By Gregg McQueen
The clarity will come from the citizens.
So explain organizers of a new crowdfunding campaign launched to conduct an independent, citizen-led audit of Puerto Rico’s $72 billion public debt.
Citizen Front for a Debt Audit (Frente Ciudadano por la Auditoría de la Deuda in Spanish) unveiled a U.S. website [www.auditoriaya.org] on Thursday to raise money to investigate factors leading to the debt, which advocates said weakened the island’s healthcare and infrastructure, contributing to thousands of deaths following Hurricane Maria and hampering recovery efforts.
“We want to find the truth, not repeat the same mistakes and to hold those responsible for the crisis accountable,” said Eduardo Figarella of Citizen Front for a Debt Audit at a June 7 press conference to announce the campaign.
Advocates argued that much of the debt, possibly as much as $30 billion, is illegal because it was compiled through the issuance of questionable bonds meant to cover the island’s debt service. Failure of the bonds led to the degradation of healthcare services, slashing of pensions, school closures and other measures.
Former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who now serves as a senior advisor for advocacy group Power 4 Puerto Rico, said it was important to conduct a thorough review, independent of the island’s government, to uncover the true nature of the debt and eliminate any portion of it deemed to be unjust.