Fifteen members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in the United States Congress sent a letter urging US Treasury Secretary John Snow to enact the "definitive cancellation" of impoverished Latin American country debts at the annual meetings of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) which begin today in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
Recognizing that poverty in Latin America remains one of the root causes of immigration to the United States – a hot topic in Congress this week – these members of Congress argue that debt cancellation would "ultimately…benefit their neighbors in the hemisphere, including the United States."
Fighting poverty has also emerged as a key campaign issue in this weekend’s Peruvian elections; Peru is an impoverished country with a substantial debt burden of US$ 38 billion and twenty percent of the population living on less than $1 a day.
The Congressional letter points out that "when the G-8 (Group of 8 rich nations) met last summer, it did not fully address the debt crisis in Latin America.
While they promised US$ 4.5 billion of debt stock cancellation to Nicaragua, Honduras, Bolivia, and Guyana from the World Bank and IMF, an important and positive step, the plan neglected to address the larger amount of US$ 5 billion owed by these same countries to the IDB."
As a first step towards broader "definitive" debt cancellation in all impoverished Latin American countries where debt impedes human development, they urged Secretary Snow "to work for the immediate and total cancellation of the debts held by Bolivia, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua to the IDB."
Signatories further insisted that "IDB debt cancellation should be enacted without economic conditions – and urgently – as delays to debt cancellation cost lives. Moreover, we believe that a move away from new loans to grants will help to avoid similar debt crises in the future."
Debt cancellation will be on the agenda at the IDB annual meetings taking place this week in Brazil. This initiative from Congress in support of debt cancellation in Latin America builds on efforts by advocates of debt cancellation to pressure the US administration to negotiate a deal this week.
Last month Reverend Bob Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, underscored the IDB’s "historic opportunity" to cancel Latin America’s debt in an opinion piece in the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Debt campaigners around the country have also sent emails to Secretary Snow calling for IDB debt cancellation, including for impoverished countries such as Peru and Ecuador, whose debt burdens remained unaddressed by current G-8 initiatives.
Jubilee USA Network is the US arm of the international movement working for debt cancellation for impoverished nations. Jubilee USA is a network of 75 religious denominations and faith-based groups, labor groups, environmental organizations, and community and advocacy groups working for freedom from debt and economic justice for countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.