Amidst Puerto Rico Financial Crisis, Island Religious Leaders Call for Global Debt and Transparency Policies

San Juan, Puerto Rico - Last week, Archbishop Roberto González—the leader of the Archdiocese of San Juan, the Secretary General of the Puerto Rico Bible Society—Reverend Heriberto Martínez and the island's Catholic Charities head, Reverend Enrique Camacho released a statement urging solidarity with countries wrestling with debt crisis and economic challenges.

“In hope and solidarity, we also stand with our friends across the developing world wrestling with debt crises and high child poverty rates. We support the proposals of our religious partners across the Caribbean calling for debt relief in the face of hurricanes and natural disasters," stated González, Martínez and Camacho in a statement released at the 500 year-old Cathedral of San Juan Bautista. "We stand with our global partners and the United Nations calling for debt relief, transparency, responsible lending and borrowing, anti-corruption efforts and the right to a global bankruptcy process that lifts the vulnerable."

Puerto Rico is mired in a $72 billion debt crisis and struggling to recover from 2017 Hurricanes Irma and Maria. In the statement, the religious leaders expressed concern over the island's debt crisis, pension protections and austerity policies in Puerto Rico.

“Puerto Rico continues to struggle with disaster recovery, debt crisis and child poverty and migration epidemics," noted Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious development group Jubilee USA. "While Puerto Rico's religious leaders continue to confront the challenges facing their own people, they continue to express their wishes for global policy changes to lift vulnerable people in every corner of the world."

Read the full Puerto Rico religious leader statement in English

Read the full Puerto Rico religious leader statement in español

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Eric LeCompte Quoted in Alabama Political Reporter on Puerto Rico Developments

The Alabama Political Reporter quoted Executive Director Eric LeCompte following a joint press conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico yesterday. LeCompte and several religious leaders from the island released a statement addressing recent developments in the resolution of Puerto Rico’s crushing debt, specifically, a newly released deal to protect government pensions from being cut as a result of the efforts. Read an excerpt below, and click here for the full story.

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Eric LeCompte Appears on Telemundo Alongside Puerto Rican Faith Leaders

Jubilee USA Network Executive Director Eric LeCompte was featured in a June 14 Telemundo broadcast discussing recently decided Puerto Rican pension agreements. In a press conference, LeCompte and several faith leaders from the island praised the agreements as  positive step forward in addressing Puerto Rico’s unmanageable debt. Read an excerpt from the broadcast below, and follow this link to the full video.

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Puerto Rico Archbishop, Religious Leader Statement on Debt, Disaster Aid and Pensions

If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble,
it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck
and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.
- Matthew 18:6

Since 2015, with the support and advice of the religious Jubilee USA Network, we called on decision makers, our people and the faithful to work towards a Jubilee for Puerto Rico.

In the face of a debt crisis and a 60% child poverty rate, we called for debt relief, stopping austerity policies, protecting public pensions and reducing child poverty on our island.

We've been concerned about corruption in our own government. Congress made a promise that in exchange for debt relief and a "super bankruptcy process," a fiscal oversight board would be imposed on Puerto Rico.

After Congress passed emergency debt relief legislation in 2016, we felt debt relief was in sight. Early plans created by Puerto Rico's oversight board saw debt payments cut by 80%. Congress passed protections for the pensions and the official audit process. Congress began to move forward measures to reduce child poverty.

We hoped that the promises made to our people would be kept.

Sadly, in the Fall of 2017 when Hurricanes Maria and Irma ravaged our island, our hopes for debt relief and child poverty reduction became additional victims of the hurricanes.

Because of rosy economic growth projections from potential federal aid and construction monies, the oversight board negotiated to pay more debt. While there were some innovations in PREPA and COFINA debt proposals, they fell short in delivering enough debt relief—they fell short in the promise of a Jubilee.

When proposals fail to offer enough debt relief, the cost is paid by our people—especially by our children.

We also saw the official debt audit process dismantled. Congress failed to pass all of our recommendations to reduce child poverty.

Recovering from hurricanes, wrestling with debt crisis, we still are a people of hope—a people that know that our hope is tied to the Paschal Mystery. Resurrection conquers death and light always illuminates the darkness.

Last week, President Trump signed a bill to deliver more disaster relief to our islands. Now more than $50 billion is allocated for recovery and we call on Congress and the White House to continue this effort and deliver the additional $70 billion that we still need to recover.

