In an article with the headline “Archbishop Becomes Referee,” the Sun Sentinelof South Florida reported that Archbishop Roberto González was instrumental in bringing political leaders together to resolve the recent financial crisis in Puerto Rico.
The crisis began when the government ran out of money for the last two months of fiscal year 2006. On May 1, the entire Department of Education, including nearly 1,600 schools, was closed, along with 42 other government agencies. The governor and the legislature had been unable to agree on the size of a proposed sales tax, a prerequisite for a bailout loan.
The article reported, “Archbishop Roberto González Nieves forced an emergency meeting May 8 between Governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, House Speaker José Aponte and Senate President Kenneth McClintock, who had been hurling insults at each other for more than a week as the commonwealth slid further into crisis.”
“When they emerged from the two-hour meeting at the governor’s mansion,” the article reported, “they were all smiles and handshakes.”
They agreed to form a special committee comprised of two economists, a professor and a former judge, and to abide by the decision of the committee. On May 14, the government approved an emergency loan, backed by a new sales tax, to cover the deficit that allowed about 95,000 public employees to return to work and the public schools to be reopened.
In 2004, 62 percent of Puerto Ricans lived below the poverty line, and women headed 66 percent of the households.