Puerto Rico Religious Leader Statement on Debt Plan and Negotiations

"but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
    and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; 
and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, 
and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked."
- Isaiah 11:3-4

Since 2015, we have called for Puerto Rico's debt to be restructured in ways that diminish austerity, reduces our island's high child poverty levels and creates sustainable economic growth. With our religious partners from the US, Puerto Rico and Jubilee USA, we repeated this call to our government, Puerto Rico's oversight board and the government of the United States. 

Before Hurricanes Irma and Maria, fiscal plans proposed debt payment cuts of more than 80%. 

We are surprised, extraordinarily, by agreements negotiated between the oversight board and some bondholders that cut the debt at much lower levels. 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.

We are deeply opposed to the COFINA debt deal. We are concerned by the actions of our government, the debt holders and Puerto Rico's oversight board. Our people, especially our children who will shoulder this debt into the future, deserve better deals.

Ultimately, the current COFINA debt deal is based on rosy, overly optimistic, short-term economic projections. If a similar deal is reached with other debt groups like the General Obligation bond holders, we will be seeking to restructure Puerto Rico's debt in just a few years time.

Current debt negotiations fail to take into account addressing child poverty, reducing austerity and ensuring robust economic growth.

The most recently approved fiscal plan projects a budget surplus. As the oversight board and our government works towards a plan of adjustment, we believe it is morally unacceptable to use that projected budget surplus to pay Puerto Rico's debt. The plan of adjustment must use that surplus for hurricane recovery, child poverty reduction, limiting austerity and supporting long-term economic growth.

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.

Mons. Roberto O. González Nieves OFM
Metropolitan Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Juan de Puerto Rico

Reverend Heriberto Martínez Rivera
General Secretary
The Bible Society of Puerto Rico
Ecumenical and Interfaith Coalition of Puerto Rico