Church Helps Resolve Puerto Rico’s Budget Crisis

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A budget crisis shook Puerto Rico this month (May 2006). On May 1, the government shut most public agencies, furloughing 95,000 employees. The police, fire-fighters, and medical personnel kept working but schools were closed. Governor Aníbal Acevedo-Vilá laid off the staff at the executive mansion, including the chef.

According to Mayra Montero writing in The Amherst Times the shutdown resulted from a stalemate between the governor and the Legislature, which is controlled by his political opponents. The Government Development Bank said it would lend money to help cover the island's budget deficit only if a sales tax was enacted, but the two sides couldn't agree on the amount of the tax. When payday arrived, there was no money.

At this point Christian groups – led by well-recognised Evangelical, Pentecostal, and Roman Catholic leaders – stepped in. At their urging, a commission was created to develop a plan to resolve the deficit, and the governor and leaders of both legislative houses agreed to abide by its recommendations. Each planning session began and ended with prayer.

According to Montero, “It worked: on Monday, public employees returned to work after a resolution was reached, though not without a mini-crisis last weekend that was once again resolved thanks to mediation by religious leaders.”

Although Puerto Rico has always been thought of as Catholic, Evangelical churches have flourished recently to the point that there seems to be one on every corner. Ten years ago reports indicated there were then 7,500 Evangelical/Pentecostal churches in Puerto Rico.

Mayra Montero is the author of "Captain of the Sleepers" and the forthcoming "Dancing to 'Almendra.' "