Before May, protections expire that shelter Puerto Rico from debt lawsuits and predatory financial groups popularly known as "vulture" funds. The Catholic Archbishop of San Juan and Puerto Rico's Bible Society head are calling on the island's governor and oversight board to immediately activate a bankruptcy process designed by Congress.
"We restate our encouragement and support for Puerto Rico's Governor and the oversight board to authorize the Title 3 bankruptcy process by April 28th before debt lawsuit protections expire." notes a statement released Tuesday by Archbishop Roberto González from the Catholic Archdiocese of San Juan de Puerto Rico and Reverend Heriberto Martínez, the head of the Puerto Rico Bible Society. "If the oversight board and Governor do not act by April 28th, we fear that Puerto Rico could be held hostage by predatory actors and 'vulture' funds."
Last summer, Puerto Rico emergency debt crisis legislation was passed by Congress. The legislation included temporary protections from debt lawsuits and a bankruptcy process designed to restructure all of the island's debt.
"The bankruptcy process designed by Congress is a very powerful tool. It is really the only process that has the ability to restructure every dollar of debt," explained Jubilee USA's executive director Eric LeCompte. LeCompte worked on the legislation and advises Puerto Rico's religious leaders. "Puerto Rico's time is almost up and it is the responsibility of the oversight board to now authorize the bankruptcy process."
In November, LeCompte testified to the oversight board and urged them to move forward the Title 3 bankruptcy process if debt negotiations fail. As the May deadline approaches, religious leaders on the island are warning that vulnerable communities can face more suffering if the oversight board and governor fail to act. The Catholic Archbishop and Evangelical leader have consistently raised the alarm on the crisis since the summer of 2015.
"New austerity programs are being forced on our people and we must now receive the debt relief we are promised. It is immoral and unethical for any person or group to attempt to deny our people access to promised debt relief processes," write González and Martínez in their statement. "We continue to hold in prayer everyone who is affected by this crisis whether they are our creditors or our children."
Read the statement from Archbishop González and Reverend Martínez' in English, en español.