House Democrats Urge Congress to Pass Debt Restructuring Citing Zika Threat
SAN JUAN–House Democrats are urging the U.S. Congress to approve debt restructuring legislation for Puerto Rico, arguing that forcing the island to carry out further cuts will prevent the U.S. commonwealth from dealing effectively with the Zika virus.
The comments were made in a report issued by Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee Wednesday. The relatively high number of cases of the mosquito-borne disease in Puerto Rico has prompted the Centers for Disease Control to issue several advisory warnings to travelers.
“We have heard from opponents of this legislation that the real solution to restructure some of Puerto Rico’s debt is for the Commonwealth to just cut spending even more deeply,” committee ranking member Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said in a statement. “This report demonstrates that calls for more cuts, while they might be easy to make, are actually irresponsible and dangerous.”
The report contends that the costs of the health care system have contributed to the island’s financial crisis and that the Zika virus is going to put more pressure over the system.
“Puerto Rico’s health care system is living on borrowed time. Over one third of the island’s massive $72 billion debt is estimated to be attributable to health care spending,” the report says. “If not controlled, Zika stands to wreak havoc on Puerto Rico’s broken health care system.”
Currently, Puerto Rico is under a watch for the transmission of the virus but it is not under an epidemic, according to the Puerto Rico Health Department.
The Zika virus may result in birth defects, such as microcephaly, if contracted by pregnant women. There is also the possibility the virus may produce the Gillain-Barré syndrome, a form of nervous paralysis, in some adults.