Pope Tackles Corruption, Climate, Debt and Poverty in Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius

Port Louis, Mauritius - Reject your "idolatrous economic model," were the words Pope Francis addressed Mauritius' political leaders with on Monday. Dubbed the "Mauritius Leaks," the island is the center of a tax avoidance scandal where companies pay a lower tax rate in Mauritius to avoid billions of dollars in taxes in the African countries where they actually do business.

"Poor African countries are losing billions of revenue needed to build infrastructure and fight poverty because of the Mauritius tax haven," stated Jubilee USA Director and United Nations finance expert, Eric LeCompte. "Pope Francis calls corruption a plague and it was the common theme for each of the three African countries he visited."

Francis is at the end of a three nation Africa tour that began on September 4th in Mozambique and continued in Madagascar before visiting Mauritius.

In Mozambique during the Catholic leader's sermon at a religious service attended by more than 60,000, Francis exclaimed, "Mozambique is a land of abundant natural and cultural riches, yet paradoxically, great numbers of its people live below the poverty level. And at times it seems that those who approach with the alleged desire to help have other interests. Sadly, this happens with brothers and sisters of the same land, who let themselves be corrupted. It is very dangerous to think that this is the price to be paid for foreign aid."

Mozambique wrestles with a $2 billion debt scandal because loans from Credit Suisse and a Russian bank intended to support the Mozambique ports and fishing industry were used to secretly outfit military boats.

"In Mozambique, the Pope is deeply concerned with corrupt officials and some global banks that benefit from and created these secret loans," said LeCompte. "The Pope is concerned by the high poverty rates, corruption and the debt crisis in Mozambique. The Holy Father asserts that debt is a tool of the rich to control poor countries."

Mozambique is recovering from two cyclones this year and data from the World Bank ranks the southeast African country as the 7th poorest in the world.

At a Catholic Mass of more than a million participants over the weekend in Madagascar, Francis took aim at allegations that more than half of Madagascar's elected leaders are involved in corrupt activities. "When 'family' becomes the decisive criterion for what we consider right and good, we end up justifying and even 'consecrating' practices that lead to...privilege and exclusion: favouritism, patronage and, as a consequence, corruption," he said.

Francis was referring to the family clan system in Madagascar and the challenge that natural resources are lost in Madagascar because of consumption of wealthy countries.

"The Pope's message for Madagascar is protect your environment and your natural resources from all forms of theft and corruption," noted LeCompte. "Madagascar's deforestation and resource theft is fueled by corruption."

In the last 6 decades nearly 45% of forests in Madagascar were lost to illicit logging and subsistence farming. In addition to corruption, Pope Francis expressed concern for climate vulnerabilities that each of the three African countries share.

“The Pope's visit to Africa spreads the message of his 2015 writings, the encyclical Laudato Si. Pope Francis in several speeches in Africa highlighted a concept from his encyclical, ecological debt or climate debt,” shared LeCompte who advises Vatican leaders on economic issues. “The rich world owes a debt to the poor world for taking their natural resources and driving climate change and poverty. Wealthy countries must return resources to poor countries so they can deal with more powerful natural disasters and extreme weather events spurred by climate change. ”

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Eric LeCompte's analysis on "Mauritius Leaks," shared in National Catholic Reporter

Jubilee USA Executive Director was cited by the National Catholic Reporter on Pope Francis's visit to Mauritius. Read an excerpt below, and click here for the full story.

Pope urges Mauritius, island tax haven, to reject 'idolatrous economic model'

Eric LeCompte, the leader of Jubilee USA, a network of religious and development groups that argue for international debt relief, cited figures showing that sixty percent of the people of Mauritius see corruption as on the rise in their country. He called the island nation "the premier tax haven in the region draining revenue from many poor countries in Africa."

Read more here

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National Catholic Reporter Quotes Eric LeCompte on Pope's Africa Agenda

National Catholic Reporter cites Eric LeCompte on Pope's Mozambique visit and debt scandal. Read an excerpt below, and click here for the full story.

Francis suggests officials in Mozambique are corrupted by foreign aid

Eric LeCompte, the leader of Jubilee USA, a network of religious and development groups that argue for international debt relief, praised the pope's choice to visit the three countries. He said each have been dealing with separate corruption scandals.

