The Interim President of the Puerto Rico Council of Churches, Bishop Felipe Lozada, concluded that the solution given by the US Congress to address the fiscal crisis in Puerto Rico, though it includes provisions for a stay on the debt for 18 months and after a period of voluntary negotiations to force creditors to take reduced payouts, will face wide opposition among the Puerto Rican leadership to the proposed Control Board. He cited Congressmen José Serrano and Nydia Velázquez saying that the proposed Control Board, modeled after the Washington control board of the 1990s, “undermines Puerto Rico’s rule of law.” He also cited Congressman Luis Gutierrez adding that "the Republican recipe is a new stage of colonial supervision. The solution to the crisis is not a more firm control over its self-determination, but a growing economy and work for Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico." The three congressmen mentioned by Bishop Lozada have deep roots on the island.
Meanwhile, the Reverend Edward Rivera-Santiago, General Pastor of the United Evangelical Church and President of the Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico's Board of Directors, sent a Pastoral Letter to his denomination where he says that “it is unworthy to accept the infamy of this Federal Fiscal Control Board without the participation of the people. There is no doubt that it will harm our poorest people as well as our working class. Solutions can't be unilateral. Everything that affects Puerto Rico has to include all of the sectors in our society. Local political leadership put us on this economic crisis of gigantic proportions. This is the same leadership that now is negotiating against our interests. We all need to be alert to have the certainty that the restructuring process of our debt will be made in an orderly and adequate way for all.” The full text of the letter is reproduced below.
The emergence of the Federal Fiscal Board provoked more than 40 civil society organizations to file a complaint against the Federal Government at the Inter American Commission of Human Rights. The hearing of this complaint was held on April 4, 2016 in the IAHR's offices in Washington D.C. and was based on how the fiscal measures already taken by the Puerto Rico government, as well as the advice from Congress, results in a continuing violation of Puerto Rican people's human rights, especially towards children, elderly people, women and disabled people. Also, the organizations held a public demonstration in front of the White House rejecting the approval of a Fiscal Control Board, a mechanism that Global Ministries’ partners and members of the organized civil society are condemning as detrimental to democracy, economic development and human rights.
April 6th, 2016
Pastoral Letter: 2016-117
To: Ministers and Congregations
From: Rev. Edward Rivera Santiago, General Pastor, United Evangelical Church of Puerto Rico
Re: To live the Resurrection in God's way: Fiscal Control Board
I want to share some thoughts, which are a result of my reflection about Easter Sunday, from my hammock.
Easter is joy, light, new life, but goes much further: we believe and hope in Jesus, He has given us a new life. We believe in eternal life, but we started that eternal life here on earth to live and to prove it. Not a new life detached from our country, our people and the problems we face; it is a new service to our people, our country's life, serving the neediest people. It is a new life to invest in our country without “Junta de Control Fiscal.”
People of God, God raised us to faith, gives us new hope and enables us to rebuild our country. God makes us a Paschal path, which we have to go through it in “God’s clue”. Faith cannot be reductionist or alienating. The struggle for justice includes all people.
The struggle for a better Puerto Rico affirms our identity as Puerto Ricans, saying that we have the ability to join our strength, tenacity and willingness to take our country in our hands and not put it in the hands of any other person. Affirming human dignity for all and to all.
People of God, no question that the resurrection is a feast, but a current feast. And this doesn’t mean alienation, but rather is empowerment, awareness and action.
It is internalizing that Jesus is alive in each one of us, women and men who believe, trust and hope in Him. It is women and men who faithfully come together to clean up our land.
People of God, strength does not come from us, from our own persons, but from above, the power of the Holy Spirit of God.
The great news of Resurrection is that we thought Jesus was dead; he is not. People, Puerto Rico is not dead, it is alive because you and I are alive and ready to take forward to our land. Together we must forge our own way to be faithful to the Lord and true to the experiences of the needy.
People of God, this is great news to celebrate, what was believed to be dead as he is not dead, but is alive and continues acting, doing signs and wonders.
People, our challenge is to attempt to alter the order that reduces the person to object production and capital gain, raising the need to affirm the common good. Easter walk “en clave de Dios” is the force that raises awareness and mobilizes the will before a neoliberal power that plunges us, reducing people to mere disposable items.
People of God, the resurrection cannot be held as a private experience but as a communal experience. The resurrection is a space to build and rebuild life. It is an invitation to join all our efforts to build our country’s collective project full and dignified life for all. I see that effort every day in the face of rising young people to throw forward to life. When fear becomes courage, then strength and courage merges to change the reality in which we live. When people do not opt for silence, but get up to raise their voice to assume their social and civil liability, when we denounce injustice, discrimination and infamy, then we are cautious in accepting the imposition of a unilateral Fiscal Control Board. When we stand up (resurrect) to leave our state of prostration and fear, to jump (drop the cloak of colonialism) decisively forward and stand firm against any situation, however difficult it may seem. When we take responsibility for solving our colonial status than to accept this infamy of “Junta de Control Fiscal” without the participation of the people will be unworthy.
This USA Congress “creation” of the Fiscal Control Board, no question, will impair our poorest people and our entire working class. Solutions cannot be unilateral; everything being made for Puerto Rico must include all sectors of society. Local and federal political forces sank us into this economic crisis of huge dimensions. It is these same political forces that seek to reach agreements.
We all have to be proactive to make sure that the process of paying the debt to be restructured will be adequate and credible for all.
People of God, the Spirit of the Risen fill us with the need to act, speak and overcome all obstacles in his name.
I invite you to live the Resurrection deep into “God’s ways.”
Let us pray: Lord, you are our refuge, our fate is in your hands. You are who we hold, we bless Your name. You are alive and act in our lives and in the lives of our people, we help to live Easter “en clave de Dios”
Peace and resurrection,
Rev. Edward Rivera Santiago