As Puerto Rico's oversight board considers a fiscal plan, major religious leaders say the final plan should cut debt, prevent austerity and reduce child poverty. San Juan's Catholic Archbishop, Puerto Rico Evangelical Bible Society leader and the Executive Director of the island's Catholic Charities sent a letter to the oversight board.
"We are writing as you prepare to certify a new fiscal plan for Puerto Rico that takes into account the devastation and immense suffering of Puerto Rico's people due to hurricanes, Irma and Maria," wrote Archbishop Roberto González, Reverend Heriberto Martinez and Reverend Enrique Camacho. "We are concerned that the current fiscal plan under debate fails to consider the serious impact of these storms. We are concerned that monies Congress authorized for healthcare and hurricane relief could be used to pay creditors."
In the summer of 2016, Congress passed emergency debt crisis legislation that created a federally appointed oversight board to implement a fiscal plan for an island that wrestles with a 58% child poverty rate. After the hurricanes struck, the oversight board withdrew their original plan in order to create a new plan to take into account the impact of the storms.
Puerto Rico's Governor submitted a new plan that the oversight board is scheduled to certify this week. The new proposed fiscal plan pays 40 cents on the dollar for debt service when the previous plan in place before the hurricanes paid 25 cents on the dollar to creditors. Governor Ricardo Rosselló and the oversight board have disagreed about implementing a debt payment moratorium and cuts to public pensions."Puerto Rico can not pay any debt until it recovers from the hurricanes, sees sustained economic growth and a reduction in child poverty," noted Jubilee USA Executive Director Eric LeCompte who advises Puerto Rico's religious leaders. "In addition to canceling most of Puerto Rico's debt, a new fiscal plan should prevent further austerity, curtail corruption and support adequate social protections."
In the letter that the religious leaders sent to the oversight board on Tuesday, they called for a 5 year debt payment moratorium, for at least 80% of the total debt to be cut and urged that a focus of the plan should be to stem migration from Puerto Rico.
"We urge all stakeholders to dialogue and work together for rebirth, freedom and new life for Puerto Rico's people. Puerto Rico can be reborn after the hurricanes," stated Puerto Rico's religious leaders in their letter to the oversight board. "Puerto Rico's people can be free from debt, corruption and constraining economic policies."
Read the full religious leader letter