This week as the oversight board met and workers voted on new pension proposals, we appreciate that the oversight board kept the promise to protect the pensions. We stand with labor leaders in urging the passage of pension plans that protect the vulnerable and protect the pensions of most of our people.

As the bankruptcy process and negotiations with creditors continued this week, we are grateful that discussions focus on higher debt cuts again.

We call on our Governor, the oversight board and the creditors to agree on debt haircuts similar to pre-hurricane debt plans—debt cuts of 80 cents on the dollar. Because of the work of noted economists and our partners at Jubilee USA, we know we cannot risk an overall debt cut of less than 80%.

Our people and our government officials must unite around ending our child poverty and migration epidemics. Our future is in our people and it is a social sin that so many of our children live in poverty.

In hope and solidarity, we also stand with our friends across the developing world wrestling with debt crises and high child poverty rates. We support the proposals of our religious partners across the Caribbean calling for debt relief in the face of hurricanes and natural disasters. We stand with our global partners and the United Nations calling for debt relief, transparency, responsible lending and borrowing, anti-corruption efforts and the right to a global bankruptcy process that lifts the vulnerable.

In Puerto Rico, we are reminded that we lack the tools to fully deal with many challenges—let alone crises created from unpayable debts and unavoidable disasters.

We remain trapped because Puerto Rico is a colony of the United States.

Our ability for resiliency, recovery and resolving our own challenges is tied to our political and colonial status. We call on our people and our officials to begin a new and creative dialogue to resolve our political status.

Our future and the future of our children rely on dealing with these questions. Our lives depend on right relationships with one another and with the United States—on fulfilling the Creator's promise of Jubilee.


Metropolitan Archbishop Roberto O. González Nieves, OFM, Catholic Archdiocese San Juan de Puerto Rico

Reverend Heriberto Martínez-Rivera, Secretary General of Puerto Rico’s Bible Society and Coordinator of the Ecumenical and Interfaith Coalition of Puerto Rico

Reverend Enrique Camacho, Director, Cáritas de Puerto Rico (Catholic Charities Puerto Rico)

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Archbishop, Evangelical Leader and Head of Catholic Charities Call for Puerto Rico Pension Protection and Debt and Disaster Relief

San Juan, Puerto Rico - Archbishop Roberto González, the Secretary General of the Puerto Rico Bible Society Reverend Heriberto Martínez and the island's Catholic Charities head, Reverend Enrique Camacho released a statement calling for support of pension agreements and debt and disaster relief for the island on Friday.

“This week as the oversight board met and workers voted on new pension proposals, we appreciate that the oversight board kept the promise to protect the pensions. We stand with labor leaders in urging the passage of pension plans that protect the vulnerable and protect the pensions of most of our people," stated González, Martínez and Camacho in a statement released at the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista.

The press conference held at one of the oldest Cathedrals in the Hemisphere, responded to new disaster relief authorized by President Trump, proposed pension agreements, meetings this week of Puerto Rico's oversight board and the court bankruptcy process. The head of the religious development group Jubilee USA, Eric LeCompte, joined the San Juan press conference along with Catholic, United Church of Christ, Lutheran and Disciple religious leaders from the United States.

"For the first time in any debt restructuring for a US city, territory or country, we are seeing pensions being protected," noted Jubilee USA Director and United Nations debt expert, Eric LeCompte. "While we are extremely pleased by the pension proposals, we also must see Puerto Rico's debt cut by at least 80 percent."

Puerto Rico is mired in a $72 billion debt crisis and struggling to recover from 2017 Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The major Puerto Rico religious leaders assert their ability to resolve disaster and debt crises are hampered by their relationship with the United States.

“Our ability for resiliency, recovery and resolving our own challenges is tied to our political and colonial status. We call on our people and our officials to begin a new and creative dialogue to resolve our political status," asserted González, Martínez and Camacho in their statement.

Read the full Puerto Rico religious leader statement in English

Read the full Puerto Rico religious leader statement in español

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Expresiones del Arzobispo de San Juan y líderes religiosos sobre la deuda, el paquete de asistencia para desastres y las pensiones de los empleados públicos

Pero, si alguien hace pecar a uno de estos pequeños que creen en mí,
más le valdría que le colgaran al cuello una gran piedra de molino
y lo hundieran en lo profundo del mar
– Mateo 18:6.

