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Members of Congress asked to include audit in Puerto Rico debt-cancellation bill

By on February 13, 2018

SAN JUAN – In light of the announcement that the U.S. Congress is considering legislation that would cancel Puerto Rico’s public debt to help the island’s economic recovery, the Citizen Front for the Audit of the Debt asked Congress on Tuesday that the measure include a comprehensive audit of the debt.

“This request seeks to ensure Puerto Ricans know the truth behind the [island’s] collective indebtedness and take the necessary measures so the history of the misuse of public funds is not repeated,” said Eva Prados, spokesperson for the Citizen Front for the Audit of the Debt, in written statements.

The Front sent letters to Congress, particularly to Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, asking, if cancellation of the debt is supported, that the debt be audited, “since it is the only reliable and accessible instrument for the people of Puerto Rico,” a release reads.

Fiscal board: Forensic audit is key to Puerto Rico disaster loan disbursements

“Prior to hurricanes Maria and Irma, Puerto Rico’s public debt was unsustainable. Now, with what [the storms’] destruction has caused, the payment of this unaudited debt becomes inhuman. Before speaking about cancellation [of the debt], it is important to ensure it is audited, with broad citizen participation as a guarantee to the people that they will not return to this level of indebtedness,” Prados said.

Justo Méndez, a spokesman for the group of organizations in favor of the debt’s audit, said the funds Congress approves for Puerto Rico must be assigned for recovery from the hurricanes.

“We need a truly independent investigation into possible illegalities and mismanagement by different governments, including the use of questionable credit and sales practices by bondholders, investment firms, banks and their advisers. Those who acted wrong must respond. That will even give us back credibility in the management of our government and return to the financial markets in the right way,” Méndez said.

The group said an audit is supported by more than 150,000 people who signed a petition for a thorough analysis of the origin and use of the $72 billion in debt that the government and its creditors negotiated.

Eva Prados, of Frente Unido por la Auditoría de la Deuda, presented 10,000 signatures in the Puerto Rico Senate in February 2017 . (Agustín Criollo/CB)

Among the organizations that have joined the petition are the Political Economy, Economists and Teachers associations; the Chamber of Commerce; the Ecumenical & Interreligious Coalition; Bar Association; Empresarios por Puerto Rico; Espacios Abiertos; Caribbean Institute of Human Rights; League of Cooperatives; Broad Women’s Movement; Union 32BJ; Puerto Rican Workers Union; Puerto Rican Planning Society; Vamos; and Vamos4PR.

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