Even after 49 days have passed since the worst hurricane to ever strike Puerto Rico, the government has barely just begun to recognize the potential magnitude of the fatalities caused by a natural disaster that has still left about 60% of the island without power.
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.
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.
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?
porOmaya Sosa Pascual and Jeniffer Wiscovitch Padilla |
The crisis in Puerto Rico’s hospitals as a result of Hurricane María’s landfall and the direct impact on patient health is, more than two weeks after the catastrophe, a daily issue. The lack of information, misinformation and contradicting data regarding the real status of these institutions from the government has been constant. Last Tuesday, for example, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló touted as an achievement that 63 of the island’s 69 hospitals were “operational.” He never explained in detail how the government went from having 56 hospitals closed the prior week, as Health Secretary Rafael Rodríguez-Mercado said at that time, to having reopened practically all of them. The great question is: What does “operational” mean? That same day, the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI in Spanish) visited the Pavía and Susoni hospitals in Arecibo and the Buen Samaritano in Aguadilla and confirmed that none of them were ready to admit critical patients, despite being on the list of hospitals released by the government.