Six Months After Maria, Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands Wait for Relief

Six months after Hurricane Maria, blue tarps still cover homes and buildings across Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. The number of people who lack power can be counted in the hundreds of thousands. 

"The suffering continues on the islands and our fellow citizens need help," said Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious development group Jubilee USA. "It's important that Congress voted for relief aid for the islands. Now we need Congress to increase the aid so that the islands can rebuild to withstand the next storms."

Efforts made by the interfaith group, Jubilee USA Network, moved Congress to pass more than $11 billion in recovery funds and secure "better building" provisions to strengthen infrastructure on the islands. Moody's rating agency estimates that Puerto Rico needs more than $90 billion in funds. In Puerto Rico, the majority of applications for FEMA claims are denied.

"Relief monies need to be expedited for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands," stated LeCompte. "The situation is desperate and too many hurricane victims are still waiting for relief."
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In Depth News Talks to Eric LeCompte about Caribbean Disater Relief

Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of Jubilee USA was recently featured in In Depth News speaking on Caribbean disaster relief. Read excerpt below and follow link to full article.

Caribbean Faith Leaders Call for Debt Relief and More

By: J C Suresh

"Across the Caribbean, we still see immense suffering from the hurricanes that landed last year," said Jubilee USA Executive Director Eric LeCompte who endorsed the statement. "Islands that are struggling to recover after natural disasters and meet basic needs of their people should not be making debt payments."

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Economic Impacts on Poor are Central Themes of Francis Five-Year Papacy

Washington DC - This week marks the five-year anniversary of the election of Pope Francis as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

Eric LeCompte is the Executive Director of the religious development group Jubilee USA and he advises the Vatican and Catholic Church on economic and development issues. LeCompte releases the following statement celebrating five years of Pope Francis:

"As we celebrate the five-year anniversary of the election of Pope Francis, we celebrate how powerfully he expresses the plight of the poor.

"The Catholic Church has always called for our global economy to serve and protect the poor. As Pope, Francis has also spoken about how particular aspects of the financial system need to change to protect the poor. Francis endorsed a global bankruptcy process to stop financial crisis and prevent predatory hedge funds from taking advantage of poor countries. He raises concern about the impacts of tax havens, tax evasion, trade policies and corruption on vulnerable communities.

"Pope Francis speaks so specifically on the impacts of economic issues because he and his people in Argentina really felt the impacts. He led his people, when he was head of the Argentina Church, as the country wrestled with austerity policies and a debt crisis fueled by corruption and predatory hedge funds taking advantage of that crisis."

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Caribbean Religious Leaders Call for Debt Relief in Face of Disasters

From Grenada to Saint Lucia, religious leaders are calling for processes to provide debt relief in the face of natural disasters. "As Churches in the Caribbean we have witnessed the grief and despair of our people last September, and we are not prepared to enter the next hurricane season without at least being able to tell them that our authorities shall be able to use scarce resources for immediate relief and mid-term reconstruction rather than debt service," explained a statement signed by major religious leaders from the Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Pentecostal, Seventh Day Adventist, Methodist, Anglican and Episcopal Churches.

“When our island nations discuss debt, it is not just about economics but about our very existence. We borrow, often for capital development, but one major disaster can reverse all capital gains we made, and so with our economic, health and educational infrastructure in shambles, we still have to repay the money we owe," noted Reverend Dr. R. Osbert James who leads the Presbyterian Church in Grenada and currently leads Jubilee Caribbean. "This results in our being in an unending cycle of dependence, under-development and indebtedness."

The faith leaders called for action from government leaders, the International Monetary Fund and Caribbean development institutions. The statement released on March 14th was signed and endorsed by 22 leaders.

"Across the Caribbean, we still see immense suffering from the hurricanes that landed last year," stated Jubilee USA Executive Director Eric LeCompte who endorsed the statement. "Islands that are struggling to recover after natural disasters and meet basic needs of their people should not be making debt payments."

To read the statement click here
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WSJ Talks with Eric LeCompte about Puerto Rico Debt and Long-Term Growth

Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of Jubilee USA was recently featured in The Wall Street Journal speaking on Puerto Rico debt. Read excerpt below and follow link to full article.

Why Puerto Rico is Proving to Be 2018’s Top Bond Investment

By: Matt Wirz

“The construction boom after the hurricane is fueling an increase in bond prices, but that’s going to be short lived,” said Eric LeCompte, executive director of Jubilee USA Network, one of the activist groups seeking debt forgiveness for Puerto Rico. “We should be focused on long-term economic growth for Puerto Rico and that includes debt relief.”

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Debt, Corruption and Tax Policies Impact Poverty, Says Vatican at United Nations

During United Nations Human Rights Council meetings last week, Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič, the Geneva based Vatican representative stated, “We can no longer frame the debt crisis as an exclusively economic problem. It affects future generations, as well as the social conditions that allow the enjoyment of human rights of vast numbers of people entitled to the solidarity of the whole human family.”

Jurkovič’s intervention during the UN Meetings called for, “stronger policies around public budget transparency, responsible lending and borrowing, securing greater development protections, stronger debt restructuring policies and fiscal strategies that curb tax evasion and corruption.”

“Archbishop Jurkovič’s speech is incredibly timely and expresses urgency to improve debt, tax and transparency policies to protect vulnerable people,” expressed Eric LeCompte who leads the interfaith religious development group, Jubilee USA. The organization counts the Catholic Church among its founders working with Jubilee USA for over 20 years on economic issues. “The speech is important because it calls for world leaders to promote development measures that tackle inequality and prevent financial crisis.”

