Florida congressional delegation joins bipartisan fight to protect first responder pensions

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A bipartisan group of lawmakers says it’s far past time for Peru to honor its obligations — for the sake of Florida first responders.

For the last few years, Peru has had a well-chronicled refusal to make payments on bonds that are part of public employee pension plans in more than 200 jurisdictions in 30 states across America — an amount estimated in the billions of dollars.

Many in Congress say enough is enough.

In Florida, these bonds are part of pension plans for 50,000 police officers, firefighters, port workers and public employees in cities such as Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Hialeah, and North Miami Beach.

Issued initially more than 50 years ago, these bonds — issued by the Republic of Peru — were for municipal worker and trade union pension funds invested in agrarian reform bonds.

But in the ensuing years, these bonds have become tantamount to fraud.

Peru has not only failed to pay its obligated debt on these land bonds but has also defrauded its government to avoid repayment.

Initially, the late Congressman Alcee Hastings led the effort to compel Peru to honor this debt. In 2019, he worked with a bipartisan group of U.S. House members from Florida to encourage the U.S. Secretary of State to demand Peru honor its debt to a large number of first responders and public employees.

Hastings wrote: “We fear that thousands of Florida workers, among them our constituents, and many more Americans across the country, will be placed at financial risk if the government of Peru continues to default on these bonds.”

However, the COVID-19 pandemic effectively placed the effort on the back burner. It was not until later this year that members of Congress — joined by police and firefighter unions — re-energized the effort.

The result was House Resolution 289 — urging the Secretary of State to take action regarding unpaid Peruvian agrarian reform bonds. The resolution secured 119 co-sponsors, including several members of the Florida delegation: Republicans Bill Posey, Brian Mast, Gus Bilirakis, and Maria Salazar, as well as Democrats Val Demings, Charlie Crist, Lois Frankel and Stephanie Murphy.

HR 289, introduced by Democratic U.S. Rep. Brian Norcross of New Jersey, garnered the support of a majority (from both parties) on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Norcross offered a substantially similar floor amendment (#439) to the House National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) bill, which passed en bloc.

The U.S. Senate has yet to pick up its version of the NDAA bill, which is expected in late September or October. While there is no guarantee the amendment will be part of the final bill, the mere passage of this amendment from the entire U.S. House sends a strong signal of Congress’ support for these pension funds — and is part of a larger (and growing) effort to demand Peru honor its debt to America’s true heroes — public workers and first responders.

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