Focus on Puerto Rico, an island tries to avert crisis
We must return to innocence,
create from nothingness,
survive on a thread,
overthrow burning fists
until the rose becomes a star,
until the star becomes a rose.
-Francisco Matos Paoli, Puerto Rican poet
WASHINGTON — Those who have been closely watching Puerto Rico’s economic decline and the reluctance for Congress or the administration to respond have been sharing an inside joke lately.
“Even though there are more Puerto Ricans in the states than in Puerto Rico, some people are joking that the Cuban government has had more relations with Washington than Puerto Rico lately,” said Federico de Jesus, a political and media strategist in Washington, D.C.
Puerto Rico is in the midst of what its governor, Alejandro García Padilla, pronounced to The New York Times is a “death spiral.” It faces $73 billion in debt, double digit unemployment and has been for several years watching many of its middle class leave the island for the U.S. to flee its economic woes. The commonwealth’s debt status is now graded as “junk” and deadlines for debt repayments are days away.
Padilla said over the weekend that the island country’s debt “is not payable,” the Times reported. He scheduled a 5 p.m. EDT Monday address on the crisis.
The crisis is not yet to the level of Greece, which has commanded far more attention in news headlines, but that nation has been getting assistance from the European Central Bank and other entities, unlike Puerto Rico.
“We do not have any lifeboat or financial partners that have been willing to step up,” de Jesus said.
The White House has urged Congress to take a closer look at allowing Puerto Rico to restructure its public debt using Chapter 9 bankruptcy filing, something that is not available to Puerto Rico as it it for U.S. states and has been used by cities such as Detroit.
In the daily briefing on Monday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest stopped short of saying the administration supports giving Puerto Rico the ability to file for bankruptcy, repeating that its something its asked Congress to look at.
Earnest said that Puerto Rico is getting help similar to what the administration did for Detroit through a task force that has helped advise the commonwealth of what existing resources it can seek. The work done for Detroit is a template for Puerto Rico, he said, adding that what that city received from the Obama administration has been directly related to the city’s progress.
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