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Protect pensions, give debt and disaster relief

Archbishop Roberto González Nieves


With Puerto Rico mired in a US$72 billion debt crisis and struggling to recover from 2017 Hurricanes Irma and Maria, religious leaders continue to assert their ability to resolve disaster and debt crises they say are hampered by their relationship with the United States.

Archbishop Roberto González Nieves, the Secretary General of the Puerto Rico Bible Society Rev Heriberto Martínez and the island’s Catholic Charities head, Fr Enrique Camacho released a statement late June calling for support of pension agreements and debt and disaster relief for the island.

“…as the oversight board met and workers voted on new pension proposals, we appreciate that the oversight board kept the promise to protect the pensions. We stand with labour leaders in urging the passage of pension plans that protect the vulnerable and protect the pensions of most of our people,” stated the three leaders  in a statement released at the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista.

The press conference held at one of the oldest cathedrals in the hemisphere, responded to new disaster relief authorised by US President Donald Trump, proposed pension agreements, recent meetings of Puerto Rico’s oversight board and the court bankruptcy process. Jubilee USA Director and United Nations debt expert Eric LeCompte, joined the San Juan press conference along with other religious leaders from the US.

“For the first time in any debt restructuring for a US city, territory or country, we are seeing pensions being protected,” LeCompte said. He added, “While we are extremely pleased by the pension proposals, we also must see Puerto Rico’s debt cut by at least 80 per cent.”

Meanwhile, Archbishop Nieves, Rev Martínez and Fr Camacho asserted that the country’s ability for resiliency, recovery and resolving its own challenges is tied to its political and colonial status.

“We call on our people and our officials to begin a new and creative dialogue to resolve our political status,” they said.