A broad group of public and private-sector representatives from Puerto Rico are bearing down on Washington lawmakers this week, when a draft of the bill proposing an oversight board for the island is expected to be released and discussed during a hearing Wednesday.
Jesus Manuel Ortiz, public affairs secretary for the Commonwealth, said at least a dozen meetings between island representatives and U.S. Democratic and Republican legislators took place Monday, with a matching number on today’s agenda.
The delegation of government officials, mayors, trade group representatives is with Gov. Alejandro García-Padilla, splitting up into five groups to cover the most ground through the end of the week, Ortiz said.
“They are holding simultaneous meetings to address the urgency to establish an orderly restructuring mechanism that enables the island’s economic recovery, respects democracy and its institutions, and legislation to block possible litigation to continue negotiations with creditors,” Ortiz said during a briefing at La Fortaleza.
The group comprises: the mayors of Caguas, Ceiba, Lajas, Utuado, Jayuya, Peñuelas, San Lorenzo and Cayey; lawmakers Jaime Perelló, Charlie Hernández; Rafael “Tatito” Hernández, Antonio Soto, Ricardo Llerandi, César Hernández, Angel Rosa and Rossana López; private sector leaders from the Puerto Rico Manufacturers Association, the Contractors Association, the Puerto Rico Products Association, and the Puerto Rico Society of CPAs; and, cabinet members from the Office of Management and Budget, the University of Puerto Rico, the Department of Education, and the Health Insurance Administration. Alexandra Lúgaro, independent candidate for governor, has also joined the effort.
As part of the agenda, García-Padilla met with U.S. Treasury Department officials, while the rest of the delegation met with lawmakers.
In related news, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew participated at an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations, and addressed Puerto Rico’s situation, responding to a question about draft legislation currently at the US House.
“There’s still an ongoing process. People were working through the weekend on it and I don’t believe it’s completed yet,” he said. “What we have been very clear about is that the only way for Puerto Rico to resolve the situation it faces is for there to be a comprehensive restructuring of the debt.”
And that along with that, there needs to be a very strong oversight board to make sure that Puerto Rico continues on a path — gets on a path and stays on a path — that can be sustained,” said Lew, who has been keeping close track of Puerto Rico’s crisis
“There are a lot of details but when you get down to the bottom line, the question to us is does that restructuring authority work? It has to work or it’s not going to be acceptable. It can’t be something that you put a label on but in the marketplace it doesn’t work,” he said.
“There are still some open issues. We’ve had a very good working relationship on a bipartisan basis working through many, many technical issues. But there are still a number of very difficult issues that are open that if resolved in the right way will lead to bipartisan support, but if not resolved in the right way, just won’t work. And we’re not going to support something that doesn’t work,” Lew said.