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In Puerto Rico, Disparate Bank Lending, Predatory Investors, UN's Maria Photo Ops

By Matthew Russell Lee

PUERTO RICO, October 3 – The UN system's International Monetary Fund has yet to announce any debt moratorium for countries impacted by the recent hurricanes, and despite photo op trips by those who could speak to and of the IMF, nothing is changing. Most holders of Puerto Rico's debt are doing nothing to help. Even in 2016 before Hurricane Maria, according to Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data just released, Banco Santander Puerto Rico made 88 conventional home purchase loans in upper income tracts in the San Juan MSA, 50 in middle income tracts, seven in moderate income tracts and NONE in low-income census tracts. Citibank made a single large loans in San Juan, for a multi-family apartment building. The UNironically named Whitebox Advisors, which has sued on Puerto Rico debt, has "a policy of not discussing Puerto Rico." We don't. Watch this site. Back on September 18 UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric gave the press a mere three minutes to sign up to attend the UN's meeting about Irma, see below. As the meeting began, Inner City Press asked not Dujarric but the spokesman for the President of the General Assembly for the PGA's view of the IMF's position on (no) debt moratorium. From the PGA Office's summary: "Asked for the President’s reaction to comments by an International Monetary Fund (IMF) official, in which the official allegedly said that the IMF would not be open to instituting a debt moratorium for hurricane-hit Antigua and Barbuda, the Spokesperson replied that the President would not want to second-guess the comments of an IMF official in an area of the IMF’s expertise. The Spokesperson reiterated that the President was committed to the recovery of Antigua and Barbuda, which is why he had convened the high-level meeting on Hurricane Irma and invited the Government of Antigua and Barbuda to speak there." In the meeting, Achim Steiner of UNDP told even Caribbean nations they could not speak, so that Robert De Niro could. You talkin' to me? When the IMF re-started its biweekly embargoed press briefings on September 14, Inner City Press submitted a question about Hurricane Irma and moratoria: "On Antigua and Barbuda, and Hurricane Irma impacted countries more generally... will there be no moratoria? What is the IMF doing?" IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice said, "There's a question from Matthew Lee on moratorium... on that, I would refer to what Mme Lagarde said a few days ago, of course the IMF has tremendous sympathy. She also said we stand ready to help. There are a number of options we can look at in that context. At the moment we are still trying to make an assessment. As a factual member, none of our members including Antigua and Barbuda have formally requested assistance from the Fund." Oh. On September 15, when Inner City Press at the UN asked Patti Smith about it, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric cut off the question saying he would answer it at his forthcoming briefing. He did not. Instead, with a mere three minutes' notice, at 3:57 pm on September 15 he told the Press it had until 4 pm to request a seat to cover the UN's meeting on Irma. He also excluded Inner City Press from information about his "background" briefing on UN General Assembly week.


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