| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Aug 31 Religious leaders in Puerto
Rico called on Monday for the island's government and its
lenders to avoid austerity measures and for the Federal Reserve
to step in with assistance.
The religious leaders on the mostly Catholic island, working
with Jubilee USA Network, a religious development organization
in Washington, D.C., want a solution to Puerto Rico's debt
crisis that invests in the island's economy, does not hurt the
poor and brings about more budget transparency, according to a
Puerto Rico is working to restructure $72 billion in debt,
and is considering reducing expenses through measures such as
cuts to healthcare and consolidating and closing schools. A
working group had been slated to deliver a so-called debt
adjustment plan on Sunday or Monday, but will hold off until as
late as Sept. 8.
Unlike U.S. states, Puerto Rico does not have access to U.S.
bankruptcy laws. The religious leaders support changing that
through a measure that has been introduced in the U.S. House and
Senate. But, if Congress does not act, the
leaders want the Federal Reserve to intervene and help
restructure the island's debt, according to the statement.
"We have been looking at the powers the Federal Reserve has
and the tool box the Federal Reserve has," said Eric LeCompte,
the executive director of Jubilee.
A report completed by a foundation on the island, cited by
LeCompte, lays out how the Fed may be able to help Puerto Rico,
including by buying Puerto Rico debt and offering financial
The New York Fed, which represents the island in the Federal
Reserve System, has released two reports on the island's
economy, which has been at or near recession for close to a
decade. A call to a spokesperson at the New York Fed was not
"This debt crisis threatens to push more of our people into
poverty and put people out of work," said San Juan Archbishop
Roberto Gonzalez Nieves, leader of Puerto Rico's mostly Catholic
population. "The religious community stands with vulnerable
people and we call for the crisis to be resolved in a way that
protects the poor and grows our economy."
(Reporting by Jessica DiNapoli, editing by Dave Gregorio)