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Debt Moratorium Set to Expire as PR Diaspora Prepares for Summit in NYC


When it comes to the fiscal crisis in Puerto Rico, there is typically a deadline to be mindful of. May 1st is of course the next important date on the calendar. That’s when the moratorium on Puerto Rico’s debt is set to expire. Afterwards, there are many possible outcomes, but as has been the case, the crisis in Puerto Rico is ongoing and encompasses a host of different issues.

In response to the wide-ranging nature of these issues currently affecting Puerto Rico (and by implication, stateside Puerto Ricans) and the urgency of this upcoming deadline, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies will be hosting its Second Diaspora Summit in New York City at the Silberman School of Social Work in East Harlem. It will be a two-day conference beginning on May 12th (click here for more information and to RSVP).

As a follow-up to last year’s successful event, the Puerto Rican community will have another opportunity to come together and learn more about the crisis on the island. Panel discussions will provide insight on the role of the Oversight Board, as well as an overview of the fiscal crisis and the debt restructuring process. The program also includes panel discussions on Economic Development and Business Associations.

The overall aim of the conference, however, will focus on the role of the diaspora and the solidarity with the Puerto Rico Movement, as well as the impact of the crisis on our communities throughout the United States.

The scope of the conference will also include a diverse set of topics pertaining to the impact of the crisis on stateside Puerto Ricans. Some of those panels include: EDUCATION, BUSINESS FORMATION, cultural engagement, youth empowerment, and environmental/community development, among many others (To view the full program, click here).

“The government of Puerto Rico is working against the clock,” explains Dr. Edwin Meléndez, Executive Director of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College. “Because after May 1st,” he continues, “creditors will be able to take the government to court—something that could affect negotiations and the people of Puerto Rico.”

He also added, “What happens on the island effects in many ways stateside Puerto Ricans. If Puerto Rico’s debt does not go through a substantial debt relief, then many Puerto Ricans will lose their pensions, jobs, and will be forced to migrate to the mainland.”  

Debt relief would be the alternative to austerity measures, which have already had a significant impact on the island. Thousands have already left in what has become the second Great Migration of the Puerto Rican diaspora. Fortunately, a form of debt restructuring is included under Title III of PROMESA, which Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of Jubilee USA and a member of the Centro Roundtable on Puerto Rico, alluded to in a statement released in late March:

"In the coming weeks if negotiations fail to achieve the needed debt reduction, the oversight board should move forward the official bankruptcy process as outlined by Congress."

LeCompte is one of several members of the fourteen-person Centro Roundtable on Puerto Rico that will be in attendance at the Diaspora Summit. The group was formed last Fall to monitor the implementation of PROMESA (to read the press release and see a list of members, click here). The debt restructuring process, like everything related to the crisis, will require our vigilance to ensure transparency and effectiveness.

The Centro Roundtable was one of the recommendations from the Diaspora Dummit last year. As part of their work, the Roundtable spearheaded the creation of Puerto Rico News, a comprehensive source of informatino on Puerto Rico that collects information about news articles, relevant documents, and other content related to the economic, fiscal, and humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico. Centro staff and roundtable members also contribute news analysis and policy briefs regularly (To learn more, click here).