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Because 'Puerto Rico Must No Longer Be Treated as a Colony,' Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez Lead Demand to End Painful Austerity

"We must hold la Junta accountable—otherwise Wall Street vultures will continue to be prioritized over the needs of the people."

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) wave to the crowd at the end of a campaign rally in Wichita, Kansas on July 20, 2018.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) wave to the crowd at the end of a campaign rally in Wichita, Kansas on July 20, 2018. (Photo: J Pat Carter/Washington Post)

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are leading an effort to end austerity in Puerto Rico and let the people of the island territory determine their own path forward. 

Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez were joined in the effort by 11 other Democrats, all of whom signed a letter (pdf) demanding the "end of the Financial Oversight and Management Board (FOMB) control over the economic decisions of the island." The FOMB, also known as "la junta," has been at the forefront of forced austerity on Puerto Rico as the island continues to reel from over a decade of financial crisis and the effects of Hurricane Maria, the 2017 storm that decimated the territory. 

"Puertorriqueños will continue to die in the face of a severe health crisis and others are using blue tarps as roofs two years after Maria," Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, said in a statement. "We must hold la Junta accountable—otherwise Wall Street vultures will continue to be prioritized over the needs of the people."

The letter, said Sanders, an independent from Vermont who is running for the Democratic nomination for president, is aimed at "telling the unelected austerity board that enough is enough."

"Two years after Hurricane María, they are still working hand in hand with ultra-rich investors to try to squeeze blood from a stone," Sanders said. "We are saying, stop dictating Puerto Rico's economic decisions and let the people decide their own future."

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The letter is also signed by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkeley (D-Ore.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), and Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Jesús "Chuy" García (D-Ill.), Adriano Espaillat (N.Y.), and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.). 

Puerto Ricans flooded the streets over the summer in protest of the island's leadership, forcing Governor Ricardo Rosselló out of office on August 3. As Common Dreams reported, the protest movement was heralded as a huge success at the time, though the resignation was seen as the beginning, not the end, of the movement to many demonstrators. 

"We didn't demand the resignation of a corrupted government, for having another equally corrupted," Gabriel Nasario, a protester, said at the time. "We are demanding a real alternative."

The Sanders/Ocasio-Cortez letter echoed that sentiment. 

"We agree with the demands of the Puerto Rican people who came into the streets," the letter says. "Puerto Rico must no longer be treated as a colony."

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