"Pope Francis is extremely concerned with the cost of corruption on the poor," LeCompte told NCR.

"In Laudato Si', Pope Francis also calls foreign debt a tool of rich countries to control poor countries," he said, citing the pontiff's 2015 encyclical letter. "Mozambique and Madagascar are examples of this as they struggle with debt crises … natural resource theft and high poverty rates."

Read more here

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Together, we can win...

Friends,

Because of your actions and support, this summer our Jubilee USA campaigns are bearing fruit.

Our debt relief efforts for Somalia are gaining momentum. Congress introduced the Corporate Transparency Act to combat financial secrecy, protect debt relief monies and prevent human trafficking. Your e-mails and calls to Congress this summer secured more than $8 billion in debt relief and disaster aid for Puerto Rico.

Please join me and make a tax-deductible contribution to Jubilee USA today so we can continue to move forward strategic campaigns.   

Your gift now is matched and will double our impact this fall. 

When you donate to Jubilee USA, we can: 

  • Win debt relief for Somalia. Three quarters of Somalia's population lives in poverty and is still recovering from war and instability. This Fall, your gift means we can continue our work on a global bankruptcy process, responsible lending and debt and disaster relief campaigns for Mozambique and Caribbean islands. 

 

  • Pass the Corporate Transparency Act. This legislations stops "Panama Papers" financial secrecy. This behavior facilitates the theft of debt relief aid, human trafficking and contributes to the loss of more than a trillion dollars of revenue in the developing world. With your support, we can get this legislation signed into law in the next year.

 

  • Move forward debt and disaster relief for Puerto Rico. Already our efforts together won $50 billion in aid and moved forward a super bankruptcy process for the island. Your gift means we can win debt relief, stop austerity policies, audit the debt and win the $70 billion in recovery aid Puerto Rico still needs.

 

  • Push for a new NAFTA trade deal that ensures vulnerable populations and all who need life-saving medicines can access the medicines they need. Working together, we already moved the White House to eliminate harmful provisions in trade agreements that favor predatory, debt-collecting hedge funds and abusive corporations.

 

  • Further our efforts to address student debt, predatory debt collection and payday lending. Working together, we ensured certain types of student loans had low interest rates. When you donate to Jubilee USA now, it means our bipartisan, interfaith work can build bridges to protect students and consumers.

 

Please make a contribution to Jubilee USA so we can move forward our strategic, critical campaigns this fall. Your gift is doubled and matched now.

Gratefully,

Eric

Eric LeCompte
Executive Director

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Mozambique Charges Former President's Son, Officials for Secret Debt Scandal

Washington DC - Mozambique charged the former president's son and 19 others on corruption, fraud and blackmail in relation to a $2 billion dollar loan scandal.

“Some of the world's poorest people are the victims of the Mozambique debt scandal,” noted United Nations corruption and finance expert Eric LeCompte and Executive Director of the religious development group, Jubilee USA Network. “This behavior is only possible because of a lack of global loan transparency and a lack of public budget transparency in Mozambique.” 

In July, former Credit Suisse banker Andrew Pearse pled guilty in US Federal Court for accepting millions of dollars in a fraud scheme that led to the $2 billion Mozambique loan scandal and debt crisis in the East African country. Pearse and six others are accused of taking $200 million in kickbacks. US prosecutors argue that Credit Suisse and Russian-based VTB finance group hid secret loans by bribing bank and government officials. The loans were supposed to support the tuna fishing industry, but instead supported the outfitting of boats as military attack crafts.

Both the US and Mozambique governments also seek to prosecute and extradite former Mozambique finance minister Manuel Chang, currently detained in South Africa.

"The International community must implement standards on public budget transparency and responsible lending and borrowing to prevent future corruption,” said LeCompte. “The people of Mozambique struggle to recover from endemic corruption, a debt crisis and horrific natural disasters."

This year, the southeast African country was hit with two destructive cyclones.

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Eric LeCompte Speaks with American Prospect on Puerto Rico

Jubilee USA Executive Director speaks with American Prospect on Puerto Rico's ongoing debt crisis and the island's political status. Read an excerpt below, and click here for the full story. 

