Activists protest Santander bank’s role in Puerto Rico debt crisis

Local activists gathered outside Santander’s State Street bank branch in downtown Boston last week to decry the company’s role in Puerto Rico’s debt crisis. During the demonstration, organized by Massachusetts Jobs with Justice, protestors charged that executives from Santander — a Boston-based bank with a significant dealings in Puerto Rico —not only profiteered off the island’s financial turmoil, but also used government positions to push policies that exacerbated it. Worst of all, two of its executives are among the handful of powerful board members granted authority over fixing the crisis.

As Puerto Rico’s finances soured and loans began to look difficult to repay, the government issued more bonds to pay off interest on their debts and maintain their credit rating, and then issued bonds to pay off interest on those bonds. Meanwhile, banks like Santander earned high profits for their underwriting services on such bonds, pulling more cash from the depleting public coffers. Demonstrators say it was unethical to pursue such profit at the expense of a distressed government and that a conflict of interest was inherent due to members of government’s previous bank executive roles

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