Monthly Archives: June 2016

15 posts

Senate Approves PROMESA Bill for Puerto Rico

Capitol building night
Congress passed the PROMESA bill outlining Puerto Rico’s debt restructuring. The bill now goes to President Obama to sign. / Lifestream photo of Capitol building

The Senate passed the PROMESA bill establishing the outline for Puerto Rico’s debt restructuring just  as the island was expected to miss $2 billion in debt payments in July – its largest defaults so far – and before Congress recessed for the Fourth of July holiday.

The House approved the measure June 9 and President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill.

As expected, the bill retains the controversial oversight financial board, an unelected body that will oversee the overhaul of Puerto Rico’s finances and which would have the power to veto the governor’s and Legislature’s bills or measures. Appointees to the board, comprising about seven members – only one of which would be an island resident – must be approved by the President.

The oversight board has raised hackles about Puerto Rico’s right to self-governance or sovereignty. But in a separate court case related to the island’s debt crisis, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that Congress has final say over Puerto Rico.

As much as Puerto Ricans here and on the island opposed PROMESA, it was bound to pass, not least because Gov. Alejandro García Padilla strongly advocated for it, as did the island’s sole delegate to Congress Pedro Pierluisi. President Obama favored it, as did Republicans in the House and Senate. Notwithstanding Democratic Sen. Bob Melendez‘s (NJ) four-hour standoff on the bill, many Democrats supported it, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

PROMESA was considered Puerto Rico’s last chance for an orderly restructuring of its total $72 billion in debt.

“PROMESA has its downsides. It creates an oversight board that unnecessarily undercuts the democratic institution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. But facing the upsides and downsides of the bill,” Gov. García Padilla wrote in a CNBC op-ed, “it gives Puerto Rico no true choice at this point in time.”

There is another important reason why PROMESA passed and it constitutes a lesson for other debt-ridden states and entities:

If you get into a jam, you’re not going to be able to dictate the terms of the rescue. It’s that simple.

The real work of reorganizing and re-envisioning Puerto Rico’s finances and government lies ahead. No doubt it willl be painful because the García Padilla administration only nibbled at the edges of reform. Many protests will be planned.

The proposed oversight board should do its work quickly, wrapping up its work in five years of less, and return Puerto Rico to island rule.

A Message to Orlando Latino Readers

A memorial honoring the Pulse nightclub shooting victims at the Dr. Phillips center in Downtown Orlando./ Maria Padilla

I want to thank Orlando Latino readers for their mostly loving reaction to the story about the dad who did not want to claim his son, a casualty of the Pulse nightclub shooting.

This post has reached nearly 20,000 people and has been shared over 200 times. I never expected it to go viral. I intended only to draw attention to the social and moral attitudes regarding LGBT people and same-sex marriage still prevalent in Spanish-speaking countries, including Puerto Rico.

But I get  that the father’s rejection – even in death – struck a nerve with many of you, as it did with me. Many readers have shown an amazing sense of generosity, decency and spirit in their desire to claim or bury the victim. Thank you.

I cannot share any more details about the victim because I do not wish to divulge additional identifying details. I do not wish to cause this family any more pain. For surely you must know the family is in pain. Many of you may not agree. Let’s agree to disagree.

Please know, however, that this young man’s body was claimed, as were all the shooting victims. He had friends and other family members who loved him and celebrated his life. He is now resting in peace.

Thank you for reading Orlando Latino.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor

Latina Commissioner Endorses Randolph for Congress

Viviana and Susannah
Osceola County Commissioner Viviana Janer (l) and Susannah Randolph. / Randolph campaign

In a surprise announcement, Susannah Randolph, Democrat running to replace her old boss Alan Grayson in Congressional District 9, snagged the endorsement of Viviana Janer, the first Latina on the Osceola County Commission.

Of all the endorsements Randolph has announced, none may count as much as this one in the Latino-leaning district that includes parts of Orange and Osceola counties.

However, the move is riskier for Janer, who serves as Osceola County Commission chair. She may see a backlash from the Hispanic community.

