July 30, 2015 / 8:55 PM / 4 years ago

Protestors target hedge fund holding Puerto Rico debt

NEW YORK, July 30 (Reuters) - Protestors carrying a vulture puppet and chanting in Spanish marched outside the Park Avenue offices of a major holder of Puerto Rico’s debt on Thursday to protest proposed austerity measures.

The approximately 45 protestors from Hispanic community organizations slammed BlueMountain Capital Management, which holds Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) debt. They characterized the hedge fund as a vulture attacking the economically battered island.

The U.S. commonwealth is wrestling with $72 billion in debt. It is expected to default on some of it within the next few days.

“They are looking to drive the island into a great, deep depression,” said Jonathan Westin, director of New York Communities for Change, a social and economic justice organization. “What we are calling for is to stop the austerity, to stop the chaos.”

BlueMountain said in a statement that it is committed to restructuring PREPA debt through modernizing its power generation and distribution systems.

“We believe that this approach is in the best interests of all parties involved, especially the people of Puerto Rico, who will benefit from more efficient and environmentally sound energy production,” it said.

The protestors, demonstrating as part of the Hedge Clippers campaign, an organization that investigates hedge funds, also spoke out against an economic report that calls for cuts to education expenses and improved tax collection on the island. Debtholders, including hedge funds, commissioned the report.

The Hedge Clippers this month released a different report condemning hedge fund involvement on the island.

The protestors tried to enter the lobby of BlueMountain’s headquarters but were stopped by security.

Earlier this month, other Puerto Rican activists protested in front of Citibank’s Park Avenue offices during a meeting commonwealth officials had with bondholders.

“What they’re talking about is going after schools, cutting teachers and other kinds of austerity measures in their voracious, rapacious desire to recoup all profits at any cost,” said Puerto Rican activist David Galarza. (Reporting by Jessica DiNapoli; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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