By: Bianca Aponte
On Tuesday November 5th 2013 a group of students from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez carried out a press conference to discus social inequality and economic crisis of Puerto Rico. Three panelists attended this event: Michael González, Javier Smith and José Guillermo Santiago; Edwin Irizarry Mora participated via e-mail. The main points discussed in the press conference were mostly centered on exchanging ideas on where the government should take action to improve the actual crisis, life of the marginalized sectors, activist movements and the panelist’s personal perspectives on themes of concern.
“The economic crisis and social inequality in Puerto Rico has retrogressed and has become the main problem this island has faced in recent years”, said Santigo. Orlando Sotomayor and Eduardo Kicinski, both economy professors at the UPRM, say that 20% of the population in Puerto Rico, who is considered the wealthiest, receives 65% of annual income stating that 80% of Puerto Ricans are living in poverty and in the middle class.
The discussion panel opened with the UPRM sociology professor Michel González, was asked questions and refused to respond or would respond with short words. Activist Javier Smith, stated that the major obstacle activist face while working on the marginalized sectors are when jobs are done in parallel with the government, whose work can have better and measurable results, however do not touch deeply and hide problems. In an article for USA Today Alan Gomez said, “the island of just 3.7 million residents owed a staggering $70 billion in debt and had run up a $2.2 billion budget deficit that led credit rating agencies to downgrade Puerto Rico bonds to near-junk status.” Puerto Rican government has much to do with the crisis.
Santiago is completing his master’s degree in democratic politics was asked if the government had the power to get Puerto Rico out of the crisis, why haven’t we seen that change? He answered that he thinks that the government doesn’t have the instrument to do so now because before doing so Puerto Rico has to be decolonized and we also have to “decolonize ourselves”.
Irizarry sent his responses via e-mail. Irizarry said Puerto Rico’s economy in the 80’s and 90s and Puerto Rico’s economy today has differed in dramatic reduction of productive capacity and the low participation of labor; serious increase in debt and very low tax. He portrayed a vision for the wellness of the island while he wrote about local small and midsize companies are the ones in power to improve the economy, and said, “The key for success is strongly related to identifying market opportunities within regions and municipalities.”
Through this press conference the audience can see how Puerto Ricans from different perspectives like sociologist, activist and students look at the social inequality and economic decline crisis while opting for a change and betterment of the island.
(Left) Jose Santiago, Javier Smith and Michael González at the press conference.
Photo taken by Héctor Díaz