Janer was expected to endorse Randolph rival State Sen. Darren Soto (D), who has represented the district as a state representative and now state senator for about 10 years. If Soto wins the August primary, he would be a shoo-in for the seat, making Soto the first Puerto Rican to go to Congress from Florida.

Potential Backlash

If Janer is seen as thwarting that goal, she could draw the ire of the Latino community and attract a primary opponent when she is up for re-election in 2018. Osceola County District 2 is the most Hispanic district on the Osceola County Commission.

It seems then that the August primary is being set up to test Janer’s pull with Latino voters versus Soto’s. Back in 2014 Janer won her district with 51 percent of the vote, while Soto drew 76 percent support.

Osceola County is heavily Hispanic, and they generally vote Democrat. In fact, the influx of Puerto Ricans has produced one of the highest concentrations of Democrats of any Florida county.

Sources say Janer, who is Puerto Rican, was being heavily courted by Randolph and the Florida Democratic Party for some time. But her relationship with Randolph goes back several years.

When Janer ran into trouble with her employer during her 2014 campaign, she sought legal help from Grayson. At the time, Randolph was on Grayson’s staff.

Political newcomer Janer snatched the district away from incumbent Republican John Quiñones, who was accused of pressuring Janer’s employer to fire her after it was disclosed that Quiñones had received a donation from the company.

Quiñones denied the charge, which was never proven.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor

Latino Community Mourns Pulse Shooting Victims

Pulse Vigilia
The vigilia for Pulse club victims, families and survivors drew a diverse crowd. / Maria Padilla

The Hispanic community paused recently to honor the victims, families and survivors of the Pulse shooting in a Spanish-language vigil at the Dr. Phillips center in Downtown Orlando.

The event was coordinated by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando, which since the Pulse nightclub shooting June 12, has worked nonstop to provide services, answer questions and calm the community, alongside many other community organizers and volunteers.

The shooting was the single worst in American history. About three-quarters of the shooting victims were Latinos, the single largest group from Puerto Rico.

The stress of tending to the needs of the community, combined with the sorrow of the massacre, lined many tired faces at the Hispanic Chamber’s vigilia. Chamber officials appeared subdued and some even sobbed.

The vigil brought out survivors from the Boston marathon bombing. It showcased songs and short speeches, including Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan, each of whom addressed the crowd in Spanish.

Dyer vigilia
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer at the Spanish-language vigil. /Maria Padilla

“So many of the victims were of Latino descent,” Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said to Orlando Latino. “It’s important that we recognize the multicultural nature of the event.”

It wasn’t always so, as many Hispanics earlier complained that officials and others were downplaying the ethnicity of the victims, who had gathered at Pulse that fateful evening for Latin night.

It was as if being LGBT and Latino were mutually exclusive.

“I am Hispanic and openly gay,” local entrepreneur Carlos Carbonell told the crowd. “Both of my families are mourning.”

City Commissioner Tony Ortiz, whose southeast district is heavily Hispanic, spoke of love and lives that were cut short, although his was the lone vote against same-sex marriage in the Orlando City Commission.

“Todos, todos, todos, todos somos hijos de Dios,” Ortiz said. “Todos somos seres humanos.” All of us are children of God. We are all human beings.

“Orlando United is more than a hashtag,” he added.

Indeed. First Baptist of Orlando is holding a vigil Tuesday, June 28, that will bring together followers of Orlando’s largest evangelical Hispanic churches, including Iglesia El Calvario and Fuente de Agua Viva, in an event titled ¡Amamos Orlando! (We Love Orlando) and headlined by Christian singer and pastor Marcos Witt.

Fuente de Agua Viva may livestream the event direct to Puerto Rico, where its parent church is based.

What: ¡Amamos Orlando!

When: Tuesday, June 28, at 7: 30 p.m. (Doors open at 6:30 p.m.)

Where: First Baptist Orlando, 3000 South John Young Parkway, Orlando

Cost: Free

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor