Lin-Manuel Miranda: Puerto Rico needs "debt forgiveness" to recover

By Camilo Montoya-Galvez, David Begnaud

/ CBS News

Miranda on Puerto Rico: "Forgive the debt"

Dorado, Puerto Rico — For Puerto Rico to fully recover from the devastation caused by two powerful storms and the economic instability that has plagued the island for the past years, the federal government needs to grant the U.S. territory "debt forgiveness," Broadway star Lin-Manuel Miranda told CBS News.

"It's gonna take a lot. It's gonna take Congress really investing in the rebuilding effort on a scale commensurate to other hurricane relief that has happened in the United States, on the mainland," Miranda said in an exclusive "CBS This Morning" interview on Friday. "It is going to take debt forgiveness on the island."

A fiscal oversight board established in 2016 to deal with the growing debt crisis in Puerto Rico has directed the island's government to make budget cuts to several welfare programs, as well as the educational system. The board's austerity measures have become deeply unpopular on the island, which is still recovering from Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Irma. The U.S. territory is also grappling with economic woes and mounting violence.

Puerto Rico, home to approximately 3.2 million U.S. citizens, has been roiled recently by demonstrations by students and residents against educational cuts, faculty layoffs and tuition hikes ordered by the fiscal board. Miranda and his team even had to change the venue of the "Hamilton" production in Puerto Rico because of expected student protests at the University of Puerto Rico, which was originally going to host the Broadway hit.

"I don't believe squeezing the future of this island and the students who are going to make it great again in the next generation, is the answer," said Miranda, who was raised in Manhattan but traces his roots to Puerto Rico.

Miranda has publicly backed the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act — known as PROMESA — which created the board, but he has recently expressed support for Puerto Rico's ballooning debt to be forgiven.

President Trump, who has been sharply criticized for his administration's handling of recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, is reportedly discussing a proposal that would divert billions of dollars of disaster aid for the island and several states to fund his proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border

Although he knows Puerto Rico will continue to face significant challenges, Miranda said the trying time on the island has strengthened the resolve of its people.

"And I think the Puerto Rican people are the most resilient in the world," he added. "What they have been through in the past year and a half is a testament to them."

First published on January 11, 2019

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