Presidential Campaign Turns to Puerto Rico

March 06, 2016

As presidential candidates move from state to state trying to win voters, other political groups often follow them hoping to put critical issues on the national agenda. If candidates talk about an issue, it can dramatically raise public awareness and the potential for policy changes. One group working to make a difference in this way is Jubilee USA Network as they advocate for debt relief for Puerto Rico.


Since Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, people there have many of the rights as other Americans, but not all. Even though the Republican and Democratic parties let Puerto Ricans vote in the presidential primaries, Puerto Ricans cannot vote for president in the general election. Republicans on the Caribbean territory vote today (and Democrats will do so in June). Florida Senator Marco Rubio actually campaigned in Puerto Rico on Saturday as he desperately seeks to pick up a win to add to his lonely Minnesota victory. 

Hopefully a bit of attention to Puerto Rico will raise awareness of the debt crisis currently choking the territory. Although states, businesses, and individuals can file bankruptcy, territories cannot. Thus, even while Republican frontrunner Donald Trump filed bankruptcy for his Trump International Gulf Club Puerto Rico last year (shortly after launching his presidential campaign), the island's government is barred from filing for such protection. The billionaires can easily find help, but the people of Puerto Rico cannot. As a result of the crippling debt, the government of Puerto Rico has made massive cuts to healthcare, education, and other essential needs. 

While most people have ignored the Puerto Rican debt crisis, Jubilee USA Network has been actively pushing for changes. Their executive director testified before Congress and the group has also lobbied the White House and the Federal Reserve. Jubilee USA Network brought together a coalition of Puerto Rican religious leaders to urge debt relief.


Jubilee USA Network has been using the presidential election as one way to try and draw attention to Puerto Rico’s debt crisis. They ran radio ads in Texas ahead of that state’s primary on Super Tuesday, and now are running spots in Florida as that state prepares to vote on March 15. Hopefully the ads help voters, journalists, and even the candidates learn about the debt crisis and the critical need to act. 

The people of Puerto Rico need debt relief. The people of Puerto Rico need jubilee. This is a mission we should join. The year of Jubilee in the Old Testament was a critical concept to help the poor and prevent massive income inequality. Jesus referred to that year as "the year of the Lord's favor" (or "the Lord's new era" in the Cotton Patch Gospel translation) in his first sermon:
The Lord’s spirit is on me; 
He has ordained me to break the good news to the poor people. 
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the oppressed. 
And sight for the blind, 
To help those who have been grievously insulted to find dignity; 
To proclaim the Lord’s new era.
Our call is to join Jesus in that mission.



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