Desde el 2015, con la ayuda y colaboración de la organización religiosa Jubilee USA Network, hemos hecho un llamado a líderes, a nuestro pueblo y creyentes para trabajar por un Jubileo para Puerto Rico.

Frente a la crisis de la deuda y una tasa de pobreza infantil de 60%, hacemos un llamado a reducir por la reducción en la deuda, detener las políticas de austeridad, y proteger las pensiones, al mismo tiempo reducir pobreza infantil en la isla.

Estamos preocupados por la corrupción gubernamental. El Congreso prometió, que a cambio de un mecanismo de restructuración de la deuda, se impondría la creación de una junta de supervisión fiscal en Puerto Rico

Después de que el Congreso aprobó una legislación emergencia para restructuración de la deuda en 2016, entendíamos que nuestro pueblo estaría en una mejor posición con este acuerdo. Los primeros planes fiscales, creados por la junta de supervisión fiscal, consideraron una reducción de un 80% de los pagos de la deuda. Además, cabe destacar que esta legislación del Congreso estableció protecciones para las pensiones y el proceso oficial de auditoría. El Congreso dirigió su esfuerzo para tomar medidas para reducir la pobreza infantil.

Esperamos que las promesas hechas a nuestro pueblo se cumplan.

Lamentablemente, en el otoño de 2017, cuando los huracanes María e Irma arrasaron nuestra isla, nuestras esperanzas de reestructuración de la deuda y reducción de la pobreza infantil también fueron víctimas adicionales de los huracanes.

Debido a proyecciones optimistas de crecimiento económico debido a la ayuda federal y los fondos de reconstrucción, la junta de supervisión fiscal negoció pagar más deuda. Si bien hubo algunos cambios en las propuestas de deuda de PREPA y COFINA, se quedaron cortos en la reducción de la deuda, quedándose cortas las promesas de Jubileo para Puerto Rico.

Cuando las propuestas fracasaron en el ofrecimiento una reducción significativa de la deuda, el costo de la misma será pagada por nuestro pueblo, en particular nuestros niños y niñas.

También observamos el proceso de desmantelar auditoría de la deuda. El Congreso no aprobó todas nuestras recomendaciones para reducir la pobreza infantil.

A pesar de que nos estamos recuperando de los huracanes, luchando contra la crisis de la deuda, todavía afirmamos como pueblo la esperanza. Somos un pueblo que deposita su esperanza en el Ministerio Pascual. La resurrección vence a la muerte y la luz siempre ilumina la oscuridad.

La semana pasada, el presidente Trump firmó un proyecto de ley para brindar más ayuda en casos de desastre a nuestras islas. Se asignaron más de $ 50 mil millones para la recuperación y solicitamos al Congreso y a la Casa Blanca que continúen con este esfuerzo y asignasen $ 70 mil millones adicionales necesarios para recuperación.

Esta semana la junta de supervisión se reunió y los trabajadores votaron por nuevas propuestas para las pensiones, conscientes de ello, nosotros valoramos el esfuerzo de la junta de supervisión por proteger las pensiones. A la vez, trabajamos junto a los líderes sindicales para exigir que protejan los planes de pensiones de la mayoría de nuestra gente.

En la medida que el proceso de bancarrota y las negociaciones con los acreedores continua esta semana, estamos agradecidos y esperanzados de que las discusiones se centren nuevamente en mayores recortes de deuda.

Hacemos un llamamiento al Gobernador, a la junta de supervisión y a los acreedores a realizar recortes similares a los propuestos planes fiscales presentados antes del pasos de los huracanes: recortes de deuda de 80 centavos por dólar. Debido al trabajo de destacados economistas y nuestros socios en Jubilee USA, sabemos que no podemos arriesgarnos a un recorte de la deuda de menor del 80%

Nuestra pueblo y funcionarios gubernamentales deben unir fuerzas para poner fin a la pobreza infantil y la epidemia de migración. Nuestro futuro está en nuestra gente y es un pecado social que muchos de nuestros niños vivan bajo niveles de pobreza.

Con esperanza y solidaridad, nos unimos a nuestros hermanos y hermanas en todo el mundo, que luchan contra de crisis de la deuda y las altas tasas de pobreza infantil. Apoyamos las propuestas de nuestros socios religiosos en todo el Caribe, que piden una restructuración de la deuda ante la realidad de huracanes y desastres naturales. Nos unimos a nuestros socios en otros países y de las Naciones Unidas, que solicitan un una restructuración de la deuda, al niveles de transparencia, un proceso responsable de prestar y tomar prestado, los esfuerzos en contra de la corrupción y el derecho a un proceso de quiebra global que proteja a los más vulnerables.

