Control Board wants license to be unaccountable

As it publicly sets off a strategy to strengthen its control over the management of the Government of Puerto Rico, the Fiscal Control Board is asking a federal judge to exempt it from having to render accounts to the people of Puerto Rico with extremely dangerous arguments for transparency. The fight for the Board to be an entity to which the minimum parameters of accountability apply is being waged by the legal team of the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI) and the Legal Clinic of the Interamerican University Law School — attorneys Judith Berkan, Steven Lausell, Luis José Torres and Annette Martínez — both in one case before the San Juan Superior Court and in another before federal Judge Jay A. García-Gregory. In addition, the prestigious Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP) entered as a friend of the court in the federal case that is the one we will outline in this op-ed. The controversy, fundamentally, is as follows: What legal standard of transparency and accountability will be applied to the Board? The positions expressed from the CPI’s point of view stress that the constitutional rank right to access to information that can be applied to any other Puerto Rico government agency applies to the Board because the PROMESA Law created the Board as an entity of the “territorial government,” not the federal government.

Government Agencies Not Taking Action Against Dangers of Electric Generators in Puerto Rico

Imagine this: in the late nighttime hours, the desperate cries of your child cause you to search for a therapy machine with only a flashlight. In the darkness, a car becomes your only power source to turn on the equipment that soothes your child’s shortness of breath. After being startled again, you return to your bed, knowing that the cycle will likely repeat, while your surroundings are filled with the smell of that fuel that allows others to sleep pleasantly as it burns and converts into carbon monoxide. A scene similar to this (or one even worse), takes place in thousands of homes. Puerto Rico has been smelling and breathing diesel ever since Hurricane María hit on September 20.

The Bondholders who bet on Puerto Rico’s Sales and Use Tax collection

Juan Noguera is on a list of more than 200 names along with investment firms, bond insurers (monolines), banks and contractors interested in the Puerto Rico’s government bankruptcy case. He is a real estate appraiser about to retire. His savings are committed to the Sales Tax Financing Corp. (COFINA) bonds but he does not belong to any of the organized groups of creditors that actively participate in the case. “I have people in my family, three people, with considerable amounts, which they stopped paying and we don’t know what those bonds are worth, which were for our retirement.

Hurricane María: Where did the response operation fail?

Federal agencies were not prepared and the government of Puerto Rico had no money to handle it, according to all of the versions by the key players in the disaster’s response.

Old colleagues gather in a group that requires Puerto Rico to pay the debt

Some of its firms are old colleagues who acted together in the middle of Detroit’s bankruptcy. The economic crisis, the fiscal debacle and the junk bonds were the bait that attracted them to Puerto Rico in 2014. Now, in the midst of the humanitarian crisis that the country is experiencing over the destruction of Hurricane Maria, the Ad Hoc Group of General Obligation Bonds rejects that all federal funds allocated to the island after the catastrophe can not be touched by the bondholders. The initial order to protect federal funds from bondholders was filed by the Puerto Rican government and the Fiscal Control Board (JCF) before federal Judge Laura Taylor Swain, in the bankruptcy case under Title III of the PROMESA Act. “Federal reimbursement funds,” with which the government replaces its expenses in the emergency, “should not be excluded from creditors’ claims, liens, or priorities, because they merely replace funds previously spent by the Commonwealth from its own resources for the purposes designated in the federal program,” says the Ad Hoc Group objection.

The dilemma of rebuilding Puerto Rico or paying the debt

We did a roll call in the room where Title III bankruptcy proceedings are held, in the unincorporated territory of the United States. Here are the details of those who require payment of the debt, their groups of interest and their conflicts. Will they go ahead with their claims after Hurricane Maria catastrophe?