The speech was made during The 37th Session of the Human Rights Council on Report of the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of human rights. The report that the Vatican and world governments discussed at the United Nations session was prepared by UN Independent Expert, Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky.

“The Holy See recognizes that severe human rights impacts resulting from the recent financial crisis have been widely and well documented. Policy responses to the crisis have revealed a deep-seated structural neglect of human rights in economic policy formulation, insufficient protection of the most disadvantaged and a lack of attention to participation, consultation, transparency and accountability,” stated Jurkovič whose official title is the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations.

During the address, Jurkovič reiterated concerns around “predatory firms that take advantage of economies in distress,” or groups popularly known as “vulture funds.” The statement endorsed a United Nations “bankruptcy” process for countries that is supported by Pope Francis. Setting targets to curb global corruption and tax evasion were also encouraged during the Vatican diplomat’s remarks.

“The developing world loses more than a trillion dollar a year because of tax evasion, corruption, bad debt policies and vulture funds,” said LeCompte who serves on UN expert finance groups. “From Puerto Rico to Mozambique, people are suffering because of a lack of transparency in the financial system. We have the ability to dramatically reduce poverty, if we can improve accountability in global economic policies.”

Read Archbishop Jurkovič’s United Nation Holy See Speech

Read the Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky UN Independent Debt and Human Rights Expert Report

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The Bond Buyer Talks with Eric LeCompte about Puerto Rico Loan Delay

Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of Jubilee USA was recently featured in The Bond Buyer speaking on the loan delay for Puerto Rico disaster relief. Read excerpt below and follow link to full article.

U.S. Treasury Secretary says Puerto Rico Loan Delay is Island Government’s Fault

By: Robert Slavin

Eric LeCompte, executive director of Jubilee USA -- a non-profit devoted to the forgiveness of debt on humanitarian grounds -- said the priority should be to get money for rebuilding distributed as fast as possible.

"Almost six months after Hurricane Maria, we are still dealing with real human and economic suffering," he said. "It seems everyone is trying to work together to get the first installment of financing sent and it needs to be urgently sent."

LeCompte continued: “More long-term, everyone who cares about Puerto Rico also cares about greater public budget transparency on the island. Fortunately there are paths moving forward. We do have some processes that are improving transparency like the ongoing bankruptcy process and Treasury's Office of Technical Assistance on the ground."

Read more here.

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Religious Development Group Advocates for New York Law to Stop "Vulture Funds"

Religious leaders, lawyers, academics and debt experts are meeting to discuss changing New York laws that govern debt contracts from Puerto Rico to Mozambique. The public interfaith event held at a Schenectady Synagogue is entitled, "Building an Economy that Serves the Poor: An Interfaith Forum on New York Laws to Stop Predatory Finance and Protect Developing Economies."

"New York laws govern most of the world's debt" said Eric LeCompte, executive director of the religious Development Group, Jubilee USA. "Changing laws in New York can stop predatory behavior and make it easier for US States and countries to get out of financial crisis."

More than half of the world's debt is contracted under New York state law.

The event features: Matt Cutler, Rabbi, Congregation Gates of Heaven; Barbara Di Tommaso, former Director of the Commission on Peace and Justice of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany; Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of Jubilee USA and UN Expert; Richard L. Shirley, Professor of Economics, Sienna College; Stephen Schneck, Professor of Politics at The Catholic University of America; Beatrice Parwatikar, representing Jubilee Vermont and Jubilee USA Board Co-Chair Emeritus; and Steven L. Schwarcz, Stanley A. Star Professor of Law and Business at Duke University School of Law; and Daniel Finn, Professor of Theology and Clemens Professor of Economics at St. John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota.

The event is at 7:00 pm at the Congregation Gates of Heaven, Schenectady, New York. The event is is free and open to the public.

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New US Bills Introduced to Tackle Global Tax Avoidance and Corruption

This week a series of legislation was introduced in the House and Senate that takes aim at corporate tax avoidance and foreign corruption. The bipartisan Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Act (HR 5101), introduced by Representatives Stephen Lynch (D-MA) and Keith Rothfus (R-PA), encourages "whistleblowers" to disclose knowledge of foreign corruption facilitated in the US financial system. Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced the No Tax Breaks for Outsourcing Act as companion Senate and House legislation to reduce corporate tax avoidance.

"More than a trillion dollars leaves the developing world annually because of tax evasion, avoidance and corruption," stated Eric LeCompte Executive Director of the religious development group Jubilee USA. "Congress can play an important role in stopping behavior that drains resources from vulnerable communities."

The No Tax Breaks for Outsourcing Act ensures corporations managed in the US are treated as US corporations instead of foreign entities. This addresses the problem of US corporations "hiding" in tax havens like the Cayman Islands. The legislation also strips large oil corporations of special tax breaks that some lawmakers call excessive.

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The Intercept talks with Eric LeCompte about the Puerto Rico Debt Crisis

Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of Jubilee USA recently talked with The Intercept speaking on the Puerto Rico debt crisis. Read excerpt below and follow link to full article.

Citigroup Drove Puerto Rico Into Debt. Now It Will Profit From Privatization on the Island.

By: Kate Aronoff

“Our concern with how debt restructurings often happen is that consultants too often turn to traditional prescriptions that haven’t necessarily worked. We believe fundamentally that austerity hurts economies when they’re trying to get back to economic growth.”

Read more here.

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