Puerto Rico enfrenta una limitación de instrumentos para lidiar cabalmente con los grades retos que enfrentamos: las deudas impagables y los desastres naturales.

Continuamos en crisis porque Puerto Rico es una colonia de los Estados Unidos.

Nuestra capacidad de resistencia, recuperación y resolución de nuestros propios desafíos está vinculada a nuestro estatus político y colonial. Hacemos un llamado a nuestra pueblo y a nuestros funcionarios para comenzar un diálogo nuevo y creativo para resolver nuestro estatus político.

Nuestro futuro y el de nuestros hijos dependen de nuestras respuesta a estas preguntas. El desarrollo de nuestro pueblo está directamente vinculado a la superación de las relaciones coloniales con los Estados Unidos. Es nuestra esperanza el cumplimiento de la promesa del Jubileo del Creador.

 

Arzobispo Metropolitano Roberto O. González Nieves, OFM, Arquidiócesis Católica San Juan de Puerto Rico

Reverendo Heriberto Martínez-Rivera, Secretario General de la Sociedad Bíblica de Puerto Rico y Coordinador de la Coalición Ecuménica e Interreligiosa de Puerto Rico

Padre Enrique Camacho, Director Ejecutivo de Caritas Puerto Rico

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Conferencia de prensa: el Arzobispo de San Juan y líderes religiosos emiten una declaración sobre la deuda, la ayuda para desastres y las pensiones de Puerto Rico.

DE QUÉ SE TRATA: La junta de supervisión fiscal de Puerto Rico y la corte se reunieron esta semana en San Juan. Los maestros votaron sobre los acuerdos de pensiones el miércoles y la semana pasada, el presidente Trump autorizó un paquete de ayuda  adicional para Puerto Rico. Este viernes, en una conferencia de prensa, el arzobispo de San Juan, Roberto González Nieves, el secretario general de la Sociedad Bíblica de P.R., Rvdo. Heriberto Martínez Rivera y otros líderes religiosos emitirán una declaración sobre la deuda pública, el paquete la ayuda para desastres y las pensiones de Puerto Rico.

QUIĖN CONVOCA: Rvdo. Heriberto Martínez Rivera, secretario general de la Sociedad Bíblica de Puerto Rico; El Rvdo. Enrique Camacho, director de Cáritas de Puerto Rico; Eric LeCompte, Director Ejecutivo de Jubilee USA Network

CUÁNDO: 11: 00 AM, el viernes, 14 de junio de 2019.

DÓNDE: Catedral San Juan Bautista (Viejo San Juan)
151 calle del Cristo
San Juan, PR 00902

Para confirmar su asistencia, favor de comunicarse con Kate Zeller en kate@jubileeusa.org o al (503) 936-7553

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Press Conference: Archbishop, Religious Leaders Release Statement on Puerto Rico Debt, Disaster Aid and Pensions

WHAT: Puerto Rico's oversight board and court bankruptcy process convened in San Juan this week. Teachers voted on pension agreements through Wednesday and last week President Trump authorized additional disaster aid for Puerto Rico. On Friday, at a press conference Archbishop Roberto González Nieves, Bible Society General Secretary Heriberto Martínez and religious leaders will release a statement on Puerto Rico debt, disaster aid and pensions.

WHO: Reverend Heriberto Martínez, General Secretary, Puerto Rico Bible Society; Reverend Enrique Camacho, Director, Cáritas de Puerto Rico; Eric LeCompte, Executive Director, Jubilee USA Network

WHEN: 11: 00 AM – 11:30 AM ET Friday, June 14

WHERE:  San Juan Bautista Cathedral
  151 Calle del Cristo
   San Juan, PR 00902

To RSVP, please contact Kate Zeller at kate@jubileeusa.org or (503) 936-7553

Jubilee USA Network is an alliance of more than 75 US organizations and 700 faith communities working with 50 Jubilee global partners. Jubilee builds an economy that serves, protects and promotes the participation of the most vulnerable. Jubilee USA has won critical global financial reforms and more than $130 billion in debt relief to benefit the world's poorest people. www.jubileeusa.org

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