Ricky Se Fue—Y Ahora Qué? A Mobilized Puerto Rico Battles Increased Federal Control

“Will we see rage turn into real action?” asks Eric LeCompte, executive director of Jubilee USA, a network of community and faith-based organizations that work on debt, tax, and trade issues. “For Puerto Rico to have a real future, there needs to be a process where questions around its colonial status need to be resolved. Whether it’s a hurricane, or debt crisis—because of their colonial political status, they don’t have the tools to resolve problems they face by themselves.”

When PROMESA was created in 2016, the Obama administration agreed to appoint three Democrats and four Republicans to the board. In the fall, the Trump administration will decide whether to appoint new members to the federal oversight board or keep the existing group. According to LeCompte, creditors at vulture funds see the prospect of new appointments as an opening for extracting more funds from the beleaguered island.

“Creditors are doing everything they can to destroy the bankruptcy process,” says LeCompte.

Read more here

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National Catholic Reporter Invites Eric LeCompte to Pen Commentary on Puerto Rico

Eric LeCompte writes on Puerto Rico issues of corruption, debt, disasters, child poverty, economic growth and renewable energy. Read an excerpt below, and click here for the full article. 

Gov. Rosselló is out, but much more is needed to better Puerto Ricans' lives

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Puerto Rico Distributes Disaster Food Assistance Funds

Washington DC - The Government of Puerto Rico announced that distribution of emergency disaster food assistance begins on Monday. In May, Congress approved $600 million for the Puerto Rico Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP) as part of disaster relief measures to benefit Americans recovering from disasters such as wildfires and hurricanes.

“The funding helps more than a million vulnerable people in Puerto Rico,” said Jubilee USA Director Eric LeCompte, whose group worked with Congress and the White House on the aid package. “We are excited the money will be distributed after so many people saw these emergency disaster benefits cut.”

In March, over a million people in Puerto Rico lost NAP benefits when Congress failed to authorize funding. Jubilee USA generated thousands of phone calls and e-mails to Congress to approve the funding. In May, Congress voted for the funding and in early June President Trump signed the aid package into law. Beyond NAP funding, the plan also included $300 million in housing assistance and expedited nearly $9 billion in other disaster aid already approved for Puerto Rico.

“Puerto Rico is wrestling with many challenges and still struggling to recover from the devastating 2017 hurricane season,” noted LeCompte.

$45 million of the $600 million nutritional assistance is scheduled to be part of Monday's distribution in Puerto Rico.

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Debt Collectors Fined and Ordered to Stop Operations

Washington DC - Two debt collection agencies were ordered to stop operations and fined more than $60 million by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and New York's Attorney General. The settlement involves debt companies run by Douglas MacKinnon and Mark Gray. Their companies are accused of using predatory collection tactics that include collecting false debts and impersonating police officers to force collection.

"Abusive debt collection practices need to be stopped,” stated Eric LeCompte who leads the religious debt watchdog group, Jubilee USA Network. “This settlement is a strong warning to debt collectors who engage in predatory activities."

Mackinnon and Gray's Buffalo-based network of debt collectors reportedly increased debt collection amounts, in some cases by as much as 600%.

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Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló Resigns

Washington DC - Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló resigned Wednesday. Protests engulfed the island for nearly two weeks after Rosselló drew criticism for offensive language in leaked communications and the FBI arrested former members of his administration on corruption charges.

"The people of Puerto Rico reached a boiling point in recent weeks. People were in the streets about much more than the Governor's inappropriate language,” stated Eric LeCompte, the head of Jubilee USA, which works on Puerto Rico corruption, disaster aid and debt relief policies. "Puerto Ricans marched because they are tired of corruption, because 6 out of 10 kids live in poverty, because of hundreds of shuttered schools, an enormous debt crisis, and months of waiting for promised hurricane disaster aid to arrive.”

In 2016 the US Congress passed emergency Puerto Rico debt crisis legislation for the US Territory which stopped paying $72 billion in debt. The child poverty rate is nearly 60 percent and in 2017 the island was devasted by two hurricanes.

"Rosselló's resignation is not enough to answer Puerto Rico's endemic corruption, high poverty levels, the economic crisis or being forgotten after hurricanes ravaged the island,” LeCompte stated. “Puerto Rico needs serious debt relief, sufficient disaster aid, strong public budget transparency laws and economic investments in growth, not more austerity policies."

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