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Elizabeth Warren brings populist economic message to Puerto Rico

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren, one of the many Democrats running for president in 2020, spoke at the Alejandro Tapia y Rivera Theater in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Tuesday evening, bringing her populist economic message the embattled American territory. Warren addressed the hardships Puerto Rico has endured in the past two years, particularly its debt crisis and the recovery in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

"Puerto Rico has not been treated with respect," Warren said. Around 3,000 people died in the aftermath of Maria, and the federal government's response to hurricanes Harvey and Irma on the mainland was faster and more "generous" — in terms of resources and funds — than its assistance to Puerto Rico before and in the aftermath of Hurricane María, according to a newly released study. She called for the resignation or firing of FEMA Administrator Brock Long.

Warren also addressed reports that President Trump is mulling calling a national emergency and using disaster funding to pay for a border wall.

"Back when he was running for office, Donald Trump promised that Mexico would pay for this wall. Now he thinks that the people of Puerto Rico who are struggling to get back on their feet should get stuck with the bill instead," Warren said, calling the wall "dumb." "Puerto Rico has suffered enough. We will not allow anyone to sabotage your recovery – not even the President of the United States." 

She also said that she supports the creation of a commission to look at the federal government's response to Maria.

"I've called for an independent, 9/11-style commission to understand how and why Washington's response to these hurricanes was so inadequate—and to make sure nothing like this ever, ever happens again," she said.

Warren also discussed Puerto Rico's $70 billion in federal debt and $50 billion in pension obligations. If Puerto Rico were a corporation or an American city, she said, it would be able to file for bankruptcy. However, an unelected oversight board was put in place by the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act in 2016. This year, the board proposed cuts to almost one-third of the government budget in six years, which would affect subsidies to municipal governments and university tuition.

In response, Warren has proposed a Territorial Relief Act for Puerto Rico, and said she would support Marshall Plan-style investment in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. 

Warren argued that Puerto Rico has not received enough respect, and that respect begins with allowing the territory to decide upon its relationship to the United States.

"Respect for Puerto Rico means that you have the right to determine the nature of your association with the United States. Puerto Rico deserves self-determination on this question, and I will support the decision of the people of Puerto Rico," Warren said.

She also argued that her Anti-Corruption Act would clean up Washington, and by extension help Puerto Rico.

"Washington works great for the Wall Street bankers who want bailouts, tax cuts, and no regulations, but not for the people right here in Puerto Rico," she said.

"We believe that when we come together, we can build a government that reflects our best values," Warren said at the end of her speech. "One based on respect. One where we dream big and fight hard. And when we do that, I know that we can make real change."

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