A federal court in San Juan, Puerto Rico, today will consider the views of the island’s government, lawmakers and creditors on developing bankruptcy-like plans to deal with a $72-billion debt load and to cover a looming $50-billion shortfall in pension obligations. The hearing, coming more than two years after Puerto Rico’s debt alarm was sounded, won’t finalize anything; rather, it will help give focus to the parties’ individual arguments when the massive case comes before the federal judge appointed by the U.S. Supreme court to hear it, Judge Laura Taylor Swain in Manhattan. It’s a long way to that point, but today’s legal dealings in San Juan are seen as significant movement on the legal timeline of the largest such case in U.S. history.
What caused Puerto Rico’s unprecedented debt? Victor M. Rodriguez, professor in and former chair of Chicano and Latino studies at California State University, Long Beach, says imperialism and debt peonage create the inevitability of serious economic crises, as seen in Puerto Rico. Rodriguez gives deep background today.