Mammon, Meet God: Puerto Rico's Archbishop Pushes Debt Jubilee

(Bloomberg) -- The archbishop of San Juan urged Puerto Rico’s fiscal control board to declare a moratorium on bond payments, a Biblical debt jubilee.

At a meeting Thursday in the capital of the bankrupt commonwealth, Roberto Gonzalez Nieves said a multiyear break from debt service would give the island time to rebuild its economy and help its most vulnerable.

“No debt should be paid until Puerto Rico sees positive economic growth, a reduction in child poverty and the island rebuilds from the hurricane,” the archbishop said.

The federally mandated oversight board and government were meeting to approve a fiscal plan that calls for painful and unpopular austerity measures, such as pension reductions. Gonzalez said 80 percent of the island’s $74 billion in public debt should be forgiven.

The idea of a twice-a-century jubilee comes from the book of Leviticus, which mandates freeing workers from servitude and forgiving debts: “If thou sell ought unto thy neighbour, or buyest ought of thy neighbour’s hand, ye shall not oppress one another,” according to the King James Version of the Bible.

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