Friday, April 28, 2006

Problems In Paradise

My homeland of Puerto Rico is going through some really serious times at the moment.

Following Puerto Rican politics is a full-time job for anyone, so I won't try to give you the whole picture because it's just damn near impossible. Suffice to say that the island is now reaping the result of years and years of political bullshit from all three parties and from at least three different administrations.

The short of it all is this: the government has run out of money.

I'll let that one sink in.

Yes, I said that right, the government has run out of money, at least for this year until the new fiscal year begins in July. The deficit is such that all public agencies, save for some essential ones like law-enforcement, health, and utilities, will cease operations as of May 1, including the entire Dept. of Education, the largest government entity in the island, to which my Mother, as a public school teacher, belongs to. There is simply not enough money to cover the payroll for May and June, so schools are all closing as of today, Friday, as if it was the end of the school year. It is unclear whether my Mother, and all other Dept. of Education employees, will have a job to go back to before the summer is over.

Of course, there is a solution on the table: a $500+ million dollar loan to cover the deficit and to be paid by an increased 7% sales tax (on top of the 7% already paid). The governor wants the loan, the Legislature (the majority of which belongs to the opposing party of the governor) does not want to approve it, thus the empass, thus the big problem. They have until Sunday to approve the loan and patch up the crisis until the new fiscal year, but that's all it is, a patch. Either way, the people are screwed, I'm afraid: they either end up without pay for 2 months and possibly without jobs, or they end up with an effective 14% sales tax and no increase in salaries for the forseable future.

It sounds ridiculous, I know. A whole state (for basically that's what we function as) without money to run its public operations? Get outta here! And it may be that indeed it is all a political maneuvre (I wouldn't put it above the main players involved), but as of right now, it is a fast-approaching reality, and the people are fed up.

There was a march today on the Capitol (see above) to protest the whole situation and to voice the discontent of the nation. This isn't something that can be easily blamed on one party and not the others; this is all their collective fault, and ours as well for voting them blindly into power, for allowing each of them to do as they please and justifying their actions only because they are from the party we favor, for remaining silent until it was too late.

I'll be keeping an eye out during the weekend to see how things develop, but the truth is that both my sister (in Orlando) and I are making plans to get our Mother, sister and nephew to move to Florida (probably to Orlando, or as we call it, little Puerto Rico). We all love the island with our lives, truly, but there has to be a point after which we draw the line.

El Nuevo Dia (the local newspaper) has a whole section on their site with all the news relating to the issue:

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