SAN JUAN – Dozens of demonstrators on Wednesday attempted to block access to a conference on a U.S. financial rescue law for Puerto Rico known by the acronym Promesa (Promise), which among other things establishes a fiscal control board to oversee the island’s public finances.
Opponents of the law linked arms to bar access to San Juan’s Condado Plaza Hilton hotel, the venue for the gathering organized by the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce, or CCPR.
The event was to be attended by roughly 1,000 people and feature respected local economists, investors, holders of Puerto Rico’s debt and local private sector opinion leaders as speakers.
Well-known Puerto Rican hip-hop artist Residente tweeted his support for the protest, which led to shouting matches, the arrest of a member of the FMPR teachers’ federation and eye injuries to two police officers who were attacked with pepper spray by a demonstrator.
The CCPR is made up mostly of small business owners but 60 percent of its budget comes from multinationals, according to Barbes, who said those large companies had organized the conference to meet with sectors of the U.S. commonwealth’s ruling class and discuss ways to “set up corruption schemes inside the control board.”
But CCPR President David Rodriguez Ortiz said the conference’s agenda made it clear that its goal was “to educate, analyze and – based on the experiences of other jurisdictions and recommendations of the participants – improve the process of implementing Promesa to make it more inclusive.”
Barbes was arrested at a separate protest against the conference earlier this week.
Obama signed Promesa into law in late June to help rescue Puerto Rico, which has been in recession for a decade and has been forced to default on bond payments due to a crippling fiscal crisis.
The law’s provisions include establishing a seven-member financial control board to monitor Puerto Rican government spending until its fiscal house is in order, as well as facilitating the restructuring of the U.S. commonwealth’s roughly $70 billion in debt and – as in the case of Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy, for which the island is not eligible – providing a retroactive stay on lawsuits by bondholders.
Obama on Wednesday unveiled the members of the financial control board, which were chosen from a list presented by Democratic and Republican congressional leaders.