taken by an unelected emergency manager."
The requests are for all available records related to the board, including records regarding the seven board members, as well as the representative of the governor of Puerto Rico on the board. The request also seeks information concerning the process for determining whether there were any conflicts of interest and whether the proper financial disclosures were made in setting up the board.
“Since they did not elect the members of the board, Puerto Ricans at a minimum want to know who these members are, since they are now tasked with making decisions affecting the Puerto Rican people, policies, economy, and future. The lack of transparency in decision-making so far by the board, as evidenced by their first six months of operation, is worrisome, reprehensible and cannot be tolerated. The role of the press and public in demanding answers from this board is critical,” said Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan, a lawyer with LatinoJustice PRLDEF.
“CPI decided to take more forceful actions to publicize its requests for information, given the secrecy with which the federal fiscal control board has been managed, including the process of appointing members, and in particular with respect to documents pertaining to ethical conflicts and disclosure of financial interests, which should have been filed months ago and yet cannot be found,” said Carla Minet, Executive Director of CPI.
LatinoJustice PRLDEF, originally established as the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF) in 1972, is one of the foremost national nonprofit civil rights legal defense and education funds working to advance, promote, and protect the legal rights of Latina/os throughout the nation. Our work is focused on addressing systemic discrimination and ensuring equal access to justice in the advancement of voting rights, housing rights, educational equity, immigrant rights, language access rights, employment rights, and workplace justice, seeking to address all forms of discriminatory bias that adversely impact Latina/os. For more information on LatinoJustice, please visit: www.latinojustice.org.
Established in 2007, the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI) is an independent, non-profit organization that promotes and defends the right of access to citizens' information through journalistic research, education and the promotion of transparency of public and private powers. Visit www.periodismoinvestigativo.com.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.