The radio placements will air on 125 stations in the "make or break" state of Texas asking the presidential candidates to address the crisis in the US Territory. Puerto Rico's government is $72 billion in debt and closed 200 schools, cut health care and used pension funds to make debt payments. Puerto Rico's 3.5 million residents - nearly half of whom live in poverty - are US citizens and are eligible to vote in the US presidential primaries. The debt crisis helped push 10% of the island's population to leave for the US mainland over the past decade. Many of those citizens will vote in primaries on Super Tuesday in states like Texas and in later contests, particularly in Florida, Pennsylvania and New York.
"Puerto Rico's crisis impacts the race to the White House," said Eric LeCompte, Jubilee USA's executive director. LeCompte works with Puerto Rico's religious leaders to advance solutions to the crisis. "We've heard the island's crisis discussed during the presidential debates and now we are seeing growing concern about Puerto Rico on the campaign trail."
Congress is currently debating solutions to Puerto Rico's crisis, including granting the island the same access to Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection available to all 50 US states. Candidates Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley publicly supported bankruptcy protection on the campaign trail. O'Malley and Bush both addressed the crisis during televised debates but both have since dropped out of the race. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, battling for first place in Texas, have been less vocal on the Puerto Rico crisis during the campaign. Marco Rubio says he is against extending bankruptcy to Puerto Rico. The radio spot says, "as Congress debates extending bankruptcy rights to Puerto Rico, perhaps we should ask presidential candidates where they stand on giving these US citizens the same protections as all other Americans."
"Puerto Rico should have equal access to bankruptcy protection under US law," noted LeCompte, who advocated for bankruptcy while testifying before the House Natural Resources Committee at a hearing on Puerto Rico February 2. "Presidential candidates and lawmakers from both parties support bankruptcy for Puerto Rico."
The radio ads cite increased austerity measures on the island, including cuts to health care "in the face of an epidemic." Puerto Rico cut health funding by $42 million last year but is now battling the Zika virus that is spreading on the island. More than half of Puerto Rico's children live in homes that receive government assistance.
"The crisis in Puerto Rico is getting worse," stated LeCompte. "Our leaders have a moral obligation to act."
Jubilee USA Network is an alliance of more than 75 US organizations and 550 faith communities working with 50 Jubilee global partners. Jubilee's mission is to build an economy that serves, protects and promotes the participation of the most vulnerable. Jubilee USA has won critical global financial reforms and more than $130 billion in debt relief to benefit the world's poorest people.www.jubileeusa.org