A man stands in front of a jewelry store in the neighborhood of Rio Piedras in San Juan, Puerto Rico, June 29, 2015.
Photo by Ricardo Arduengo/AP

Hillary Clinton pushes ‘fair shot’ for debt-saddled Puerto Rico


This article has been updated.

Hillary Clinton on Tuesday called on Congress and the Obama administration to give Puerto Rico “a fair shot at success” as it struggles with crushing debt.

In a statement, Clinton argued that Puerto Rico, which faces $72 billion in public debt, should be given the option to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy, which - as a commonwealth - it’s currently barred from doing.

Related: ‘America will see more of’ Hillary Clinton

“The challenge is multi-faceted, and will ultimately require Puerto Rico to find a way to pay back its debtors in an orderly fashion,” she said. “As a first step, Congress should provide Puerto Rico the same authority that states already have to enable severely distressed government entities, including municipalities and public corporations, to restructure their debts under Chapter 9 of the Bankruptcy Code.”

Last month, Puerto Rico’s governor said that the island’s debt “is not payable.”

“This is not politics, this is math,” he told The New York Times.

Focus on Puerto Rico, an island tries to avert crisis
Puerto Rico is in the midst of what its governor has called a “death spiral.”

Later Tuesday, Clinton rival Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont chimed in with a statement of his own.

“I strongly believe Puerto Rico should be afforded the same bankruptcy protections that exist for municipalities across the United States,” Sanders said. “We need to do everything we can to allow Puerto Rico to restructure its debt in a rational way that does not harm its people, ordinary investors or pension funds in the United States. Chapter 9 protections would be a good first step.”

True to form, Sanders didn’t stop there.

“But we also should recognize that the reason Puerto Rico has such unsustainable debt has everything to do with the policies of austerity and the greed of large financial institutions,” he added. “Puerto Rico has been in a severe recession for almost a decade. Today, more than 45 percent of the people in Puerto Rico are living in poverty, the childhood poverty rate is greater than 56 percent and real unemployment is much too high. Our goal must be not only to give Puerto Rico the flexibility it needs to restructure its debt, but to make sure that it can rebuild its economy, create good-paying jobs and expand its tax base.”

Clinton’s statement follows a similar call from Democratic rival Martin O’Malley, who said last month that Congress should approve a law to allow the Chapter 9 option for Puerto Rico and that the Obama administration should “end the inequitable treatment of Puerto Rico under Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. “

Jeb Bush also said in April that he supports giving Puerto Rico “the same rights as the states” when it comes to addressing debt. But critics say that changing the law would amount to a bailout.

Clinton alluded to those critics in her statement Tuesday, saying “We’re not talking about a bailout, we’re talking about a fair shot at success.”

Additional reporting by NBCNews’ Frank Thorp

This story originally appeared on NBCNews.com

Hillary Clinton and Puerto Rico

Hillary Clinton pushes 'fair shot' for debt-saddled Puerto Rico