Puerto Rico News: Residents Use White House Petition to Call for Governor's Ouster
Puerto Ricans upset with the administration of the island territory's governor, Alejandro García Padilla, are asking the federal government for "an investigation (into) what has been done with the people's money over the last two years."
In a petition lodged on the White House Web site, a Guaynabo resident claimed the governor was "a threat to the economy and the people of Puerto Rico (and) even to democracy" and needed to be removed by Congress.
If 100,000 or more individuals sign the call by March 20, the White House would have to formally acknowledge it given the self-imposed rules of its petitions page. While it is highly unlikely that Washington would take any steps to depose García Padilla, the administration would at least have to address Puerto Rico.
The petition's author cited Art. IV, Sec. 3 of the U.S. Constitution, which gives Congress the "power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States." In accordance with the commonwealth's 1952 constitution, however, its governor is elected directly by Puerto Ricans.
Much of the popular discontent with García Padilla, who took office in 2013, seems to stem from the island's sluggish economy and the governor's proposed tax reforms, which include a 16 percent value-added tax on goods and services, according to Bloomberg Business.
Such a VAT, which would replace the current 7 percent sales tax, could provide about $1.5 billion of additional revenue for Puerto Rico and help the commonwealth deal with its skyrocketing debt as it needs to begin repaying $3.5 billion worth of general-obligation bonds it sold in March 2014, Bloomberg detailed.
In a televised interview, García Padilla defended his plans against "those who propose that changes need to take place (by) doing the same," El Nuevo Día noted. Today, Puerto Rican workers are the ones who carry the bulk of the tax burden, the governor said.
"What this is about, in the end, is that the country needs profound transformations," he insisted. "The current tax system does not work, and everybody know it; it burdens the middle class."