New York City mayor Bill de Blasio says the federal government is not helping Puerto Rico with its debt delinquency because the U.S. territory is populated by “people of color.”
The New York Post reports that de Blasio made this accusation while speaking at Al Sharpton’s activism org, the National Action Network.
“The backs of the United States government turned on them, while a health-care crisis grows, a humanitarian crisis grows, the Zika crisis grows,” he said in a speech at the National Action Network in Harlem.
“By the way, brothers and sisters, do you think by any chance it could be because they’re people of color?”
Puerto Rico defaulted on a nine-figure debt payment this past Monday. According to Bloomberg, hedge funds hold $15 billion of the Caribbean island’s debts. De Blasio is putting pressure on Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan to let the territory declare bankruptcy. As reported by Crain’s New York:
“Anyone who cares about Puerto Rico can pick up the phone and call 1-888-909-RYAN,” the mayor said, referring to House Speaker Paul Ryan, then repeating the number in the manner of a TV mail-order commercial. “That’s R-Y-A-N. That’s 1-888-909-7926.”
Congressional Republicans want the island to manage its way out of financial trouble, rather than be bailed out or allowed to declare bankruptcy, which would give it leverage to negotiate for relief from its creditors. The House majority has proposed Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act, or PROMESA, which would establish a board to rule over Puerto Rico’s budget.
The mayor wants Ryan to allow Puerto Rico to restructure its debt without slashing services or labor standards. Advocates for Puerto Rico believe the territory is too far in arrears to pay it all back, and that austerity measures are not the answer.
“Congress must take action and allow Puerto Rico to restructure their debt in a way that strengthens its health system and does not jeopardize workers’ wages,” de Blasio said in a statement later Monday.
The mayor, currently dogged by a criminal investigation of his election fundraising, has been beating the drum for a Puerto Rico bailout since July of last year. In November, he and NY governor Andrew Cuomo attended a rally on the island demanding more Medicare spending for its residents.