For the benefit of Florida’s first responders, a bipartisan group of senators argues it is long past time for Peru to uphold its promises. A well-documented refusal by Peru to make payments on bonds that are a part of public employee pension systems in more than 200 municipalities across 30 states in America for the past few years has resulted in estimated billion-dollar losses for these plans. Many members of Congress have had it. In Florida, 50,000 law enforcement officers, firefighters, port workers, and other public servants in towns like Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Hialeah, and North Miami Beach are covered by these bonds as part of their pension schemes.
These bonds, issued by the Republic of Peru, were first issued more than 50 years ago for municipal worker and union pension funds that were investing in agricultural reform bonds. But over time, these bonds have turned into the equivalent of fraud. Peru has misled its government in order to avoid repaying the debt on these land bonds, in addition to failing to pay its contractual obligations. The initial campaign to force Peru to pay this debt was spearheaded by the late Congressman Alcee Hastings. He collaborated with a bipartisan group of Florida-based U.S.
House members in 2019 pushed the Secretary of State to demand Peru pay back its debt to several first responders and government workers. Hastings stated that if Peru’s government keeps defaulting on these bonds, “We fear that thousands of Florida workers, among them our constituents, and many more Americans around the country, may be placed at financial risk.” The COVID-19 epidemic, however, effectively put the attempt on hold. Members of Congress didn’t re-energize the effort until later this year when police and fireman unions joined them. As a result, the Secretary of State was urged in House Resolution 289 to act on unpaid Peruvian agricultural reform bonds.
Republicans Bill Posey, Brian Mast, Gus Bilirakis, and Maria Salazar, as well as Democrats Val Demings, Charlie Crist, Lois Frankel, and Stephanie Murphy, were among the 119 cosponsors of the resolution. The House Foreign Affairs Committee approved HR 289 with the support of the majority of members (from both parties), according to Democratic U.S. Rep. Brian Norcross of New Jersey. To the House National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) bill, Norcross submitted a floor amendment that was broadly similar and was adopted by the entire chamber.
The NDAA measure has not yet been taken up by the U.S. Senate, but it is anticipated to do so in late September or early October. The mere fact that the amendment was approved by the entire U.S. House sends a strong message of Congress’ support for these pension funds and is a part of a larger (and expanding) effort to demand Peru honor its debt to America’s true heroes—public servants and first responders—even though there is no assurance it will be included in the final bill.
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