Puerto Ricans in US protest debt crisis with a dash of rhythm

Puerto Ricans in US protest debt crisis with a dash of rhythm

A look at the move by Puerto Rico's government to seek a form of bankruptcy protection as the U.S. Caribbean island territory struggles to emerge from a prolonged debt crisis and recession.

The previous largest USA public bankruptcy, Detroit's in 2013, covered some $18 billion in debt. Hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans, who are US citizens at birth, have left the island of about 3.4 million people in favor of the mainland.

The release noted concerns that funds with significant investments on the island will bring about "an avalanche of lawsuits could turn Puerto Rico's recession into a depression" now that the stay has almost expired. Sara Espino, a 27-year-old flight attendant, said she saw hundreds of "Boricuas" migrating to the USA mainland each week on flights from San Juan to NY.

"It is my hope that the Government's Title III proceedings will accelerate the negotiation process", the governor said in the statement.

Puerto Rico has approximately $74 billion of bond debt and $48 billion of unfunded pension liabilities.

"Our view is that the best thing the government can do to protect itself is to use the tools that Congress provided - specifically a Title III filing - on May 2, so that they get the benefit of an ongoing stay on litigation and really can transition to the next phase of the restructuring process", Rodrigue said in an interview. The island's government, shouldering $70 billion in debt it can not pay, and its bondholders were trying to reach an agreement about how much and which debt it would pay back.

Last June, members of Congress wrestled with politically sensitive legislation aimed at allowing Puerto Rico to restructure its debts.

Germany's Merkel arrives in Russian Federation for talks with Putin
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On paper, it does not include $17 billion of sales tax-backed debt, known as COFINA debt, or debt from other agencies. A fiscal plan for Puerto Rico sets aside $800 million a year for debt payments, a fraction of the $35 billion due in interest and payments over the next decade.

Mick Mulvaney, Trump's budget director, said Wednesday that the White House pushed hard to ensure no federal dollars would go toward paying the island's debts in the latest Congressional budget deal. Austerity measures meant residents of Puerto Rico - who are US citizens - experienced slashes in government services.

While the action could eventually see Puerto Rico becoming solvent in the future, before that could occur, however, the island, with its over 3 million residents, will have to withstand grim consequences: government employees will have to forego pension dollars; infrastructure projects stalled; and the brain drain that the island has been experiencing could amplify. The people of Puerto Rico have had enough.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Ricardo Rossello said there would be no immediate comment other than a statement issued late Monday in which the administration said it was pursuing consensual agreements but that other options are on the table. "We don't know what a federal district court judge is going to decide".

However, he warned that the process will further spook the type of investors that Puerto Rico's economy needs as it prepares to implement several austerity measures. Sanchez disputed that opinion, saying that a court-supervised restructuring would actually provide more comfort to investors.

Whatever the official status, many observers said the bottom line was that conditions on the island needed to improve. "We can not keep stretching this chewing gum further".

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