Last week, just days after Hurricane Irma thrashed through the Caribbean with record-high winds, the Catholic bishop of the island nation of Dominica sent a letter to the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Bishop Gabriel Malzaire pleaded with the IMF to temporarily delay debt payments from Antigua and Barbuda and other islands left in ruins by the storm.
“The few dozen small Island States across the world, for example, have neither the size nor developmental history to have been major contributors to current climate change,” Malzaire wrote on behalf of the Antilles Episcopal Conference, the Caribbean conference of Catholic Bishops. “Yet these small Island States are the most easily devastated by rising seas and harsher storms.”
On Monday evening, Hurricane Maria slammed into Malzaire’s home island of Dominica, a Caribbean island nation where 50 percent of children live in poverty. Maria arrived as a Category 5 storm with winds whipping at 160 miles per hour. Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit described the resulting “widespread devastation” as “mind boggling.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, Malzaire’s allies in the United States were unable to reach the bishop and their other partners in Dominica, according to Eric LeCompte, director of Jubilee USA, an alliance of advocacy groups and religious communities that pushes for international refinancing and debt relief for the world’s poorest economies.
Meanwhile, Maria has barreled into the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, two US territories currently dealing with debt crises of their own. Last year, Congress responded to Puerto Rico’s financial troubles with a refinancing package that was signed into law by President Obama.
The US Virgin Islands are still recovering from Hurricane…