UNI Global Union stands in solidarity with the people of Puerto Rico
Today, UNI Global Union expresses its solidarity with Puerto Rico, which is experiencing the worst financial crisis in its history.
UNI stands with the Puerto Rican people who have rejected calls to pay back $73 billion. Misguided and irresponsible austerity measures have left Puerto Rico at the mercy of the vulture hedge fund capitalists who are seeking to pick the assets of the island dry.
Austerity is not the answer; it has created a humanitarian crisis. The massive layoffs, the closing of schools and excessive taxes, driven by those same creditors that drove the island into more debt in order to get massive profits, are only driving hundreds of American citizens to leave Puerto Rico weekly. The U.S. commonwealth cannot prosper without its citizens.
As public debt becomes a worldwide issue, we cannot ignore the bad actions of banks and other creditors that helped create them, especially at a time when financial firms have a huge say on how nations can pay back debt. UNI commends the U.S. based ReFund America Project and its series of important reports for bringing to light the bad actors in Puerto Rico’s financial crisis as the U.S. Government prepares to implement a fiscal control board to restructure the island’s public debt.
UNI Finance, the Global Union representing 3 million employees in 237 trade unions worldwide, has long advocated and campaigned for regulation of banks and more transparency so that economies become sustainable not only for banks but for citizens and workers impacted by their business models.
The latest report from the ReFund America Project identifies Barclays and Santander banks on the list of financial institutions engaging into predatory practices as the Commonwealth had been struggling with its public debt for years if not decades.
In fact, the report titled Scooping and Tossing Puerto Rico’s Future reveals that Barclays, Santander, UBS, Citigroup and others were among the list of underwriters of refunding bonds, or scoop and toss financing deals, that pushed Puerto Rico to issue new debt to pay off old in order to collect exorbitant fees by underwriting the same debt over and over again. This increased the Commonwealth’s long-term debt and allowed the banks and other financial or legal firms to rake in $1.6 billion in fees on Puerto Rico’s refinancing deals. UBS was the lead underwriter on the largest portion of this debt, which accounted for an estimated $323 million in fees.
The report identifies the practice as a form of predatory lending, and rightfully calls into question the legitimacy of the debt accumulated through the refunding bonds.
UNI Global Union condemns UBS, and the other banks for worsening and profiting from the crisis in Puerto Rico. We demand that these banks cease their outrageous predatory activities and their push for neocolonial policies that undercut the rights of the Puerto Rican people. Banks should support and assist the development of countries’ economies, not drive them deeper into debt and poverty.
Puerto Rico, like any other nation or territory, deserves fair and balanced restructuring policies that protect its 3.5 million citizens. That is the only way to drive the Commonwealth towards a path of economic growth.