On June 30th, around thirty people from teachers’ unions, Jobs with Justice, and Boston residents gathered outside Santander’s American headquarters to protest their ongoing role in the debt crisis currently devastating Puerto Rico.
Hundreds of schools have been shut down. Hospitals have been forced to close. People may lose access to clean water and have been forced to leave their homes. Now their pay and benefits are under attack. And while some Puerto Rican government officials certainly aren’t blameless (Governor Ricardo Rosselló recently signed laws that would harm workers and their ability to provide for their families), Santander has often had an indirect or direct role in pushing the government into making disastrous decisions. Carlos García was a Santander bank executive who helped craft the loans and bonds that have plunged Puerto Rico into this crisis. The government of Puerto Rico took out these loans on the advice of one of the government advisors – Carlos García. And if that doesn’t sound absurd enough to you, seven members of a Financial Oversight Board now have oversight over all the island’s finances, and guess who was chosen to be one of these unelected seven people who literally have the power of life and death over Puerto Rico?
Carlos García, as a Santander executive, made the bad loans that hurt Puerto Rico, then as a Puerto Rican government advisor got Puerto Rico to accept these loans, and now as a member of the Financial Oversight Board is determining how Puerto Rico will survive the havoc for which he is responsible for.
If Puerto Rico is going to endure, it is vital that the real story gets out, that people understand the role Santander played and continues to play in this crisis. The thirty men and women marching outside Santander’s headquarters were doing just that – educating people about the facts and letting everyone know loudly and clearly that while Santander may not care about Puerto Ricans suffering right now, we certainly do.
And so does Boston. Members of the community passing by took fliers, spoke to protestors, and, in some cases, joined us. One person who joined us was a veteran who speaks thirty languages, has served his country, and now can barely afford to buy food and clothing. His presence testified to the fact that many in our own communities also suffer from the indifference of business and government officials. But he was also there to fight and let Santander know that as long as they continue to pillage Puerto Rico, we’re not going anywhere.
You can help by calling Carlos García at 617-607-4601 and demanding he step down from the Financial Oversight Board.
Tell him and Santander to stop putting profits before people because, frankly, Puerto Rico is counting on not just the thirty people who came to the rally, but all of us who know what’s going on.
And now that includes you.
Matthew James Seidel is a post-graduate fellow at the Center for Labor Research and Education. He has worked as an adjunct English instructor for five years first in Chicago, IL and then Bloomington, IN. He has been published on TheMillions.com and maintains a book review blog at workingtitlebookshop.wordpress.com. He is currently working for Massachusetts Jobs with Justice.