08 July 2016
Catholic News Service
Catholic Church welcomes US Bill that halts imminent collapse of infrastructure of Puerto Rico
Doctors, nurses, police officers and vital government workers were all on verge of not being paid
The leader of the Catholic Church in Puerto Rico has welcomed the move by US lawmakers to allow a restructuring of the island's debt because the infrastructure of the Caribbean island was on the verge of "collapse".
The Senate passed the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act by 68-30. The House of Representatives voted to pass the bill by 297-127 votes. President Barack Obama has now signed the bill into law. The measure calls for establishing a federal oversight board to manage restructuring of the island's $72 billion debt.
Archbishop Robert Gonzalez Nieves of San Juan, Puerto Rico, said the bill means the island nation can restructure its debt in an orderly fashion and pre-empts lawsuits from creditors seeking repayment of outstanding loans.
With cascading defaults, "much of Puerto Rico's infrastructure would have begun to collapse. The government, for example, would have run out of money to pay for police, firefighters, public schools, municipal hospitals," Archbishop Gonzalez told Catholic News Service in an email.
He said that the establishment of an oversight board does not automatically assure that the debt restructuring process "will be fair." He pledged that the Catholic Church would "continue to be a voice on behalf of the most vulnerable and poor who are the most impacted by austerity measures."
The archbishop called for the church also to be a voice encouraging good government, "free of corruption, serving the common good" while promoting economic development and justice for all Puerto Ricans.
Advocacy groups, led by Jubilee USA, for months urged Congress to adopt restructuring legislation. "This legislation is absolutely essential because we can see no economic growth or reduction in child poverty until the debt is restructured," explained Eric LeCompte, executive director of Jubilee USA.
He credited the faith community for getting behind the bill to ensure its passage.
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