Washington DC - Puerto Rico's Catholic Archbishop and an Evangelical leader who heads the island's bible society criticized a debt agreement and ongoing debt negotiations. "We are strongly opposed to the COFINA debt deal," wrote the religious leaders in a statement referencing a recently approved plan on a type of debt backed by sales taxes. The plan was approved by Puerto Rico's government and oversight board and covers about $17 billion of the total $72 billion debt of the US Territory. A year ago, Puerto Rico was decimated by two hurricanes.
"Before the hurricanes, we wrestled with the fact that nearly 60% of our children lived in poverty. After the hurricanes great suffering persists across Puerto Rico. Yet, now we see debt deals that are worse than what was proposed before the hurricanes," wrote Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez and Puerto Rico Bible Society General Secretary, Reverend Heriberto Martinez. "If the government of Puerto Rico and the oversight board cannot reach debt deals with a high enough debt cut to put Puerto Rico on a sustainable path for growth, they should immediately step aside and allow the bankruptcy process approved by Congress in 2016 to arbitrate this immoral debt burden that weighs upon our people, especially on our children."
The leaders also took aim at negotiations around the General Obligation debt and expressed concern if a similar deal was reached, Puerto Rico would be restructuring their "debt in a few years time." The leaders also raised concerns about a fiscal plan approved by the oversight board.
"The current fiscal plan and ongoing debt negotiations are not doing enough to address child poverty, limit austerity and promote sustainable economic growth," stated Eric LeCompte who advises the religious leaders and is the director of the religious development group Jubilee USA.